Sunday 11 December 2016

We need a political truce to get gangland killers

Veronica Guerin died in vain as crime journalists are once again threatened, writes Shane Ross, who is urging political parties to unite

Shane Ross

Published 14/02/2016 | 02:30

ARMED GARDAI ON THE STREETS: Gardai on checkpoints in Crumlin yesterday. Photo: Mark Condren
ARMED GARDAI ON THE STREETS: Gardai on checkpoints in Crumlin yesterday. Photo: Mark Condren

It is nearly 20 years since I attended Veronica Guerin's funeral. Out at the Queen of Heaven Church near Dublin airport the shellshock was palpable. The loss of Veronica to her family and to us - her working colleagues - was devastating, but the loss to Ireland was deep, very deep. Journalists did not get murdered in Ireland.

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We are used to journalists being butchered in faraway countries like Iraq, Syria, Colombia and Guatemala. The barbaric warriors of Isil are involved in bloody, ritual executions. The victims are nearly always men. Veronica, a woman, carved out a special place for herself and for campaigning journalists in Irish mythology. She is, deservedly, the most revered Irish heroine of the last two decades.

Veronica was not only fearless in confronting criminals on her daily beat, she was equally headstrong in editorial conferences. I remember the late editor of the Sunday Independent, Aengus Fanning, sighing loudly - after he had illogically included Veronica, a crime reporter, in a business editorial meeting. Veronica had made a typically forthright contribution, causing him to raise his voice to insist that he was not going to tolerate her striding into his office and telling him how to run the business section. But that was vintage Veronica, passionate, definite, fearless of authority whether it came from her bosses in the Independent or from criminals. She had her own agenda. And the courage to pursue it.

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