THE family of murdered journalist Veronica Guerin have withdrawn their support for a proposal to name a Dublin flyover in her memory amid fears that the campaign was being turned into a “political football” by Sinn Fein.
In a letter to South Dublin County Council, the Guerin family expressed their upset over what they described “disrespectful” comments by Sinn Fein councillor Jonathan Graham.
The Clondalkin-based councillor sparked a major backlash this week after he claimed naming the N7 Newland Cross flyover after Ms Guerin would create a “hierarchy of victims”. The proposal was tabled by Labour TD Robert Dowds.
Mr Graham insisted that he and other Sinn Fein representatives believed honouring Ms Guerin in this manner would be “inappropriate”.
"There are a number of families who have been affected by criminality in this area. If you take the criminal John Gilligan - many people have been affected by his actions. However, we can't name every street and footpaths after that," he told the Irish Independent on Thursday.
But his remarks have caused upset for the Guerin family who have now requested that the proposal be withdrawn altogether.
In a letter to council CEO Daniel McLoughlin, Ms Guerin’s brother Jimmy said he feared her memory was being disrespected.
“We are very grateful that Labour TD Mr Robert Dowds and his colleagues would consider such a proposal. However we feel that it is inappropriate that the memory of my late sister would be dragged into what is becoming a political football,” Mr Guerin said.
“We fully respect the right of certain individuals to object to Veronica’s memory being honoured in this way. I am of the view that some of the comments by members of the Council are in fact disrespectful to her memory. It may well be that this was not the intention,” he added.
The issue of naming the flyover – located just yards from where Ms Guerin was murdered – was due to be discussed by the the Council's Land Use Planning and Transportation Committee next week.
However, the Guerin family has now requested that the proposal be “withdrawn altogether”.
Committee chairman and Fine Gael councillor William Lavelle said the family’s wishes will be respected.
“I absolutely respect the wishes of family in this regard. It’s most unfortunate that family see this issue was becoming a political football following intervention the intervention of a Sinn Fein councillor. On this basis, I will recommend that the committee do not proceed with any proposals to name bridge. On a personal note, I hope we can all do whatever we can to keep memory of Veronica Guerin alive.”
IRA abuse victim Mairia Cahill accused Sinn Fein of hypocrisy, pointing out that the party has consistently lobbied for bridges and parks to be named after former associates.
This week, Sinn Fein representatives resisted efforts to change the name of Raymond McCreesh childrens play park in Newry.
Unionist figures expressed their shock at the decision and said they had been contacted by several IRA victims who made "heart rending appeals" against naming the location after the former Maze prisoner.
Sinn Fein has also campaigned for a bridge in Strabane to be named after its own councillor, the late Ivan Barr.
Ms Cahill tonight called on Sinn Fein to apologise to the Guerin family
"Veronica Guerin spent her life serving the public through fearless investigative journalism. She paid with her life," she told independent.ie.
In a statement, Sinn Fein rejected that it had turned the issue into a “political football".
“The reality is that Sinn Féin hasn't blocked the naming of the bridge after Veronica Guerin," it said.
"Councillors from all parties and the independent group on the Corporate Policy Group and the management of the council decided that the bridge wouldn't be named as it would open up calls for all bridges to be named and it would become very political.
"The issue of naming bridges was then referred to the transport SPC while it was agreed that the plaque to honour Veronica Guerin would be re-erected and the family would be invited to the unveiling ceremony.
"We regret that somebody has decided to turn this issue into a political football."
There had been hopes that the new flyover at Newlands Cross would be named after the murdered mother-of-one in time for her 20-year anniversary on June 26 next year.
The proposal to honour Ms Guerin, a Sunday Independent journalist, was tabled by Labour TD for Dublin Mid West Robert Dowds after he secured the permission of her family.