Wednesday 18 September 2019

Feargal 'traded places' with murdered INM crime journalist Veronica Guerin

People person: Senator and businessman Feargal Quinn outside Leinster House in 2005. Photo: Tom Burke
People person: Senator and businessman Feargal Quinn outside Leinster House in 2005. Photo: Tom Burke
Claire Murphy

Claire Murphy

Feargal Quinn 'traded places' with crime journalist Veronica Guerin - and her article about their experiment was one of her last to be published before she was shot dead.

The 'Sunday Independent' journalist was tasked by her editor to find someone who was "even busier" than her and shadow them.

The story 'Trading places' was published on June 23, 1996. The mother of one was murdered on June 26.

Veronica wrote: "The idea was great. I was to shadow Feargal Quinn for a week, attend his meetings, watch him in the Seanad; wherever he went I was to follow.

"In turn he would work with me for a few days. He would help research stories, meet the people I was meeting and generally work his ass off to file a story.

"The reality of course differed from the theory and the problems arose when Feargal was due to accompany me on my bout of duty. He never chickened out but both of us agreed it would be inappropriate for him to meet drug dealers and convicted criminals.

"It was just our misfortune that during the period we were shadowing each other, the stories I was working on involved such meetings."

Although they both decided it would be too dangerous to shadow Veronica, she truly relished following Feargal around.

She praised him for being dedicated to knowing what his customers wanted - and treating his staff fairly.

"Customers are Feargal's buzz: what they want, how they feel, what motivates them, their choice of bloody vegetables for God's sake," she said. "All (employees) claimed Superquinn was a great place to work citing opportunities and conditions. A shop stewart told me that in his experience Quinn was the fairest of the supermarket employers."

But she joked that it frustrated her that all of his work was "done with a smile".

"During all the hours I spent with him, he never lost his cool. His PA insists she has only ever seen him lose his temper once."

The journalist concluded that she wouldn't like to permanently swap jobs.

"He's great company, and has a wonderful sense of humour but his work load is boring.

"And, given that he's put up with my low boredom threshold and impatience firsthand, I doubt he'd trust me to do his job for a day," she wrote, adding: "A vital characteristic for Feargal's job is patience and he has it in abundance."

The supermarket mogul wrote about the experience years later in his memoir.

"We had great chats over the course of our time together," he wrote. "On the final day together, I was particularly busy. When we were finished for the day, Veronica hitched a lift with me to Jury's Hotel, where her car was parked.

"We said our goodbyes and both got into our cars. We drove through the East Link toll bridge at the same time, and she passed me at speed.

"I phoned her and said: 'Veronica, were you in an awful hurry to get away?' and she said: 'Oh, I'm always driving too fast. In fact, I have to go down to Naas court soon because I was charged with speeding'.

"On June 26, 1996, Veronica went to Naas for the court appointment she had mentioned to me.

"On her way back, she phoned a garda friend. She was on the phone to him at Newland's Cross when he heard the gunshots."

Irish Independent

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