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Sunday 16 June 2019

Murdered journalist Veronica honoured for 'shining light into dark corners of Irish society'

NAMED FOR VERONICA: Former Justice Minister Nora Owen (left) with Jimmy Guerin and his sister Maire Therese Branagan. Photos: Damien Eagers
NAMED FOR VERONICA: Former Justice Minister Nora Owen (left) with Jimmy Guerin and his sister Maire Therese Branagan. Photos: Damien Eagers
Liam Collins

Liam Collins

'Veronica Guerin did not give her life for the freedom of the press or to expose the criminals or the drug lords who were destroying the lives of young people in towns and villages up and down the country," said her brother Jimmy. "Her life was taken from her because she did just that."

He was among the speakers at what the President of Dublin City University (DCU) Brian MacCraith called an "important and significant" event when a lecture theatre in the Henry Grattan Building was officially named in memory of the journalist murdered 23 years ago next month because of her pioneering journalism in the pages of the Sunday Independent.

"We are recognising the importance of fearless journalism and providing a role model to inspire generations of students to come," said Professor MacCraith.

Members of the Guerin family - including Jimmy Guerin and his sisters Maire Therese Branagan and Claire O'Brien - joined academics and journalists who had known and worked with Veronica, murdered, aged 37, by members of the John Gilligan-led drugs gang.

"In an era when crime journalism was male dominated, Veronica Guerin was a trailblazer for equality," said Professor Eithne Guilfoyle.

"Veronica Guerin's name and legacy will be an inspiration for years to come for anyone who attends lectures in this theatre," she said, noting that Veronica was also a member of the governing body of DCU from 1982-1992.

Kevin Rafter, head of the School of Communications at DCU, said Veronica was "brave in the pursuit of truth" and spoke of the shock of her murder on June 26, 1996, and the dignity of her family in its aftermath. "We admire her bravery and tenacity to this day."

Sunday Independent and Irish Independent editor Cormac Bourke said he did not know Veronica personally.

"I do know that she loved the Sunday Independent and the Sunday Independent readers loved her and her work, which shone a light into the dark corners of Irish society," he said. "And we must not forget that journalists in this country still risk their personal safety in pursuit of their work."

He named Martin O'Hagan, the Sunday World journalist murdered by paramilitaries and the recent killing of Lyra McKee.

"We must always stand up to the men of violence, as members of the Guerin family have done since her murder."

Before reading an extract of a poem by Joe O'Connor, he said that by naming the lecture theatre in her honour young journalists beginning their careers at DCU would continue to keep the name of Veronica Guerin alive.

Jimmy Guerin thanked his sisters and his wife Louann for their support. The importance of the DCU event was underlined, he said, by the attendance of Nora Owen, who was a friend of Veronica's and Minister for Justice at the time of her killing, and Anne Harris, then deputy editor of the Sunday Independent.

"Tonight is about women and it is about honouring Veronica for what she achieved in her far too short time with us," he said. "Naming the lecture theatre in her memory is, in a way, Veronica returning to a place she loved, allowing her to continue her special relationship with DCU."

Among those in attendance were John Horgan, former Press Ombudsperson, Seamus Dooley of the National Union of Journalists, former government press secretary Mandy Johnston, playwright Nancy Harris, Fionnan Sheahan, editor-in-chief INM, Ed McCann, group managing editor, Alan Steenson, editor of the Evening Herald and Campbell Spray, executive editor of the Sunday Independent.

After the ceremony the Veronica Guerin Memorial Scholarship was awarded to DCU French journalism student Alix Renaud and the Veronica Guerin Ireland Funds Fellowship to Rachel Farrell of Independent.ie

Sunday Independent

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