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Girls remember untiring work of brave past pupil

The plaque on the wall says it all: 'Veronica Guerin: In loving memory of a courageous and loyal past pupil, St Mary's Secondary School, 1971-1976'.

Her mother Bernie has been greeted on her arrival at the school in Killester, Dublin by head girl Fiona Shorthall and pupil Titi Salju, who have come back specially from their holidays for her visit.

Principal Cathy Wyer ushers Bernie into the small but colourful visitors' reception area of the school where Veronica spent her formative years and where she is now commemorated by a rich inscription.

'Her untiring effort to achieve greater justice has saved many from the scourge of drugs and other crime. Her death has not been in vain.'

It is followed by a quotation from Pope Paul VI: "If you want Peace, work for Justice."

Beside the plaque is a colourful tapestry woven by the transition year students.

"She was no trouble when she was here," says one of Veronica's teachers, Marie Fitzgibbon, who has just retired, but is back in the school to chat to some Leaving Cert students about the history exam. "One thing I do remember is the morning of the history paper the year Veronica did it -- she said to me, 'I hope Stalin is not on it, I didn't study him'."

Over tea and scones, Bernie Guerin and the teachers talk about Veronica's old school, which is close to the home where Veronica grew up in Artane. They were happy times and they reminisce about her prowess on the basketball court and how she did her school and her country proud.

"It's so important that her work is not forgotten," says Bernie Guerin about her daughter and her pioneering crime journalism for the Sunday Independent. "This plaque is a reminder to those coming after of what one person can achieve and I am so proud that it has been erected in her old school. Veronica loved school and obviously it was an important part of her life and they have done such a beautiful job on this room," said Bernie.

Her teacher Ms Fitzgibbon suggests that it should now be known as the 'Veronica Guerin Room' and the name seems poignant to those who knew her.

Carrying a beautiful bouquet of flowers which was presented to her by the girls, Bernie Guerin proudly leaves the school where her daughter is still so lovingly remembered.

Veronica's death has never been easy, even with the passing years, but it is gestures like this from her old school which help to ease the pain at a most difficult time for those who cherish her memory.

Sunday Independent