Guerin murder condemned as attack on democracy

 

THE murder of Ms Veronica Guerin was described as "sinister in the extreme" by the Taoiseach.

"Someone somewhere decided to take her life and almost certainly did so to prevent information coming into the public arena", Mr Bruton added.

He was opening a series of tributes to Ms Guerin's work as a journalist and expressions of sympathy with her family and colleagues. Describing her as "a particularly gifted and professional investigative journalist", Mr Bruton said she had written about the unacceptable face of life about murders, drug dealing and crime.

"She did so with care and with compassion. In doing so, she made an important contribution to the public life of this country. Without the work which she did, much of the recent public debate on crime would not have been as informed as it was."

Pledging that the full resources of the State would be brought to bear in bringing her killers to justice, Mr Bruton said: "Veronica Guerin deserves no less. Her family and friends deserve no less. Her journalist colleagues deserve no less."

The Tanaiste, Mr Spring, said her outrageous killing was clearly linked to a series of highly skilled and penetrating newspaper articles she had written for the Sunday Independent over the years. "That she should be shot down in this fashion is an attack one all of us and on the values that democracy and democratic politics are based on. It is an outrageous attack on the freedom of the press band the invaluable work that journalists do."

She had brought to public notice the shadowy activities of the criminal underworld. "Her work brought her into contact with criminals and her encounters with them brought her into a high risk area. She knew that from her own experience. We recall that in 1994 we were stunned to learn that she had been attacked and wounded in her own home. That attack left her hospitalised and scarred, but it did not deter her from the fine, public spirited work in which she was engaged."

She had brought dangerous people to public notice and she deserved thanks for her efforts. "Indeed, she has paid the ultimate price for her efforts."

The Fianna Fail leader, Mr Bertie Ahern, said he was profoundly shocked, adding that she was a friend of his since they both lived in Artane, in north Dublin 20 years ago. "She was an independent minded and fearless investigative journalist. Her murder represents a direct attack on our democracy and the right to freedom of speech."

He said he hoped chat no effort would be spared in hunting down her killers and in getting to grips with the ruthless criminal underworld which she had so ably exposed. "The event is a dreadful indictment of the crime that has been allowed to grow rampant in our society over many years.

Mr Ahern recalled that Ms Guerin had been secretary to the Fianna Fail delegation to the New Ireland Forum and had done excellent work.

The PD leader, Ms Mary Harney, said her murder struck at the very heart of democracy. "The greatest liberty we have is the liberty of free expression and the greatest guarantee we have of that liberty is a free press. Veronica Guerin died because she fearlessly pursued the truth. She was no ordinary journalist. She was a woman apart."

She had set new standards of reporting as she pieced together extraordinary information about the modus operandi of the criminal underworld, Ms Harney added. "Today, that criminal underworld decided that in order that they could continue with their activities she had to be murdered. In a matter of seconds, that enormous talent was taken away, and she had no chance.

The Minister of State for the Environment, Ms Liz McManus, on behalf of Democratic Left, said Ms Guerin had been a courageous reporter in the best traditions of investigative journalism.

"Her pursuit and exposure of the criminal underworld, and of the drug dealers in particular, earned her enormous respect. In the course of her work she also made enemies, both in the criminal underworld and amongst paramilitaries, but in the larger community her loss will be felt by everyone who knew her, or knew of her through her writing."

In recent months, there had been an escalating culture of violence which had seen paid hitmen casually murdering people on the streets of Dublin. "We have been confronted with the existence of drug barons and the extent of the human misery which they leave in their wake. Much of our knowledge about this lethal culture we owe to Veronica Guerin.