Silence at "Independent" as news sinks in


THE picture on the computer screen in the Irish Independent newsroom yesterday evening showed Veronica Guerin laughing into the camera. Upstairs, her colleagues in the Sunday Independent talked about the woman who was always on the end of a phone, usually her mobile phone and usually talking about a story.

Despite the threats she received and the previous shooting attack on her, it seemed nobody expected this. "She rang me up recently to talk about a story," said journalist Liam Collins. It was nothing to do with crime", he said. "But she said `I have what I think is a great story'".

She did not have a desk in the office of the Sunday Independent in Middle Abbey Street. She worked mainly from home and on the move. She would come in on a Tuesday morning and talk to the papers news editor, Mr Willie Kealy, about that week's stories.

She was a reporter who worked with dogged determination on stories, almost to the point of obsession, another colleague said.

The news filtered into the newsroom in three stages. First there was a tip off that a woman had been murdered, then came word that Veronica Guerin's car was at the scene and finally confirmation that the victim was Veronica.

It was a big story and the first three pages of the Evening Herald were pulled at the last minute to make way for it. Such a late news coup would generally bring with it a sense of euphoria, according to security editor Mr Tom Brady. This time it was different. People just left the office in silence.

Yesterday evening the news room was quiet and colleagues spoke about how difficult today would be when the news finally sank in. "She knew she was dealing with people likely to do her harm", Mr Brady said.

"Some people are saying that she'd been edgy in the last week. But I thought she was quite relaxed."

All afternoon the sympathy calls had flooded in, he said, from gardai, officials in the Department of Justice and private security people.

Mr Brady said she had a different approach to other reporters in that she would meet her sources face to face rather than dealing with them on the phone. "I don't think this is going to result in anybody backing off."

Downstairs, the back issues of the Sunday Independent lay open at her most recent stories. In the building's entrance lobby, one of her front pages is framed. In it she writes about how happy she was to be back home with her family after being shot in January.