26 June 1996, Dublin, Ireland
We are shocked when we hear of the death of any young person. We are even more shocked when we hear that her death was a result of murder, in cold blood, in broad daylight, on a roadside in Dublin. What makes it even more shocking is to hear that the young person murdered was an investigative reporter who was known for her determination to go about her business in a courageous, innovative and committed way. On behalf of the Government and on my own behalf I extend my deepest sympathy to her husband Graham, to her son, Cathal, and to the parents, family, friends and journalistic colleagues of Veronica Guerin. I telephoned my sympathy to the Sunday Independent and to the general secretary of the National Union of Journalists.
We in this House knew Veronica Guerin best as a journalist, but some Members will recall her contribution to the Forum for a New Ireland in 1982 and 1983. That was an early indication from a talented young person of her interest in Irish public life. Deputies opposite will be especially aware of her work for the Fianna Fáil delegation. Deputies in other parties who attended the forum will recall her tact, friendship and diplomacy as the forum sought to reach agreement, which it did, on a very important report. That agreement was greatly facilitated by the work of the late Veronica Guerin.
Her work in recent times established her as a particular gifted and professional investigative journalist. She wrote about the unacceptable face of life, about murders, drug dealing and crime. She did so with care and compassion. In doing so she made an important contribution to public life. Without the work she did, much of the recent public debate on crime would not have been as well informed as it was.
Her contribution to journalism was recognised not just at home but also abroad. In December 1995, Veronica won the prestigious International Press Freedom Award, and when it was being conferred on her at a ceremony in New York, she was cited for her fearless courage and determination. Veronica Guerin was a gifted journalist. Arising out of the work she was doing, her life was previously threatened, and she was attacked on at least three occasions. In February last year she was shot in her home, no doubt to discourage her from a particular line of journalistic investigation. From her hospital bed she said, on that occasion, “I won't be intimidated”, and she was not. She was not deterred. She continued her work undaunted and undiminished in her enthusiasm, despite this bloody intimidation.
The murder of a journalist in the course of her work is sinister in the extreme. Someone, somewhere, decided to take her life, and almost certainly did so to prevent information coming into the public arena. Journalism is a vital and well established element in our democracy. This country benefits from a strong, free media. The independence of the media is one of the hallmarks of a strong and vibrant democracy. Journalists must be independent not only of political influence, commercial influence, personal or sectoral influence; journalists must also now be independent of threats and terror from what-ever source. That a journalist should be callously murdered in the line of duty is an attack on democracy, because it is an attack on one of the pillars of our democracy. The full resources of the State will be brought to bear in bringing to justice those responsible for today's murder. Veronica Guerin deserves no less. Her family and friends, many of them in this House, deserve no less. Her journalistic colleagues deserve no less. The best tribute we can pay to her life and to her work is to redouble our efforts in the defence of democracy.
On a personal note, there is little that can be said on this occasion that can be of any immediate consolation to Veronica's husband, Graham, or to her small son, Cathal, who must now grow up to adulthood without his mother, but it may in time be some small consolation to them for it to be recalled to them the unparalleled shock seen on the faces of Deputies on all sides in this House when, some time this morning, the news of Veronica's killing spread through the House. Members felt this loss in a very personal way. Those expressions of utter speechlessness and utter inability to comprehend what had happened speak perhaps more eloquently than anything we can say now of the contribution that Veronica Guerin made during her all too short life, to the public life of this country. That knowledge may, in time, be of some small consolation to the people who suffer her loss so grievously now and for whom no words of consolation at this stage can serve.