Killing of Dublin Journalist: Statements.

Wednesday, 26 June 1996

Seanad Éireann Debate
Vol. 148 No. 4

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Mr. Manning: Information on Maurice Manning  Zoom on Maurice Manning  By agreement, I propose we suspend business while Members make statements on the murder today of Veronica Guerin. Statements will not be confined to the Leaders of the groups; all Members may make contributions if they wish.

An Leas-Chathaoirleach:  Is there a time limit?

Mr. Manning: Information on Maurice Manning  Zoom on Maurice Manning  No. I do not believe it will take more than 30 minutes.

The foul, callous and calculated murder of Veronica Guerin robs a husband of his wife, a small boy of his mother and journalism of a brave, fearless and courageous writer. This is the first occasion in the history of the State that a journalist has had to make the supreme sacrifice in the pursuit of their vocation. In a long series of atrocities, this is the most vile. There can be no mercy, hiding place or forgiveness for the perpetrators of this act nor for those upon whose behalf it was carried out. This was an attack on our society by those who believe themselves to be [320] above the law. These men know no decency and have no humanity: they are the enemies of our society and must be treated as such. They have declared war on society and we owe it to the memory of Veronica Guerin to ensure that they never win. Anything which can be done by way of legislation, extra effort or resources must be devoted to tracking down these killers and their extirpation from our society.

Like other Members, I knew Veronica Guerin. I first met her when she was part of the Fianna Fáil secretariat at the New Ireland Forum. I knew Veronica from canvassing for votes in Dublin North-East and I also knew her socially. She was a warm, vivacious, friendly person. More than that, however, she was a fearless person who, on many occasions in the past, had been threatened and bullied by those who wished to prevent her pursuit of truth. On every occasion she resisted the bullies. Sadly, she has now paid the supreme price for her courage. The sympathy of all Members goes to her husband, son and her family.

Mr. Wright: Information on G. V. Wright  Zoom on G. V. Wright  This is very difficult because I have been a personal friend of Veronica and her husband, Graham, for 20 years. I attended school with Graham and his brother Jimmy. I also had the pleasure of attending Veronica and Graham's wedding.

I am deeply shocked at the news of Veronica's unwarranted death. Two weeks ago I spoke about the callous murder of Detective Garda McCabe and, as the Leader of the House stated, no effort, time or resource should be spared to ensure that those who carried out this murder are brought to justice. Veronica had an independent mind and was a professional journalist. She made every effort to expose the perpetrators of crime and wrongdoing in our society. I hope that others will take up where she left off to ensure that those responsible for carrying out, or ordering, such activities are brought to justice.

I extend my deepest sympathy to Graham, their son Cathal and Veronica's [321] family. I sincerely hope this House will ensure that those who perpetrated her murder are brought to justice.

Mr. O'Toole: Information on Joe John O'Toole  Zoom on Joe John O'Toole  Words are inadequate to describe one's feelings on an occasion such as this. I find myself unable to articulate words to measure the situation. The word “sympathy” seems inadequate and the term “expression of condolence” seems banal.

I knew Veronica quite well and I was a member of guest panels on television and radio programmes with her on a number of occasions. I also met with her on a professional and social basis. She was a fellow resident of north Dublin and was held in the highest regard by many people. Veronica went where angels fear to tread in the pursuit of her work. She articulated the things people felt and took a risk in order to expose what was happening. In her most recent newspaper column she protrayed an extremely horrific picture of latent and everyday violence which would send a shiver down anyone's spine.

Our democracy is very clear about the importance of the press and the media. As public representatives, we are more aware of this than most people. We are forever at the sharp end of the work of good journalists. It is an important part of the democratic process that this is encouraged and allowed. The Constitution requires that access be provided to the Houses of the Oireachtas and the mechanisms of power. Therefore, this terrible murder threatens democracy and undermines freedom.

Members knew Veronica Guerin in her role as a professional journalist. Two years ago she was shot and assaulted in her home which was no longer inviolate to these people of violence. As a journalist and a parent, the State has failed to protect her. I say this in an inclusive manner; this is a problem of society, not one of Government or political parties, and it requires the most determined and certain response. We must ensure that no stone is left unturned in pursuing those responsible [322] for this dastardly act. We must also ensure that our response is rooted in the democratic structure of the Constitution and in the system of justice to which we subscribe.

I can find no other words. Every worker, parent and citizen has been diminished by this attack. It seems inadequate and banal to express our condolences, but we must do so. I hope that Veronica's family can recover to some extent; they will never recover fully from this tragedy.

Ms O'Sullivan: Information on Jan O'Sullivan  Zoom on Jan O'Sullivan  It is difficult to find the right words to respond to this desperate act of violence. A young woman in the prime of life has been murdered while carrying out her job. Veronica Guerin belonged to a category of people, of which there are few, who take extreme risks for the sake of others in doing their jobs. Journalists comprise one of those categories and, through her work and fearless pursuit of information for the public, Veronica Guerin was the bravest of them all. She took extreme risks to legitimately investigate the activities of very destructive and heartless people. She has paid a terrible price in doing so and, as Senator O'Toole stated, society has also paid that price. The only way we can respond is to assert people's right to go about their legitimate business in a peaceful way. We must do everything to bring the perpetrators of this act to justice.

I join with other Members in conveying our sympathy to Veronica's husband, son, family and those who have been shocked by this horrific act. It is very difficult to add anything further but Members should express their horror at what has occured.

Ms Honan: Information on Cathy Honan  Zoom on Cathy Honan  On behalf of the Progressive Democrats, I extend our sympathy to Veronica Guerin's husband, son, family and her colleagues in journalism. Everyone has been in a state of shock since the news broke at 1.30 p.m. This represents an attack on society and democracy. As someone who fearlessly pursued the truth during her career, [323] Veronica Guerin was determined to expose the perpetrators of crime in our society. We all are in her debt because of it but none of us expected her to pay such a high price. We can only hope that others will not be intimidated by this atrocity from continuing to report the truth and to expose these people, whom no one wants to see gain control of our society. They cannot be allowed to continue to do this. All the resources available to the State must be used to pursue them so that they know this is not acceptable in Ireland. None of them has our support.

We want to ensure that people like Veronica Guerin can continue to speak the truth. The press is an organ of our democracy on which we have relied through the years. No one in the press, the Garda, the Revenue Commissioners or the Department of Social Welfare should be afraid to do their job. We cannot allow the men of violence to believe they can gain the upper hand. Members of both Houses are shocked and feel totally inadequate in speaking about how horrific this act is, but it is important that we tell these people that we do not want them in this country, do not accept this behaviour and will ensure they are sought out and brought to justice.

Mr. Sherlock: Information on Joe Sherlock  Zoom on Joe Sherlock  On behalf of my party, Democratic Left, I join with the Leader of the House and other speakers in condemning the murder of Veronica Guerin. If a journalist who had gained the admiration of the people for her courageous investigation and reporting of crime can be gunned down in our capital city, our country is in a serious position. I sympathise with her husband and family and hope the perpetrators will be brought to justice.

Mr. Fitzgerald: Information on Tom Fitzgerald  Zoom on Tom Fitzgerald  It is difficult to find words to condemn those who perpetrated this terrible act. When they were younger Veronica Guerin and her husband, Graham Turley, spent a lot of time in my house in Dingle and they [324] also returned on holiday after they were married. I subscribe to everything my colleagues have said. This must stop and we must appeal to any member of the public who knows anything to come forward to the Garda in confidence, so that we can remove these people from our society. I sympathise deeply and sincerely with her husband and family on their great loss. She was a nice person and a brave woman.

Mrs. Taylor-Quinn: Information on Madeleine Taylor-Quinn  Zoom on Madeleine Taylor-Quinn  Veronica Guerin was a woman of outstanding courage who pursued her job in an extraordinarily professional manner and in doing so took huge risks in establishing facts about serious crime. Her research often unearthed astonishing facts. She did great work for this country and was one of our most important investigative journalists. Her gunning down is a cowardly, evil act, committed by people who have no regard for law and do not want to work in an orderly society. They have total disregard for life, freedom and property. This is an attack against the fundamentals of democracy, the principle of free speech and communication and the freedom of journalists to do their business in a professional manner.

It is fine for us to extend our sympathy to her husband, son and family, but it is imperative that those who committed this crime be ferreted out and that the communities in which they live come forward with information about them. We can tolerate these people no longer. All of us have a responsibility and duty to come forward with the information necessary to bring these people to justice. I extend sympathy to her husband, child and extended family and to all her colleagues in journalism.

Mr. Norris: Information on David P.B. Norris  Zoom on David P.B. Norris  I join in the expression of sympathy to this shattered family, but we cannot leave it at that. The strong condemnation from all sides of the House will have been anticipated and will be disregarded by those who carried out this calculated and planned act. This is not the country in which I grew up 40 to 50 years ago. In those days an event [325] like this would have been completely unheard of — when two old ladies running a sweet shop in Harcourt Street were attacked without even being seriously injured, it was headline news for days. We have become accustomed to a climate of violence and we owe it to the memory of Veronica Guerin to start an analysis of where this violence has come from, why it has emerged and what can be done to stop it. I lay the blame firmly at one principal source, the Provisional IRA, which created a climate of violence, an ethos in which murder for political motives was acceptable and we became used to the abuse of human values.

It also helped start the drugs problem. It may disclaim that now, but in the north inner city 15 years ago one of the first major machine gun battles took place at the employment exchange around the corner from my house. When the dust had cleared, one of those who died was a well-known member of an extreme republican fringe group, so the IRA assisted in the introduction of drugs.

We recently saw the murder of a drug addict and it has been said in this House that the elimination of criminals in arbitrary acts by citizens is a good thing. I remember warning that in accepting those values, we go down a dangerous path. This appears to have been a contract killing, carried out by two men wearing helmets, sitting on a motorcycle. They calmly and coldly executed this young woman, presumably for a price — I am reliably informed that in this pro-life society £2,000 is the cost for taking another person's life if one secures the services of a professional killer.

We have allowed this to start with the brutal murder of drug addicts and dealers — we do not approve of those people, but that is where it started. Perhaps there was not enough outrage at that point and there may have been a degree of sympathy with the idea than an unpleasant, noxious element was being eliminated. Our friends in the Provisional IRA have started murdering [326] members of our unarmed police force, not that it would matter if they were armed. Now we have moved on to journalists. Even if we act only from a sense of self interest, if we do not work strongly to prevent this development, politicians will be next, because some of the things we take the freedom to say in this House are deeply unpopular with certain elements. In addition to expressing sympathy with this family in this tragic situation, I hope we will work to eliminate this evil and these evil people from our society. I do not fool myself that it will be easy or that it will be done without restrictions on the general liberty of the public.

Mr. Ross: Information on Shane Peter Nathaniel Ross  Zoom on Shane Peter Nathaniel Ross  As a colleague of Veronica Guerin, I would say that she was one of the finest journalists who worked in Middle Abbey Street. She has been murdered because she was a fine journalist, because she did what she had to do to expose what she felt she had to expose. It was not the first time she had to endure such an attack. Unfortunately, this time she was not as lucky as in the past. It was a tribute to her that, although intimidated before, she continued with her work.

This is a time for expressing sympathy to the family. However, I cannot but echo the words of Senator Norris — it is a grim time for Irish society. It is not an exaggeration to say we are drifting close to anarchy. A garda was murdered recently and today a journalist was murdered. We are developing an immunity to such activity and it is becoming acceptable.

Those who perpetrate murders of this sort, who are not prepared to afford others normal democratic rights and take the law into their own hands, are not deserving of normal democratic rights themselves. Such is the seriousness of the situation that confronts us. I will not be specific, but everybody knows what I mean. The seriousness of this matter merits much more than the Seanad paying tribute to Veronica Guerin and condemning her killing — it has gone beyond that. I hope the [327] Government will take action in response to this event and will not restrict itself to words of condemnation. This is a deep and historic tragedy.

Mr. Roche: Information on Dick Roche  Zoom on Dick Roche  It is more difficult when one knows the person to condemn what has happened. I had known Veronica Guerin since the early 1980s. She was a vivacious, lively and courageous woman. What happened today is an unspeakable crime against democracy. The ruthless killing of a young mother is an outrage against life itself. This contract murder is an attack on freedom and democracy.

Everybody who values free speech and the other freedoms we enjoy owes a debt to Veronica Guerin's memory to do more than engage in ritual hand-wringing in this House or in the other place. I seldom agree with extreme statements because I consider civil liberties to be very important. We have reached a stage where democracy itself is under siege, and when democracy is besieged it is time to consider the extreme measures hinted at by the previous speakers. I do not like to be associated with the thought, but the reality is that if these thugs can gun down a young mother doing her duty, courageously fulfilling the task of exposing the underside of Irish life, then we must consider extraordinary measures.

I express my sympathy to Graham and Cathal and to the Turley and Guerin families. Words are entirely inadequate on this occasion.

Mr. Doyle: Information on Joseph Doyle  Zoom on Joseph Doyle  While I did not know Veronica Guerin personally, I was familiar with her investigative journalism. She was very brave in carrying out her job. In doing so she was trying to expose the evil people in our society, yet for doing that she has paid with her life. That is a sad reflection on our society. I agree with Senator Fitzgerald that the public must support the Garda in eradicating these evil people. If we start to do that perhaps Veronica Guerin's death might not have been completely in vain.

[328]Mr. Lanigan: Information on Mick Lanigan  Zoom on Mick Lanigan  I join in expressing sympathy to the family of Veroncia Guerin. Today is not a day to discuss what should be done, rather it is a time to express sympathy. The rhetoric of recrimination is for another time. We should express our sympathy and in the future we can put our minds together to attempt to eliminate the cancer in our society. The best tribute I can pay to Veronica Guerin is to say that she did her job.

Mr. McAughtry: Information on Sam McAughtry  Zoom on Sam McAughtry  I wish to honour the memory of Veronica Guerin on behalf of those journalists who have walked hostile streets, of whom there are many in Northern Ireland. Those of us who have been in areas where danger threatens knew if it was a paramilitary area that at least the paramilitaries would have a care for public relations. To that extent we could venture into Provisional IRA and UVF areas with some consolation.

Nobody admired Veronica Guerin's work more than those journalists who put themselves in danger. Her memory will be honoured and the nature of her death will be marked by journalists wherever there is a free press and journalists try to correct evil. I hope journalists will flock to this country to try to expose the dark areas where the creeps who carried out this murder survive.

Mr. Bohan: Information on Eddie Bohan  Zoom on Eddie Bohan  I am personally devastated by this obscenity. It is outrageous that such an event could have happened. Only a few weeks ago Detective Garda McCabe was shot dead in cold blood and his partner was seriously injured. I returned from a trip to Russia last week. Murders such as that which took place today happen regularly in Russia. A couple of noted journalists were killed there for the same reason that Veronica Guerin was killed — they were getting too close to the truth.

I did not know Veronica Guerin well, although I had met her on a number of occasions. She was a lovely person and as an investigative journalist she had no [329] peer. It was a pleasure to read her articles in the newspapers. Where will it all end? If gardaí and journalists are being murdered, perhaps politicians will be next in line. Successive Governments have allowed this problem to grow out of control. The Government should act swiftly on this occasion. If certain rights have to be trampled upon, then so be it; but let us take those people off the streets and put them away. The people of this country deserve it. I express my deepest sympathy to her husband and young child. This country will be worse for having lost such a wonderful person.

Mr. Neville: Information on Dan Neville  Zoom on Dan Neville  I wish to be associated with the words of sympathy to the husband of Veronica Guerin, her son and family. We should mention the great service she has given to Ireland and society in exposing the underworld, which should never have developed. All the resources of the State must now be used to ensure that we roll back this totally unacceptable situation. We must expose the people involved and ensure that the people who activated and committed the crime today are brought to justice. Ar dheis Dé go raibh a h-anam dílis.

Mr. Farrell: Information on Willie Farrell  Zoom on Willie Farrell  I want to be associated with all that has been said. This journalist was doing an excellent job and we all read her articles every Sunday. Her life was threatened before and she was shot in her own home. Today she has paid the supreme price for telling the truth and being sincere, honest and dedicated in her work. I did not know the lady personally but I admired her for the stand she took and I believe she was perfectly right.

I appeal to society, every man, woman and child who knows anything, to come forward and help the Garda. We must put those criminals out of business but we cannot do it unless we get the support of the general public. We need that now more than ever. I do not believe Detective Garda McCabe's killing was a robbery which went wrong. I believe he was getting too close to the [330] truth. Veronica was also getting too close. People were worried about what she knew. All they have is one remedy and that is to eliminate. We must ask society to come forward, not with the gun but with their voices to ensure that the legal process can put those people in jail where they will be out of society's way.

My sincere sympathy to her husband and her family. Go ndéana Dia trócaire uirthi agus go dtuga Dia suaimhneas ar anam Veronica.

Mr. Byrne: Information on Seán Byrne  Zoom on Seán Byrne  I join with my colleagues in conveying sympathy to the family on this great tragedy. Last night on television we heard a young girl from County Limerick making a plea to the nation to help track down the murderers of her husband. She said she would put up £10,000. That is a cry from ordinary people and a family which has suffered great sorrow for many months.

The institutions of the State, including Dáil Éireann, Seanad Éireann, the Garda, the free press and the Army, are all being challenged. It is time the Irish people stopped this double think. We owe it to the people who fought for the freedom we enjoy today. This double think will not get us anywhere; it will only allow gangsters to prosper. Some of them have no interest in unity or peace — north, south, east or west. It is sad to see this happening when so many people are working to bring peace. It is a spillover from the sad situation in Northern Ireland where life has become so cheap. However, these people could not operate without the double think and that must stop.

We must support the Garda in every village and town. These people will be tracked down and made pay for the terrible tragedies they have brought to many families, especially the family of this young woman. There should be no more double think because these people do not recognise the Constitution, the Garda, the Army or the Houses of Parliament. We owe it to those who fought for the freedom we enjoy today to stand up to these people and co-operate with [331] and support our Garda. May God rest her soul.

Mr. D. Kiely: Information on Daniel Kiely  Zoom on Daniel Kiely  This is a sad day for this country and this House. I knew this woman personally. When her husband and family visited Kerry, they would drop in to see me.

There is a hidden agenda here. First we had the murder of Detective Garda McCabe and now Veronica. Senator Norris asked who will be next. Will it be the people who speak freely about the way they want people to live? The peace process is going through a difficult time at the moment. We would all love to see peace and harmony. People like Detective Garda McCabe and the late Ms Guerin were getting too close. It is time for us to stand up and be counted.

I would not blame the IRA or republicans for the all the ill deeds in this country. We must look deeper to the drug barons and examine where the real money, evil and problems lie. Unless we tackle that we will be in serious trouble in the future. We must take this and other serious issues on board.

I extend my sympathy to Graham, his son and all the family. People in this country died for freedom of speech. Now when a person exercises the freedom of the press and the freedom to live in a society, she gets gunned down. It is easy for us to say that something will have to be done, but we cannot expect the people to do it for us. We must do it here because we are the legislators and we must do the right thing and put justice in its rightful place.

Mr. McDonagh: Information on Jarlath McDonagh  Zoom on Jarlath McDonagh  I would like to be associated with the words of sympathy to the husband, son and family of the late Veronica Guerin. This is a sad day for democracy and for this country. It is a despicable, reprehensible act which will be condemned by all peace loving people. I believe the co-operation of the public will be forthcoming more than ever to help the Garda track down the [332] perpetrators of this terrible crime. Like everybody else, I can only hope, wish and pray that the people who carried out this terrible act will be brought to justice in the very near future. Ar a dheis Dé go raibh a anam dílis.

Mr. O'Brien: Information on Francis O'Brien  Zoom on Francis O'Brien  Veronica Guerin was good at her job. It is terribly sad that we are speaking today on the occasion of her brutal murder. This was a cowardly act. I join with previous speakers in extending my sympathy to her husband, son and family and express the hope that God will give them strength over the coming hours and days ahead to overcome the consequenses of this brutal murder.

Mr. Belton: Information on Louis J. Belton  Zoom on Louis J. Belton  I offer my sympathy to the family and colleagues of the late Veronica Guerin. Matters have taken a turn for the worse in recent times. Members of our security forces have been executed and now it has happened to a journalist. It is time for all citizens — I am glad the Garda is now getting co-operation in such matters — to back the institutions of the State. Next year will be the 75th anniversary of the foundation of this State. Democracy does not come easy; it is also hard to keep it. May she rest in peace.

Mr. Lydon: Information on Don Lydon  Zoom on Don Lydon  I extend my sympathies to the husband, son and extended family of the late Veronica Guerin. I knew her for a long time; she was a fine lady. It was only a fortnight ago when she sat in the Visitors' Gallery of this House. Because I knew her, I was especially shocked by her death. I was also shocked by the murder of Detective Garda McCabe. We should be outraged by all violent deaths. It is only when we accept with complacency the assassination of a drug pusher that we open the door for the murder of someone like Veronica Guerin.

We suspect one of the drug barons ordered this killing. Violence has become endemic in our society and these people perpetrate it upon us — we did not ask for it — destroy young lives, [333] make millions of pounds in the process and launder it. The best way we can honour her memory is to give our total support to the Garda so it can hunt down these people and remove them from our society in the most radical manner possible.

Mr. Townsend: Information on Jim Townsend  Zoom on Jim Townsend  I join with the rest of the Senators in expressing my sympathy to the husband and family of Veronica Guerin. While I will not repeat what other Senators said, it is a sad day for this country that someone should be shot dead because they were doing a good job.

Mr. R. Kiely: Information on Rory Kiely  Zoom on Rory Kiely  I want to be associated with the previous speakers in expressing my sympathy to the husband and family of the late Veronica Guerin and in condemning her murder. It is not long since we condemned the murder of a detective garda in Adare. It is terrible that we must express our sympathies and condemn another murder, this time of a journalist who was doing a very good job. The Garda has a tough job and it is now essential that we co-operate with it in ensuring that the perpetrators of these crimes be brought to justice.

Mr. Mullooly: Information on Brian Mullooly  Zoom on Brian Mullooly  I join with other Members in expressing my shock and sadness at this terrible atrocity and I join in the expressions of sympathy to the family of the late Veronica Guerin.

Mr. Magner: Information on Patrick Magner  Zoom on Patrick Magner  Like everybody else, I was shell shocked when I heard the news — it went around the House at lunchtime and nobody could believe it — that some “brave” person decided to execute a housewife. It brings crime in this country to an unparalleled low and I hope, trust and believe that the Garda will, in the same way it addressed the Adare murder, with great intensity unearth the cowardly killers of that mother, who also happened to be a reporter. In company with my colleagues, I extend my deepest sympathy to her family and her colleagues in the newspaper trade.

[334]Minister of State at the Department of Justice (Mr. Currie): Information on Austin Currie  Zoom on Austin Currie  As Minister of State at the Department of Justice, I join with Senators in expressing my sympathy to the husband, son and extended family of Veronica Guerin. I also extend my sympathy to her journalistic colleagues who will feel this loss very badly. I met Veronica Gurein for the first time at the New Ireland Forum ten years ago. I admired her as a person and found her to be lively and likeable. I have also admired her as a journalist for her professionalism and courage.

Senator Manning said she was the first journalist to be murdered in the history of the State; I am sure that is true. One journalist was seriously wounded in Northern Ireland a number of years ago. An attack on journalists is an attack on an essential part of our democracy. The idea of a woman being mowed down in such a cowardly way affronts our sense of decency and Irishness.

On behalf of the Minister for Justice and of the Government, I condemn this barbaric act in the strongest possible terms. I pledge that no effort will be spared to bring the perpetrators to justice. There will be no hiding place for these killers, no matter who they are, where they come from or whatever their motivation — let Senators have no doubt about that. More importantly, let those responsible for this barbarity be in no doubt about our commitment and determination to bring them to justice for this vile and inhuman act.

An Cathaoirleach: Information on Sean Fallon  Zoom on Sean Fallon  I also express my shock and sadness at this terrible atrocity. I join with other Members in expressing my deepest sympathy to the husband, family and journalistic colleagues of Veronica Guerin. I ask Members to rise in their places for a minute's silence. Today's tributes will be conveyed to her family.

Members rose in their places.

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