On July 5th, 1958 a true fighter was born in Artane, Dublin. Veronica “Ronnie” Guerin was one of four children and she was a strong girl from the moment she was born. She excelled in school and played many sports, competing and working with the best athletes. She played for the Women’s National basketball team, and the Women’s National Football league. Her competitive nature and strength gave her the drive she had as an adult to succeed in whatever profession she chose.
Guerin had a good head for numbers and her first career choice was to become an accountant. She went to work at her father’s company after graduating from Trinity College, but when he passed away a few years later, Veronica switched gears and started her own PR company. She ran the Public Relations firm for many years. She may still be alive today if she had stuck with that career choice, but instead she became a journalist and started writing for the Sunday Business Post and the Sunday Tribune. She never backed down on a story and her focus and determination put a strain in her relationships with colleagues and family. Guerin had ties in both the criminal world and the police force and she was always pushing for more. Some thought she was reckless and others disdained her sources, but Ronnie kept going no matter what.
Veronica also never forgot her first career. She used her accounting skills to follow the money of criminal organizations and drug dealers while she gathered information about their enterprises. She published many of her findings despite warnings and threats to her safety. She used aliases and false names for her subjects in her articles, but anyone who paid attention and lived locally could see right through them. They knew exactly who she was referring to. Obviously, so did the subjects themselves. Ms. Guerin was threatened repeatedly and eventually she became a legitimate target in the drug world. Shots were fired into her house on a number of occasions, and finally one hit her. She was shot when she answered a knock at her door and she survived a gunshot wound to the leg. If the dealers thought this would scare her off, they were sadly mistaken. If anything, it pushed Ronnie to continue her investigative research and her exposés.
After the shooting, Guerin was given a constant police escort and cameras were installed in her home. She refused to back down and didn’t approve of the escort because the police presence made it impossible to talk with some of her contacts. She kept pursuing her stories, regardless of whether or not it was safe to do so. Six years after becoming a journalist that tenacity cost her her life.
In 1996, the Gilligan drug gang decided they’d had enough of the nosy reporter. She was about to publish a book about the head of the gang and had ignored their threats.Her assassination was carried out while she was stopped at a red light one evening in June. Two members of the drug gang pulled up on a motorcycle next to Guerin’s car and they shot her six times as she waited for the light to change.
Veronica Guerin’s murder had a lasting effect in Ireland. Anti-Drug demonstrations were much bigger and more frequent after she was shot. Because of her research, the government realized what an amazing tool they had in investigating the finances of criminals and they created the Criminal Assets Bureau. They also changed the Irish constitution to support new seizure laws within a week of her death. One of the men involved in her assassination became the first man to enter Ireland’s Witness Protection program after he testified for the prosecution. Guerin’s funeral was attended by thousands of people, including the Taoiseach himself.
Veronica Guerin is still honored and remembered around the world. There is a memorial to her on the grounds of Dublin Castle, and in the USA her name is on the Freedom Forum Journalists Memorial as well. Her story has been told twice in film and many, many times in song. She paid the ultimate price for her indomitable spirit, and while it is sad and tragic, I don’t think she would have had it any other way. From the time she was born she had a fierce determination in her blood, and she never let it go.
Happy birthday Ms. Guerin, may you ever be remembered as the true fighter you were.