Mum's bravery guides crime reporters still

Veronica Guerin.
Veronica Guerin.

I don’t believe Veronica Guerin would have wanted to be a martyr.

I’m not sure she would have been comfortable with all the glowing tributes read out an event to mark her 20th anniversary this week at Dublin Castle.

I think she would have simply said that she was just doing her job. And that she didn’t deserve to die. And I think wherever she is up there – she must be damn well angry.

Because 20 years on from her senseless death, little has changed in the underworld and still the criminals cock a grin and stick their two fingers to society.

For a while they ran scared. When the government brought in draconian legislation in a direct response to her murder and the powerful Criminal Assets Bureau was established, they left in their droves. 

But there were more coming up behind them and over the last decade they have been allowed grow and fester and destroy – like a weed. Would they kill a journalist? In an instant.

The monster has grown again and Veronica’s legacy lies in tatters.

Gerry ‘The Monk’ Hutch was one of the more unlikely figures in the orderly queue that snaked along the street outside the Sunday Independent offices in the days after the senseless killing that shook the nation to its core.

He had come to sign the book of condolences for the crime reporter – killed by John Gilligan’s gang as a direct response to her articles about their drug dealing operations.

It was June 1996 and the country was in a state of shock. The gunshots that had rung out on the Naas Road had rocked the entire foundations of the state.
Gilligan had gone too far. He had divided the underworld and he was on his own.

Fast forward 20 years and the Kinahan Cartel and their wealth and their power are undoubtedly a threat to the security of this state.

While the force was laid low by cutbacks and a freeze on recruitment, they grew.

Such is the arrogance of gang members that they pimp up their homes and flaunt their wealth. They murder at will on the streets of our city where communities are living in terror.

Talk to people who have to live beside them and they will tell you – we are losing the battle against crime. 

And what of the thug who ordered her murder. John Gilligan is still before the Supreme Court – still fighting to hold on to the very properties that CAB have been trying to take. 

I tracked down John Traynor two weeks ago in Margate in England. He is believed to be the man who set Veronica up – who told Gilligan she had an appointment in court – and facilitated the gang with the information vital in their murder plans. It was a sunny day when Traynor returned to his home. He didn’t want to talk about the past – he was having a nice day.

Paul Ward is believed to be back in the drug business. I caught up with him recently, but he told me to “f**k off’. He grins at you too – like you are a fool.

Alone, Brian Meehan serves a life sentence in jail where he is afforded all the luxuries that our prison system allows.

Veronica holds a special place in the hearts of all crime reporters. In a way she walks with us when we work.

We do our job to the best of our abilities and we pray that our words are enough.