By Andrew Bushe
DUBLIN – A controversial new biography of murdered journalist Veronica Guerin has led to an Irish media feeding frenzy, embroiling gardai, editors, journalists, relatives and friends in a bitter war of words nearly two years after she was shot.
“The Life and Death of a Crime Reporter,” by Sunday Business Post political editor Emily O’Reilly, paints a very different picture of Guerin to the one portrayed in the media after she was gunned down in her car at a traffic light outside Dublin on June 26, 1996.
The killing caused widespread shock and anger and led to the Dail being recalled later in the summer to pass a raft of new legislation that led to a crackdown on the drug barons and crime bosses she exposed in her Sunday Independent articles.
In death she became an icon. Her journalism and bravery were widely lauded both in Ireland abroad. The country came to a standstill to observe a minutes silence called for by the Irish Congress of Trade Unions. There was widespread sympathy for her husband, Graham Turley, and her 6-year-old son, Cathal.
Now O’Reilly’s revisionist book is questioning how Guerin worked, claiming she was unreliable and unethical.
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Extracts from the book have been sold to the Sunday Times, which is heavily marketing them, and the response has been a series of “spoiler” articles by other papers and magazines and angry denunciations from former colleagues and friends.
In an interview with the Sunday Times, O’Reilly explains that she first set out to write about the Sunday Independent and how one of the journalists risked her life to the extent that she was murdered. Then it developed into the biography of Guerin herself.
“Basically, what emerged was that Veronica, who was wonderful and charming and clever, was also reckless, ruthless, deceitful. The thing that informed much of the way she operated was expediency,” O’Reilly said.
“If she wanted to get to point B, she took the quickest route. And, of course, this turned her into a brilliant journalist. It was her own foibles and failings that ironically were also making her a good journalist.”
In the first extract from the book, O’Reilly claimed: