Knocking Veronica off her Pedestal

In a tribute to his murdered wife at her funeral Mass, Graham Turley told the congregation that Veronica “had to be first at whatever she did and I never interfered with what she did because she had to do it, to achieve what she needed to get herself onto that pedestal and nobody, absolutely nobody, was ever going to knock her off.”


Emily O'Reilly, the political editor of The Sunday Business Post may do just that in a book to be published in May, ‘The Life and Death of a Crime Reporter'.
Commenting on a critical evaluation of Veronica Guerin published some months after her murder, Conor Cruise O'Brien wrote: “I have read that miserable article. I do not believe that any Irish journalist would have been likely to publish such an article. If anyone was thinking along those lines, the thought of the public indignation which would have greeted such an article …would have been likely to deter any direct disparagement of Veronica Guerin in this country.”
The comment was reflective of a near taboo that arose around the memory of Veronica Guerin. In challenging that taboo, Emily O'Reilly may be exhibiting considerable courage herself.
According to an interview with Ms O'Reilly published in The Sunday Times on April 19, the book will portray Veronica Guerin as “unreliable, unethical and possibly unstable”. According to a relative of Veronica Guerin who is familiar with the book, it claims that Veronica forged documents in connection with Aer Rianta. These documents caused embarrassment to The Sunday Business Post when Aer Rianta sought an injunction against it and Veronica Guerin, arising from an article she had written concerning the semi-state company.
The same source said that the book contains an interview with Damien Kiberd, editor of The Sunday Business Post, which is highly critical of Veronica.
If this is so, it will be surprising for in a lengthy article published in that newspaper after her murder, Mr Kiberd wrote of Veronica in terms of superlatives. He wrote that she “made greater efforts to check every fact in her story than any of her contemporaries operating in the trade today”. He said she was at “war to get the truth, the whole truth and nothing but the truth into the public domain”.
Indeed Emily O'Reilly herself wrote on the Sunday after Veronica's murder: “Veronica Guerin died because she was doing the state's dirty work. And was doing it alone, without protection, with no resource, as the editor pointed out, other than her pen and notebook and her own courage”.
The book, reportedly, also engages in a blistering attack on the ethics and ethos of The Sunday Independent and claims it left Veronica exposed and vulnerable.
From our research into the Veronica Guerin story, we have established that Emily O'Reilly did not speak to several key sources relevant to the story. For instance, we understand that she spoke to no member of the Guerin family other than Jimmy Guerin. She did make an attempt to speak to Graham Turley but only after the initial promotional literature for the book had been circulated. She made no attempt to speak to other members of the family until mid April by which time the book would have been in its final proofs. She then made contact with Veronica's mother Bernie, who agreed to meet Ms O'Reilly, only if the latter brought the book with her. Ms O'Reilly said that would not be possible.
Martin Guerin told Magill: “We have no problem with Emily O'Reilly writing a book about Veronica. That's her right. But what we do have a problem with, is that apart from Jimmy, who holds a different view from the rest of the family, she did not contact me, either of my sisters or my mother for confirmation of her story. How can you claim to write a book about a person when you're only getting part of the story?”
“Veronica has been described in the book as unreliable, unethical and possibly, unstable but none of us recognise Veronica in those words.”
Even before the book's release, Ms O'Reilly's book has been condemned by Jimmy Guerin, who alone among the family spoke to Ms O'Reilly.
Speaking to Magill, Emily O'Reilly said she didn't contact the other members of the Guerin family because she “presumed” they would not cooperate, following Graham Turley's public appeal that no books or films be written about his wife so soon after her death. O'Reilly conceded that perhaps she left herself open to criticism on this point.
Jimmy Guerin told Magill: ‘I was disappointed fuller research wasn't done and pointed this out to Emily. I certainly felt compromised that the others (his siblings) were not contacted because they would have contributed equally as much as me'.
Initially, the book was to be about the Sunday Independent under the stewardship of its current editor Aengus Fanning and how one of the journalists in their employ was murdered. Midway through the research the plot changed.
O'Reilly says it was at Jimmy Guerin's instigation that the book came to be more about Veronica. However, Jimmy Guerin denies this and says it was O'Reilly who initiated the new focus.
O'Reilly told Magill that while she was at first enthusiastic about doing the book, she had considered putting the project aside, due to work and domestic commitments. However, an article in The Sunday Tribune in June 1997 questioning the legitimacy of writing such a book, spurred her on to complete ‘The Life and Death of a Crime Reporter' she says.
Ms O Reilly is expected to make a substantial profit from the enterprise. The serialisation rights have been sold to The Sunday Times for a figure in excess of £40,000 and options on film rights have also been sold for a very considerable sum.
Indeed, Magill has learnt that O'Reilly's book is to form the basis of a big-budget American film. John Mitchell of Vintage Rights said, “We're in serious negotiations with a major studio and should be in a position to announce something quite soon.”
The Sunday World's crime correspondent, Paul Williams, has included a chapter on Veronica's murder in a new edition of The General, his book on the crime boss, the late Martin Cahill. A Hollywood screenplay, “Though the Sky Falls” by journalist Michael Sheridan is also underway. The script is a thinly disguised story of the life and death of Veronica and credits Veronica as the story-line consultant.
Disney has made various approaches to Graham Turley and has hired Dubliner Carol Doyle to prepare a script based on articles in GQ magazine. Graham is said to have a folder full of proposals for films and documentaries from around the world.