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Union pays tribute to spirit of Bernie Guerin

16 January 2014

The National Union of Journalists (NUJ) has extended sympathy to the family of Mrs Bernie Guerin, who has died following an illness. Mrs Guerin was mother of murdered Sunday Independent journalist Veronica Guerin and became a campaigner for press freedom in her own right.

Following Veronica’s death, Mrs Guerin developed a close friendship with many NUJ members across the UK and Ireland. She attended a number of press freedom events sponsored by the union and was a special guest at the NUJ delegate meeting at Ennis in April 2000 where she gave a keynote speech at a "Right to Report" seminar.

Séamus Dooley, Irish secretary, extended sympathy on behalf of the NUJ to her family and recalled the powerful speech which Mrs Guerin made in accepting the bound books of condolences collected by the NUJ following Veronica's murder.  So many members of the public had queued to sign the books that Liberty Hall had to be kept open throughout the night. Among those who sign the books was the Czech President Václav Havel.

Séamus Dooley said.

"Bernie indicated that she would accept the Books of Condolences after an appropriate interval and we were pleased when she agreed to attend the NUJ delegate meeting in Ennis. I vividly recall her opening remarks in which she asked journalists not to use the phrase that Veronica Guerin had 'given her life for press freedom.'
‘My daughter,’ she told delegates, ‘did not give her life. It was taken from her and she was taken from her family.’ Her speech was warm, generous and considered. She expressed sympathy to UK journalists on the then recent murder of Jill Dando and saluted the courage of Ed Moloney, who had taken a stand in defence of confidential sources of information. She then delivered a brief but direct address in which she called for libel reform and emphasised  the role of journalists in a democracy. Veronica would have been so proud."

Barry McCall, NUJ president, said Mrs Guerin’s spirit and enthusiasm had "moved and inspired delegates".

He added:

"The script is on file in the NUJ office but of course Bernie did more than speak to a script. Her speech was a tour de force. Bernie sought to ensure that the work of Veronica Guerin was not forgotten, insisting that her daughter should be remembered for the totality of her journalism and not just because of her horrific murder."

The following is an excerpt from that speech delivered by Mrs Guerin on 6 April 2000.

"Some months before her assassination Veronica received the 'International Journalist of the Year Award' at a ceremony in the Waldorf Astoria in New York which was televised by CNN with a viewing audience of millions. She spoke of the shortcomings of the 'Libel Laws' as they existed in this country.
"I know in my heart, that as her mother, I would be failing Veronica at this 'Right to Report Seminar' if I failed to express my sadness that these laws remain the same.
"We live in a democracy. Do we not then have the democratic right to know the full story? Tragic events, such as Veronica's assassination give journalists an understandable fear of those people who operate outside the law.
"Journalists who report honestly and truthfully should be allowed do so without also fearing the 'Laws of the Land'. These laws must be amended. Society owes a huge debt to journalists who continue to expose corruption no matter where, or at what level, Ed. Moloney of the 'Sunday Tribune' deserves the congratulations of all of us here this evening for going to the limits to protect his sources.
"I am proud to be a part of the 'Right to Report Seminar 2000', I think of it as an honour, not just for me, but also for my daughter, Sunday Independent Journalist, Veronica Guerin."

Tags: , ireland, tribute, journalists killed, veronica guerin, press freedom