Francis Fitzgerald warns of gangland’s hidden body count

Justice Minister Francis Fitzgerald has warned that we must we must never forget the “hidden body count” of gangland crime.

Francis Fitzgerald warns of gangland’s hidden body count

Speaking at an event to mark the 20th anniversary of the murder of journalist Veronica Guerin, Ms Fitzgerald said all resources would be given to the gardaí to combat the recent spate of gangland murders.

However, she added that action must be taken to combat the far greater numbers who die every week of the year from drug abuse.

“Veronica’s death hammered home to all of us that Ireland was part of a global pattern of gang crime,” said Ms Fitzgerald.

Members of the Guerin family attended the memorial event which was held in the Chester Beatty library last night.

Fianna Fáil leader Michéal Martin, Labour leader Brendan Howlin, American ambassador Kevin O’Malley, Garda Commissioner Nóirín O’Sullivan as well as former Toaiseach Bertie Ahern were among those who joined Ms Guerin’s former colleagues and friends at the commemoration.

Ms Fitzgerald said Ms Guerin did not see any glamour in gangs and instead saw them for what they were — “people destroying local communities”.

A student bursary has been revealed in Veronica Guerin’s honour.

A student bursary has been revealed in Veronica Guerin’s honour.

“Many times recently I met the communities in areas of Dublin that have suffered most because of the activities of gangs.

“I defy anyone to see those involved in the drugs trade as anything but the great evil they are.

“Drug misuse is a public health issue. No one — except the gangs who profit from it — want to see more lives ruined because of drug abuse. I am very clear about one thing: it is not a matter for the activities of gangs to determine public health policy,” Ms Fitzgerald said.

She added that the time has come to remove the “pseudo sophisticated acceptability” from those in our community who buy drugs.

President Michael D Higgins said Veronica had sacrificed her life to bring some of the country’s most powerful criminals to justice, adding that Irish people owe her an “enormous debt of gratitude”.

In a message to mark the anniversary, President Higgins said: “She worked tirelessly, and with extreme courage, to expose a drugs trade that wrought so much misery on families and communities around the country.

The MC at the event, Miriam O’Callaghan, described Ms Guerin as “truly remarkable” mother, wife, journalist, and woman.

“Veronica was somebody who all of us journalists so loved and respected and it’s such a privilege to be here tonight,” said the host of RTÉ’s Prime Time.

Announcing a student bursary in her name, Independent News and Media (INM) chairman Leslie Buckley said Ms Guerin’s spirit remains and is an inspiration to those who follow in her footsteps.

“Even though it is twenty years on, the vivid image of a six-year-old boy kissing goodbye to his mother’s coffin, remains clearly etched in all our memories from the time of Veronica Guerin’s funeral.”

Singer Brian Kennedy and piper Sean Potts performed at the event.

Author Joseph O’Connor read a specially commissioned poem he wrote on her legacy.

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