Veronica Guerin

AN IRISH JOURNALIST CHANGES THE LAW FROM HER GRAVE
On June 26, 1996, thirty-six-year-old Irish journalist Veronica Guerin was gunned down while driving her car on a motorway outside Dublin. The film Veronica Guerin, directed by Joel Schumacher, tells why she was assassinated and how her death changed the political landscape in Ireland. After depicting the scene in which she was killed, the story moves back two years. Walking on the streets of Dublin, Veronica Guerin (played by Cate Blanchett) finds discarded syringes used as toys by toddlers. Nosing around, she finds teenagers stoned on drugs, and she suspects that the influx of drugs is associated with Ireland’s skyrocketing crime rate. She also discovers a weekly march by parents in the syringe-infested neighborhood against drugs, but few are involved. In her news stories, Veronica attempts to raise consciousness of the need to crack down on the drug traffic. Her police informants cooperate, but the constitution and the law are not sufficient to enable the authorities to apprehend notorious druglords, and her pressure on a member of parliament to change the law is brushed aside. Her informant in the crime world, John “Coach” Traynor (played by Ciarán Hinds), gives her additional information, but he is only interested in embarrassing one gang so that his gang will benefit. Undeterred after she is shot in the leg by an unknown assailant, she confronts a top kingpin, John Gilligan (played by Gerard McSorley), who beats her up and then threatens to kidnap her six-year-old old son, rape him, and kill her if she either exposes him in the newspaper or presses charges in court. Veronica, nevertheless, goes to court, but Gilligan gets a delay in the arraignment and an associate boasts that more delays will occur in the future. A few days later, on June 26, Veronica is shot dead. (Titles at the end of the film indicate that more than 200 journalists have died in recent years.) The violence that she sustained previously had made her a national heroine, so her death made her a national martyr. The neighborhood marchers grow to thousands. The constitution is amended. And parliament passes appropriate legislation to seize the assets of suspected druglords, many of whom are then apprehended, stripped of their assets, and imprisoned. The crime rate falls. “Coach” flees to Portugal, where he fights extradition. Gilligan flees to England, is extradited, and in 2001 imprisoned for twenty-eight years. A remake of the less popular Irish film When the Sky Falls (2000), Veronica Guerin illustrates what can be done to stop drug trafficking in a homogeneous country, thus containing a message very different from Traffic (2000), Blow (2001), and Our Lady of the Assassins (2001). Accordingly, the Political Film Society has nominated Veronica Guerin as best film on democracy and best film exposé of 2003. MH