Veronica Guerin film at 20: Lessons for Oregon

By Jason Williams
Taxpayers Association of Oregon Foundation,


Veronica Guerin is a superb 2003 true-life story featuring Kate Blanchett as she plays the Irish journalist who took on the drug lords and was murdered for it.


In the 1990’s, drugs and crime were experiencing a surge in Ireland.

Newspapers were reluctant to report on it.

One problem was libel laws.  Guerin got around that problem by using nicknames for real-life drug kingpins.

Law enforcement felt under-powered to take on these organized criminal operations.

The 2003 film, Veronica Guerin, expertly and faithfully tells the 1990’s story on how Guerin moved into a dangerous reporting zone that other newspapers simply would not touch.  Guerin dared to report on the drug cartels who were operating in broad daylight.   Almost immediately, her life was threatened for her reporting.  She had shots fired into her home.  She was assaulted.  Eventually she was murdered.

Her death galvanized Ireland.

New laws were passed to give police the power they needed to go after organized drug crimes (such as passing the nation’s first witness protection program). Instead of fearing the criminals, newspapers began to do more investigations.  Citizens groups were created to push back against the drug tide.   Drug lords who once openly flouted their businesses and their threats were then driven into the shadows like other criminal operations.  Under threat of tax evasion, many drug dealers moved out of the country.  For a while, drug crimes declined.

Veronica Guerin said that the problem was that “everything favors the criminal in this society”.

As Oregon faces a drug crisis, often the worst in the nation in various drug categories, we too see how our state is structured at favoring the criminal over the community.   Drug addicts are given several million free drug needles a year.  Multnomah County budgeted for 80,000 free crack pipes to hand out.  All the worst drugs (cocaine, meth, heroin) have been decriminalized. Property, theft and trespassing crimes are often excused for drug dealers and never prosecuted.

Veronica Guerin also reminds us on the importance of good journalism and how it can change everything. We remember the scandal-breaking stories, but often forget the people who made the story happen.

The film is excellent and an overlooked gem. It is also a time capsule looking back into the 1990’s when a new drug wave hit a vulnerable nation and how people responded. Oregonians should watch this film and take note.