Gardaí on high alert as boxer who attacked Kevin Lunney set for early release

Gardaí are on high alert in the run-up to the early release from prison of boxer James Bernard McGovern early next month.

cGovern (26), from Fermanagh, was jailed for an attack on businessmen Kevin Lunney and Dara O’Reilly at a filling station near Ballyconnell, Co Cavan, on February 1, 2019.

He is expected to be released on temporary release from high-security Portlaoise Prison four days before his sentence of three years and three months is completed.

A prison source said that because of the “extremely violent and high-profile” nature of McGovern’s crime, he was being allowed “the very minimum amount of temporary release available to offer him”.

“He has been involved in a number of minor disciplinary issues since being committed to prison, but nothing on a serious level, and he has been approved for temporary release,” the source said.

A spokesperson for the Irish Prison Service said it would not comment on individual prisoners.

There are concerns McGovern’s release may lead to an increase in tensions in the Border area, where there have been numerous attacks, as well as the abduction and torture of Mr. Lunney after the collapse of the business empire of former billionaire Sean Quinn.

Last February, McGovern’s father, Sean (64), was convicted of harassing Mannok director Mr. Lunney.

The court was told posters had been put up in the community to “ramp up tension”, but the elder McGovern said: “My youngest son Bernard was remanded and could not get bail.

“It was a campaign against that. My son is the victim.”

He was given a four-month suspended prison sentence when he appeared before Enniskillen Magistrates Court for the harassment offence.

At the time, Bernard McGovern was on remand in prison after being originally charged with the filling station attack, which was caught on CCTV.

He spent several months in Castlerea Prison between June and December 2020 before being granted bail. He was jailed for the offenses in March 2021.

McGovern pleaded guilty to assaulting Mr Lunney, causing him harm, at a filling station in Rakeelan, Co Cavan.

He also pleaded guilty to a lesser charge of assaulting Mr. O’Reilly, the chief financial officer at the same enterprise founded by Quinn.

The court was told the attack happened the day after McGovern’s father had his employment terminated as a truck driver with Quinn Industrial Holdings, rebranded as Mannok.

McGovern, who was 22 at the time, was sitting in the filling station cafe a short distance from the two men after they arrived about 1.15pm.

The boxer got up, asked for a fresh pot of boiling water, then poured himself a cup before launching the assault on the two colleagues.

He later presented himself to gardaí after an extradition order was issued to the authorities in Northern Ireland.

It was stated in court that McGovern had no involvement in incidents in September 2019 when Mr Lunney was abducted near his Fermanagh home, tied up, beaten and slashed on the face and chest with a Stanley knife.

He was then dumped on the side of a road in Cornafean, Co Cavan.

Three Dublin criminals are serving long prison sentences for their role in that crime after being convicted by the Special Criminal Court.

McGovern later unsuccessfully appealed against his prison sentence.

While dismissing that application, a judge told the Court of Appeal that the fists of a boxer who “rained blows down on” Mr. Lunney would be regarded as “lethal weapons” in other countries.

The President of the Court of Appeal, Mr Justice George Birmingham, said he had been struck by the “ferocity and savagery” of the assault on Mr Lunney, which had been carried out by a “highly prolific boxer”.

He also noted that the injuries suffered by Mr. O’Reilly might have been more severe if the victim had not been wearing glasses when McGovern threw a cup of boiling water in his face.

The offending, the judge said, had been carried out as an “act of revenge” after McGovern’s father lost his job at Quinn Industrial Holdings and was “a very, very serious matter”.

The judge also observed that Mr. Lunney had “been a victim of a campaign of violence and intimidation” in a separate case.

However, he said he accepted this offense “was an isolated incident and not connected to other matters”.

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