Arsonist jailed for causing €1.25m damage to apartment complex

John McGovern (25) set fire to Dublin building after ‘vicious attack’ on his girlfriend

The judge said arson was considered a very serious offence by the courts because it was impossible to control the outcome. Photograph: Collins Courts

The judge said arson was considered a very serious offence by the courts because it was impossible to control the outcome. Photograph: Collins Courts

 

A man who set fire to a Dublin apartment complex, causing €1.25 million in damage and leaving 25 people temporarily homeless, has been jailed.

John McGovern (25) set fire to the Station Hill apartment complex at Clongriffin, Dublin last November after a “vicious attack” on his girlfriend when he was was “out of his mind” on drugs and drink, a court has heard.

Passing sentence at Dublin Circuit Criminal Court on Thursday, Judge Karen O’Connor said McGovern was at very high risk of reoffending, but noted he was making good use of his time in custody and trying to find a way to rehabilitate himself.

She suspended the last 12 months of a six and a half year prison sentence.

McGovern, of Shangan Terrace, Ballymun, Dublin, pleaded guilty to one count of arson causing damage to a number of apartments at Station Hill apartment complex at Clongriffin and to one count of assault causing harm to his partner Gráinne O’Brien on November 1st last year.

The judge said arson was considered a very serious offence by the courts because it was impossible to control the outcome, and that McGovern had placed the lives of the residents at risk.

She said the financial loss to some of the residents due to the destruction of their property had been considerable, but also that they had been inconvenienced and lost their homes temporarily.

The judge said Ms O’Brien had suffered a “vicious attack” that was “frightening and physically painful” when her child was present.

‘Agitated state’

She acknowledged McGovern had a very difficult upbringing including parental alcohol abuse, time spent in care when he was a child, and mental health issues suffered by both his mother and himself.

Garda Alan Roche told Ronan Kennedy, prosecuting, that McGovern and Ms O’Brien were drinking heavily throughout the bank holiday weekend.

On the Tuesday morning after the weekend, Ms O’Brien woke up in her apartment in the Station Hill complex to see McGovern throwing a hoover at her face. He then jumped on the bed and started kicking and punching her in the legs.

McGovern left the apartment shortly afterwards and went to the Travel Lodge in Ballymun where he continued to drink alcohol and took controlled drugs.

Ms O’Brien’s ex-partner came to the apartment that afternoon, bringing their young child with them. He said Ms O’Brien had a black eye, split lip and was missing a tooth.

While he was there, McGovern returned to the apartment in a very “agitated state”, the court heard. He threatened to fight Ms O’Brien’s ex-partner, causing him to flee the building. Ms O’Brien left shortly afterwards, leaving her son in the apartment with McGovern.

She ran to a neighbour’s home and asked her to call gardaí. Her son left the building shortly afterwards and joined his mother in the neighbour’s house.

Ms O’Brien then saw her apartment was “orange and on fire”, the court heard before she saw McGovern on the other side of the nearby train tracks yelling, “Look at your gaff Gráinne, I’m after setting it alight”.

McGovern caught a train to Raheny station, where he was arrested.