Man jailed for ‘vicious’ attack on short-story writer in Cork city centre

Victim Brian Whelan (42) has only left home six times since 2019 incident, court hears

A man has been jailed for assault causing serious harm in Cork city centre in September 2019. File photograph: Getty Images

A man has been jailed for assault causing serious harm in Cork city centre in September 2019. File photograph: Getty Images


A short-story writer who had been due to read at the Cork International Short Story Festival was so badly affected by an unprovoked attack in Cork city centre that he has only left home six times since the incident, a court has heard.

Brian Whelan (42), from Ballincollig, was due to give a reading at the Cork International Short Story Festival in September 2019 when he was assaulted by Mark McConnell (25) on Winthrop Street in Cork city centre.

Mr Whelan had also been planning to use a masters degree in Asian studies that he had obtained to teach in Japan, but now, as a result of the attack, which left him seriously injured, he has only left his home six times since it happened in September 2019, the court heard.

McConnell, a native of Co Donegal who had been living at Pearse Road, Ballyphehane, Cork, and worked in construction in Cork, pleaded guilty at Cork Circuit Criminal Court to assault causing serious harm to Mr Whelan on September 15th, 2019, at Winthrop Street, Cork.

CCTV footage

Garda Conor Cronin said McConnell was not known to Mr Whelan and he left the scene after he attacked Mr Whelan, leaving him seriously injured, but the incident was captured on CCTV footage which gardaí circulated through the RTÉ Crimecall programme.

Garda Cronin said that a number of people recognised McConnell on the RTÉ Crimecall programme and contacted gardaí, and when he was arrested, he made full admissions and said he lost his temper following a brief conversation with the injured party.

“He showed a small degree of remorse during interview in relation to the injured party, Mr Whelan, who is from Ballincollig. Mr Whelan has a masters in Asian studies. He was due to be published and give a reading at the Cork [International] Short Story Festival. His life has altered significantly since,” he said.

Mr Whelan said in a victim impact statement read out on his behalf that he had spoken briefly to McConnell, and McConnell went to walk away but suddenly turned around and gave him a box, knocking him unconscious. “I hope my attacker will not do to anyone else what he did to me.”

Guilty plea

Defence barrister Emmet Boyle BL pleaded for leniency, pointing out that his client’s guilty plea had spared Mr Whelan the trauma of a trial. “He [McConnell] accepted without demur his involvement [in the assault]. He entered a plea of guilty at the earliest opportunity.”

Judge Seán Ó Donnabháin said: “This is a very sad case involving a young man who was full of hope and achievement after winning prizes for writing and was looking forward to teaching English in foreign parts.

“He is standing talking to the accused when the accused suddenly, and without any lead-up, strikes him a vicious blow which causes the victim catastrophic injuries. He was functioning at a high level and he now is in a very compromised and uncomfortable position.”

Mr Justice Ó Donnabháin said the case had nothing to do with drink but stemmed simply from McConnell losing his temper and striking an innocent man who had no opportunity to protect himself. He jailed McConnell for 5½ years but suspended the final two years of the term.