SINEAD O’LEARY has spoken of the devastating injuries she stills carries 17 years after the savage attack by murderer Peter Whelan.
Whelan stabbed Ms O’Leary more than 20 times at a house in Rochestown in a random and motiveless attack.
Her close friend Nichola Sweeney was killed in the same attack, stabbed 11 times by Whelan.
There was public outrage in recent days at confirmation that Whelan has been getting supervised day leave from prison, sanctioned by the Parole Board and Justice Minister Charlie Flanagan.
Sinead has branded the decision a shocking message to society about how much the life of Ms Sweeney was worth.
The friends were attacked in Nichola’s room as they prepared for a night out in April 2002.
Sinead still suffers chronic nerve pain as a result of the attack.
Speaking to The Echo, Sinead said: “I have permanent nerve damage and have chronic nerve pain every day. Nerves, tendons, and muscles in my arms were completely severed by the knife.”
She said her right arm was the worst affected.
A blade in one of the knives used by Whelan broke in Sinead’s arm, such was the ferocity of the attack.
Sinead and Nichola’s family have spoken out in recent days after becoming aware that Whelan has had three escorted day releases, during which he visited Cork, recommended by the Parole Board and approved by the Mr Flanagan.
More day releases have also been sanctioned.
Sinead says news of the day releases is causing her “huge trauma”.
“It is a shocking message that is being sent out to society that this is what a life is worth. We have been left in a very vulnerable position.”
Whelan was also granted an escorted release to Cork last week on compassionate grounds to visit his mother’s remains in a Cork city funeral home.
He is currently six years into a life sentence for the murder of Ms Sweeney and has already served 12 years of a 15-year sentence for the attempted murder of Sinead. He pleaded guilty to the two charges.
Sinead said: “My biggest worry about this case and about Peter Whelan is that I do not feel that we have the tools in Ireland to rehabilitate someone like him.”
He has never shown any remorse for the crimes and made numerous appeals against his sentence.
Whelan appealed the severity of the sentence, and the Court of Criminal Appeal ruled that he would have to serve the 15 years first, followed by the life sentence. An appeal of that decision failed.
He returned to the courts a third time to challenge his detention. In October 2007, a High Court challenge taken by him and another murderer, Paul Lynch, against the constitutionality of mandatory life sentences in murder cases was dismissed.
But in 2010, Whelan and Lynch took a Supreme Court challenge to the High Court decision. Once again, their bid was rejected.
Sinead added: “The level of violence that was used that night and he had also committed previous crimes — there has been no level of responsibility taken by him.”
Although Whelan lived close to the Sweeney family in Rochestown, they did not know him. He was known to be violent but the Sweeneys were totally unaware of this.
Before he went to their home, Whelan and two friends had been asked to leave a pub after an incident. The trio separated and Whelan went back to his home, where he had summonses waiting for him relating to an incident some months earlier.
He picked up knives, before going to the Sweeney home, which he later said he chose at random.
Nichola was putting on her makeup and Sinead was curling her hair when they were attacked by Whelan at around 11pm.