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Former Mountjoy governor defends attacker's Paris trip


John Lonergan,

THE former governor of Mountjoy Prison has defended his TV show where a woman who was convicted for a vicious assault was treated with a trip to Paris.

John Lonergan, who fronted RTE series John Lonergan's Circus, says he still believes in the benefits of the show and that he would do it all again.

Ciara Kiernan was handed a two-year suspended sentence along with sister Sabrina Archbold for the pair's assault on pregnant mum Julie McGregor.

Ms McGregor told Dublin Circuit Court of her anger at seeing Kiernan (18) being "rewarded" with a trip to Paris as part of the reality TV series.

The four-part series centered on eight young people from disadvantaged communities in Dublin, who join the circus in a bid to broaden their perspectives. Mr Lonergan said he was not excusing the attack, but the incident had occurred before Ciara became involved with the show and that she had since expressed remorse.

Mr Lonergan, Mountjoy governor for 24 years, said the programme was designed to give teenagers from some of Dublin's toughest areas a chance to challenge themselves.

"We were aware of the background of these children and the whole idea is to take high risk youngsters out of this environment and try to encourage them to move away from this behaviour," Mr Lonergan told the Herald.

"The production had a conversation with the victim before the show went ahead and she agreed that Ciara could take part in the show if she apologised, which she did.

"The trip to Paris was not about rewarding the children, but took place at the very start of the series to get them used to the circus culture and what they would be facing," he added.

Mr Lonergan described the attack as "repulsive", but said that he will continue to work with youngsters from troubled backgrounds and he feels that the show was a success.

"It is all about trying to instil a sense of belonging and structure in these children's lives and letting them know that they can break out of the environment that they are in and I think the show does this," explained Mr Lonergan.

Kiernan and her sister, both from the North Circular Road, pleaded guilty to assault causing harm in October 2011.

The victim was attacked with a baseball bat by the pair outside her apartment minutes after she had revealed to her friends that she was pregnant.

Ms Mc Gregor later suffered a miscarriage.

Kiernan's defence presented the court with letters from Mr Lonergan and the show's producers which stated the show had a positive impact on her.