THE ONLY man to be jailed for the brutal gunning down of the journalist Veronica Guerin is set to be released in one or two years, sources have confirmed.
Brian ‘Tosser’ Meehan, 55, is enrolled in an early release prison programme and has been transferred to the open-air Wheatfield prison to prepare him for life on the outside.
The gangland figure has served 21 years of a life sentence for his role as the driver in the hit and run murder of Mrs Guerin that shocked the nation back in 1996.
Most Irish murderers walk free after 18 years.
Commenting on the news, a prison source said: “Meehan is now on the road to freedom. The pre-release programme is to help him adapt to modern life on the outside. Much has changed since he was locked up.
“He has been learning to use the internet, computers, and participating in various education courses.
“He will have to tick a lot of boxes before he gets out but the welfare and probation services, psychologists, the gardai and Care After Prison are all involved.
“The next stage will be to transfer him to an open prison and then back out on to the streets.
“However, there is no date set yet. The final decision will be left to the Probation Service and the Minister for Justice.
“No minister wants to free Meehan, but they will be left with no choice.”
The three judges, presiding over the Special Criminal Court which convicted the street thug in 1999, did not stipulate the number of years he should serve.
He was handed a life sentence for the murder as well five to 25 years for drugs and firearms related offences – with both terms to run concurrently.
Meehan served out most of his sentence in the maximum security Portlaoise Prison before being moved to Wheatfield in 2019.
Mrs Guerin was tragically murdered in a brazen hit and run attack in broad daylight on June 26, 1996, as she sat in traffic on the Naas dual carriageway in Dublin.
Two men pulled up beside the car and opened fire.
Meehan drove while Patrick “Dutchy” Holland (now deceased) fired six rounds at the 37-year-old journalist.
Holland was never charged with the murder but was later named as the killer by gardai in a subsequent drugs-related trial.
The life-long criminal maintained his innocence until his death in an English prison at 70 years of age in 2009.
Meehan’s conviction was secured on the back of evidence given by Russell Warren, a member of John Gilligan’s narcotics gang who turned State evidence against his former cronies.
Guerin’s brother Jimmy expressed his regret at the decision to give Meehan early release on the 25th anniversary of his sister’s death.
He added: “He showed no remorse for Veronica’s murder throughout the whole trial. He was as cocky as hell and didn’t care less.
“I knew this day would come and they’d put him on a pre-release programme.
“My understanding is he cannot be released unless it is approved by a ministerial order.
“What minister in his right mind will release Meehan, especially in the year of her 25th anniversary?
“He is still young at 55 and it would be wrong and inappropriate for him to have his freedom while she is dead.”
The prison source added: “I don’t think anyone can really stop Meehan from getting out at this stage – sadly it is only a matter of time.”