Senior policeman fears worst over Quinn HQ attacks
A local PSNI inspector has urged the culprits to stop before someone gets seriously hurt
IT is still not known if those responsible for the spate of attacks against the Quinn Group on both sides of the Fermanagh border are supporting former owner Sean Quinn or just out to cause trouble. But one thing's for sure, someone will get hurt.
Police Inspector Roy Robinson grew up in the area and watched the destitute village of Derrylin transform into a super empire, famous the world over, under the guidance of Quinn. Now, as one of the most senior PSNI officers in Fermanagh, he is watching in agony as the company comes under regular attacks, and fears somebody will die if they continue.
"There is every possibility that the next person to attack the company will die; they will be electrocuted and they will lose their life. That is a huge concern for me," he said.
"This place used to be just wilderness, there was nothing here. The criminal damage will have an impact on the business and on the jobs and do you know what will happen? Children will emigrate, people will leave here and it will be back to being nothing more than a wilderness."
Robinson makes valid points. When you start cutting down electricity poles, crashing lorries into buildings and setting things on fire, you don't just put jobs in jeopardy, you put lives at risk too.
The attacks against the Quinn Group over the last two years have intensified and I am seeing considerable anger here, not just from the company, but local people who are fed up with the disruption and unease about where all this is going.
While some believe these attacks are being carried out to support Sean Quinn, the man himself would reject that, as would his family. He has condemned the attacks in the past, uttering the words "not in my name". And even though he has been out of the business for two years, I know he is not relishing in the fact the empire he so painstakingly built up over a lifetime has been under attack – or that the jobs he created are now at risk as a result. To think he is enjoying this would be silly.
Quinn Group chief executive Paul O'Brien is a man under considerable pressure because of the attacks. Like so many, he too is very concerned, as are his employees, after he warned there could be serious consequences if this continues. So far it has cost the business in the region of €250,000. He told me: "No business can continue to sustain that level of sabotage cost without it having an impact on jobs. The question needs to be asked – in whose name are these thugs acting and to what purpose?"
It all kicked off in January 2011, when there was a fire at one of the buildings near the company's headquarters in Derrylin, while in December of that year, a lorry was used to drive into the front of the Quinn staff canteen. Mr O'Brien suffered an arson attack on his car parked outside his Co Meath home around that time, too, and in July last year, a number of vehicles worth thousands of pounds were burnt out at the company's Tarmac plant.
In the Derrylin area, there have been over 20 incidents in which electricity poles connected to the Quinn Group have been damaged and in the last fortnight, a fibre network connected to the company's communication department was fire-bombed and burning tyres were lined up on the road outside the headquarters to block cars. Last week, a crane belonging to the company was burnt out in Co Leitrim.
Interestingly, some comparisons have been made with the attacks against the Quinn Group and the Molly Maguires, the secret society that had a reputation for using violence against the shackles of landlordism in Ireland during the 19th Century.
They were the strongest in areas such as north Sligo, Donegal, Mayo and Fermanagh.
One local historian, who didn't want to be named, said: "Those standing up for Quinn could be doing it because they believe he has been hard done by and they are not going to stand idly by and allow these things to happen in the same way the Molly Maguires stood up for the people and rejected the landlords."
But who is behind the attacks? Opportunists or Quinn fanatics with the Molly Maguires in mind? Nobody seems to know.
Rodney Edwards is a journalist with 'The Impartial Reporter' newspaper in Enniskillen, Co Fermanagh