'Support Quinners, not the Sinners' is the rallying call
QUINN Insurance workers have demanded that the regulator immediately lift a ban on seeking new business in the UK, warning that it is having a "crippling effect" on Irish jobs.
Over 2,000 employees and their supporters marched in Dublin in an employee-led initiative yesterday, calling on the Government to intervene to protect 5,500 jobs in the wider Quinn Group. They filled coaches from Cavan and Fermanagh, double-deckers from Blanchardstown and some even flew in from Scotland and Wales.
The crop of Quinn Direct and Quinn Life golf umbrellas and luminous yellow Quinn hi-viz vests were a forceful reminder of how widely Sean Quinn's nets are cast. All facets of his "empire" were represented -- insurance, glass, concrete, insulation, finance, hotels, pubs, shopping centres and office blocks.
Marching solidly through the rain, their protest was as orderly and determined as their message was simple: Save our jobs.
'Don't let Regulator become Destroyer,' one placard warned.
'Support the Quinners not the Sinners,' read another.
The Dublin protest began outside the Dail at midday -- but was slightly delayed due to the late arrival of 20 buses from Cavan and Fermanagh. Then protesters marched on to Government Buildings, where they handed in letters of protest to the Department of Finance and the Department of the Taoiseach. On the face of it, the mood among the marchers was buoyant, with the Quinn workers giving three cheers when their letter for the Taoiseach was accepted by a civil servant.
However, a deep underlying worry was clear with workers with families and mortgages gravely concerned about their future.
John McCaffrey and his wife Marie had brought their two children Cormac (2) and Aidan (1) along to the march.
Mr McCaffrey works at Sean Quinn's sandstone quarry at Newtownbutler, Co Fermanagh, where 12 people are employed.
"If the insurance goes, there will be a big impact because it's probably the most profitable," he said.
Central to the campaign yesterday was a call on Financial Regulator Matthew Elderfield to lift a ban on writing new business in the UK.
March organiser Mona Bermingham said it was ironic that the new Employment Minister, Batt O'Keeffe, was currently in the US trying to drum up new jobs when thousands of indigenous jobs were in jeopardy.
"The ban on new UK business is having a crippling impact, but it isn't just the UK business (that is affected), it feeds in to the Republic of Ireland and the effects are being felt in every centre we have. If and when administration is lifted, there could be no business left," she warned.
Keith Barr, a litigation manager with Quinn Insurance and a former All-Ireland-winning Dublin footballer, said he believed there was a "witch-hunt" in certain sections of the media to "oust Sean Quinn and his family".
"Sean Quinn doesn't live in Switzerland, he doesn't live in Monaco, he doesn't live in Malta and he doesn't live in Marbella and he definitely doesn't live in Cape Cod. He lives in Cavan . . . He's an Irishman that has created a lot of jobs," he added.