Sunday 23 July 2017

Protesters occupy group headquarters to demand reinstatement of former CEO

Clare Weir and  Anne-Marie Walsh

"PUNISH the sinners, not the Quinners" was the cry of almost 1,000 protesters who occupied the Quinn Group's headquarters in Fermanagh yesterday.

They took over the insurance giant's base in a sit-in as fears grew for their jobs after former chief executive Sean Quinn was removed from the company.

Business people, schoolteachers, a parish priest and the president of the local GAA club crammed into the building in Derrylin.

They only agreed to leave after Mr Quinn sent a personal message, asking them to vacate the building and allow staff get on with their work.

The protesters demanded the reinstatement of Mr Quinn and his family, who have been removed from any role in the group as part of a new ownership deal.

The insurance, glass and cement empire is being sold to a joint venture of Liberty Mutual -- the fifth-largest insurer in the US -- and Anglo Irish Bank, having gone into administration a year ago. The Quinn family owes the bank €2.8bn.

But many residents in the border region fear that former business allies of the Quinn Group will not work with Anglo Irish Bank -- and that this could mean job losses.

Anglo has appointed accountants KPMG to take control of the family shares in the business.

The new team in charge of the group has promised there will be no redundancies, but the demonstrators said they were "gravely concerned" about their long-term job prospects.

Commitments

In a statement, they said: "We have major difficulties in accepting the validity of the commitments given by Anglo Irish Bank, the new management team and the Irish Government in relation to the future of the businesses."

Protester Padraig Donohoe said: "People fear for their jobs. Since Anglo got involved in February, there have been 1,500 job losses, 500 in the immediate area.

"We are hearing on the grapevine that a lot of Quinn customers and suppliers do not want to do business with a defunct bank and this will lead to no jobs at all."

A Quinn Group spokesman said: "The protest and illegal trespassing at the company's head office in Derrylin were extremely disruptive and damaging to the business."

The company added that its focus was on "running the business efficiently, looking after our customers and protecting jobs".

Irish Independent

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