Town at the heart of business empire rallies to 'decent man'
Published 31/03/2010 | 05:00
HEAVY snowfall and electricity cuts yesterday crippled a town at the very heart of the Quinn empire as administrators were appointed to its largest employer.
As a blanket of snow surrounded the head office of Quinn Insurance in Cavan to further dampen workers' spirits, local residents vowed to rally around its local billionaire owner Sean Quinn.
Eamon McDwyer, president of Cavan Chamber of Commerce, said almost every family in the town would be affected by any changes at Quinn Insurance.
"It is by far the biggest employer in town, with in excess of 750 workers," he said.
"And the Quinn Group itself has employees in hotels, quarries, glass, factories and the plastics all in the Cavan and Fermanagh region. We all support Sean Quinn and his family. They are absolutely vital to Cavan and this region."
Few in the locality are not connected in some way to the Quinn empire which spans the north-east and Northern Ireland
Rural towns and villages, some otherwise forgotten, owe their fortune to the unassuming businessman.
Derrylin in Co Fermanagh and Ballyconnell in Co Cavan were both put on the map, so to speak, due to the success of Quinn's cement works.
A move into renewable energy resulted in wind farms at Slieve Rushen, Derrylin and Snugborough, and a modern landfill site in Co Armagh.
His insurance firm started up in Cavan in 1996, with 10 people employed in a room over what is now a credit union.
The firm now boasts 2,800 workers in Cavan, Enniskillen, Manchester, Blanchardstown, Cork and Navan -- which opened as recently as early 2009.
Elsewhere, the Quinn empire is also behind the success of several pubs and hotels across the country and Europe.
Michael Swords said workers across the area relied on the success of the sprawling business group.
"For the people of Cavan, Quinn has been their salvation for the last 20 years," said Mr Swords, a retired An Taisce employee.
"I think every Cavan man would be sorry if it was even suggested that there was a problem with him.
"He is a man of the people, he never got carried away.
"He was a decent fella who never lost the run of himself."
Mr McDwyer, an accountant, described yesterday's events as an armageddon day for finance -- with AIB bank shares plummeting and Finance Minister Brian Lenihan revealing details of bad-bank Nama and administrators being appointed to the Quinn Group.
Mr McDwyer revealed that the four people employed in his firm have seven close family members employed with the Quinn Group.
"The great shock with today's news is nobody really knows what the outcome is going to be," he explained.
"At the end of the day it's a profitable company and to see an administrator appointed at this time is quite shocking," he said.
Mr McDwyer called on the Government to keep an eye on events to ensure the Quinn Group survives.
"Their importance in the region can't be underestimated," he added.
"The Government can't afford to let it go."