Emotions run high as GAA stars join thousands at rally for defiant Quinns
BUSINESSMAN Sean Quinn last night vowed his family would stand together as he received rapturous applause at a major support rally in his heartland.
Joined on stage in Ballyconnell, Co Cavan, by Tyrone GAA manager Mickey Harte and well-known priest Fr Brian D'Arcy, Mr Quinn warned supporters that he felt emotional and that speaking would be a difficult task.
Mr Quinn -- once Ireland's richest man -- referred to his fugitive nephew, Peter Darragh, claiming the nephew's reputation had been damaged.
"I'd like to thank especially young Peter who's getting a bad reputation. Peter has been a huge support to his family and the Quinns will continue to be the Quinns and we will stand by each other."
Mr Quinn thanked his staff for their loyalty and support and said they had been "tremendous".
He left the stage, got into a car and was driven off.
Earlier, his daughter Colette said the family were looking forward to their day in court when they would be vindicated.
Throughout the evening Mr Quinn was feted as the man who brought growth and prosperity to a region allegedly ignored by the northern and southern governments.
And the former businessman was honoured as a man who did not flaunt his wealth, but poured it back into the local community.
The side of a lorry was the stage for the rally in Ballyconnell where supporters lined part of the main street to praise the man whose name adorned buildings throughout the area.
Below a banner demanding "natural justice" for the Quinn family, Fr D'Arcy stated that it should be the regulators, auditors and banks before the courts, not the Quinn family.
"The main reason I'm here is because as Christians and good neighbours we have a right and a duty to stand by our families and neighbours," he said.
"They built an industry the like of which has never been seen in this country.
"When northern governments and southern governments wouldn't give us a penny, when not a single one of them provided a job, it was Sean Quinn and his family who took up the battle."
More than 1,000 people thronged the main street in Ballyconnell, bearing placards alleging that what happened to the Quinn family was an injustice. It was easy to see why the family has such support in the area.
One woman, who did not wish to be named, said the family had brought employment to an area largely forgotten by central government.
"The area would be nothing without that family," she told the Irish Independent. "There would be no employment here if it were not for them."
On the road from Derrylin, Co Fermanagh, to Ballyconnell, just across the Border in Co Cavan, elements of the Quinn family's former empire peppered the landscape.
Quinnglass, Quinn rooftiles, Quinnpherm and Quinn Packaging were just some of the factory-style buildings bearing the family name, as well as the large, red-brick office complex of the Quinn Group.
Local businessman Padraig Donohoe said Mr Quinn was one of the greatest entrepreneurs the country had ever produced.
"We are here to fight our corner and it's going to be a hard fight," he said.
"We are here to support the Quinn family, a family who stands for everything that is good in Irishness and deep family values."
Former Meath manager Sean Boylan said the Quinn family were "not thieves, not vagabonds, they're not people who don't care".
"They are Irish people who have the guts and ingenuity to create a better life for thousands of people in this country and we owe them a massive favour of thanks and gratitude."
Meath legend Colm O'Rourke also joined the marchers.
Former Armagh manager Joe Kernan and captain Jarlath Burns also spoke, while a handwritten letter of support was read out from Ryanair boss Michael O'Leary.