Saturday 20 January 2018

Vigilantes target potential new owners of ex-Quinn Group firm

Some of the damage after an arson attack in Co Down.
Some of the damage after an arson attack in Co Down.
Sarah McCabe

Sarah McCabe

A COMPANY connected to the business formerly known as Quinn Group has suffered three arson attacks in the space of a week.

Three separate facilities owned by Belfast brothers Kevin and Michael Lagan were attacked, causing upwards of €1m worth of damage, after the brothers agreed to buy a Fermanagh-based rooftiles business owned by Aventas – the rebranded company that emerged following Quinn Group's entry into receivership.

The vigilante campaign is believed to have been organised by people sympathetic to the Quinn family and hostile to the company's new management.

One-time billionaire Sean Quinn has repeatedly condemned the attacks, saying those responsible are not acting in his name.

The incidents took place at premises in Comber and Lisburn in Co Down and Carrigtwohill in Co Cork. Threatening graffiti was sprayed on a building at the Lisburn site which read 'Hands off Quinn' and 'Stay out of Fermangh'.

The attacks took place within hours of each other even though the properties in question are hundreds of miles apart, suggesting the attacks were co-ordinated. In all cases, valuable machinery was set alight. Criminal investigations are now under way.

The Lagans' businesses have been a target of attacks for several years, despite maintaining a relatively tenuous link with the former Quinn group, but this latest spate of incidents represents an escalation of violence.

They occurred despite the brothers' commitment not to cut jobs at Quinn Rooftiles. The sale of the business still has another eight weeks to go before it is finalised.

Last January Lagan Group chief executive Kevin Lagan received a bullet in the post and a note referencing a joint venture his company was considering with Quinn Building Products.

"Quinn . . . is this what you want?", the note read. The deal later fell through.

Management from both companies have spoken out, as well as Northern Ireland's Enterprise Minister Arlene Foster.

"These scandalous attacks orchestrated by a small group of criminals and their equally criminal sponsors are directly connected to similar attacks on Aventas property over a lengthy period of time" said a statement released by Aventas yesterday.

"These criminals seem to think that a continuation of such activity will somehow intimidate the current owners of these businesses into reinstating the former owner, which is very much misjudged."

Aventas itself has also been targeted.

In December a vehicle was rammed into the conglomerate's canteen, less than 24 hours before Aventas confirmed its first redundancies since the takeover back in April.

Earlier in the year a digger was driven in front of the main entrance to the group's Derrylin headquarters, blocking it off. It was later moved following an intervention by Mr Quinn.

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