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Sunday 20 October 2019

'A cowardly act' - Leo Varadkar says those behind 'brutal' attack on Quinn executive must be brought to justice

  • Quinn chief Kevin Lunney stabbed and tortured after car rammed
  • Taoiseach Leo Varadkar says there must be arrests and convictions
  • Victim doused in bleach to destroy DNA evidence
  • Sean Quinn says his family is being wrongly blamed for the abduction and torture of one of his former executives
Kevin Lunney sustained 'life changing' injuries after being abducted
Kevin Lunney sustained 'life changing' injuries after being abducted

Shane Phelan and Luke Byrne

Taoiseach Leo Varadkar has said those behind the “brutal” attack on a Quinn Industrial Holdings executive must be brought to justice.

He described himself as “really horrified” by what happened to Kevin Lunney.

“I condemn it absolutely, it was a very cowardly act, the brutal act that happened in Fermanagh as you know. But the Quinn group operates on both sides of the border, and is a really important part of the economy, in the border region,” Mr Varadkar said.

The Taoiseach discussed the incident during a meeting with DUP leader Arlene Foster last night.

He said she is also “really concerned” about it.

“And we’re going to make sure that Garda resources are put behind this, that there is cooperation between the Gardaí and PSNI.

“What we really need here is arrests and convictions,” Mr Varadkar said.

Earlier today, former billionaire Sean Quinn has said his family is being wrongly blamed for the abduction and torture of one of his former executives

In his first comments since the savage attack on Quinn Industrial Holdings (QIH) operations director Kevin Lunney (50), Mr Quinn condemned what had happened as "barbaric".

But he also said relatives had told him his family was being blamed.

Mr Lunney and other directors of QIH have been subject of several attacks and acts of intimidation in recent years from people purporting to be supporters of Mr Quinn.

The company was formed by local businessmen with the backing of US hedge funds from the ashes of the Quinn Group after Mr Quinn slid into bankruptcy following a series of disastrous stock market bets on Anglo Irish Bank.

Kevin Lunney
Kevin Lunney

He was brought in as a consultant by QIH in 2015, but left the following year after a row and has failed in efforts to buy shares in the company.

Speaking to Joe Finnegan on Shannonside Radio this morning, Mr Quinn said: "My reaction would be the same as anybody else. It would be a sense of outrage."

He continued: "It would appear to me to be a fairly barbaric attack… Any proper individual, anybody with any sense or any morals, would of course condemn that.

"That man has a wife and kids. Of course you would condemn it totally. There is no other way around it."

But the former billionaire questioned why the finger of blame was being pointed in the direction of his family.

"My family has been on and they are outraged as well," he said.

"They have been on to me that ‘we are going to take the flak for this and we have been blamed for this and that some people will look our direction at it’."

Terrifying: Members of the PSNI near a lane way leading to the home of Kevin Lunney, in Kinawley, Co Fermanagh, yesterday. Photo: Damien Eagers
Terrifying: Members of the PSNI near a lane way leading to the home of Kevin Lunney, in Kinawley, Co Fermanagh, yesterday. Photo: Damien Eagers

Referring to the QIH, Mr Quinn told the radio show: "These guys pushed me out. They sacked me three-and-a-half years ago. I have had no correspondence or no dealings, no arguments, no fights with them since.

"So I don’t know. It is a pity people are coming back to me all the time and asking me to condemn it. Sure of course they know I have condemned it dozens of times. Any incidents that have happened, of course you condemn them."

Mr Quinn went on to say the attack "doesn’t make any sense".

"It is not what normal human beings do to each other. But what I am saying is I am disappointed people are always coming back to me and asking me about this," he said.

He claimed there was "an awful lot of conflict" in relation to the company in recent times.

He said that since he was "sacked", legal proceedings had been issued against "former directors, managers, staff, neighbours and friends".

But he insisted he was not caught up in the conflict.

"It is not me. I have not been involved for the last three-and-a-half years," he said.

"I don’t want to be seen as trying to push it off and only condemning it partially. I am condemning it totally and absolutely. There is no way around that.

John McCartin spoke of worry for his colleague. Picture: Mark Condren
John McCartin spoke of worry for his colleague. Picture: Mark Condren

"I am just saying it shouldn’t still be linked that Sean Quinn is the man that has to condemn this."

In a letter to staff after Mr Quinn left his consultancy role in 2016, QIH said he had left “by mutual consent”.

Attack

Kevin Lunney's captors tried unsuccessfully to cut Mr Lunney’s clothes off his body, stabbing him in the body as they did so. The Irish Independent can reveal a balaclava was then placed over his head and bleach poured over him in an apparent attempt to destroy DNA evidence.

The father of six was later bundled into a van before being dumped on a roadside at Cornafean, Co Cavan.

A passer-by found him badly injured but conscious at a rural crossroads at 9pm and he was rushed to hospital.

Mr Lunney’s ordeal began when his car was rammed off the road close to his home in Kinawley, Co Fermanagh, at 6.40pm on Tuesday as he was driving from QIH headquarters at Derrylin.

Sources have revealed that the attack appears to have been organised to coincide with an annual board meeting.

As soon as gardaí and the PSNI were alerted, officers were dispatched to the homes of four other senior executives with the company.

The company’s US-based bankers and bond holders who were to attend the meeting were immediately advised not to travel.

Some who had just arrived in Ireland took the first flight back to the US. John McCartin, the chairman of QBRC, the parent company of Quinn Industrial Holdings, told the Irish Independent how he and his fellow directors feared the worst for their colleague.

"The first I knew that this had happened was when a local garda came to my house to check were we OK and told me then that Kevin had been abducted," said the former Fine Gael councillor, who lives near Ballinamore, Co Leitrim.

"For well over two hours, we did not know if our colleague and friend was alive or dead. It was decided to advise those travelling from the US for our board meeting that it was best that they turned back."

One of the men who found Mr Lunney half-naked at the crossroads told the Irish Independent of his horror.

The man, a contractor who was working locally, stayed with Mr Lunney for about an hour after happening upon him at about 9pm. He said the victim was able to recount some of what had happened, but could "barely talk".

"He was there only with his boxer shorts on, his feet were sticking out into the road," the man said. "At first we thought he had been hit by a car, He told us who he was, he said he had been taken by men in balaclavas and beaten."

Mr McCartin and other senior executives at QIH have received several death threats over the past four years.

In February, Mr Lunney had his nose broken when he was assaulted on a street in Ballyconnell, Co Cavan.

Boiling water was thrown over Dara O'Reilly, QIH chief financial officer, at a filling station. In a separate incident, Mr O'Reilly's car was set alight outside his family home.

A threatening letter sent to the directors, and seen by the Irish Independent, warns of "implementing a permanent solution for at least one (of the directors)".

PSNI Superintendent Clive Beatty said Mr Lunney was arriving home when his vehicle was rammed by another vehicle and disabled.

"Mr Lunney locked himself in the vehicle but four masked men appeared, smashed the windows of Mr Lunney's vehicle, forcibly removed him and bundled him into the boot of a black Audi saloon and drove away," he said.

Supt Beatty said there had been an additional police presence around the company's premises over the past two days ahead of the meeting.

He described Mr Lunney's injuries as "life-changing".

It's understood Mr Lunney police he believed he had been held in a container or caravan.

Officers described his abduction and assault as "paramilitary style" in its execution.

Mr Lunney was once a close associate of former Co Fermanagh millionaire Seán Quinn. He worked with him to try to regain control of his empire, which collapsed in 2012 after Mr Quinn became heavily involved in investments in Anglo Irish Bank.

A statement from the Quinn family released last night said: "We are absolutely horrified to hear of the terrible ordeal which Kevin Lunney has endured, and our thoughts are with Kevin and his family.

"We have had no involvement in the Quinn Group for several years now and are deeply frustrated and angered that our former ownership of those businesses is being associated in any way with such abhorrent acts.

"The Quinn family has repeatedly condemned these types of attacks in the strongest possible terms and we will always do so.

"The people that are carrying out these despicable acts are not doing so for our benefit in any shape or form and we are totally against this type of activity."

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