Wednesday 24 January 2018

Cabinet gave Noonan nod to end Quinn involvement

Michael Brennan Deputy Political Editor

FINANCE Minister Michael Noonan got the backing of the Cabinet for Anglo Irish Bank's decision to push businessman Sean Quinn out of his family business.

The Cabinet gave its approval at its meeting last Tuesday for Anglo's actions, which included the nationalised bank's decision to become a shareholder in Quinn Insurance with US company Liberty Mutual.

Mr Noonan also needed to get advice from the National Treasury Management Agency (NTMA) on whether the bid by Anglo was commercially viable.

This is because the bank may have to invest more money into Quinn Insurance in the hope of recovering as much as possible of the €2.88bn owed by Sean Quinn and his family

A Department of Finance spokesman said the NTMA had recommended approval of the deal on the basis of "returning value to the taxpayer". He said the question of any investment in Quinn Insurance was a matter for Anglo.

Mr Noonan yesterday blamed Mr Quinn for making "enormous mistakes" as he backed a deal that pushed the former billionaire out of his company. He said it would be difficult to say how much Anglo wrote off from his family's €2.88bn debt -- but admitted there would be "significant write-offs".

But he said Mr Quinn had made a major contribution to the border economy.

"Whatever his difficulties today, I think that's worth noting," he said. But the decision was met with protests outside the Dail yesterday by Quinn workers, who said they feared it could lead to massive job losses in the Cavan-Fermanagh-Leitrim region where most of the Quinn companies are based.

Mr Noonan said the deal was a "good news story" for the workers and border region.

"The fact that all the jobs are protected, the same spend will be going on through the community up there," he said.

Fianna Fail finance spokesman Brian Lenihan said Mr Noonan had "stuck his neck out" by guaranteeing almost all of the 1,500 jobs in Quinn Insurance. He also said there was a need for a viable management team in the Quinn Group since Anglo had taken over the Quinn family's stake.


"The Quinn Group was a profitable group, giving a lot of local employment in the border areas. It needs to be run along commercial lines as quickly as possible," he said.

Some Quinn workers handed over a petition yesterday to Mr Noonan with more than 90,000 signatures calling for the acceptance of Mr Quinn's own proposal -- to repay the debt over seven years and retain the business. They were reluctant to blame Mr Quinn, who lost €3bn betting on the value of shares in Anglo Irish Bank, for the crisis.

Quinn Insurance worker Caroline Forde said Mr Quinn had been the only person who had brought employment to the border region.

"He was our Celtic Lion, long before there was a Celtic Tiger. Dublin has no idea what's going on around the Border and we are petrified what is going to happen to the ordinary workers," she said.

Irish Independent

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