Wednesday 20 March 2019

New owners of Sean Quinn's business empire fear deaths as violence against company rises

Company reviews security after arson attack and threats to management and staff intensify

Sean Quinn has repeatedly condemned attacks. Photo: Getty
Sean Quinn has repeatedly condemned attacks. Photo: Getty
Maeve Sheehan

Maeve Sheehan

The new owners of Sean Quinn's business empire fear that a renewed campaign of violence against the company could result in deaths or serious injuries.

The warning follows an arson attack on a business owned by a senior manager at Quinn Industrial Holdings last weekend which destroyed offices and caused thousands of euros of damage. The arsonist is captured breaking into the building and setting it alight on CCTV footage now being examined by gardai.

Quinn Industrial Holdings fear the attack marks a return to the violence, harassment and intimidation that have dogged the business since Sean Quinn, once Ireland's richest man, was ousted from the industrial cement and glass businesses in 2011 over €2bn debts.

Mr Quinn has publicly and repeatedly condemned the attacks.

The company has initiated a high-level security review to protect staff, management and company property.

In a statement this weekend, the company said it is "very concerned that a resumption of violence and intimidation may result in serious injury or loss of life".

A dossier obtained by the Sunday Independent reveals that the arson attack is the 20th act of violence or hostility on Quinn Industrial Holdings operations on the Fermanagh-Cavan border in its three years running the business.

More than 90 attacks on the group have occurred in total, since a share receiver was appointed to take over Quinn's business on behalf of the former Anglo Irish Bank.

A local consortium that included executives who worked for Sean Quinn bought back the business, with US investment, to protect local jobs.

Sean Quinn returned to the business as a "consultant" but left following a dispute in 2016. The company reported record profits this year but a group claiming to be supporters of Sean Quinn have continually criticised company executives, accusing them of destroying the business.

The log sets out what QIH says are "examples of Personal Harassment of Directors/Senior Management, and Damage to Property, in addition to ongoing Facebook postings".

The first incident is logged on January 2015, a month after the local consortium concluded the deal to take over Sean Quinn's former businesses, and describes an arson attack on a parked lorry belonging to the company at Derrylin cement works.

Later that year, a petrol can and a box of matches were left beside a windfarm substation and, on the same day, a pig's head was dumped at home of a director.

The log also lists threatening signage erected close to the company offices; bullets and a funeral wreath sent to staff at windfarms formerly part of the Quinn Group; diesel contaminated in various company vehicles and in one instance, sand and corrosive material inserted into the fuel and oil tanks of machines.

Eight incidents were logged last year and four this year, including an alleged physical assault on a relative of a member of the Quinn management team in April.

A new Facebook account began posting critical commentary about the company in April this year, after a previous Facebook account was the subject of High Court action.

The arson attack on the Eco Tyre business in Belturbet last weekend is regarded by the company as a serious escalation in the campaign.

The attack occurred just hours after the chairman of Quinn Industrial Holdings emailed staff to counter what it claimed was false information concerning the company, propagated at a local meeting organised by Sean Quinn.

In a statement to the Sunday Independent this weekend, the company said: "Those engaged in promoting provocative and false information, whether online, or at public meetings such as the recent Tilermade meeting, need to reflect on its potential impact on the behaviour of those prone to mindless violence."

It continued: "Intimidation of this nature is an attack on the community and on jobs. Whereas we are very grateful that no was injured or worse in the recent arson, we remain very concerned that a resumption of violence and intimidation may result in serious injury or loss of life."

Sunday Independent

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