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Priest who condemned kidnapping of Quinn chief 'fears for lives'

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Spoke up: Fr Oliver O’Reilly gives a sermon condemning the attack on Kevin Lunney at Our Lady of Lourdes Church, Ballyconnell. Photo: Lorraine Teevan

Spoke up: Fr Oliver O’Reilly gives a sermon condemning the attack on Kevin Lunney at Our Lady of Lourdes Church, Ballyconnell. Photo: Lorraine Teevan

Spoke up: Fr Oliver O’Reilly gives a sermon condemning the attack on Kevin Lunney at Our Lady of Lourdes Church, Ballyconnell. Photo: Lorraine Teevan

A priest in Co Cavan who condemned the "savagery" of the attack on Quinn Industrial Holdings (QIH) executive Kevin Lunney has said he did it out of fear over the possible loss of life in the region.

Fr Oliver O'Reilly told parishioners attending Masses in Our Lady of Lourdes Church in Ballyconnell, Co Cavan, that a "long reign of terror" in the area now threatened the lives and livelihoods of everybody living in the Cavan, Fermanagh and Leitrim Border region.

Speaking on 'Sunday with Miriam' on RTÉ Radio 1 about his homily and what had happened to Mr Lunney, Fr O'Reilly admitted: "I am fearful that next time round people will be killed or murdered - I would feel so guilty if I hadn't at least given this warning."

The priest, who is in his early 70s, received some negative reaction locally to his comments including an anonymous phonecall warning him to "watch yourself".

However, he told the Irish Independent that the focus must not shift to him but must remain on Mr Lunney and his family, whom he described as "outstanding people of integrity" and he stressed they had been intimidated for years.

Fr O'Reilly said the "elephant in the room" was the "campaign of intimidation" towards not just Mr Lunney but also to other directors at QIH.

"We have all been a bit reticent about getting involved and speaking up. I hope that more people can now speak out and support them," he said.

Yesterday, the head of the Catholic Church in Ireland also condemned the "brutality" and "barbarism" of the attack on Mr Lunney.

In Killineer, Co Louth, Archbishop Eamon Martin told the Irish Independent he was concerned about the "culture of fear which predominates in some communities where people are afraid to speak out over the last week or so".

He said "a lot of clergy have spoken strongly, courageously, clearly and confidently" on behalf of the community.

"I would certainly be calling for that kind of leadership from all those who are representing us in society because whenever we are silent, we tacitly accept and condone these sorts of things happening."

He warned that a culture of fear and intimidation "allows" the perpetrators "to do their dirty work and to strike fear and havoc within communities and within societies".

Fr O'Reilly said he had spoken to Mr Lunney's family in the wake of the attack, adding: "It woke me up to what these people are going through.

"This good man and his colleagues need support. They're the most decent men you could meet in the world and they're people of great integrity.

"They have lived under a cloud of constant harassment and intimidation for the last five years and I really fear for their lives. I guarantee that if they step aside, no one else will fill their shoes."

Fr O'Reilly also called on gardaí to allocate more resources to the area "so that this scourge can be removed from our midst".

Mr Lunney, a father of six, was abducted in broad daylight outside his home in Co Fermanagh and driven in the boot of a car to Co Cavan, where he was tortured. The gang warned him that he and the other directors would be shot if they did not resign.

Irish Independent