Monday 23 September 2019

Fears of 'lunatic element' following another attack on ex-Quinn business

Attacked: The burnt-out shell of a car outside the home of Quinn Industrial Holding’s Tony Lunney. Photo: Lorraine Teevan
Attacked: The burnt-out shell of a car outside the home of Quinn Industrial Holding’s Tony Lunney. Photo: Lorraine Teevan
Targeted: Arsonists attacked the home of Tony Lunney. Picture: Lorraine Teevan

Ryan Nugent and Gavin McLoughlin

A series of arson attacks in recent months is leading to fears that deaths could result from the actions of a "lunatic element" involved in the intimidation of senior management at part of Sean Quinn's old business empire.

Gardaí are investigating a number of incidents at properties connected to management at Quinn Industrial Holdings (QIH).

On Tuesday night, arsonists attacked the home of Tony Lunney, a senior manager at the company. QIH said a car belonging to Mr Lunney's daughter was set alight after 11pm.

That comes after another recent incident where the car of Dara O'Reilly, the company's chief financial officer, was set alight while he and his two children were upstairs in the house.

It's believed the blaze could have easily spread to the home in Butlersbridge, Co Cavan, had the fire services not been notified on time. Another incident, where the tyre factory of a QIH senior manager was gutted after being set alight, is also being probed by gardaí.

QIH is made up of elements of the old Quinn empire. Mr Quinn returned to the business as a consultant after it was established but later parted ways with the company.

QIH has said there has been a "campaign of threats and intimidation against senior management of QIH by persons who had sought the return of Sean Quinn".

Mr Quinn told a meeting of supporters earlier this summer that he had been trying to buy back the business. He claimed he had been "stabbed in the back" by the company.

But aside from the business disagreement, Mr Quinn has repeatedly publicly condemned the attacks against QIH, saying the people carrying them out are not doing it in the best interests of him or his family.

In an interview with Northern Sound radio, he asked the perpetrators to "please stop".

"We are totally against this type of activity, regardless of how these people feel about what has happened, this is doing us no good whatsoever," he said.

"All I can do is condemn it in the strongest possible terms and pass on my regrets to Dara and his wife and kids because this was very unfortunate.

"This shouldn't happen outside any family home. Whatever happens in business happens in business, but you should never have to bring it home to your wife and kids."

Sources in the region have described the attackers as a "lunatic element", stating that outside a minority there is strong support in the Fermanagh and Cavan communities for QIH.

Other incidents that have occurred include a threat at the home of a director, where a pig's head was allegedly dumped at the door, while it is understood the company has issued legal papers to a number of people in relation to alleged defamatory comments made online and on social media.

The situation is leaving a sour taste in areas where Quinn companies are set up, though it's not something that is affecting the day-to-day life of locals, according to Fine Gael councillor in Ballyconnell, Co Cavan, Peter McVitty.

He said there is still a lot of emotion in these areas, with so many owing a debt of gratitude to Mr Quinn and many still feeling he was hard done by.

"You can see where they're coming from with their anger," Mr McVitty said, though he moved to totally condemn the violence and intimidation.

Referring to the arson attack on Mr O'Reilly's car, he said: "It could have been serious now. This is a young family, it's completely mindless what was done."

The councillor said he hopes things will calm down, as currently "it's a no-win situation, it's just difficult".

Senior figures at QIH have appealed for the attacks to end.

Yesterday, QIH chief executive Liam McCaffrey said: "It is grossly unacceptable that criminals who threaten the lives and well-being of staff on both sides of the Border continue to operate with impunity.

"It is also enormously frustrating that following years of intimidation and threats and a substantial escalation of violence over recent months, not a single arrest has been made.

"Unless politicians and the authorities on both sides of the Border properly prioritise and resource this issue, as they have with gangland and paramilitary crime in other areas, lives will be lost.

"More than 830 staff and their families and the wider community are impacted by this violence and intimidation and they are in urgent need of reassurance that this issue is being taken seriously," he added.

After the attack on Mr O'Reilly's home, QIH chairman Adrian Barden said a continuation of the attacks will result in injuries or fatalities.

"We call on those with influence or knowledge of those engaged in these criminal actions to speak out," he said.

"Notwithstanding this intimidation, QIH reaffirms its commitment to continuing investment and growth in the region."

Irish Independent

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