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Local reaction: 'The banks are the real crooks -- it's all wrong what has happened'

IT'S not a good day for a drive around Derrylin, Co Fermanagh, headquarters of the Quinn Group. But Cathal McGovern is more than happy to manoeuvre the country roads in the driving rain.

What was supposed to be a five-minute chat -- gauging reaction to the nine-week sentence handed down to Sean Quinn -- turns into a tour of the roads around Derrylin and Ballyconnell, where the former bankrupt billionaire grew up.

"You see all those houses," he said, pointing to a row of 10 new houses on a back road into Derrylin. "They all work for the Quinns."

I wondered, as we drove around, what would motivate a man to leave his work and give a journalist he had never met before a 20-minute tour of the country roads around Derrylin?

"Sean Quinn was the only man who ever did anything for Fermanagh," the 59-year-old mechanic said.

"When I came out to work here 37 years ago, there was nothing in Derrylin. There was one house in the whole village. Everyone who has grown up since the 1970s in this parish has got work with the Quinns."

Those local people are now bitter, he said, at what he described as a witch-hunt against their employer.

"It's sick," said Mr McGovern bluntly.

He, like his neighbours, flatly refutes any suggestion that Quinn's bankruptcy and legal battle with the former Anglo Irish Bank is motivated by self-interest.

"The asset stripping, that was his own money. Sean Quinn's biggest problem was money could not rest in his account. He would always be thinking what he could do next."

A father of two, who has worked as a lorry driver for Quinn since he left school in 1993, lives in one of the houses Mr McGovern pointed out.

He recounted how, on his wedding day, Quinn sent a telegram to the hotel where they were celebrating. More recently, his employer came to the family home to sympathise following the death of his mother.

The young father described yesterday as a dark day for Derrylin: "The banks are the crooks. It's wrong from the start. Whatever he (Quinn) owed, he would have paid it back."

Posters dotted around Derrylin echoed his feelings. Beside a sign for Quinn's cement factory, one poster reads: "Anglo, go home."

Irish Independent