Sunday 26 January 2020

'I knew exactly who did it and I gave gardai McGuinness's name'

Dublin Jimmy was freed from a Belgian jail then stole a tanker to attack Quinn Group's HQ, writes Maeve Sheehan

Cyril 'Dublin Jimmy' McGuinness. Photo: Collins Courts
Cyril 'Dublin Jimmy' McGuinness. Photo: Collins Courts
QIH director Kevin Lunney
Maeve Sheehan

Maeve Sheehan

Cyril McGuinness was not long out of a Belgian prison for stealing building and farm machinery on the Continent when he got his next job. He had been sentenced to seven years for the thefts and extradited from Ireland to Belgium to serve his time in 2011. He couldn't have served more than two years.

To the puzzlement of local gardai, his name was flagged on the security radar as the G8 summit got under way in Enniskillen in June 2013, according to sources. The crook known as Dublin Jimmy had somehow been released back into the borderlands of Fermanagh and Cavan, where he had set up home to further his smuggling career.

But it was not the G8 summit that was at risk from McGuinness. This was also Quinn country. Sean Quinn's quarrying, cement and manufacturing empire stretched from Ballyconnell in Co Cavan, to Derrylin, across the Border. Once Ireland's richest man, Quinn lost his businesses to the former Anglo-Irish Bank the same year Cyril McGuinness was extradited. When McGuinness resurfaced in 2013, a campaign of sabotage against the Quinn businesses was well under way. Gardai now believe that the jailbird smuggler was snapped up by a mystery paymaster intent on driving out the new owners of the Quinn companies, as Tommy Cassidy, one of many innocent locals who got caught in the crossfire, was soon to find out.

This weekend, Mr Cassidy, a businessman who runs a busy fuel depot on the Cavan-Fermanagh border, reveals for the first time how he told the police as far back as 2013 that McGuinness stole his tanker to attack the Quinn businesses. McGuinness went on to perpetrate scores of attacks on the Quinn businesses, but none as brutal as the abduction and assault on Kevin Lunney, a director of Quinn Industrial Holdings (QIH) in September. McGuinness collapsed and died of a heart attack when police raided his home in England in November.

Please log in or register with Independent.ie for free access to this article.

Log In

Tommy Cassidy's fuel depot has served a broad spectrum of customers from priests to sales reps to executives to smugglers, such as Cyril McGuinness.

"I knew him from coming into this area. He came into this shop all the time, but then we parted company, maybe in 2009 or 2010 over an unpaid account," he said.

In late 2013, Mr Cassidy was tipped off that Cyril McGuinness had been "eyeing up" his oil tanker. "I was told that my vehicles should be kept in a safe place because Cyril McGuinness had eyed up the vehicle," he said.

Mr Cassidy said he didn't report this to the police, nor did he hide his tankers. "I didn't believe that they would start stealing from the local community to do damage," he said.

On December 12, 2013, after the depot had closed for the night, a tanker filled with 1,500 litres of fuel was stolen from his premises and rigged with explosives. At 10.50pm, two men drove it through the bollards at the entrance to the Quinn Group headquarters, reversed it three times into the doors, and set it alight. The culprits fled in a car driven by a third person.

"The tanker, if it had been properly ignited, would have exploded. It would have blown the building out, and the one next to it," said Mr Cassidy. The first he knew of the attack was the next morning when police phoned him.

"Basically, the PSNI would have thought, man, local truck - this guy's involved here," said Mr Cassidy. "I said to the police straight off 'I know who did this job'. I know exactly who did it, and I gave them McGuinness's name - I had no hesitation in saying it was McGuinness," he said.

Mr Cassidy was angered by the attack and that the saboteurs had stolen from a local family. It had also been a difficult year for the Cassidys as they had suffered a painful bereavement. He decided to make some "private inquiries", chiefly to find out why his business and his family had been targeted. He approached an "intermediary" who spoke to McGuinness on his behalf.

"McGuinness admitted to everything," he said. "He totally admitted to everything that happened... He admitted who was involved in the setting up of the job and the carrying out of the job. He received payment in lieu of his work. McGuinness was a hard hitter for money - this guy didn't work cheap," he said.

"This guy was mad and bad. He was dangerous. He had fallen out with everybody. His temper was unreal."

McGuinness had been in trouble from a young age. When he was 21 a judge declared him "quite mad" and liable to "kill someone". He was arrested in the UK for driving a 20-tonne tipper truck over the bonnet of a car with two men inside.

He racked up convictions ranging from forgery to dangerous driving, to stealing machinery, lorries, tractors and dumpers and running an illegal waste company, when his assets were estimated at up to £3m. Outwardly he lived modestly. He claimed in one of his court appearances that he lived on €350 to €400 a week. He drove an old Mercedes and local people said he wasn't an excessive drinker.

But he was an excessive criminal. He fell foul of the IRA for incursions on its terrority. He was once kidnapped while under surveillance by the PSNI, according to a security source, over his "dues" to the organisation.

He was rumoured to be a tout - chiefly for MI5. But a number of gardai who worked in the region at the time insist that he was rarely off their radar.

Over the last eight years, gardai made several attempts to apprehend McGuinness. He was frequently stopped for motoring and theft offences. In 2015, he was fined €500 for failing to produce his driving licence, and the following year he was stopped and found to have €6,000 wrapped in blue plastic hidden in his car. He was taken to court in 2017 to answer theft charges, but the case was dismissed. He was supposed to be tried again, but never was.

Originally from Swords in north County Dublin, McGuinness appears to have been estranged from his family, on whom his criminality has impacted.

His brother, Fran or Francis McGuinness, alleged in the High Court a couple of years ago that his premises was targeted by gardai because his bother was a notorious criminal. Fran McGuinness, the court heard, had no involvement in crime. The court ordered gardai to return a BMW and €33,000 they had seized from him. After the case, Mr McGuiness told the Irish Independent that he was estranged from Cyril McGuinness for 30 years. "I am not my brother's keeper", he said.

Years earlier, when a family dispute over land came before the High Court in 2002, the judge noted that family members sat apart from one another in the court room and noted an "air of belligerence". The dispute was between Cyril McGuinness's father, Christopher, who sued his brother, Francis, over access to the family property.

Gardai suspect Cyril McGuinness earned up to €20,000 for every act of sabotage on the Quinn businesses.

Since McGuinness's death, the fear of speaking out has eased, though not quite disappeared, a garda source said.

Along with the investigation into the attack on Kevin Lunney, gardai have launched parallel investigations into attacks on the Quinn companies over eight years. Detectives are investigating a number of specific allegations that local people and businesses were intimidated into providing support or cover for the attacks on the Quinn companies during that time.

Detectives are revisiting police intelligence files on McGuinness that have mounted up over the years. The files are believed to included dozens of reports of threats and intimidation by McGuinness, or his enablers, but few if any formal statements of complaint, as victims were too frightened to come forward. The Garda focus remains on the person or persons who is suspected of funding McGuinness's terrorist exploits.

In death, McGuiness is still causing waves. It emerged recently that his widow, Mary, and his brother's partner, Barbara Sloane, were escorted off a flight to Manchester, en route to attend to his remains, and had their phones seized by gardai. Ms Sloane applied to the High Court to get her phones back but her bid was unsuccessful. It is believed that Cyril McGuinness's remains were cremated in the UK.

Sunday Independent

Editor's Choice

Also in Irish News