Monday 22 January 2018

'Please, please let us in,' begged an emotional Karen, desperate to see her husband Sean

The wife of the younger Quinn looked drawn as she visited him in Dublin's Mountjoy Prison


Yesterday morning outside Mountjoy Prison on Dublin's North Circular Road was typical for many families.

A handful of loyal visitors -- wives, sisters, brothers, children -- stood outside the iron gates, waiting to pay a weekly visit to their loved ones.

As Karen Woods, wife of Sean Jnr, stepped out of a black BMW SUV and looked up at the building where her husband is a prisoner, this was undoubtedly her hell on earth.

"The first time is always going to be the hardest," commented one unrelated visitor as she emerged afterwards.

Karen did not wish to speak but she later contacted the Sunday Independent to say: "I am distraught that my husband Sean is jailed for failing to comply with a court order. The whole situation makes no sense to me. I know that ministers, and even the Taoiseach Enda Kenny, have been to the Ukraine and Russia, attempting to get these properties returned and have failed.

"This is what was asked of Sean and I don't understand how they expect him to overturn these transactions. I can only feel that he is been made a scapegoat for the collapse of Anglo."

Back at the prison, looking tired and emotional, the new bride was a world away from the image splashed across the front of the newspapers only two months ago.

Gone was the bright smile, the happiness that radiated from her as she walked out of St Mochta's Church, surrounded by family and friends, to begin a new life with her young husband.

Head bowed, her blonde tresses falling over her face, she approached the front gate, flanked by Sean's two sisters, Aoife and Ciara, who is due to give birth this week.

Hiding behind a pair of designer aviator sunglasses, she looked completely out of place among the other visitors.

Sporting an immaculate French manicure, designer jeans, a black belt, oversized Prada handbag and a fine-knit navy and white striped sweater, which lightly skimmed her waist to show off a taut, bronzed midriff, she could have been stepping out for lunch with the girls on this sunny Saturday morning.

Instead, she was visiting her husband in one of Ireland's most notorious prisons.

"Karen, how do you feel that, following the collapse of Anglo Irish Bank, your husband is the only person sitting in a prison cell today?"

It was easier to see the emotion etched on the faces of the women accompanying her. One looked teary eyed as the question was posed once again.

They gave their names to the prison officer standing behind the gates as he cross-checked the information on a clip board.

There seemed to be a momentary problem letting the group gain access to the prison.

That's when Karen finally spoke up.

"Please, please let us in, please," she begged in a whispered voice. She was desperate to see her husband.

The officer turned the key and the wrought iron gates creaked open.

"Could you ask Sean Jnr if there is any message he would like to pass on to people who are closely following your story?"

The group gave a small nod.

Once inside they were given no special treatment.

As part of the high-security measures, Karen had to hand in her mobile phone and take off her shoes and her belt before walking through a metal detector. From there, she would be given the once over by a trained sniffer dog, before being brought into a waiting room to finally see her husband.

Waiting rooms are divided into three separate areas and contain a wooden table and bench which families must share as they sit opposite prisoners.

She could hug her husband and kiss him. But an hour was the maximum time they had together.

As she emerged with her two friends, her demeanour had completely transformed. She stood tall, shoulders back as she purposefully made her way to the waiting Cavan-registered vehicle, driven by a young man.

"Is there anything Sean wanted to say?"

The question was met with a beaming smile.

As big and as bright as the day of her wedding. Perhaps that was the message.

Defiant to the last.

Sunday Independent

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