Sunday 18 November 2018

Quinn execs advised not to park outside homes following third arson attack in two months

Warning as campaign against firm escalates with third arson attack at businessmen's homes

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
Maeve Sheehan

Maeve Sheehan

Directors and executives of Quinn Industrial Holdings have been advised by gardai not to park their cars in front of their homes, after the third arson attack in two months at the homes of key figures in the company.

John McCartin, a Fine Gael councillor and QIH board member, was told by gardai last week not to park his car in his driveway or in front of the porch in case it might be torched by the mystery arsonist behind the latest spate of attacks.

The advice was issued following the latest attack which occurred last Tuesday night outside the home of Tony Lunney, a senior manager at Quinn Industrial Holdings.

However, management are understood to be increasingly frustrated at the progress of the Garda investigations into what is believed to be a sustained and escalating campaign of violence and intimidation against the business and its senior managers.

CEO Liam McCaffrey said last week that it was "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".

The Sunday Independent has learned that gardai were on patrol in Ballyconnell at the time of the arson attack, monitoring the Quinn Industrial Holdings plant and other local sites linked to the company. While they were patrolling the area, a man was captured on CCTV setting fire to a car parked in the drive of the house in Ballyconnell. The intensity of the blaze caused some of the windows to blow out and heat damage to the property.

Gardai arrived at Tony Lunney's home three minutes after the alarm was raised and just minutes after the arsonist made his escape.

The arson attack was the third in recent months. On October 2, the home of Dara O'Reilly, the chief financial officer of QIH, was targeted. His BMW parked outside his home in Butlersbridge was firebombed shortly after 11pm, again generating so much heat that some windows in the house shattered. Mr O'Reilly was at home with his wife and children at the time.

On August 31, a tyre factory in Belturbet, owned by Mr Lunney, was set alight in a suspected arson attack, causing extensive damage inside the building.

The criticism of the Garda investigation has raised concerns among senior gardai. Sources said that although there is local speculation, detectives have been unable to get enough evidence to link anyone to the arson attacks. Although suspects have been identified, gardai have been unable to advance the case. Gardai have sent investigation files on several suspects to the Director of Public Prosecutions, who in each case directed no prosecution.

"When gardai go to talk to people, they are getting soft intelligence. The CCTV is not good enough quality and does not reach the evidential threshold," said an informed source. He said the Border with Northern Ireland was also an "issue" in the investigation, because suspects had been identified on either side.

A campaign of physical intimidation, online harassment and vilification, and criminal damage began when businessman Sean Quinn, who founded the global cement and glass business in Cavan, lost it all over debts of €2bn to the former Anglo Irish Bank.

There have been more than 90 attacks on the Quinn businesses and related companies since the group was placed in the hands of receivers in 2011.

There was a lull in the attacks after a group of local businessmen and some of Sean Quinn's executive team secured US investment to buy back the business from receivers in 2014 and hired Sean Quinn as a consultant. Mr Quinn and the QIH parted company last year.

Mr Quinn has publicly and repeatedly condemned the attacks, and said they are not carried out in his name.

However, the attacks have escalated in recent months. Quinn Industrial Holdings has warned that the attacks will result in injuries or death and called on anyone with influence or knowledge of the criminal actions to speak out.

In a circular to staff last month, the group's chairman warned of a "resumption of false allegations and intimidation against QIH, its owners, officers and staff".

The company said it was also preparing legal action against people who had criticised the company and the executives online.

Sunday Independent

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