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Saturday 19 October 2019

Stabbed, tortured and doused in bleach: Kevin Lunney attack the latest in long line of chilling incidents to hit Quinn firm

  • Quinn chief Kevin Lunney stabbed and tortured after car rammed
  • Gang with paramilitary connections believed to be behind the brutal abduction and torture of a businessman who has been left with life-changing injuries
  • Victim doused in bleach to destroy DNA evidence
Kevin Lunney sustained 'life changing' injuries after being abducted
Kevin Lunney sustained 'life changing' injuries after being abducted
Members of the PSNI near a lane way leading to the home of Kevin Lunney in Kilnawley, Co Fermanagh, yesterday. Photo: Damien Eagers
Shane Phelan

Shane Phelan

The content of the anonymous letter addressed to five representatives of Quinn Industrial Holdings (QIH) was chilling.

They were told they were being written to because they had facilitated the sale of manufacturing businesses once controlled by former billionaire Seán Quinn and were now assisting in the disposal of a former Quinn wind farm.

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"We are putting you on notice that if the sale is not stopped immediately we will be implementing a permanent solution for at least one of the above," said the letter, sent last May.

One of the five people it was addressed to was Kevin Lunney. It is not known who was behind the threatening note, but read today it looks like a disturbing portent of what was to come.

Read more: 'A cowardly act' - Leo Varadkar says those behind 'brutal' attack on Quinn executive must be brought to justice

The father of six was abducted from his home at Derrylin, Co Fermanagh, on Tuesday night, tortured and left with a broken leg on the side of the road.

Kevin Lunney
Kevin Lunney

At one time, Mr Lunney was the general manager at Quinn Insurance, just one arm of Sean Quinn's sprawling business empire.

Quinn Group was a multi-billion-euro business that included cement, glass, plastics, hotel and property interests, all controlled from 'Quinn Country', the borderlands of Cavan and Fermanagh.

In the aftermath of the 2008 economic crash, Mr Quinn lost control of the group's businesses and ended up bankrupt.

His downfall was primarily due to disastrous stock market bets he placed on Anglo Irish Bank.

Terrifying: Members of the PSNI near a lane way leading to the home of Kevin Lunney, in Kinawley, Co Fermanagh, yesterday. Photo: Damien Eagers
Terrifying: Members of the PSNI near a lane way leading to the home of Kevin Lunney, in Kinawley, Co Fermanagh, yesterday. Photo: Damien Eagers

The insurance firm where Mr Lunney worked collapsed into administration in 2010 after massive holes were found in its accounts.

Now Mr Lunney is one of a number of former senior employees of Seán Quinn on the management team of QIH, the company that rose from the ashes of the fallen business empire.

It was formed in 2014 by local businessmen John McCartin, John Bosco Hogan and Ernie Fisher, with the backing of US hedge funds, to acquire the former Quinn Group's building and packaging divisions. Today, it provides employment for 830 people. Mr Lunney is QIH's operations director.

Although Mr Quinn was brought in as a consultant by the new company in 2015, he left the role after a dispute the following year.

He has been quick to criticise the running of the business and at one point claimed he had been "stabbed in the back".

Speaking to hundreds of supporters in Ballyconnell, Co Cavan, in August last year, Mr Quinn explained he had been "trying all along" to buy back the company, but had been prevented from purchasing shares due to a clause inserted in a management implementation plan.

The last few years have seen an extraordinary campaign of intimidation against members of the QIH management team, being waged by people purporting to be supporters of Mr Quinn. This has involved assaults, arson attacks, threatening messages and online harassment on social media pages dedicated to Seán Quinn.

There have been dozens of incidents, but the abduction and beating of Mr Lunney represents a considerable escalation.

Mr Quinn has previously condemned attacks and said those responsible were not acting in his name. There is no suggestion he has any link to the incidents.

A curious aspect of the ongoing campaign of intimidation has been the inability of either An Garda Síochána or the PSNI to bring anyone to justice.

In a statement yesterday, QIH chairman Adrian Barden said it was "inexplicable" that not a single arrest had been made north or south of the Border despite dozens of incidents.

Quizzed about the failure by gardaí to get to grips with the situation, Garda Commissioner Drew Harris told the Oireachtas Justice Committee: "They are pretty difficult investigations.

"The individuals who have engaged in this go out of their way to ensure they are not easy to catch, through destruction of evidence and concealment of identities."

Mr Harris pledged that the perpetrators would be vigorously pursued as part of a joint Garda/PSNI operation and said he was conscious there was an "ongoing threat" to the directors of QIH.

Tuesday night was not the first time Mr Lunney has been injured.

Last February, the High Court in Belfast issued a restraining order against amateur boxer Bernard McGovern, of Springtown in Kinawley, Co Fermanagh.

The court heard allegations Mr McGovern broke Mr Lunney's nose during an attack in a service station café in Co Cavan.

A judge was told Mr Lunney was knocked to the ground and punched repeatedly in an attack linked to a campaign aimed at vilifying and intimidating directors of QIH.

The court was told individuals unhappy that Mr Quinn was no longer in charge of the company were behind the campaign against current executives.

Barrister Peter Girvan, for Mr Lunney, told the court there had been several serious criminal acts, including arson, industrial sabotage and damage to expensive plant equipment.

'Wanted' posters were put up branding the directors as "traitors" and "thieves".

Mr McGovern was not being accused of involvement in any of those other incidents. However, it was claimed he posted on a Seán Quinn Community Facebook page to describe Mr Lunney as a "skip rat".

QIL management team members Liam McCaffrey and Dara O'Reilly were also recipients of the "permanent solution" letter last May.

Mr McCaffrey was chief executive of Quinn Group and now holds the same position at QIH, while Mr O'Reilly, a former Quinn Group finance director, is QIH's chief finance officer.

In March of this year, the High Court in Dublin was told they were "very reluctant" witnesses in a civil action following "threats and actions of violence towards them".

Their barrister Ross Gorman said Mr O'Reilly's car had been burnt out before Christmas and boiling water was thrown in his face in February.

Ultimately, they did not have to give evidence as the case, in which Mr Quinn's children were disputing liability for loans from Anglo, was settled.

It is not just directors and company property that have been targeted. Workers at a company operating wind farms formerly owned by Quinn Group were warned to stay away or "face the bullet" in March 2016.

The chilling handwritten note was left near their premises. It ended with the words "final warning" and was accompanied by three bullets.

An insider at QIH said the message sent out by the spate of attacks was clear.

"Whoever is responsible wants the management team to relinquish its involvement to facilitate the return of Seán Quinn," the insider said.

"It is a very tense situation. You have a management team who have a duty to the area and the staff and the business. It is a major economic driver and thousands of families' incomes depend on the business."

To date, none of the QIL executives has shown any sign they will walk away, but the severity of the attack on Mr Lunney has taken the campaign against them to another level.

Irish Independent

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