Sunday 17 November 2019

Declan Power: 'Hard men of Border must be brought to justice in Quinn affair'

Threat: A masked man was photographed with a statement threatening directors of Quinn Industrial Holdings
Threat: A masked man was photographed with a statement threatening directors of Quinn Industrial Holdings
Kevin Lunney

Declan Power

The recent violence and upheaval at Quinn Industrial Holdings (QIH) and on the Cavan-Fermanagh Border reminds us law and order problems in this region can quickly become national security issues.

To fully comprehend what has happened and find the right solution to move forward, we must understand the context that led to the seemingly intractable situation now facing the community there.

For starters, those who label Cavan-Fermanagh and its inhabitants as 'lawless' are missing the point completely.

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The Border communities on this island, both north and south, have always marched to the beat of their own drum to some extent since partition.

Readers will have heard endless discourse due to Brexit on the potential for violence that a hard Border on this island can create.

However, we have to acknowledge that policing the Border communities after the Good Friday Agreement was always going to be difficult. The Troubles contaminated the relationship between the people and the State.

As one who served along the Border during periods of the Troubles, I always found the locals courteous but reserved.

I later realised this was down to the fact they felt that the State was both unwilling and unable to fully underwrite their security.

This lack of a sense of security and stability helped create a vacuum in leadership too often filled by local 'chieftains', be they paramilitary, criminal, commercial or, indeed, a combination.

Sociologist Anthony Giddens talks of the responsibilities of the State to be able to fully control the geopolitical areas to which it lays claim and to be able to protect its citizens within those regions.

Without that protection, he argues, the State cannot expect the loyalty and respect of those citizens.

This issue is at the heart of enforcing law and order regarding the QIH affair. Local people must feel the protective cloak of the State … and realise it is there for the long term and not a temporary cosmetic measure for the media.

However, the State for its part, both the body politic and law enforcement, must acknowledge it has heretofore failed the people, not just of Cavan-Fermanagh, but of the Border regions in general.

We have no right to lecture the peoples of these areas when we have neglected their security so wilfully.

We have allowed local mafioso types to apply a campaign of initially psychological intimidation which became emboldened enough to turn into a campaign of physical violence.

Some people in the region suffer from a warped mix of loyalties - a legacy of the Troubles. Why should they pass information to the State that neglected them? Maybe they feel the people at the heart of instigating this campaign of intimidation have the region's best interests at heart?

If people feel this, the State must shoulder the blame and rebuild the relationship.

This will happen when the gardaí apply some of the measures put into play when taking parts of Limerick back from swaggering criminal thugs.

Saturation policing, large numbers of armed support officers and enhancement of resources such as the patrol cars called for by the GRA are a step in the right direction. However, the cavalier and ruthless attitudes displayed by both the attacks on the QIH executives, particularly Kevin Lunney, and the long-time display of posters vilifying these men have been an affront to the writ of the State.

Those posters have been in existence for some time, as has the physical intimidation. You can be sure details on this would have been reported from the Garda districts involved. Yet nobody at a strategic level picked up on the long-term effect ignoring this would have.

Local representatives too would have been making noises about this to their party higher elements and yet nobody in the upper echelons of the State recognised this for what it was. Not just a local law and order issue, but an affront to the authority of the State.

Now that we recognise it for what it is, we need to take appropriate long-term action. A mechanism needs to be put into play for joint Garda-PSNI task forces to be able to effect joint investigations to close down operations of this kind.

We already have a template, the joint multi-agency investigation and operation that put former IRA and criminal chieftain Slab Murphy in prison.

We also need the Garda to get the resources to put in place an intense overt and covert surveillance and intelligence operation to squeeze the lead suspects of this affair.

Bagging the people who carried out the assault of Kevin Lunney will not be enough to end this matter.

Pressure must be brought to bear to acquire the necessary evidence to bring to justice the person or persons who have conceived, executed and financed this whole sorry tale of intimidation.

Declan Power is an independent security and defence analyst and a former career soldier who served along the Border during the 1990s

Irish Independent

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