Thursday 21 November 2019

John Downing: 'High time the gloves came off on both sides of the Border to uphold the law'

  

Kevin Lunney. Picture: BBC/PA
Kevin Lunney. Picture: BBC/PA
PSNI officers in the laneway near Kevin Lunney’s home in Co Fermanagh shortly after he was abducted and tortured. Photo: Damien Eagers / INM
BBC handout photo of Kevin Lunney, BBC Spotlight programme on BBC Newsline.BBC Spotlight/BBC/PA Wire
Kevin Lunney: He was abducted near his home and tortured
John Downing

John Downing

Kevin Lunney's harrowingly detailed description on television of his horrific ordeal has to become a "Veronica Guerin moment".

Time the gloves came off - north and south - and apply the rule of law in Border areas where the two governments need to combine and do whatever is necessary.

We have had previous incidents over the decades since the 1998 Good Friday Agreement telling us that all was not well in the Border areas. The abduction of Paul Quinn in Co Armagh back in October 2007, and his unspeakably brutal murder in Co Monaghan, was only the most high-profile of many real-life stories.

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The rolling incidence of intimidation, abuse, sabotage and arson has been building in the case of Quinn Industrial Holdings on the Fermanagh-Cavan border, and has borne in and out of our consciousness for some time now. On Tuesday night the BBC programme 'Spotlight' produced another stellar report reminding us about the horrors which can be visited upon ordinary law-abiding working people.

PSNI officers in the laneway near Kevin Lunney’s home in Co Fermanagh shortly after he was abducted and tortured. Photo: Damien Eagers / INM
PSNI officers in the laneway near Kevin Lunney’s home in Co Fermanagh shortly after he was abducted and tortured. Photo: Damien Eagers / INM

The bravery and composure of Kevin Lunney, telling about his ordeal and his understandable visceral fears for his wife and six children, have struck a chord with many of us. Mr Lunney's raw account has to be a turning point - if citizenship, equality and the rule of law are to mean anything.

Back in June 1996, the drug godfathers of crime found they had met such a moment when the crusading 'Sunday Independent' journalist Veronica Guerin was murdered near Dublin. After that the gloves came off - the gardaí, revenue and welfare authorities were empowered to combine with others to take the battle to the criminals on their own terms.

Quinn Industrial Holdings noted yesterday it took five years before threatening and abusive signs were removed. Of itself, that speaks of neglect and a lack of action by the authorities on both sides of the Border.

In the Seanad yesterday former justice minister and attorney general Michael McDowell used parliamentary privilege to make some hard-hitting points. Firstly, he addressed the continued ambivalence which applies to the rule of law along the Border.

"In Crossmaglen there is still a 'Sniper at Work' poster on a telephone pole.

"Either we are serious about the rule of law on this island or we are not," Mr McDowell said. He added that the "wave of horror" which followed the BBC television programme called for a response at least as strong as that which followed the death of Veronica Guerin.

Then Mr McDowell went on to make another interesting point. "The two State authorities on this island must make it clear that Quinn Industrial Holdings is never going back to its original ownership on foot of this campaign and this must stop," he added.

There is a growing view "that something must be done". There is less precision about what that something should be.

Businessman Seán Quinn has consistently condemned the "barbaric" attack on his former colleague Mr Lunney and said they were not being carried out in his name.

Meanwhile, Fianna Fáil leader Micheál Martin has yet again called for a cross-border agency to tackle gang bosses who he said are turning the Border counties into a "no-go area" for business and investors.

Others suggest a cross-border task force, aligning An Garda Síochána with the PSNI, might do the job.

The Government may look back on 1996 when Fianna Fáil in opposition mapped out a Fine Gael-led government's anti-crime actions.

But it's time to rise above such sentiments.

Irish Independent

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