Tuesday 22 October 2019

Editorial: 'Attack on Quinn executive is a sinister development'

Garda Commissioner Drew Harris. Photo: Gareth Chaney, Collins
Garda Commissioner Drew Harris. Photo: Gareth Chaney, Collins


The abduction of businessman Kevin Lunney and the attack on him were both vicious and sinister. Garda Commissioner Drew Harris was forthright in his depiction of the incident, and how it represents the worsening of an ongoing local feud in the Border counties.

Mr Lunney, a director and chief operating officer of Quinn Industrial Holdings, was abducted near his home in Co Fermanagh. He was found with serious injuries late on Tuesday in Co Cavan.

The company he heads acquired a large portion of the businesses following the controversial collapse of the commercial empire of local entrepreneur Seán Quinn.

As luck would have it, Commissioner Harris, who has police experience on both sides of the Border, was answering questions at the Oireachtas Justice Committee after the shocking news broke.

He very frankly said Mr Lunney's ordeal amounted to a "considerable step up" in intimidation and attacks related to the dispute.

The Garda Commissioner also roundly condemned this attack on a man engaged in legitimate business which employs a large number of people. He vowed that An Garda Síochána would cooperate fully with the PSNI to ensure those suspected of involvement are brought before the courts.

But he was equally frank in admitting how hard it is to pin down those responsible as they go to great lengths to keep their identity secret.

"A very vicious assault has happened and we are now conducting a full investigation into this matter," Commissioner Harris said.

There was a heartening condemnation of this awful incident by politicians of all parties. Justice Minister Charlie Flanagan said the attack on Mr Lunney was a "sinister act" as he vowed that every effort would be made to bring the perpetrators to justice. Cavan-Monaghan TD and Business Minister Heather Humphreys said Mr Lunney is "a decent, honourable, hard-working man" and noted the enterprise supports 700 jobs. She said she was horrified at the level of violence and intimidation.

A crucial comment by Ms Humphreys harked back to the difficulties cited by Commissioner Harris, as she urged local people to cooperate with the gardaí.

This surely is key to getting to the bottom of a corrosive problem which is now many years old. Local silence, as much as anything else, has helped all this to fester.

Fianna Fáil Cavan-Monaghan TD Brendan Smith condemned the "reprehensible thugs", saying he hoped they will soon be brought to justice.

The incident will add to fears about the upcoming Brexit deadline. It shows a level of lawlessness already exists in the Border area as the threats of a no-deal exit by the UK looms.

Inevitably, Commissioner Harris was also asked about dissident republicans in the event of a potential no-deal. Again, Mr Harris frankly admitted that this put an additional strain on gardaí - but he pledged that the force is working hard on all these potential threats.

Irish Independent

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