THE sight of thousands of people marching to support for disgraced businessman Sean Quinn has been described as "deeply depressing".
Bankrupt Quinn was defiant last night as he rolled out a line of GAA celebrities, including Mickey Harte, Colm O'Rourke and Sean Boylan, to address up to 4,000 people in Cavan.
But a former Dublin GAA chief has sharply criticised the top sports figures for giving public support to the embattled Quinn business dynasty.
Fine Gael Councillor John Bailey, who was chairman of Dublin GAA's County Board for 11 years, said today he was "shocked" by the support of GAA figures for Sean Quinn.
And Dublin TD Olivia Mitchell said: "I have absolutely no sympathy for the Quinn family.
"I believe the Quinns have done a lot of damage to this country and there are now hundreds of thousands of people unemployed in Ireland now."
The march came after Quinn's on-the-run nephew Peter spent the weekend attending football matches north of the border.
Quinn, along with his son and nephew, is in contempt of court for putting assets beyond the reach of the state-owned former Anglo Irish Bank.
Mr Bailey told the Herald: "The law is the law. Nobody is above the law. GAA figures should not involve themselves in this controversy and it is sending out all the wrong signals. I don't accept for a minute that well-known GAA figures should be seen to be supporting the Quinns.
"I support the guards, the judiciary and the law. The GAA should not be involved in this matter," he said.
Similarly former Green Party TD Dan Boyle described the rally was "deeply depressing".
"I imagine the family has given support to local teams understandably and it is not the GAA at a national level, but at a local level. It is still disturbing in the sense that is another manifestation of what we saw with Michael Lowry in Tipperary," he told the Herald.
"People identify with people they see to be successful but don't question their motivation.
"On one side of it, the Quinn family can present this as an argument between themselves and Anglo Irish Bank. But the fact of the matter is that Anglo, now IBRC, is now a state bank. So this is Irish taxpayer funded. The behaviour that is being condoned, it is a snub against the Irish judicial system."
Celebrity lawyer Gerald Kean told the Herald today that the rally shows a huge rural-urban divide.
"I think that certain people in Dublin and other cities around the country would not be aware of the high regard in which Sean Quinn and the family are held," he said, adding: "I would have a huge sympathy for the Quinn family, save for any attempt to put assets outside the reach of the bank."
At the rally GAA legend Mickey Harte, whose daughter Michaela was murdered in Mauritius, publicly spoke about how he was championing the former billionaire.
He was joined by other well-known names within the GAA including Joe Kernan, Colm O'Rourke, Jarlath Burns as well as Fermanagh priest Fr Brian Darcy in the rally.
"I want to offer my support to the Quinn family in the predicament they find themselves in," Tyrone manager Harte said. "It is a very powerful evening and it is great to hear the real truth."
An emotional Sean Quinn Snr, his wife Patricia, three of their children and extended family members, including Sean Jnr's wife Karen, were all at the demonstration.
Meanwhile man-on-the-run Peter Darragh Quinn has resurfaced in Fermanagh again.
The fugitive, who has refused to turn himself in to the courts following an arrest warrant, remains at arms length from gardai. On Friday night he was photographed at a GAA match in Fermanagh with his father Peter, a former GAA President.
And then again on Sunday afternoon, he brazenly turned up at a match at Enniskillen.
In Ballyconnell, demonstrators called for the contempt orders issued against Sean Quinn Senior, his son Sean Junior, and his nephew Peter Darragh Quinn to be lifted.
Outspoken activist Fr Brian D'Arcy described Sean Quinn as a successful community-based businessman who "built an industry the like of which has never been seen in this country".
"When Northern governments and Southern governments wouldn't give us a penny, when not a single one of them provided a job, it was Sean Quinn and his family who took up the battle," he said.
Dublin city councillor Christy Burke said that the involvement of the GAA in a political issue was unusual.
"I was a bit surprised to hear about the GAA," he said.
"But you must remember in the Cavan and Fermanagh region, they are all one family from GAA to local parish priests to businessman," he said.
"I think it is the emotive part of it, the imprisonment of the son, that caused people to come out in support."
"I have sympathy for the young fella on the run, it is more fear than anything else."