Gardai investigating whether criminal mastermind ordered Lunney attack to 'set up' Sean Quinn
Gardai are investigating if the savage abduction and assault of Kevin Lunney was masterminded by a criminal to set up Sean Quinn.
Senior garda sources confirmed that the development is "one line of inquiry" that they want to "bottom out" in what detectives expect to be a prolonged and complex investigation.
Gardai believe they have identified the gang which abducted Mr Lunney, slashed him, beat him and doused him in bleach, as criminals based in Cavan and the Midlands, but not the suspected mastermind.
A garda source said they are looking at a number of suspects including a well-known criminal who may have ordered the attack because of a grudge against former billionaire Mr Quinn.
The theory of a set-up was met with scepticism by a QIH director, although it is widely believed that the criminals were hired by someone to carry out the attack.
Last night, a priest in Ballyconnell in Co Cavan, Fr Oliver O'Reilly, delivered a searing homily slating the "godfather" of the attack on Mr Lunney.
Fr O'Reilly described it as a modern form of "crucifixion" carried out by a Mafia-style group, financed by a paymaster or paymasters so consumed with hatred that they have lost their moral compass.
"This well-planned and well-organised abduction could only have happened when some person with ulterior motives agreed to pay these criminals a sum of money and gave instructions on what he required to be done to an unsuspecting victim," he said.
The priest raged against the "obvious cancer of evil" in our midst that "needs to be exorcised before someone is murdered".
The attack on Mr Lunney almost two weeks ago was more savage than any of the previous attacks on the properties and directors of Quinn Industrial Holdings and other businesses formerly owned by Mr Quinn in an eight-year campaign of intimidation and violence.
Gardai are still working on a 'threat assessment' of the risks to the directors, and until that is finished they are receiving 'passive' garda attention.
Mr Lunney, a father-of-six, was abducted in broad daylight outside in his home in Fermanagh and driven in the boot of car to an animal container in Cavan, where his face was slashed during a beating in which his leg was also broken in two places. The gang warned him that he and the other directors would be shot if they did not resign from the company.
The letters QIH were carved into his chest during the brutal two-and-a-half-hour ordeal, before he was doused in bleach and dumped on a country road.
Mr Lunney, who is chief operating officer with QIH, is recovering in hospital.
Garda sources said it is important to keep an open mind in the investigation and to pursue all lines of inquiry.
QIH director John McCartin dismissed the theory of a "set-up" as defying logic. "The whole concept has no thread of logic to it. It sounds fanciful and I would fear that it would detract from the central focus of the investigation and could lead to muddying of the waters in the investigation," he said.
Gardai say the attack on Mr Lunney did not fit the modus operandi of any of the previous attacks waged against QIH directors and the businesses. The scale of the brutality was a marked escalation compared with previous attacks; there was no warning of the attack or heightened tensions in advance of it.
However, an anonymous letter was sent to the company and a solicitor in May warning the directors of a "permanent solution" for one of the five Quinn directors. A similar threat was conveyed to Mr Lunney by the criminals who savagely assaulted him.
Mr Quinn declined an interview but said he had not spoken to gardai and had not been informed of that particular line of inquiry. "The guards have not spoken to me but I am not going to comment any further on any set-ups," he said.
Mr Quinn has condemned the "barbaric" attack on local radio but said he was being blamed. "The people doing this are not doing this for the Quinns because they should know this is going to damage the Quinns," he said.
Fr Reilly's rousing homily referred to the campaign waged against the company.
"This senseless atrocity follows years of threats, abuse, lies and various forms of violent intimidation against the directors of Quinn Industrial Holdings," he said.
"Maybe some people in our region need to examine their consciences about their angry rants at public meetings and defamatory statements on one or more social-media sites.
"They need to face the truth that their diatribes added to that climate of intimidation and incited hatred leading up to this dark deed. Let them now take responsibility for their actions and learn lessons."