Belfast Telegraph

Council won't take down signs intimidating Quinn staff due to safety fears

Kevin Lunney was abducted and seriously assaulted (Quinn Industrial Holdings/PA)
Kevin Lunney was abducted and seriously assaulted (Quinn Industrial Holdings/PA)

By Maeve Sheehan

Cavan County Council has failed to remove an illegal sign vilifying the directors of the Quinn companies because of fears for the safety of staff.

In an extraordinary admission by the local authority, the chief executive said staff had been "advised" against removing the sign and contractors from outside the county turned down the job because of the "risks".

The fears are outlined by the chief executive of the local authority in correspondence obtained by the Sunday Independent.

The letters reveal how a pervasive culture of fear in the county extends even to State agencies responsible for enforcing the law. The fear is linked to the ongoing criminal campaign of intimidation directed at ousting current management from the companies once owned by the former local billionaire, Sean Quinn.

Illegal signs have been a persistent feature of the intimidation which escalated into an unprecedented level of violence last month with the abduction and savage assault of Kevin Lunney, a director of Quinn Industrial Holdings (QIH).

The correspondence dates back to January when Liam McCaffrey, chief executive of QIH, appealed to Tommy Ryan, chief executive of the local authority, to remove an illegal sign erected close to the company's Ballyconnell headquarters last summer.

An identical sign erected over the border in Derrylin had been removed within six weeks by authorities in Northern Ireland.

"The inaction of Cavan County Council in terms of removing these signs risks being seen in some circles as an approval of sorts of the campaign against the business and its management," he wrote.

Mr McCaffrey wrote again on February 4: "Our fears that the existence of these signs emboldens those involved in intimidation were realised on Friday afternoon," he wrote, referring to an attack on Kevin Lunney and another executive, Dara O'Reilly, on February 1 this year, as they were having lunch in a cafe close to the sign.

In reply, Mr Ryan said local authority staff had twice removed the sign, only for it to be erected again. On the third occasion, he said staff were "advised by persons unknown" not to remove it.

Sean Quinn
Sean Quinn

He said an enforcement notice served on the landowner to remove the sign "was not complied with".

And as he had "advised" the Quinn directors at a previous meeting, there were "safety issues for staff and contractors/agents involved in the removal of such signs" and "issues for staff who may have to present evidence for legal enforcement purposes."

"At that meeting, despite our concerns that removal of the signs could exacerbate the situation, we did agree to endeavour to obtain a contractor from outside the county to remove the signs. We contacted a contractor who specialises in dealing with high risk matters but that contractor following his own assessment of the risks involved for himself and his staff has declined to remove the signs."

The offending unauthorised sign claims to reveal the director's six figure salaries and "zero £pounds" for Sean Quinn. It was erected on land adjoining the TilerMade bathroom and tile shop in Ballyconnell, which hosted a public meeting attended by Sean Quinn, his wife and family, last August.

A representative of TilerMade said last Friday that they had nothing to do with the illegal sign and do not own the land.

Meanwhile, a Garda investigation is closing in on the gang of at least eight people suspected of being directly involved in the abduction and torture of Mr Lunney. In a two-hour ordeal, he was beaten, slashed in the face and neck, had his leg broken, and the letters QIH carved on his chest.

Irish Independent

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