Belfast Telegraph

Editor's Viewpoint: Sinister threats to priest are a new low

The disturbing saga of the attack on Kevin Lunney has taken a new and sinister twist through the threats against Fr Oliver O'Reilly, the priest who condemned the attack on the director of Quinn Industrial Holdings
The disturbing saga of the attack on Kevin Lunney has taken a new and sinister twist through the threats against Fr Oliver O'Reilly, the priest who condemned the attack on the director of Quinn Industrial Holdings

Editor's Viewpoint

The disturbing saga of the attack on Kevin Lunney has taken a new and sinister twist through the threats against Fr Oliver O'Reilly, the priest who condemned the attack on the director of Quinn Industrial Holdings.

Fr O'Reilly described it as a "modern crucifixion", but the subsequent threats to the priest mark a shameful new low. With ironic prescience he said that the kidnap and torture had revealed an "obvious cancer of evil in our midst" and this led to the threats soon after his sermon delivered at a church in Ballyconnell.

Mr Lunney was abducted on the way to his home in Kinawley on September 17, and after being beaten and tortured, he was later found on a Co Cavan roadside with what the PSNI described as "severe, life-changing injuries".

Fr O'Reilly's sermon, in which he blamed a "Mafia-style" group for the attack, was applauded by the parishioners.

Quinn Industrial Holdings was founded by Sean Quinn, but it later collapsed and was bought by local businessmen with backing from three hedge funds. Mr Quinn was employed as a consultant, but left in 2016. The executives in the firm have been subjected disgracefully to repeated attacks, which Mr Quinn has condemned on many occasions.

No-one disputes that the collapse of the firm led to hardship for many, but the attacks on its executives - and now the threats to a priest for courageously speaking out - are well beyond the pale.

Threats or violence from whatever quarter or for whatever purpose should be condemned by all law-abiding people. On the political front Fianna Fail announced last week that it will be tabling legislation for a new cross-border statutory body in the wake of the attack on Mr Lunney, and party leader Michael Martin said that the assault was a reminder of the "terrible legacy in the border region" which did not end with the Good Friday Agreement.

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He said it was time "once and for all to root this evil out" and he rightly emphasised that "people want to go about their lives without threats and intimidation".

All of which is very true but are we alone in wondering if it took this horrific attack on Mr Lunney to persuade Fianna Fail - the Government party in the Republic for most of the Seventies and Eighties - that the violence which had long straddled the border, in fact merited a joined-up, cross-border approach?

How ironic is that?

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