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Tom Kelly: To defeat the criminals who nearly killed Kevin Lunney will take more than moral outrage ... it will require co-ordinated political will

The directors of Quinn Industrial Holdings are trapped in a living nightmare, while politicians mouth platitudes, but do little else, writes Tom Kelly


Kevin Lunney

Kevin Lunney

Sean Quinn

Sean Quinn

Kevin Lunney

Kevin Lunney, director of Quinn Industrial Holdings, is a hard-working family man. Reading that he had been tortured in a barbaric, savage, but carefully calculated paramilitary-style attack made my stomach churn.

But there was an inevitability to this inhumane and beyond-cruel assault. Like other forms of violence, it is the product of twisted, sick minds, though is not mindless. It was violence with a purpose.

The purpose was to intimidate Lunney and his fellow directors, Liam McCaffrey, John McCartin and Dara O'Reilly, out of their jobs.

I say there was an inevitability to the unjustified attack on Kevin Lunney, because these men have been subjected to a sustained campaign of intimidation and threats over a period of years.

How do I know? Because I have worked with these people and they have been warning of dire and calamitous consequences for a long time.

Their calls have gone largely unheeded by officials on both sides of the border. It should not have taken the abduction and near-murderous beating of one of their directors to get the respective departments of justice and police on both sides of the border to sit up and take notice.

This part of the Fermanagh/Cavan border is far from tranquil. There is a sinister underbelly of criminality operating beneath the surface with near immunity.

Over a period of six years, no fewer than four businesses which I worked with have been subjected to threats, intimidation and criminal damage from organised crime.

One of the business-owners received bullets in the post. Others had property and equipment burned out, or stolen. Another had to install 24/7 security to protect workers.

Thankfully, no-one was hurt in these attacks. Unfortunately, neither was anyone caught, or charged.

The common thread to the attacks appears to be any link, real or imagined, to former enterprises once owned by Sean Quinn.

Quinn, the former Fermanagh industrial magnate, vehemently denies any knowledge of, or involvement with, anyone who planned, or carried out, these attacks.

Quinn says it's counterproductive to his objectives. He strongly repeats that these criminals do not act in his name.

In recent weeks, he has expressed his condemnation of the attacks on Kevin Lunney and, indeed, any form of intimidation.

Quinn says he has lost interest in regaining control of his former businesses and, in any case, wouldn't want to be the beneficiary of any criminal activity. He does add that there is residual anger in the local community about his perceived treatment. Clearly, Sean Quinn hurts over the loss of his empire. He achieved much and inspired much loyalty in his fiefdom. But it's hard to be too sympathetic.

The current management team at Quinn Industrial Holdings have maintained and grown jobs in the group.

Their stewardship has won the backing of their investors. It was a long way back but, to their credit, they did it.

The wider community and economy in Fermanagh would be poorer had the jobs evaporated, or the enterprise been sold a foreign international.

Only yesterday, the criminals behind the attacks issued a statement to the Irish News: "This is your last warning to resign your positions in QIH (Quinn Industrial Holdings). Obviously yous (sic) have not learned your lesson after what happened to Kevin."

The warning was also extended to council officials and workers if they removed wanted posters of Lunney and others. This latest threat exposes the murderous intent of these criminals.

But none of this makes any sense. First of all, it is clear that the level of sophistication and organisation required to execute these threats, intimidation and attacks is not the work of some irate community activists.

There is nothing amateurish about frightening off big corporate players, or being able to pull off an abduction and systematically cover it up. These criminals are a blight on the local community, but fear maintains a code of omerta. This is serious organised crime.

And, assuming that career criminals are neither altruistic, nor philanthropic, nor acting out of charity, it would appear that someone, somewhere and for some reason (as yet unknown) has to be paying them.

Why else would these hardened criminals risk long-term imprisonment solely to see a board of directors resign without any incentive, or reward?

Why are they demanding that those directors resign in order to facilitate the return of Sean Quinn and his family, when the latter have made it clear that he/they have no longer any interest in returning to those businesses?

The Cavan/Fermanagh border is very porous. Police in hot pursuit frequently have to get in and out of their respective vehicles as they cross the border. This is neither feasible, nor practical, when dealing with this type of crime.

The directors of Quinn Industrial Holdings are caught in a living nightmare. Their fear is tangible. The Irish state has let them down. The PSNI and Gardai have failed them. Politicians have being paying platitudes, but doing very little to help.

The reality is that, given the number of attacks on property and equipment, the police must have a lot of information on the perpetrators. What has been missing is the political imperative to act.

The attack on Kevin Lunney was so savage he could have died. Now, the criminals have said they may go one step further to achieve their aims.

Ireland cannot afford this type of reputational damage. The Cavan/Fermanagh border is starting to resemble Dodge City without a sheriff.

To fight these criminals will take more than moral indignation. Lives are at stake.

  • Tom Kelly is a writer and commentator
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