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'People don't know who'll be next': How a campaign of intimidation came to Fermanagh and Cavan

The abduction and assault on Kevin Lunney is not an isolated incident.

Image: Quinn Industrial Holdings

THE ASSAULT ON Kevin Lunney has prompted fears from locals in Fermanagh and Cavan of what’s yet to come, after a long-running and brutal campaign of intimidation against Quinn Industrial Holdings escalated on Tuesday night. 

People in the area say they are scared. In a place where arson, assault and tensions have become commonplace, the violent abduction of the Quinn director was a shock. 

Kevin Lunney, the chief operating officer of Quinn Industrial Holdings, was effectively tortured before being left at Drumcoghill, Cornafean in Cavan. Security sources told TheJournal.ie that Lunney was tied up, beaten and was told that he’d be killed. 

His leg was broken by two of the men and he was threatened that each bone in his body would be broken one by one. 

People on both sides of the border have rushed to condemn the attack. “Local people are afraid of these groups. They don’t represent the local community,” said SDLP councillor Adam Gannon. 

“They’re obviously people who are unhappy with the current management [of the company],” he said. Gannon suspects that they’re trying to intimidate the directors from the business. 

John Paul Feeley, a Fianna Fáil councillor in Cavan, said he was “horrified” by the incident. “Anyone living in our locality is entitled to go about their business without fear of assault.”

Business Minister Heather Humphreys, the Fine Gael TD for Cavan-Monaghan, also condemned the attack. “This type of intimidation is despicable and needs to be eradicated from our society,” she said. 

Other councillors declined to comment, while a few said that they didn’t know anything about recent incidents in Cavan and Fermanagh. 

People are casting about who for to blame. Some blamed dissident republicans, others suggested it was the work of an organised gang. Others suggested that a local man had returned from Dublin and was helping to plan the attacks that have left locals fearing for the future. 

TheJournal.ie understands that Gardaí and PSNI, who are working together on the case, are treating dissident republicanism as a line of inquiry. 

“Ordinary people are scared to speak out. They don’t know who’ll be next,” Padraig Donohue, a local businessman, told TheJournal.ie.

But those who spoke to TheJournal.ie agreed on two things. Firstly, that it was all orchestrated. 

But secondly, and more importantly, that some people have never gotten over the rise and fall of Sean Quinn.

Sean Quinn 

Sean Quinn has condemned any violence carried out on Lunney and his colleagues. The family of Sean Quinn released a statement yesterday saying that it was “horrified” by the attack. 

They said they were ”angered that our former ownership of those businesses is being associated in any way with such abhorrent acts”.

Quinn’s shadow still looms large over the Cavan and Fermanagh area. 

“If it were’t for Sean Quinn, this would be a barren area,” former SDLP MLA Richie McPhillips says. 

Previously listed as the richest Irishman in history, with a personal wealth of around €4.7 billion, Quinn brought jobs and prosperity to the area since he began his business in 1973. 

Yet it all came crashing down with the collapse of the Celtic Tiger. The former billionaire from Derrylin went backrupt with huge debts resulting from massive shares in the now-infamous Anglo-Irish Bank.

Court cases, jail and years of litigation followed. In 2016, the promise of a comeback also vanished, after Quinn left his position as advisor with Quinn Industrial Holdings, the company that took over the business that still bears his name. 

And that should have been the last time a company with the Quinn name hit the headlines. 

kevin-lunney-abduction Superintendent Clive Beatty, who is the PSNI District Commander for Fermanagh and Omagh District, at a press conference in Enniskillen Police station in the wake of the attack. Source: Liam McBurney/PA Wire/PA Images

Instead, Lunney, his family, and other directors have faced a campaign of steadily rising violence. 

Facebook pages initially sprung up with the apparent aim of defending Sean Quinn and attacking senior staff in Quinn Industrial Holdings. But what started as an online crusade quickly morphed into real-world violence.

Cases in the High Court are ongoing against a number of individuals in relation to the online comments made by people who remained steadfast supporters of Sean Quinn. 

Quinn himself is not involved in these cases and wasn’t accused of anything by Quinn Industrial Holdings. 

A spokesperson for Quinn Industrial Holdings that TheJournal.ie that the proceedings are a matter of public record.

They referenced a message circulated to staff in August 2018, which stated:

The resurgence of negativity and misinformation will not distract our focus of continuing to be strong stewards of the business, and we will make every effort to steer this company on a continued successful path. A small group will not detract us from this objective, and we will take appropriate and robust action commencing with legal action against those propagating misinformation online.

Arson attacks have followed against senior staff. Dara O’Reilly, the chief financial officer, had his home targeted in October and saw his car set on fire. 

In the same month, arsonists also targeted the home of another staff member Tony Lunney. 

The pattern has continued since then, alongside warnings that someone would soon be killed.

Two directors were assaulted in a local shop in February, the latest in a spate of incidents that have also seen power lines to the Quinn Industrial Group premises cut and interference with vehicles belonging to the company. 

Other incidents are said to have been unreported and there is currently security in place at the businesses’ premises. 

But it’s the extent of the violence that has shocked locals. Anyone could see it coming, many said. But the sheer brutality of Lunney’s abduction has focused attention on a dispute that is painfully local. 

“We’re all holding our breath,” says Donohue. First Brexit, then the beef dispute – the local community doesn’t want more trouble.

“We’re pro-Quinn. But we’re not pro this.”

With additional reporting by Garreth McNamee

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