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The location in Bellananagh, Ballinagh, Co. Cavan, Ireland, where Garda’ investigating the abduction of Kevin Lunney recovered a horse box in September 2019.
The location in Bellananagh, Ballinagh, Co. Cavan, Ireland, where Garda’ investigating the abduction of Kevin Lunney recovered a horse box in September 2019.
Image: Liam McBurney via PA

Border villages and isolated backroads: The key locations in the abduction of Kevin Lunney

The Special Criminal Court has sentenced three men for their role in the abduction and torture of Kevin Lunney.
Dec 21st 2021, 12:05 AM 20,777 0

ON 17 SEPTEMBER 2019, Quinn Industrial Holdings director Kevin Lunney was returning home to Kinawley, a tiny village which straddles Cavan and Fermanagh, just north of the border.

Over the previous year, directors of the company had been threatened, had their private property destroyed and had been informed by police forces on both sides of the border that their safety could not be guaranteed. 

So when Kevin Lunney approached his home and saw a black Audi parked on a narrow rural road that lead to his house, he said his heart skipped a beat.

That moment marked the start of the process which saw three men convicted at the Special Criminal Court (SCC) in Dublin last month. Yesterday, all three were handed long sentences of between 18 and 30 years for their role in abducting and torturing the businessman.

During the trial, Superintendent Clive Beatty of the PSNI Fermanagh and Omagh district told the court how, after Lunney spotted the black car near his home, the 50-year-old’s own vehicle was rammed and disabled.

The QIH director locked himself in his car as four masked men appeared and smashed the windows, forcibly removing him from the vehicle and forcing him into the boot of a black Audi saloon.

He was then driven to an unknown location where he was removed from the vehicle and “savagely beaten about the body”, the SCC heard. 

Lunney suffered “life-changing” injuries, according to the PSNI. He was targeted because of his business and the job title he held, the court was told. 

Following the conclusion of evidence to the Special Criminal Court earlier this year, The Journal travelled to the various locations at the centre of the trial. 

These are the key locations mentioned in proceedings.

Mannok Headquarters (formerly QIH), Derrylin, Co Fermanagh

In Derrylin, just north of the border, lies the headquarters of the business group now known as Mannok, formerly Quinn Industrial Holdings, where Lunney works as an executive.

The townland of Derrylin straddles two jurisdictions with notices outside shops telling customers that Euro is accepted in businesses north of the border and similar notices referring to sterling outside those in the south.

The Fermanagh village is around 20 minutes south of Enniskillen, and is a hive of constant activity for construction traffic: articulated lorries trundle by each other, heading towards processing plants or elsewhere to deliver construction products.

Quinn’s branding is still visible everywhere you turn in Derrylin, despite a name change over a year ago.

On 16 November 2020, Quinn Industrial Holdings, comprising Quinn Building Products and Quinn Packaging, became known as Mannok.

It is the remains of Sean Quinn’s original business which he started in 1973, building it into an empire that had led him to a personal wealth of €4.7 billion, according to a 2008 estimate, before filing for bankruptcy just a handful of years later in 2012. 

QIH itself was formed in 2014, emerging from the debris of Sean Quinn’s failed business empire when it acquired the building and packaging materials of the former Quinn Group from Aventas. 

Quinn himself had remained part of the business as an advisor. He left that role in 2016 by mutual agreement, with the company noting that his expectations for the role were “at odds” with the direction of the businesses. 

But despite the removal of the Quinn family from the business and its rebrand as Mannok, there are still remnants of the dynasty seen in the area around Derrylin, commonly referred to as ‘Quinn country’.

The Q branding is still seen on buildings in pockets of the border region, including on those at Mannok’s headquarters.

The Quinn family denies any association with the attack.

In the days after Kevin Lunney was kidnapped and beaten, Seán Quinn condemned the violence carried out on the executive.

The Quinn family also released a statement saying they were “horrified” by the incident, adding that they were “angered” that their former ownership of the business was being associated “in any way with such abhorrent acts”.

Speaking to the Irish News in the aftermath of the convictions, Sean Quinn said what was done to Lunney was “barbaric”. 

IMG_7881 One of the main HQ buildings for Mannok. The distinctinve Quinn 'Q' is still there. Source: Garreth MacNamee

Kinawley, Co Fermanagh

On 17 September 2019, Kevin Lunney finished work and left for his home in Kinawley as normal.

The small village is located just north of the border. 

It’s well-kept and clean and on the day we visited earlier this year, locals could be seen tending to communal flower beds. Ads for the local GAA lotto were in abundance along roadsides.

It’s 6.5km from Derrylin, and it’s roughly a 12-minute drive from Mannok HQ to Lunney’s home.

The Journal had initially travelled to Kinawley in the aftermath of the Lunney attack in 2019. At the time, no local wished to talk to us about the incident.

It was a similar experience this time around: locals did not want to speak about Lunney, the company formerly owned by the Quinn family or, frankly, anything other than the weather.

IMG_7886 Source: Garreth MacNamee

One man tending to his trailer politely nodded and smiled when approached, but his demeanour changed once we informed him about why we were visiting the area.

“Ah no,” he said before jumping into his van and driving away. 

A similar interaction took place when we attempted to speak to a woman by the local pub, who responded with silence.

Ballinagh, Co Cavan

IMG_7891 Source: Garreth MacNamee

After being pushed into the boot of a car near his home, Kevin Lunney was taken across the border to the town of Ballinagh in Co Cavan.

The drive is not a short one and takes almost 40 minutes in light traffic along a road hugged by many lakes.

Ballinagh is a busy rural village. Articulated lorries cross through it on a daily basis, as it is situated on the N35 which connects Cavan to Longford.

It would be easy for people not to notice a black Audi driving through the village without rousing suspicion.

Outside a local shop, we sought to speak to locals about the attack on Kevin Lunney. 

After a few failed attempts, one man walked up to say “that’s nothing to do with us” before heading off. 

Close to Ballinagh is the place where Lunney was thrown into a horse trailer and the torture on him was carried out. 

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At the location, in a townland called Drumbade, his legs were broken and he was drenched in bleach, while the letters QIH were carved into his chest, the Special Criminal Court heard.

IMG_7887 The Drumbade area. Source: RollingNews.ie

It is a remote area and not easily accessible; in the 30 minutes or so we stayed in the area, not one car or vehicle passed us by.

The uneven roads leading to the townland barely fit one car, and feature many dilapidated and deserted houses. 

Drumcoghill, Co Cavan

Following his torture, the SCC heard how Kevin Lunney was driven another 5km to the townland of Drumcoghill, where he was dumped on the side of a country road.

Like Drumbade, it’s a remote and rural place and had little to no traffic coming through it when we visited it.

It was only out of pure luck that a man driving a tractor on the night of the attack spotted Lunney and helped him, moments after he had crawled along a lane in nothing but his boxer shorts and with serious injuries. 

IMG_7894 A road near Drumcoghill. Source: Garreth MacNamee

Lunney told the SCC that he thought he was going to die at the time. If it weren’t for the passerby, he almost certainly have been right.

The court was given an insight into just how horrific his injuries were, as well as how lucky he was to be found when he was. 

Giving evidence in June, Lunney said he dragged himself along the road where he was dumped using just his left arm and left leg to a larger road.

The conditions were dry but cold, and one of his legs was “extremely sore” and an arm was almost unusable.

As he moved along the road, he saw a light in the distance which he tried to crawl towards.

“I was exhausted. I could sense the blood running down my chest and I was conscious my face was bleeding. My left arm and left leg were all I could use to push myself along but I decided to push myself towards that window and kept doing that for, I don’t know, a number of minutes,” he said.

Lunney explained that he stopped a couple of times, exhausted, before pushing on again. “I was getting fearful that I wouldn’t get there and nobody would come,” he said.

He crawled 30 to 40 metres when he heard a tractor and waved to attract attention. The driver asked what had happened, and Lunney explained.

An ambulance soon arrived and he was taken to Cavan General Hospital, then Our Lady of Lourdes Hospital in Drogheda, where he had a steel pin inserted into his leg.

In November, three of four men charged with the attack were found guilty by the Special Criminal Court. 

The first guilty man cannot be identified and is named only as YZ. He was sentenced to 30 years in prison by Mr Justice Tony Hunt at the Special Criminal Court yesterday. 

The other two men are Alan O’Brien (40), of Shelmalier Road, East Wall, Dublin 3, who received a 25-year sentence and Darren Redmond (27), from Caledon Road, East Wall, Dublin 3, who will serve 18 years with the final three suspended. 

Luke O’Reilly (68), with an address at Mullahoran Lower, Kilcogy, Co Cavan, was found not guilty of falsely imprisoning and assaulting Lunney.

Mr Justice Tony Hunt said the only reason he did not impose a life sentence on any of the three men was that the most severe penalties should be reserved for those who finance or benefit from these types of crimes. 

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Garreth MacNamee

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