Nation's malaise visible in venom flung at Quinn
I drove through Fermanagh on Wednesday and passed familiar landmarks. The house where an old couple were killed. The school where a teacher was shot. The shop where the dismembered body of a local was found in the fridge. The pub where a boy from Ballyconnell died because he recognised the eyes behind a balaclava. I passed the site of an old garage where an IRA leader was taken out by the SAS. But I saw all those blood-soaked fields now transformed because people voted for change, and played democracy intelligently. And all the while they worked for Seán Quinn.
I saw houses where people grew up poor, and vulnerable to a life of enslavement by the IRA or UVF but found they could earn a living and have a social life and fall in love and get married and have children and rear them in houses with two toilets and still have money to educate their own children. Liberation doesn’t come any crisper than that. And Seán Quinn put every sinew of his energy over 40 years into that process of development.
He is an ordinary man who showed leadership in his community. And to call him an oppressor or suggest those who admire him are kissing the rod that beats them is as jaundiced as an artist who once sneered at me and said, “Isn’t the Slieve Russell a pretentious name for a hotel in west Cavan?” I replied, “Russell is the name of the feckin’ mountain.”
To suggest that the support of Brian D’Arcy, a professional journalist with the BBC, a man hounded and victimised by the church, implies that the church supports Seán Quinn is a coat-trailing equation that old-time preachers in galvanised churches one hundred years ago would have been proud of.
Seán Quinn was reared on bread and jam, with the very poorest of creatures and he often wept at their graves on the slopes of Slieve Russell and the shores of Lough Erne. His mother was cross but clever and his siblings went to college but he just got the mountains and the meadows, all 25 acres, and no schooling after primary school. He passed his childhood playing football and driving tractors and his first teacher, Elizabeth Dunne, said before she died that he was the most popular cub ever darkened the school door.
One day his father darkened the door looking for Seán because the weather was good for hay. Ms Dunne said, “You can surely have him ‘cos he’ll not do anything for me.” They had been painting workers in the hayfields and Seán had his arms folded and half the page was green and the other half blue. And the teacher asked, “Where are the men making hay?” and Seán said, “Please Miss, it wasn’t ripe so they went home.” Whenever a baby died in his own extended family, it was Seán who brought home the little white coffin from Enniskillen or Belfast.