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Don’t cry for Seán Quinn – even if he cannot stop doing it for himself

I prefer to save my sympathy for those who really deserve it in the dark tale of what happened to Quinn’s former business empire

Why must we still be subjected to the hot, bitter tears of Seán Quinn? Does the world still have anything to learn, really, from watching him choke back emotion while he pickles in self pity in his mansion, as he did on Wednesday night in filmmaker Trevor Birney’s RTÉ television account of Quinn’s rise and fall?

What could this voyeurism into Quinn’s brokenness and despair possibly teach us? Most sensible people already understand the depths of his delusion. They know that his downfall, after he gambled close to €3 billion on a bust Anglo Irish Bank, was his own fault. He gambled and lost, and now he despairs about the consequences.

Few buy Quinn’s nonsensical ramblings about the “rough justice” he claims was meted out to him by the media, banks, the Government, lawyers, insurance administrators, bondholders, his former Quinn Group colleagues and just about everyone else in the world who all did wrong except for him. He must know that few believe him. Is that really why he cries?

Quinn, as he has always done, denied in Birney’s documentary that he had anything to do with the attack on Kevin Lunney

There is no need to feel sorry for Quinn who, despite leaving taxpayers with a hole of at least €2 billion to fill in Anglo, still lives in his 14,500 sq ft lakeside property in Cavan, the size of 15 average family homes. He is still, clearly, a man of significant means. He must not cry for the loss of money or privilege. For what, then? For the loss of power? Of face?


There is no need, either to feel sorry for Quinn’s family, who are directors of companies that last year benefited from €1.5 million of dividends paid by QuinnBet, the online bookmaker that the businessman helped to set up after his dramatic downfall from the former Quinn Group, which is now run as Mannok.

I prefer instead to feel sorry for Kevin Lunney, the father-of-six and director of Quinn’s former empire, who walks around to this day with one of Quinn’s initials carved into his chest by kidnappers who took him from outside his family home in 2019. Those criminals, who are serving sentences of up to 30 years each, were acting in support of the long campaign to have Quinn put back in charge. They broke Lunney’s leg with a wooden post. They poured bleach into his wounds. They beat him until he said he’d resign from the companies taken from Quinn, although he never did.

They left a bloodied and traumatised Lunney for dead in a country lane, where he had to crawl for help. For hours, his family did not know if he was alive and must have feared the worst. His wife. His children. I feel sorry for them, and not for Quinn, in whose support criminals financed by an unknown “paymaster” waged a years-long campaign of intimidation against the managers of the former Quinn Group, who now run it for the bondholders that took control of its industrial holdings. Bullets in the post. Pig’s heads on doorsteps. It was all vile.

Quinn, as he has always done, denied in Birney’s documentary that he had anything to do with the attack on Lunney. He has also always denied any involvement in the years-long campaign of illegal acts of violence and intimidation waged against Lunney and the other former colleagues of Quinn who worked for the new regime. The regime that cut him out.

Quinn says he had “absolutely nothing” to do with the violence. But then, in the documentary, what does he choose to say about Lunney, his former protege who must now live for the rest of his life with the trauma of what those criminals who were acting in support of Quinn did to him? Quinn condemns it. Of course he does. But then he goes ice-cold and says he has “nothing good to say about Kevin Lunney”. His eyes darken further and he turns to the filmmaker to suggest that “someone should ask Kevin Lunney why he was attacked”.

What a thing to say about the victim of a violent assault. Quinn doesn’t cry a drop for Lunney, for what he, his wife and children suffered and must continue to suffer. Minutes later he was, of course, sobbing on-screen for himself, for the fictional “rough justice” he has suffered, for the wrongs perpetrated upon him. It was offensive. The scene stank of moral repugnance.

Quinn denies doing anything wrong. But he does acknowledge that “the truths” he told about the former Quinn managers that he believes betrayed him “would have created a toxic climate”. In that context and with that admission, and turning his earlier question back on himself, someone should now go to him and ask Quinn why does he think Kevin Lunney was attacked? For what possible end? How could his attackers ever think that such an outrage could be of benefit to anybody?

Let there be no more of this prurient focus on Quinn’s hurt, on his tears or his despair. He did it to himself

In Birney’s documentary, Quinn said “human beings don’t do that to each other” in reference to the crimes perpetrated upon Lunney. But he also chose to acknowledge the cloud that he believes the crime has cast over him, as it clearly was done in support of the campaign to have him reinstated.

“There’d be doubts in people’s minds, you know. ‘Jesus, how come there’s television crews from all over Ireland promoting this thing about Sean Quinn and he was responsible for the abduction of Kevin Lunney.’ I mean, people do believe that,” says Quinn.

The businessman also chooses to draw a link between himself and a sermon given locally by Fr Oliver O’Reilly, in which the priest condemns the unknown “paymaster” that the courts believe orchestrated the attack on Lunney.

“People have to believe it. They have to believe that there is something in this. ‘Surely the priest wouldn’t be getting up on the altar and blaming Sean Quinn if he wasn’t involved somewhere,’” says Quinn to Birney.

Quinn’s wife, Patricia, decries Fr O’Reilly as a “back-stabber”. And then her husband cries again.

"Sean Quinn chooses not to understand" - filmmaker Trevor Birney on the making of Quinn Country

Listen | 32:54

We have seen too much of Quinn’s emotion over the years. The late former Anglo chairman, Sean Fitzpatrick, described how Quinn was “close to tears” in a March 2008 meeting in Dublin’s Buswells hotel over his disastrous investment in the bank, which he must have realised it could take him down. He fought more emotion back in subsequent interviews.

He choked up in the High Court in May 2012 as he gave evidence in contempt of court proceedings about an asset-stripping campaign that Quinn oversaw in an illegal attempt to put assets beyond the now State-owned Anglo’s reach. He cried again in July as his son, Sean Jr, was jailed for contempt. He shed more tears on the back of a truck in Ballyconnell that summer at misguided local rallies in his support.

He cried again in court that November as his lawyers fought, in vain, to prevent him from being jailed. There were more tears in August 2013 as he opened a festival in Ballinamore, and the organisers spoke in his support. And then there he was on Wednesday night, sobbing again over a business loss that was completely, entirely, absolutely all his own fault.

Let there be no more of this prurient focus on Quinn’s hurt, on his tears or his despair. He did it to himself. Let us move on. Look forward. Focus on the people in this sordid story who really deserve sympathy.