Sign near Border about Quinn directors removed by gardaí

Contractor declined to remove signs because of risks involved, letters show

This sign on the outskirts of Ballyconnell, Co Cavan a few hundred feet from the border with Co Fermanagh was removed by gardaí. Photograph: Lorraine Teevan

This sign on the outskirts of Ballyconnell, Co Cavan a few hundred feet from the border with Co Fermanagh was removed by gardaí. Photograph: Lorraine Teevan

 

A controversial sign close to the former Quinn Group premises on the Cavan/Fermanagh border was taken down by gardaí on Thursday night.

Quinn Industrial Holdings (QIH) director John McCartin, responding to comments by the Garda Commissioner, Drew Harris, asked on Thursday why it had taken so long for the sign, which has been in place for more than a year, to be taken down. He said the meaning of the sign was “we’re in control”, referring to those behind the campaign of intimidation and violence against QIH directors.

An anonymous threat against the lives of five QIH directors, issued on Monday, included a threat against “anyone who removes signs, whether that be council employees or outside contractors”, warning that they “will be targeted”.

The sign, which was on display close to a tile company in Ballyconnell, Co Cavan, made claims about the income of three QIH directors and then stated: “Seán Quinn, zero £pounds”. Mr Quinn is believed to have been on a consultancy retainer with QIH worth up to €500,000 a year before relations between the pair broke down.

The sign, which sources believe was in place since as early as April last year, was the subject of lengthy correspondence between QIH and Cavan County Council earlier this year.

Attempts to remove sign

The directors of QIH wrote to Tommy Ryan, the chief executive of the Cavan County Council, in January of this year, pointing out that similar signs in Fermanagh had been removed following a complaint and a six-week formal process carried out by the local authority there. “Unfortunately, in Cavan, despite numerous phone calls, meetings and emails, the signs have yet to be removed. Indeed, the entire road from Ballyconnell down to the cement plant has numerous unauthorised signs”.

The directors wrote that “the inaction by Cavan County Council in terms of removing these signs risks been seen in some circles as an approval of sorts of the campaign against the business and its management”.

However, Mr Ryan’s response to the directors shows the council had attempted over a period of months to have the sign removed, to no avail. The sign had been removed on two occasions previously, only to be immediately replaced. “A third attempt was made to remove the signs and because of this action, the contractor employed by Cavan County Council was ‘advised’ by persons unknown not to be removing signs”.

A contractor “who specialises in dealing with high risk matters” was engaged, but “following his own assessment of the risks involved for himself and his staff, has declined to remove the signs,” Mr Ryan wrote. “The large number of violent events that have occurred including assaults, arson and property damage creates difficulties for me given the duty of care I owe to staff, and any contractors appointed by me,” he told the QIH directors.

Earlier this week Garda Commissioner Drew Harris said that any such signs would be removed by gardaí. In response, Mr McCartin asked why it wasn’t already taken down. “Why didn’t they take it down in the beginning and forensically examine it?”

Gardaí on Friday confirmed the force had removed the sign in question.

In a statement, QIH welcomed the removal of the “intimidatory signage” and said the issue was never about one individual sign.