Threats to Quinn executives: ‘If you pass a car parked on the road now, you take a second glance’

QIH directors have had six weeks to ‘acclimatise’ to the severity of the threat against them

Liam McCaffrey in his office at QIH in Derrylin, Co Fermanagh. Photograph: Lorraine Teevan

Liam McCaffrey in his office at QIH in Derrylin, Co Fermanagh. Photograph: Lorraine Teevan

 

At the headquarters of Quinn Industrial Holdings (QIH) outside Ballyconnell, Co Cavan, it is business as usual.

On the road outside, the distinctive green lorries of Quinn cement pass back and forth, a familiar sight on the road between Ballyconnell and Derrylin, Co Fermanagh. Yet inside, two vehicles marked “security” are obvious in the company car park.

They are a direct result, company chief executive Liam McCaffrey explains, of the threats and intimidation to Quinn executives, most recently the threat, on Monday night, of a “permanent solution” if they do not act on “your last warning” and resign from the firm.

He and the other directors have had six weeks to “acclimatise ourselves”, as McCaffrey puts it, to the severity of the threat against them in the wake of the abduction and torture of their colleague Kevin Lunney.

“If you pass a car parked alongside the road now, you take a second glance,” he explains. “I wouldn’t have done that before.

“You’re living with a heightened antenna as to where you might see danger, and yes, I’m concerned for my personal safety, but also concerned about the impact on my family if anything happened to me.”

The attack on Lunney was a “turning point”, says McCaffrey; though company executives had suffered years of harassment and intimidation – allegedly by those loyal to former owner Seán Quinn – “this involved a large number of people, it was clearly highly orchestrated and paid for. It was a deliberately orchestrated event in order to harm a human being. That elevates it to a whole new level.”

Quinn has condemned the attacks and described the assault on Mr Lunney as “despicable and totally barbaric”.

Fear felt

In Ballyconnell and Derrylin, few are willing to go on record; one employee – who speaks on condition of anonymity – describes the fear felt by some in the firm who live near to those who are locally believed to be responsible.

When employees held a rally outside the company’s headquarters, the worker explains, some were too afraid to attend, or chose not to; others hid behind trees, or made sure their backs were turned away from television cameras in order to ensure they would not be identified.

“There was a van passing up and down outside the whole time,” the employee explains. “It was clearly working out who was there.”

Yet there was also a desire to do something to show their support for their bosses. “There’s no doubt, among any of the staff I talk to, that they are 100 per cent behind them.

“There have even been conversations today among people wondering what we can do to show that support publicly.”

This is reinforced by another company director, John McCartin. “We live in a law-abiding, peaceful community. There is no fracture, no rump, no cohort supporting terrorism and criminality in our community.

‘Procuring criminality’

“We enjoy tremendous support and respect from our neighbours and we appreciate that,” he says. “This is a specific entity procuring criminality for a specific agenda and a stop needs to be put to that.”

Though both he and McCaffrey are fully supportive of the PSNI and Garda investigation, they believe it should not have been allowed to get to this point. “I genuinely think the gardaí are working towards getting to the root of it,” says McCartin, “and I think every resource has been thrown at that and every priority is being given to it at the moment. But in the wider context, I think the authorities need to take note of the fact that untempered discourse, hate speech, incitement to hatred and to violence has gone unchecked in public meetings, on Facebook and in letters handed round the pubs.

“There are laws there to deal with that, and I think they should be used.”

Both he and McCartin are adamant they will not be intimidated out of the business. If it came to that situation, McCaffrey says, “the future of the business would be in peril because you would have a total breakdown of law and order in the area.

“We have that responsibility, and we have a responsibility to our families, and we have to constantly balance and evaluate those and not be reckless with our safety, but there’s a huge inclination not to be intimidated.”