Varadkar meets QIH executives and insists safety paramount
Michael D’Arcy claims blame for slow response to threats lies with officers ‘on the ground’
Quinn Industrial Holdings offices in Derrylin in Co Fermanagh. File photograph: Liam McBurney/PA Wire
Taoiseach Leo Varadkar has met the five directors of Quinn Industrial Holdings including Kevin Lunney to tell them their safety and security, and that of their families and employees, was being treated with the “utmost seriousness at the top of Government”.
Mr Varadkar met the five directors near the offices of QIH on the Border between Co Cavan and Co Fermanagh while returning from the Remembrance Day commemorations in Enniskillen.
The hour-long meeting on Sunday afternoon included a long and in-depth discussion about the history of the company, the recent dispute and the campaign of intimidation against the company and its directors.
In a short statement, Mr Varadkar said he had sought the meeting to thank the directors of their courage, and also to assure them of the Government’s support for QIH, which employs 850 people locally and is an integral part of the community.
The informal meeting was arranged over the weekend, with the directors insisting that all five would be present, including Mr Lunney, who is still recovering from serious injuries inflicted during his abduction in September.
“In particular, I wanted to thank Kevin Lunney for the resilience he has shown following his barbaric abduction, assault and torture,” he said.
The personal visit by the Taoiseach, who sought the meeting, was intended as a strong gesture to underline the Government’s commitment. Garda Commissioner Drew Harris met the directors of the company formerly run by businesssman Seán Quinn last week.
“I assure them that their own security, that of their employees, and law and order in the border region is treated with the utmost seriousness at the top of Government.
“Law and order must, and will, prevail in all parts of the country.”
QIH said it a statement it welcomed the personal interest taken by Mr Varadkar in “bringing to justice those responsible for a campaign of terror and intimidation against its staff.”
“The company believes the establishment of a joint investigative team is a critical step and is satisfied that the necessary resources and resolve are now in place for an effective investigation.”
Earlier, Fine Gael’s Michael D’Arcy claimed QIH executives had been “let down” by gardaí based in Border divisions.
The Minister for State at the Department of Public Expenditure accepted the campaign of intimidation and violence directed at the QIH executives had not been tackled strongly and speedily enough.
However, Mr D’Arcy insisted the blame lay with gardaí “on the ground” rather than with Government or Garda Commissioner Drew Harris.
Fianna Fáil strongly criticised the comments, saying the Government could not abdicate responsibility for policing and seek to blame local gardaí when they were not properly resourced for the unique challenges of Border policing.
Asked if the major Garda and PSNI inquiries now under way into those suspected for years of attacking the QIH executives should have happened sooner, Mr D’Arcy replied it was clear the executives were “disappointed” at previous responses.
“Who could disagree with that disappointed?” he said. “But the disappointed wasn’t with the very top; with [Garda] Commissioner Drew Harris, the Taoiseach or the Minister for Justice. The disappointment was on the ground, in relation to the policing that happened in those areas.
“There are gardaí there, there are senior gardaí there, and it is their job to ensure what has happened didn’t happen [but] it has happened.
“Of course those [Quinn Industrial Holdings] directors are disappointed, what happened was an outrage, it was hideous; the treatment of Kevin Lunney.”
The campaign of violence and threats “should have been dealt with sooner and better” at local Garda level, he added.
“On every occasion, the Taoiseach shouldn’t have to get involved, or the Minister for Justice or the Garda Commissioner. There are senior gardaí in those divisions, in those areas, who let those gentlemen down.”
John McCartin, a non-executive director of QIH, said he agreed with Mr D’Arcy’s remarks. However, he said he believed that “finally the resolve and the resources” required for the Garda to tackle the suspects was now in place.
Fianna Fáil justice spokesman Jim O’Callaghan described Mr D’Arcy’s remarks as “totally unhelpful” and only serving “to make a bad situation worse”.
“It is bizarre to say the least that Minister D’Arcy should try to pass the buck on to the gardaí on the ground in Cavan for the ongoing campaign of intimidation and violence against QIH,” he said.
The remarks ignored the fact it was the Government’s responsibility to ensure the Garda was properly resourced with “cars, equipment and technology, to prevent such intimidatory campaigns from taking hold”, he added.
“A renewed focus on the Border region is needed to send a message to organised criminals that it is no longer a ‘no man’s land’.”
“The Government can’t lay blame at the feet of gardaí in the area if they won’t provide the necessary resources and staff for them to do their job.”