GAA support for Quinns defended


Thousands of supporters of bankrupt businessman Seán Quinn turned out in force in Ballyconnell, Co Cavan, last night for a rally that was also attended by senior figures from the GAA.

Tyrone manager Mickey Harte, former Meath manager Seán Boylan, player Colm O’Rourke and Fr Brian D’Arcy addressed the crowds, estimated at between 3,000 and 4,000 people.

A letter of support was also read out from Ryanair boss Michael O’Leary.

Speaking today, former GAA president Seán Kelly defended the support shown for the Quinns, saying it was “an expression of moral support” for a family who had always been loyal to the association. He said the Quinns had never forgotten their roots and had always committed to the GAA financially and in terms of their time.

While the rally was not an official protest sanctioned by Croke Park “per se”, the show of support “for our own” and about standing behind those in trouble locally was what the association was all about, he said.

"In some respects it is admirable that people would say 'we feel strongly about an issue here', that is what freedom of expression is about,” the Fine Gael Ireland South MEP said in an interview on Radio Kerry. "Obviously there are different views at local level about what is happening, they probably feel strongly about Anglo Irish Bank and so forth, so in that regard I can understand why they are doing it."

It was “part of the ethos” of the GAA to get behind “a decent family ” who were living in the community and who were in a difficult patch and particularly with the national spotlight on them, he said.  “In some respects it’s an expression of the strength of the organisation,” he said.  “We’d probably do exactly the same thing down here in Kerry if someone who was very loyal to us was in difficulty."

One great strengths of the GAA was “we stand by our own,” he said. If people were down in the gutter, that did not mean the GAA turned their backs on them.

Video of Seán Quinn in Ballyconnell, Co Cavan last night from @Impartial Reporter

An emotional Mr Quinn told the crowd last night that his family had one million customers on the island of Ireland and had wonderful community support for nearly 40 years. He thanked his wife Patricia, his brother Peter, his four daughters and his son for their “unwavering support”.

Mr Quinn, his son Seán Quinn jnr and Peter Darragh Quinn were recently found guilty of contempt of court orders restraining them from putting assets beyond the reach of the former Anglo Irish Bank. While his son was jailed for three months, an arrest warrant is out for Mr Quinn’s nephew. Authorities in the Republic are powerless to force his return as he has left the jurisdiction.

Mr Quinn insisted his family had not fallen out with his nephew, who is wanted in the Republic for contempt of court. He was photographed attending a GAA club game in Kinawley, Co Fermanagh, on Friday.

The Quinns would “continue to be the Quinns and stand by each other”, he said.

Several speakers from the GAA fraternity and elsewhere gave speeches in support of the family at the rally. There was thunderous applause when a hand-written letter of support from the Ryanair chief executive Michael O'Leary was read out from the stage, prompting a renewed waving of banners that variously read: “Let the Quinn case go to Brussels”; “No justice in Ireland; and “Trial of injustice by media”.

Video of Colette Quinn in Ballyconnell, Co Cavan last night from @Impartial Reporter

Fr Brian D’Arcy told the crowd that we have a “duty to stand by our neighbours when they’re in trouble”. Seán Quinn and his family had “brought prosperity and jobs to the area from stony rocks”, he said.

“In doing so, he brought peace to the country by creating thousands of jobs and this removed the oxygen for violence,” he said.

Former Armagh player and All-Ireland-winning captain Jarlath Burns said the GAA community wanted justice for the Quinns, while former Armagh football manager Joe Kernan called for justice to be done and “let Seán Quinn build another empire”.

Mr Quinn’s eldest daughter, Colette, said in her speech she was very grateful for all the support shown to the family over the past two years.

In a radio interview broadcast yesterday, Seán Quinn said his nephew was in an “extremely difficult situation” and that he understood why his nephew had not handed himself over to authorities. The Garda last night declined to comment, except to say an arrest warrant remained in force.

In an interview with RTÉ’s This Week programme, Seán Quinn did not criticise his nephew for failing to hand himself over to authorities. “Petie has made his decision, I respect his decision . . . I can easily understand it. To be put in a situation he is in is an extremely difficult situation,” Mr Quinn said.

He said he had been in contact with his nephew’s father but had not asked about his nephew’s whereabouts. “Peter was absolutely convinced that, no matter what he done, Anglo were not going to agree with him. He wanted desperately to purge his contempt,” he said.

Another photograph at the weekend, which appeared to show Mr Quinn’s son, Seán jnr, playing poker in Mountjoy Prison, was published in a newspaper yesterday. The Irish Prison Service was unavailable for comment on the matter.

Mr Quinn also said in yesterday’s radio interview – recorded earlier in the weekend – that it was now impossible to pay back what the former Anglo Irish Bank was seeking given that he no longer owned the Quinn Group or its associated companies.

He said he had always planned to pay whatever money was legitimately owed to Anglo Irish Bank. At one point, he said, the Quinn Group was valued at about €4 billion and was making close to €600 million a year.

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