Brutal attack on Kevin Lunney ‘was organised and paid for’

The dozen attackers have strong links to republican groups involved in extortion

A dozen-strong gang had prepared a horsebox as a mobile torture chamber before they carried out a two-hour attack on Kevin Lunney, the Quinn Industrial Holdings executive kidnapped and imprisoned on Tuesday night.

Some of the 50-year-old businessman's fingernails were pulled out, his face and neck were slashed with a Stanley knife and his right leg was badly broken twice below the knee by a wooden post or a metal bar.

Meanwhile, the attackers, whom police believe have carried out attacks before, took care not to leave behind incriminating DNA evidence, pouring industrial-strength bleach over Mr Lunney’s wounds, causing excruciating pain.

Members of the gang, who have strong links with republican groups involved in extortion, abducted Mr Lunney from outside his home at Kinawley in Co Fermanagh at about 6.40pm and brought him to Co Cavan, crossing the Border at or near Swanlinbar.


During a sustained 30-minute attack in the horsebox, Mr Lunney was slashed on the side of his neck, below his ear and around the area of a carotid artery. Had it been punctured, he would almost certainly have died, a number of sources have said.

Great pain

As it was, he was taken from the site of the beating, driven to a crossroads near Cornafean, Co Cavan, 12km west of Cavan town, where he was dumped on the side of the road. There, he was found at about 9pm, practically incoherent and in great pain.

He was discovered by a young tractor driver working for a local contractor. The young man and his mother comforted Mr Lunney, who asked that his wife be told he was alive, while waiting for an ambulance and gardaí to arrive.

“This was a savage, premeditated and well-organised attack and beating,” said a source. Pointing to a campaign of intimidation against Quinn Industrial Holdings executives since 2011, he added: “This is the first occasion where it is very clear an attack was co-ordinated deliberately to damage, to hurt an individual. This was organised and paid for, and deliberately set up to ensure hurt, maximum hurt.”

"He was tortured, tortured for two hours," said Sinn Féin councillor Chris McCaffrey, who is a neighbour of Mr Lunney's in Kinawley, outside Derrylin. "You wouldn't do it to an animal."

He said that after the discovery of Mr Lunney’s burning vehicle shortly after his abduction, his family had feared the worst. “They thought he had been burnt to death along with it,” he said.

‘Ugly mark’

Mr McCaffrey said he had been unable to get it out of his head since. “It was just so brutal,” he said. “The community has absolutely rejected what has happened. Everyone is shocked and completely opposed to it. It has left a very bad, ugly mark on the area.”

The Police Service of Northern Ireland and An Garda Síochána are conducting a major cross-Border investigation. PSNI district commander Clive Beatty described it as a "savage attack", saying Mr Lunney had been "beaten to within an inch of his life".

Sinn Féin Tyrone MP, Michelle Gildernew, who has known Mr Lunney for many years, said everyone in Fermanagh was "shocked and stunned at the nature of the attack."

Quinn Industrial Holdings executive John McCartan warned that the attack will “injure everyone in the northwest”, damaging the economic wellbeing of the region” and put more than the 850 Quinn Industrial Holdings jobs at risk.

The people involved in the attack must be “brought to heel”, but he insisted that those behind the attack who “instigated” it and “were paying for” such incidents must be caught, too. In the past locals had been afraid to speak out, but patience was “wearing thin”, he said.

Peter Murtagh

Peter Murtagh

Peter Murtagh is a contributor to The Irish Times

Freya McClements

Freya McClements

Freya McClements is Northern Editor of The Irish Times