Lunney kidnap: Fears McGuinness death may not halt attacks on QIH
Gardaí fear gang still have means to continue as Taoiseach seeks to reassure QIH directors
Quinn Industrial Holdings director Kevin Lunney. Photograph: BBC Spotlight
Gardaí fear the campaign of violence against executives in Quinn Industrial Holdings will continue despite the sudden death of gang leader Cyril McGuinness, when UK police raided the house he was hiding in last week.
Gardaí are concerned that some of McGuinness’s associates, who are heavily involved in smuggling and were also dissident paramilitaries, will now have the means and motivation to continue the campaign, which escalated in September when QIH director Kevin Lunney was abducted and tortured.
Taoiseach Leo Varadkar met the five directors of QIH on Sunday, including Mr 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”.
The meeting took place near the QIH offices on the Border between Co Cavan and Co Fermanagh as the Taoiseach returned from Remembrance Day commemorations in Enniskillen.
In a short statement after the hour-long talks, Mr Varadkar said he had sought the meeting to thank the directors for their courage and also to assure them of the Government’s support for QIH, which employs 850 people locally.
“In particular, I wanted to thank Kevin Lunney for the resilience he has shown following his barbaric abduction, assault and torture,” he said.
QIH director John McCartan said the meeting had been productive. “It gave a tremendous comfort to us that we have the attention of Government at the highest level. That resolve is evident.”
The personal visit by the Taoiseach was intended as a strong gesture to underline that the Government was directly involved in the investigation.
Garda Commissioner Drew Harris, who met the directors last week, on Sunday rejected claims by Minister of State Michael D’Arcy that the campaign of intimidation against QIH “should have been dealt with sooner and better” at local Garda level.
Mr Harris said there was “no doubt” in his mind about the determination of his officers and he was “fully confident” in them.
Seán Quinn, the former owner of QIH, has insisted those carrying out the violence were not acting in his name and he has condemned it, including the attack on Mr Lunney.
A number of security sources said McGuinness’s death, of an apparent heart attack when police raided the house he was hiding in near Buxton, Derbyshire, last Friday, may make some of his former associates very determined to be seen to be continuing the campaign against the QIH executives.
“It’s a heightened atmosphere for them after last week and that carries its own risks,” said one source. He added that more threats, or acts of intimidation or violence, may be perpetrated against the QIH executives to demonstrate the campaign was continuing despite McGuinness’s death.
Another source said he believed it was unclear how the death of McGuinness (54) would impact on what has been a very lengthy and committed campaign.
“Sometimes when a leading figure in a [criminal] group is taken out of the picture, the impetus can go out of that group over time. Will that happen in this case? We just don’t know that yet.”
One of the men who worked closely with McGuinness is a former IRA member and dissident republican whom gardaí believe was now involved in financially-motivated crime. Another man close to McGuinness has significant business interests and has come to the attention of the authorities for smuggling cigarettes and alcohol.
Two other men believed to have been involved in the violence against Mr Lunney in September are regarded as volatile criminals.