The Irish Times view on Border security: questions for gardaí

If local gardaí were incapable of dealing with the campaign of intimidation against QIH directors, Garda leadership should have stepped in

That it took the savage abduction, assault and torture of QIH director Kevin Lunney to bring that national focus on the crisis on the Border  is an indictment of the authorities. Photograph: Pacemaker Belfast

That it took the savage abduction, assault and torture of QIH director Kevin Lunney to bring that national focus on the crisis on the Border is an indictment of the authorities. Photograph: Pacemaker Belfast

 

The long campaign of violence, intimidation and harassment against the directors of Quinn Industrial Holdings finally has the attention from Government and the Garda Síochána that such brazen and dangerous criminality warrants. That it took the savage abduction and torture of Kevin Lunney, one of those directors, to bring that national focus on the crisis on the Border is an indictment of the authorities, however. More than 70 incidents have been recorded against QIH in recent years. The longer the criminal campaign continued, the more the risk of serious escalation increased.

Scores of incidents took place in a small community and nobody was ever brought to justice

That means that the Garda has questions to answer. The Garda associations have reacted angrily to a remark by Minister of State Michael D’Arcy that local police in the Border region were too slow to tackle the spate of violent and intimidatory incidents. What D’Arcy said is self-evidently true. Scores of incidents took place in a small community and nobody was ever brought to justice. For years, huge posters stood by the roadside demonising named QIH executives, and gardaí never took them down. Removing a poster does not require armed reinforcements from Dublin.

Quinn Industrial Holdings offices in Derrylin in Co Fermanagh. File photograph: Liam McBurney/PA Wire
Quinn Industrial Holdings offices in Derrylin in Co Fermanagh. File photograph: Liam McBurney/PA Wire

And yet D’Arcy’s analysis is also highly selective. If local gardaí were incapable of dealing with the threat posed by this criminal campaign, it was the responsibility of the Garda leadership to take matters in hand and ensure this challenge to the authority of the State was adequately met. The Department of Justice should have exhibited greater interest too.

This is not a debate over historical events. The death of Cyril McGuinness, the criminal who died while police searched the house where he was hiding in England last week, could cause the violent campaign against QIH executives to peter out. But it could also result in further escalation if McGuinness’s associates are eager to demonstrate that the campaign can continue.

Not until all of the protagonists in the violence and intimidation against Kevin Lunney and his colleagues are brought to justice can Government and the Garda consider the job done.

Garda Commissioner Drew Harris and Assistant Chief Constable Mark Hamilton PSNI speak to the media regarding the investigation of the abduction of Kevin Lunney at Garda HQ in the Phoenix Park on Friday. Photograph: Gareth Chaney/ Collins Photos
Garda Commissioner Drew Harris and Assistant Chief Constable Mark Hamilton PSNI speak to the media in recent days regarding the investigation of the abduction of Kevin Lunney at Garda HQ in the Phoenix Park on Friday. Photograph: Gareth Chaney/ Collins Photos
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