The Irish Times view on the Sean Quinn programmes

Businessman showed a failure to recognise the cost of his financial gambling on wider society

There was something distinctly Shakespearean watching the tragic figure of Sean Quinn in RTÉ's three-part documentary series, Quinn Country, and hearing his long laments during those interviews from his lakeside mansion in Co Cavan.

Fourteen years on from his reckless bet on Anglo Irish Bank and 11 years on from his loss of the industrial conglomerate he built, he is still raging against the perceived wrongs inflicted on him during the collapse of his empire.

Quinn painted himself as a victim of “rough justice,” despite admitting to mistakes in relation to his Celtic Tiger-era investments. His complaints evoke the flawed Lear seeing himself as being “more sinned against than sinning”.

However, it appears that Quinn still does not understand the consequences of his own actions. The tragedy for the rest of us is that we, the Irish people, have been paying for the hubris of a man who failed to see the limits of what was sensible.


More than ¤2 billion lost on Quinn’s bet on the rise of Anglo’s share price is a bill that fell on the taxpayer through the nationalisation of the runaway bank. The vast loans made to Quinn to cover the losses on investments related to Anglo shares in 2007 and 2008 will never be fully repaid.

Then there is the ¤1 billion black hole in Quinn Insurance, his one-time insurance company, from failing to set aside enough cash to protect against future claims. That is being covered by a 2 per cent levy on every non-life insurance policy written in the country until the year 2037.

There is no question that, over four decades, Quinn brought great economic opportunity and fortune to the people of Cavan and Fermanagh by creating factories and large-scale employment out of nothing but hard work and shrewd business acumen. Those factories and jobs remain, so that part of Quinn’s legacy is intact.

The tragedy for Quinn is that he must drive past those factories knowing he has lost them. And that he still fails to accept that he is responsible for losing them – or acknowledge that the public is having to shoulder the cost of his recklessness.