Why the Quinns are now the height of fashion


SO: PETER Darragh Quinn wears a peacoat. Very interesting. And something called a button-up shirt. Curiouser and curiouser. These sartorial details have been seized on by rivals of the Irish Mail on Sunday to pour scorn on a Mail exclusive.

Yesterday the newspaper ran a front-page story on Peter Darragh Quinn’s appearance at a local GAA match in Co Fermanagh, nine days after he had failed to turn up at the High Court in Dublin. He had been sentenced to three months in jail for contempt of court. Fermanagh is in Northern Ireland and consequently in another legal jurisdiction.

Of course the rival news organisations are motivated entirely by jealousy at the Irish Mail on Sunday’s scoop but they might have had a point when they complained that the story contained quite a lot about clothes. Quite apart from the fact that the photo showed Peter Darragh Quinn’s father, a former GAA president, who was at the match with his son and was indisputably wearing “a dark knee-length coat and cap”, in the matter of sartorial detail there was a whole lot more to come.

Inside the same newspaper was a caption-by-caption breakdown of what the wife of Seán Quinn jnr, Karen Woods, was wearing when she visited him in prison last Saturday. Seán Quinn jnr, Peter Darragh Quinn’s cousin, is serving three months for contempt of court in what is said to be the most comfortable part of Mountjoy jail.

But enough about that, okay? Jails and courts are soooooo boring. Those of us who are fans of celebrity and fashion magazines – by which, of course, I mean Grazia – are on firmer ground with the caption-by-caption breakdown of a photograph of a pretty girl. In Grazia these breakdowns are a regular and most enjoyable feature and are usually called something such as “Celebrity Style”. Photographed in the grounds of Mountjoy, Ms Woods was working a black fitted top from Zara, a white jacket by French Connection, black skinny jeans from Topshop and six-inch heels also from Topshop. She had dried her own hair, she told the newspaper. Only her handbag was designer-made, by Prada.

Well. Here we have a soap opera leaping, fully formed, from the boring old world of national catastrophe. And it’s not just about the clothes either, although the sociologists among us will have noted that Ms Woods’s mother in law, Patricia Quinn, was also wearing black trousers and black high heels and was carrying a large black handbag at the jail on Saturday. What this country will do if there is ever a shortage of black trousers I just don’t know.

And it’s not like the Irish Mail On Sunday was the first to make a fashion feature – a fashion icon even – out of an attractive young woman who has appeared in controversial news. In July last year the Sunday Independent’s Life magazine ran a short, heavily illustrated article in its Style Notebook section: “We’re loving socialite Avila Lipsett’s classic sense of style. The nursing-home director works a smart boyfriend blazer with a crisp cotton shirt for a timeless, chic look. To balance out the oversized jacket, Roz’s big sister opts for some black skinny jeans. Nude peep-toe pumps will go with almost everything and Avila’s pair are a great option with their mid-height heel. We’re seriously lusting over her tan leather bag, which will only improve with age. But it’s Ms Lipsett’s choice of accessories that give this outfit that added edge: her bright colour-pop earrings – and matching toes! – instantly lift the look.”

That photograph of Ms Lipsett was surrounded by fashion items that would allow you to “Get the Look”. In fact, the entire article was called “Get the Look: Avila Lipsett”. To this end you were advised to buy a Nicole Farhi jacket, a pair of Claire’s Accessories earrings and so on. The only name not mentioned was that of the Rostrevor nursing home in Rathgar, owned by Ms Lipsett’s family and closed by the health authorities in controversial circumstances.

Meanwhile, back on yesterday’s front page, the photograph of Peter Darragh Quinn in his peacoat and button-up shirt, and his father, Peter Quinn, in his dark knee-length coat and cap, appeared under a single-word headline. And that word was “Fugitive”.

Fugitive, eh? Fugitive from the nasty old sheriff. Fugitive from the chain gang. Fugitive from the forces of the crown. Perhaps one man’s fugitive has always been another man’s absconder, but what do I know, I’m from evil old Dublin 4 – I’m not, actually, but never mind.

On RTÉ Radio 1’s This Week programme yesterday Peter Darragh Quinn was publicly said to be “on the run” – a loaded phrase if ever there was one. Just as Seán Quinn snr has spoken about the banks wanting “to put the entire family out on the road”. It’s hard to remember that the Ewings, I mean the Quinns, have by their own calculation recently been reduced to millionaire rather than billionaire status. Seán Quinn snr told Mr Justice Peter Kelly that he was “a simple man”.

Everything about this story – except the scale of their fortune – says the Quinns are of and from ordinary rural Ireland. Strangely, their new celebrity is a weapon in the campaign to persuade the rest of us of this.

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