September 20, 2019
Violence in Northern Ireland - not so far-fetched after all
A sharp reminder how things can easily get out of hand in the border regions between Northern Ireland and the Republic was the brutal assault on Kevin Lunney, the COO of Quinn Industrial Holdings, this week. He was abducted and tortured for two hours by a 12-man gang, and was lucky to survive with life-changing injuries. Security sources told the Irish Times that the attack on Lunney seemed a throwback to the era of IRA punishment beatings. They added that, even in the context of those paramilitary attacks, the torture of Lunney was on the upper end of the scale.
QIH managers had been target of violent attacks for years now. Earlier ones included an arson attack on the daughter of another executive, and the burning down of executives' cars. Sources said there had been about 70 incidents of intimidation against QIH managers since 2015.
Why? It is all about loyalty. Seán Quinn build up the QIH empire bringing prosperity and jobs to the two border regions of Fermanagh in Northern Ireland and Cavan in the Republic. He was a local hero in both regions. But in 2011 he filed for bankruptcy after a disastrous investment in the Anglo Irish bank during the Irish economic crisis. In 2014 companies of the QIH empire were bought by six businessmen including former associates of Quinn. Quinn himself continued as a consultant but left this role in 2016 saying later that he was forced out and that his family had been stabbed in the back. The end of Quinn's reign and his ousting as consultant provoked a violent outcry by locals, with poster campaigns depicting new managers such as Lunney as traitors.
Although this case has nothing to do with Brexit itself, it shows how violence is still very much a threat today, and that border issues need to be treated with extreme care.