There is a hardly a person in the country who is neutral on the Sean Quinn affair. I admit that I am not neutral on the subject either having acted professionally for the Quinn Group some years ago. The Quinn Empire and its ability to diversify and create so many jobs always hugely impressed me. Governments on both sides of the border failed miserably to deliver on job creation in the economic wastelands of Fermanagh and Cavan, so local loyalty to Sean Quinn and his family is totally understandable and to a degree justifiable.
Last week’s rally in Cavan bought together an array of high profile GAA figures onto the streets in support of the Quinn family. Whilst the GAA officially said nothing the message from Cavan was clear. Later in the week the Association moved publically to officially disassociate itself from supporting the Quinns. As of course did Fine Gael after MEP Sean Kelly’s empathetic out-pouring.
Sean Quinn was and maybe still is one of Ireland’s best entrepreneurs. By his own admission he is no saint and he has certainly got things wrong. Again he has admitted this. Operating at his level of big business it’s probably not unusual to lose the run of one’s normally sound judgement.
Mr Quinn has publically said he is not an easy man to give advice to. No doubt those who worked for him would recognise this trait. Unlike many of his other businesses some of which he grew organically and others into which he diversified, his once acute business acumen and what Ulster folk would know as ‘thranness’ appear to have compelled him to take an unfathomable gamble on the bank once known as Anglo-Irish. Anglo Irish at that time was already showing signs of its recklessness. Sean Quinn’s gamble on Anglo Irish is probably the second biggest regret of his life. The first must be seeing his son languish in jail. There are few if any parents who won’t feel a high degree of personal sympathy for Sean Quinn and his wife.
The Quinn’s don’t appear to be denying trying to protect assets from the reach of Irish Bank Resolution Corporation –formerly Anglo Irish Bank; after all they have a forthcoming court case of Titanic proportions with that same bank to adjudicate on the legitimacy of disputed loans to the value of 2.1billion euro. They are however now caught on a cleft stick legally and commercially. They stand in contempt of a court ruling which, whilst a civil matter, is a most serious offence. The issue is no doubt further complicated by the decision of Peter Darragh Quinn not to comply with the court order as his cousin has done.
Again on a personal level, it’s totally understandable that his father, former GAA President Peter Quinn would back his son’s decision to frustrate the High Court ruling by saying he will stay on the Northern side of the border. Yet Peter Quinn was once the Chairman of an Irish state sponsored body and must surely know that there is no long-term solution in his sons’ action. The families are concerned that it is impossible for them to get a fair hearing in any court in the Republic.
Many Northerners may have been struck by the swiftness of the Irish establishment to act against the Quinn family which stand in contrast to their apparent inability to deal with a raft of indigenous players from politicians to bankers, to estate agents and accountants who played a role in bringing down the Irish economy, many of whom continue on advising from the other side of the fence today.
The Quinn family dilemma maybe further complicated by their inability to purge their contempt with the Irish courts, even if they wanted to because of the type of people and countries they chose to entrust their disputed assets. Such is the strength of feeling on this issue the normally disciplined Sinn Fein appears schizophrenic on the matter with a clear North/South division of opinion.
Whatever the rights and wrongs of Sean Quinn’s actions they will not be solved by street protest –no matter how many celebrities coming knocking on the door. Sean Quinn gambled and lost. And yes now that the Irish taxpayer has had to shoulder the burden of an entire Irish banking system that played roulette, they are entitled to a return.
But how best to get that return: jailing the Quinn’s will almost certainly not but putting to work the entrepreneurial talents of Sean Quinn just might.