Northern Ireland news

Taoiseach thanks QIH executive Kevin Lunney for his 'resilence' over assault ordeal

QIH director Kevin Lunney. Picture by BBC Spotlight

THE Republic's justice minister Charlie Flanagan has said he has every confidence in Gardaí following comments by a junior minister who claimed garda operating in the border region had "let down" the directors of Quinn Industrial Holdings.

The Garda Commissioner also said there is no question in his mind "of a lack of determination" by gardaí in bringing the perpetrators of the attack on director Kevin Lunney to justice.

Drew Harris said he is "fully confident in the commitment of the local chief superintendent and his team to the investigation".

Mr Harris said that since September gardaí have been "illustrating our commitment to the investigation into the attack on Kevin Lunney and indeed the subsequent issues as well".

Mr Flanagan told RTÉ that border policing presented "acute challenges" in any jurisdiction but said it was "important that we look forward, acknowledging the progress that was made".

Irish minister Michael D'Arcy. Picture by RTÉ

The comments follow remarks by Michael D'Arcy who said the QIH directors had been "let down" and were "disappointed" that they had been left on their own to deal with a long-running campaign of intimidation.

The junior minister at the Department of Public Expenditure and Reform, told RTÉ's The Week in Politics that the attack on Mr Lunney was "an outrage" that "should have been dealt with sooner and better" by senior gardaí.

Read More: Roots to fallout which saw Sean Quinn leave role at Quinn Industrial Holdings

Mr D'Arcy insisted the issue with tackling high-level criminality in the region was "not a matter of resources".

The Association of Garda Sergeants and Inspectors (AGSI) described Mr D'Arcy's claims as "unhelpful".

The Taoiseach met with the five directors of QIH for over an hour in Co Cavan yesterday to assure them of the government's support.

Leo Varadkar thanked Kevin Lunney for his resilience after his horrific assault ordeal in September.

Mr Lunney was abducted near his Co Fermanagh home, taken to Co Cavan and brutally assaulted. He was slashed with a knife and left with broken bones.

Mr Varadkar said he sought the meeting in order to "thank the directors for their courage, their determination and their commitment to this vitally important company which creates so much employment and economic activity in a region that needs it".

"In particular, I wanted to thank Kevin Lunney for the resilience he has shown following his barbaric abduction, assault and torture.

"I discussed my recent meeting with the Garda Commissioner and the Minister for Justice. I assured them that their own security, that of their employees, and law and order in the border region is treated with the utmost seriousness at the top of government.

"Law and order must, and will, prevail in all parts of the country. We agreed to stay in contact as the criminal investigation against the perpetrators proceeds."

Justice minister Charlie Flanagan said: "The establishment of the first ever AGS-PSNI Joint Investigation Team involving Eurojust is a very significant and positive development.

"It will further support the existing Joint Agency Task Force established under the Fresh Start Agreement.

"There are already 1,500 Gardai in the border region - including three Garda Armed Support Units.

"I am pleased that 150 additional officers have been assigned to the region in the last two years following a difficult period for policing arising from the 2010 closure of Templemore College."

Police from three separate forces working in tandem took part in raids in Fermanagh, Dublin, Cavan, Longford and Derbyshire on Friday.

More than 100 gardaí were involved in searches of houses and business premises in Cavan, Longford and Dublin.

PSNI officers also carried out five searches in Derrylin, Co Fermanagh, while police in Derbyshire conducted a search operation in England.

Cyril McGuinness collapsed during a search of a house in Derbyshire. Screengrab from BBC Spotlight

Chief suspect in the attack, convicted criminal Cyril McGuinness (54) collapsed and died of a suspected heart attack when police raided a house in the Buxton area of Derbyshire last week.

While items were removed for examination, no arrests have yet been made.

In a statement, Quinn Industrial Holdings welcomed the "personal interest taken by An Taoiseach in bringing to justice those responsible for a campaign of terror and intimidation against its staff".

The company said it believes the "establishment of a joint investigative team is a critical step and is satisfied that the necessary resources and resolve are now in place for an effective investigation".

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