Northern Ireland news

Garda group calls on minister to apologise for Kevin Lunney remarks

QIH director Kevin Lunney. Picture by BBC Spotlight
Aoife Moore, Press Association

A policing representative organisation has called on a junior minister to apologise for blaming the force for threats against three businessmen.

Garda Representative Association (GRA) president Jim Mulligan made the call for an apology from Minister of State Michael D'Arcy after he appeared on TV over the weekend and criticised frontline gardai for their response to threats to Quinn Industrial Holdings executives.

Quinn chief operating officer Kevin Lunney suffered life-changing injuries when he was kidnapped and badly beaten last month before being left at the side of the road in Co Cavan.

Mr Lunney was taken from his home in Fermanagh by a group of four masked men, before being dumped across the border and discovered by a farmer.

The men repeatedly told Mr Lunney he would have to leave his role at the company and made threats to his family including his young daughter.

Speaking during the broadcast on Sunday, Mr D'Arcy, a junior Minister in the Department of Public Expenditure and Reform, said that the men had been disappointed by gardai and that they had been let down by the force.

"There are senior gardai, in those divisions, in those areas, who let those gentlemen down," he said.

"The disappointment was on the ground, in relation to the policing that happened."

Mr Mulligan has since hit out at the Minister for his comments on RTE's The Week In Politics, saying he was attempting to "shift blame for policing the Cavan/Monaghan border from everyone at the top".

"Mr D'Arcy absolves the people who allocate funding and determine resources of any blame, while the people who risk their lives on the ground with insufficient resources are, according to the Minister, at fault," he said.

"These comments are not just chronically ill-informed; they are shockingly elitist. It's like blaming bank clerks for the bank crash.

"The GRA has repeatedly raised the issue of under-resourcing on the border.

"The recent and welcome announcement of 45 new personnel and establishment of a new Armed Support Unit in Cavan Town proves our point.

"Indeed, the Minster for Justice and the Garda Commissioner have already distanced themselves from Minster D'Arcy's comments, which shows just how inappropriate they were.

"Minister D'Arcy's comments could be dismissed as just nonsense but for the fact that it is disheartening for members to hear such baseless criticism - especially when they are trying to police such a volatile and violent situation.

"Minister D'Arcy must withdraw his comments and apologise immediately," Mr Mulligan added.

Meanwhile, the taoiseach has thanked Kevin Lunney for his resilience after his ordeal.

Leo Varadkar met the directors of Quinn Industrial Holdings on Sunday.

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

"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."

Fianna Fail leader Micheál Martin has repeatedly called for a new cross-border statutory body in the wake of the attack on the businessman.

"The time has come to establish a statutory cross-border multi-disciplinary agency with a specific budget and personnel to once and for all root this evil out," Mr Martin said.

"Task forces will not cut it any more, people want to go about their lives without threats and intimidation."

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