Northern Ireland news

Priests' association supports Ballyconnell's Fr Oliver O'Reilly after Seán Quinn complains to Vatican

Fr Oliver O'Reilly, the parish priest of Ballyconnell, used his homily following the abduction and torture of Kevin Lunney to condemn "the perpetrators of this vile act" and "the paymaster or paymasters"
John Monaghan

SEÁN Quinn has written to three cardinals and the Pope's representative in Ireland in protest at comments made by his parish priest following the abduction and torture of Quinn Industrial Holdings (QIH) director Kevin Lunney.

The former billionaire objected to a homily delivered during Mass in September by Fr Oliver O'Reilly.

Mr Lunney (50) was seized outside his home near Derrylin, Co Fermanagh on September 17 and taken to a horse box across the border where he was savagely beaten - the attackers breaking his leg, slicing his fingernails and face, carving 'QIH' on his chest, and dousing the father-of-six in bleach.

The attack, during which his assailants demanded his resignation, was the most serious in a long campaign of intimidation targeting the companies and directors that now control a business portfolio formerly built up by Mr Quinn, once Ireland’s richest man.

Later that month, Fr O'Reilly condemned both "the perpetrators of this vile act" and "the paymaster or paymasters", describing them as a "Mafia style group" - but the Ballyconnell parish priest did not name anyone.

Mr Quinn has repeatedly condemned the attacks on QIH executives and said that he and his family have no involvement with them.

The Sunday Independent reported yesterday that he sent a letter, dated October 21, to Fr O'Reilly; Monsignor Liam Kelly, the Kilmore diocesan administrator; Archbishop Jude Thaddeus Okolo, the Apostolic Nuncio to Ireland; and three senior Vatican cardinals: Pietro Parolin, Marc Ouellet, and Beniamino Stella.

Among the recipients of Seán Quinn's letter was Archbishop Jude Thaddeus Okolo, the Papal Nuncio to Ireland

Mr Quinn asked the Churchmen "to protect me as a member of the people of God from the misuse of the liturgy and priesthood to make false charges against me".

Addressing the attack on Mr Lunney, he re-iterated that he had "no hand, act or part, no knowledge of or gain from the attack".

"However beyond the shock and disgust that I felt after learning of the attack, I and my family have also been frightened and intimidated by my being falsely accused of complicity in the attack from the altar in public, by my own local priest," he said.

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

"As a lifelong practising Catholic and a native of Ballyconnell, my wife and family are now victims of a campaign of public vilification in our own locality on entirely false allegations.

"Fr O'Reilly has referred to the 'paymaster or paymasters' and 'godfather', making clear and false references to me.

"I now write to Fr O'Reilly and Monsignor Kelly to call upon them again to publicly correct the false charges made against me and to end the public and media campaign of vilification."

Seán Quinn has repeatedly condemned and denied any involvement in attacks on QIH executives

Fr O'Reilly, who has not commented on the letter by Mr Quinn, said earlier this month that he wants to "take a back seat for a while" and make no further public comment to "give peace and harmony a chance".

Fr O'Reilly, the Papal Nuncio and the Kilmore Diocese could not be reached last night for comment.

QIH director John McCartin did not comment on the letter but told The Irish News that Fr O'Reilly's public condemnation of the attacks in September had been welcome.

"We were very impressed by the initiative and the leadership he showed," he said.

"It is something which had been lacking - we had all been too quiet for too long."

Kevin Lunney is recovering at home after being abducted and tortured last month

The Association of Catholic Priests also said it supports Fr O'Reilly.

A spokesman said: “We want to say how much we admire Fr O’Reilly’s courage for speaking out. He is not a man who usually speaks out but he obviously felt he could not remain silent.

"We would not want him to remain isolated. The association would want to reassure him that they support him.”

Meanwhile, three people who were arrested by gardaí after raids in counties Cavan, Longford and Dublin on Thursday in connection with the attack on Kevin Lunney were released without charge on Saturday.

A spokesman said files will be sent to the Director of Public Prosecutions on the two men, aged in their 20s and 40s, and a woman in her 50s.

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