Sinn Féin at odds over Sean Quinn scandal
Sinn Féin representatives have expressed sharply conflicting positions over wealthy Fermanagh businessman Sean Quinn, whose family faces a number of court-imposed legal and financial obligations.
Last week Fermanagh and South Tyrone MP Michelle Gildernew told a local paper Mr Quinn was an ordinary man “treated disgracefully” by the Dublin government.
However, on Tuesday night the party’s deputy leader Mary Lou McDonald said the Quinns had engaged in questionable business practice. She said loyalties and emotions should not get in the way of justice.
Mr Quinn has been embroiled in a legal battle over the debts he owes the Irish Bank Resolution Corporation, formerly the Anglo Irish Bank. As a major borrower and shareholder, he was closely associated with the notorious bank before its collapse brought down his own financial empire.
He then flauted Irish law by hiding assets worth hundreds of millions of euro, and the collapse of his insurance firm lead the imposition of a broad levy on Irish insurance policy holders.
His son and his nephew have recently been found guilty of contempt of court, with his nephew Peter going ‘on the run’ across the border to evade a three-month prison sentence.
His family have also been awarded an outlandish maintenance income of thirty thousand euro per month by a court to sustain them during the bankruptcy process, further fuelling public disdain.
But for many people in the border region, Sean Quinn brought jobs and prosperity. On Sunday, thousands turned out in Ballyconnell, County Cavan, to support him.
Sinn Féin’s Michelle Gildernew also lent her support.
“He has been treated disgracefully by the Irish government,” she told the Impartial Reporter newspaper.
“Had they not tried to strip him off all his assets, including his home, deny him the ability to function in business, and routinely try to humiliate him I believe he would have paid back every penny he owed to the Irish taxpayer.
“He accepted he had done wrong, but all our attempts to make the government show some common sense were ignored. He is being punished for having the audacity to buy the bank and for being an ordinary man from Fermanagh who is hugely respected by his community,” she said.
However, Sinn Féin deputy leader Mary Lou McDonald took a different view on Tuesday night, saying money owed to the bank was money owed to the state.
“There are strong emotions in support of the Quinns,” she said.
“This is understandable, however, neither loyalty nor emotion can be allowed to get in the way of justice being done in the Quinn case or, indeed, any other that may arise.”
She said the Quinns “have an obligation to abide by the law the same as any other citizen. They also have an obligation to work with IBRC to repay what they owe.”