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Ireland 'Protect me from this priest' - Sean Quinn's plea to Vatican after Kevin Lunney homily

15:25  17 november  2019
15:25  17 november  2019 Source:   independent.ie

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Sean Quinn was a discreet but stalwart worshipper at Our Lady of Lourdes Church in Ballyconnell, Co Cavan. The one-time billionaire preferred to sit at It may be that Mr Quinn knew what was coming. The priest ' s homily made headline news before he had even delivered it, having been circulated to

' Protect me from this priest ' - Sean Quinn ' s plea to Vatican after Kevin Lunney homily . Spoke up: Fr Oliver O’Reilly gives a sermon condemning the attack on Kevin Lunney at Our Lady of Lourdes Church, Ballyconnell.

Sean Quinn sitting in front of a window: Sean Quinn recently being interviewed by Paraic O’Brien for Channel 4 News Sean Quinn recently being interviewed by Paraic O’Brien for Channel 4 News

Sean Quinn was a discreet but stalwart worshipper at Our Lady of Lourdes Church in Ballyconnell, Co Cavan. The one-time billionaire preferred to sit at the back of the church and sometimes left before the end of Mass, according to one local church- goer.

He wasn't in church on September 29 to hear Fr Oliver O'Reilly deliver his now famous homily denouncing a mafia- style godfather consumed with hatred behind the vicious attack on a local businessman. It may be that Mr Quinn knew what was coming.

The priest's homily made headline news before he had even delivered it, having been circulated to the media in advance of the weekend Mass.

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This comes after two men were arrested in Dublin this morning, also in relation to the abduction of Mr Lunney . The arrests of the men, both aged 38, is in relation to suspected involvement in an exclusive ' Protect me from this priest ' - Sean Quinn ' s plea to Vatican after Kevin Lunney homily .

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The priest later recalled in this newspaper that he wrote his homily in anger at what had been done to Kevin Lunney, a man who - along with four fellow directors at Quinn Industrial Holdings (QIH) - had been subjected to a campaign of intimidation, public vilification and defamation that escalated into savage violence. He had been kidnapped, tortured, beaten, branded, doused with bleach and dumped on a roadside, with chilling instructions to resign or be killed.

This was punishment for his role in running QIH, the group of companies that Sean Quinn built and later lost because he had borrowed to the hilt during the boom to gamble on bank shares.

a person sitting in front of a mirror posing for the camera: Spoke up: Fr Oliver O’Reilly gives a sermon condemning the attack on Kevin Lunney at Our Lady of Lourdes Church, Ballyconnell. Photo: Lorraine Teevan © LORRAINE TEEVAN 087 7564735 WWW.LORRAINETEEVAN.COM Spoke up: Fr Oliver O’Reilly gives a sermon condemning the attack on Kevin Lunney at Our Lady of Lourdes Church, Ballyconnell. Photo: Lorraine Teevan Fr O'Reilly did not - and says he will never - name the suspected paymaster he claimed was behind the abduction of Mr Lunney. But Mr Quinn clearly believed the priest was pointing a finger at him. Over the past two months, he has tried numerous times to get the priest to retract his homily. 

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Who is Sean Quinn ? The self-made billionaire built a small family quarry in County Fermanagh into a huge empire. Its various arms included Kevin Lunney , who had worked with Mr Quinn for many years and remained loyal to him after he lost control of the empire, was reinstated as a director and

The Association of Catholic Priests has said it supports Ballyconnell parish priest Fr Oliver O'Reilly for taking a "very brave" stance against those behind attacks In the letter, Mr Quinn again denied having any "hand, act or part" in the recent attack on Quinn Industrial Holding Executive Kevin Lunney .

The first time was the Thursday after that September Mass, when Fr O'Reilly's words of condemnation were repeated, parsed and analysed across national and international media.

Fr O'Reilly was at home between rehearsals for two weddings. The priest received a telephone call from someone "in Dublin", demanding that he make certain changes to his homily and deliver it again at the upcoming weekend Mass.

Fr O'Reilly recounted this phone call in an interview with BBC Northern Ireland's Spotlight programme last month - although it didn't make the final broadcast. The priest did not name the caller or identify the amendments he sought. He did say the caller was "brazen".

"He said: 'I want you to make these amendments this coming weekend'. I listened respectfully. I didn't make the amendments," he said.

In October, Sean Quinn called to the priest's house - an encounter that the businessman would later describe on television as "nice", but which the priest described as uncomfortable and "angry".

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Mr Quinn also contacted local gardai, which resulted in two detectives calling to Fr O'Reilly's home the next day looking for a hard copy of his homily.

Mr Quinn later met Monsignor Liam Kelly, the administrator of the diocese since the retirement of Bishop Leo O'Reilly. But most recently, he has gone over the heads of the Irish Catholic prelates and straight to the Vatican, as revealed in the Sunday Independent today.

The letter dated October 21 is to Fr O'Reilly and Monsignor Kelly but also to Archbishop Jude Thaddeus Okolo, the Apostolic Nuncio to Ireland, and three Vatican heavyweights: Cardinal Pietro Parolin, Cardinal Marc Ouellet, a Canadian prelate, and Cardinal Beniamino Stella.

"I write further to the homilies given by Fr O'Reilly in weekend Masses in Ballyconnell and Kildallan on September 29 and 30, the text of which was pre-released to national media outlets, and to subsequent statements made by Fr O'Reilly about the horrific and depraved kidnap and assault on Kevin Lunney, who I had known as a friend and colleague for many years," he said.

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The 'Sunday Independent' revealed how Mr Quinn wrote to the Vatican last month to complain about the priest ' s remarks which were widely reported at the time. Mr Varadkar said in a statement: "In his homily following the vicious assault on Kevin Lunney , Fr O'Reilly spoke from the heart and the head

Image caption Kevin Lunney is the chief operating officer at Quinn Industrial Holdings. Meanwhile, at weekend Masses, Fr Gerard Alwill, the parish priest in Derrylin condemned the attacks and called Former billionaire Sean Quinn has repeatedly condemned the string of attacks on workers involved in

"I utterly condemn the attack upon this man and described it as barbaric immediately upon hearing of it. I had no hand, act or part, no knowledge of or gain from the attack.

a man sitting on a table: Kevin Lunney recovering at home Kevin Lunney recovering at home "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.

"As a lifelong practicing 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. In subsequent media interviews, Fr O'Reilly stated that 'the dogs in the street' knows who the paymaster was to whom he referred."

The letter continues: "I have spoken in person both to Fr O'Reilly and to Monsignor Kelly to ask them to end and correct this campaign of vilification against me from the public and in the media. But a culture of clericalism and clerical unaccountability seems to stand in the way.

"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. I write to Archbishop Okolo and to their Eminences to ask them 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."

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Cardinal Ouellet, prefect of the Congregation of Bishops, oversees the appointment of bishops and is no doubt involved in filling a vacancy left in Fr O'Reilly's diocese, the Diocese of Kilmore, since the retirement of Bishop Leo O'Reilly.

Sean Quinn wearing a suit and tie: Sean Quinn. Photo: Getty Sean Quinn. Photo: Getty Cardinal Stella is prefect of the Congregation for the Clergy - dealing with all matters to do with the clergy except discipline.

The Papal Nunciature has not responded to questions submitted by the Sunday Independent last Friday.

The Catholic Church has been good to Sean Quinn in his many hours of need over the past eight years.

Church and community matter to him. As a self-made billionaire, he built his businesses in Ballyconnell and Derrylin, Co Fermanagh, creating jobs on both sides of the Border. He became Ireland's richest man. He had a private jet.

However, rather than venture through the gilded doors that opened onto a rarefied world occupied by the very rich, he stayed put in Ballyconnell, building a seven-bedroom mansion outside the town and a five-star hotel next door. Up until recently, word is that he still played poker with some locals.

When he lost his empire in 2011, representatives of the Catholic Church took their place alongside local people in the famous rally of July 2012, at which thousands showed up in support of the Quinns.

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The priest and writer Fr Brian D'Arcy stood with Sean Quinn, "as a neighbour and a priest". Fr Gerry Comiskey, a local priest, visited Mr Quinn in a pastoral capacity in Mountjoy jail, when he was sentenced to nine weeks in prison for contempt of court for his suspected role in asset-stripping the Quinn family companies. Fr Comiskey was also at Kevin Lunney's hospital bedside in the hours after the brutal attack on him, listening to him recount his nightmarish ordeal.

The then bishop of the diocese, Leo O'Reilly, intervened with Mr Quinn three years ago, at a time of uneasy tension in the Quinn companies. Mr Quinn, out of bankruptcy, had been on a path to getting back into his businesses.

A local consortium had persuaded American investors to buy the companies from the receivers in 2015, and Mr Quinn's old management team was installed to run them.

Mr Quinn and his son, Sean Junior, were brought back as consultants on €500,000 and €100,000 a year respectively. But by March 2016, he had fallen out with the directors, clashing with owners and managers. He had left by May that year - later claiming he had been "stabbed in the back".

A couple of months before his departure, Bishop Leo O'Reilly met Sean Quinn at his office in Ballyconnell. A spokesperson for the bishop told the Sunday Independent at the time that the meeting was "personal". But it took place against a background of tensions between Mr Quinn and his former management team.

Mr Quinn has gone on television to condemn the attack on Mr Lunney, acknowledging that his family will be blamed. His letter to Fr O'Reilly and the Vatican expressed fears of his family being the victims of a "campaign of public vilification in our own locality" on "entirely false allegations".

Right now in Cavan, no one knows better than Kevin Lunney and his fellow directors what it's like to be the victim of a campaign of public vilification in his own locality and - worse - to suffer the consequences when the hate escalated into savage violence.

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QIH chief executive Liam McCaffrey, chief financial officer Dara O'Reilly, fellow director John McCartin and Kevin Lunney's brother Tony can attest to the gut-wrenching anxiety of living with a death sentence that extends to your small children.

In his interview with Spotlight, Kevin Lunney repeated in harrowing detail what his captors said and did to him: "At one stage he said: 'We have been watching you, we have seen you with your little daughter with the GAA top and you are going to do what we say'…. Then he said: 'Okay, we believe you, but if you don't, we'll be back, for you and all the family and everybody's family'."

There can be no greater terror for the five directors - all fathers - under threat. They have been vilified on posters in the area that Cavan County Council admitted it had been afraid to remove, and defamed on social media. 

A week after Sean Quinn appealed to the Vatican for protection, the people behind this campaign of intimidation lobbed another death threat at the QIH directors.

This time, they made full use of the publicity surrounding the case, using a masked man suspected of being a one-time Real IRA bomber to warn the directors again of a "permanent solution" if they didn't resign from their posts.

Fr O'Reilly announced his retreat from the fray in the Sunday Independent earlier this month. It's not hard to see why. He has increased security at his home and is keeping his head down but has promised to return to battle if the intimidation continues.

Fr O'Reilly declined to comment to the Sunday Independent this weekend.

Sean Quinn also declined to comment to this newspaper yesterday.

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