Ex­ec­u­tives re­veal fears of death threats in Sean Quinn’s Der­rylin

The next chap­ter in the on­go­ing cor­po­rate saga will be mur­der, writes Group Busi­ness Edi­tor Dearb­hail McDon­ald

Sunday Independent (Ireland) - - News -

‘IN the early 1980s we had the no­to­ri­ous Shankill Butch­ers, based in Belfast... Now in 2018 we have the Der­rylin Butch­ers. This gang is led by lo­cal men Kevin Lun­ney and Liam McCaffrey... with the help of ... Dara O’Reilly.”

That abridged quote is one of nu­mer­ous, grotesquely defam­a­tory, un­true and in­cen­di­ary posts from a Face­book com­mu­nity page ded­i­cated to Sean Quinn, the bil­lion­aire-to-bank­rupt founder of the for­mer epony­mous Quinn Group.

The Face­book tar­gets, among oth­ers, are McCaffrey, Lun­ney and O’Reilly, three of Sean Quinn’s for­mer key lieu­tenants who, along with se­nior man­age­ment of the com­pany that res­cued key as­sets of the for­mer Quinn Group from dis­posal, are now fac­ing death threats.

What started out as a ma- li­cious on­line cam­paign af­ter Sean Quinn Snr parted ways with Quinn In­dus­trial Hold­ings (QIH), the en­tity backed by three Amer­i­can hedge funds — which paid €100m for the for­mer ce­ment and in­dus­trial as­sets — has mor­phed into a ter­ri­fy­ing spate of ar­son at­tacks which al­most claimed the lives of O’Reilly, his wife and their two young chil­dren.

When I trav­elled to Der­rylin, Co Fer­managh, last week, the last per­son I ex­pected to speak to me was Dara O’Reilly.

The last time we spoke was in 2012, when I doorstepped him at 7am at his home in But­lers­bridge, Co Cavan.

O’Reilly was pro­tec­tive of his fam­ily then. He is ter­ri­fied for their safety now fol­low­ing an at­tack in re­cent weeks where his car was doused with petrol and set alight af­ter the fam­ily had gone to bed.

It was one of three ar­son at­tacks so far di­rected at O’Reilly and mem­bers of the Lun­ney fam­ily, all of which, sig­nif­i­cantly, have taken place in the Re­pub­lic of Ire­land. “It could have been worse,” says O’Reilly, who along with McCaffrey and Lun­ney, have agreed to speak to me to high­light the risks to lives and prop­erty in the re­gion.

“Its harder for the chil­dren,” says O’Reilly, qui­etly.

“Chil­dren shouldn’t have to be wor­ried about things hap­pen­ing in their home, they should feel safe in their home”.

Kevin Lun­ney, whose own chil­dren have had to run the gaunt­let of “wanted” posters on their way to school, says he hopes his chil­dren are re­silient to deal with the threats.

“Like Dara said, our chil­dren should not be liv­ing with this worry,” said Lun­ney.

For his part, Sean Quinn Snr and his son, Sean Quinn Jnr, have pub­licly con­demned the at­tacks.

“As the re­la­tion­ship be­tween the com­mu­nity and Quinn In­dus­trial Hold­ings de­te­ri­o­rates fur­ther it ap­pears to me that it is only a mat­ter of time be­fore some­one is se­ri­ously in­jured or killed,” Quinn Jnr told Rod­ney Ed­wards of The Im­par­tial Re­porter last week.

Quinn Jnr de­nied the at­tacks were be­ing car­ried out by Quinn sup­port­ers, but ap­peared to fan the flames of lo­cal ten­sions by un­ex­pect­edly de­scrib­ing McCaffrey, O’Reilly and Lun­ney as “pari­ahs” in the lo­cal com­mu­nity.

Who­ever is di­rect­ing the cam­paign of ter­ror — an ex-INLA mem­ber is sus­pected of in­volve­ment in the more se­ri­ous ar­son at­tacks — the ori­gins of the cur­rent wave of in­tim­i­da­tion lie in a much hap­pier time in December 2014. That was when US hedge funds Bri­gade Cap­i­tal, Sil­ver­point Cap­i­tal and Con­trar­ian Cap­i­tal bought into the busi­ness, of­fer­ing lo­cal man­age­ment a 22pc stake.

This in turn of­fered the com­mu­nity a path­way to bring the busi­ness back into lo­cal own­er­ship. Ac­cord­ing to McCaffrey, the new QIH board and its US back­ers could not coun­te­nance Sean Quinn as a di­rec­tor or of­fi­cer, not least be­cause he was still [at that time] an undis­charged bank­rupt and had served nine weeks in jail for con­tempt of court for at­tempt­ing to put €500m worth of prop­erty as­sets beyond the reach of the now-de­funct An­glo Ir­ish Bank.

But the com­pany did of­fer a po­ten­tial path­way for Sean Quinn, ex­tend­ing a €500,000-a-year con­sul­tancy to the for­mer founder at the be­hest of McCaffrey, who ad­vo­cated strongly for a con­sul­tancy role for Sean Quinn and his son Sean Quinn Jnr.

The ‘sec­ond com­ing’ was cel­e­brated with front-page pic­tures splashed across na­tional news­pa­pers in December 2014, with im­ages of Sean Quinn — about to be re­leased from a €2.8bn bank­ruptcy — car­ry­ing a tray of whiskey and beer for staff in­side the Der­rylin HQ of QIH.

Lo­cal busi­ness­man John McCar­tan, who had been in­stru­men­tal in help­ing place the Quinn as­sets back into lo­cal own­er­ship, said there was “some­thing very po­etic” about Sean Quinn’s re­turn. But the po­etry did not last. McCaffrey, who says he can un­der­stand why a broader group of peo­ple have sym­pa­thy for Sean Quinn, whom he spent many “bril­liant” years with, says his for­mer boss “didn’t re­alise that his role hadn’t been the same as it had been for 40 years when he owned and con­trolled the busi­nesses ab­so­lutely”.

The QIH/Quinn re­la­tion­ship was ter­mi­nated in May 2016 af­ter mul­ti­ple al­le­ga­tions of fraud and in­ap­pro­pri­ate be­hav­iour lev­elled at the se­nior man­age­ment team were re­futed by third-party ad­vis­ers hired by the QIH Board.

The an­tag­o­nisms which led to the three re­cent ar­son at­tacks in­ten­si­fied last Au­gust af­ter a meet­ing, at­tended by sev­eral hun­dred peo­ple, was ad­dressed by a tear­ful Sean Quinn, who told sup­port­ers there was no­body who could make a greater suc­cess of QIH than him. Last week, Sean Quinn Jnr told The Im­par­tial Re­porter his fa­ther had been “sacked” af­ter “false prom­ises” were made to him.

The so­cial me­dia on­slaughts con­tinue un­abated, with re­quests to take down in­flam­ma­tory posts spurned de­spite the power of words to have real-life con­se­quences as the lo­calised but life-threat­en­ing at­tacks at­test.

BE­HIND all of the ac­ri­mony tear­ing apart Sean Quinn Snr’s birth­place is a thriving busi­ness pro­vid­ing more than 830 jobs in one of the most eco­nom­i­cally de­prived ar­eas on the Co Cavan-Co Fer­managh bor­der.

QIH, span­ning more than 1,000 acres across the Bor­der, is in­trin­sic to the suc­cess of the lo­cal econ­omy.

Every day, 120 truck loads tra­verse the roads around the parish of Teemore, where Sean Quinn was raised, en route to the UK, which ac­counts for more than 50pc of the busi­ness of QIH.

QIH, which has an an­nual turnover of €209m, and cre­ated 200 new jobs in less than three years, has just ac­quired a quarry in Fivemile­town that will last for a gen­er­a­tion.

QIH pro­vides bur­saries and ap­pren­tice­ships for lo­cal school­child­ren, schemes for grad­u­ates and train­ing pro­grammes, in­clud­ing char­ter­ships, for its em­ploy­ees.

But all of that is in jeop­ardy, with fu­ture in­vest­ment and re­cruit­ment on the line.

In­cred­i­bly, not one sin­gle per­son has been ar­rested.

Make no mis­take: if this were a Face­book, a Mi­crosoft or a Dell in Dublin, Cork or Lim­er­ick, there would be emer­gency ses­sions in the Dail and tar­geted cross-bor­der law en­force­ment op­er­a­tions akin to those de­ployed for gang­land or para­mil­i­tary threats.

I’ve spent many times, too many times over the last seven years, trav­el­ling to Co Fer­managh and Co Cavan cov­er­ing the so called “Quinn saga”.

I fear my next vis­its there will be to cover fu­ner­als. No com­pany or so­ci­ety can coun­te­nance that prospect.

‘Chil­dren shouldn’t have to be wor­ried about things hap­pen­ing’

“The money we earned in the 1990s was ob­vi­ously big money, but it wasn’t big enough money to make you go crazy”

I was half ex­pect­ing a burnt-out par­ody.

“In a weird way now, look­ing back, I never got so suc­cess­ful that I...” says Pete, paus­ing to phrase it prop­erly, “to put it into per­spec­tive, the money we earned in the 1990s was ob­vi­ously big money, but it wasn’t big enough money to make you a mil­lion­aire or make you go crazy. So I never got out of con­trol. What the DJs have gone through in the last 10 years is like a foot­baller’s story. If you talk to Paul Gas­coigne, he was the most fa­mous foot­baller in the late 1980s and early 1990s. He was on a lot of money in the con­text of back then, but he wasn’t 500 grand a week, like Alexis Sanchez is now at Manch­ester United.” But you still get paid well to DJ, don’t you? “I still get paid well...” an­swers Pete. So, are you say­ing you’re Paul Gas­coigne com­pared to David Guetta’s Alexis Sanchez?

“A bit. Yeah! David Guetta gets paid a lot more than me. And he sells more tick­ets. It’s all about how many tick­ets you sell, re­ally. David Guetta doesn’t sell as many tick­ets as me with the orches­tra though,” he laughs.

Pete is re­fer­ring to the 65-piece Her­itage Orches­tra con­ducted by Jules Buck­ley, which he brings to Dublin on November 24 for Pete Tong Ibiza Clas­sics.

What would the young Pete Tong have thought of mid­dle-aged Pete Tong play­ing with an orches­tra?

“He would have thought it was cool.”

Start­ing young

Pete’s par­ents bought him a drum kit one Christ­mas. At 12 years of age, he would sit in his front room of the fam­ily home in Kent and bash along to Led Zep­pelin songs, dream­ing he was Jon Bon­ham wield­ing the ham­mer of the gods.

“I was lucky be­cause we lived in the coun­try­side,” he ex­plains. “We had quite a big house, but it was semi-de­tached and just one neigh­bour, thank­fully.”

At school, Pete got into a heavy metal band — cov­ers of Deep Pur­ple’s Smoke On The Wa­ter, and Hold Your Head

Up by Ar­gent a spe­cial­ity. “And then,” he says, “I saw a DJ at the school disco...” Pete was soon putting on dis­cos him­self at Hart­ley vil­lage hall. This would bring the 16-year-old £100 in 50-pence pieces from the tak­ings at the door. A guy who did the se­cu­rity at his fa­ther’s bet­ting of­fice made sure the money made it home safely, where young Pete would count it on the kitchen ta­ble.

“It was 1975. It was all very in­no­cent. I went around on my bike and I drew all the posters,” he re­mem­bers.

“I guess where I re­ally started to make a name for my­self in the lo­cal com­mu­nity was in a pub called The Nel­son in Gravesend. That used to be the meet­ing spot for a bunch of peo­ple from that area who used to go up to Lon­don all the time to the cooler clubs...”

Pete was very much un­der­age but, he smiles, they let him into The Nel­son any­way be­cause they liked this bright young kid from north Kent, play­ing a mix of dif­fer­ent cul­tures through his lit­tle box of records. “I used to be sat up in the cor­ner with my DJ set-up. Gravesend was an un­usual town be­cause at that time, in the 1970s, it had quite a big West In­dian com­mu­nity and quite a big In­dian com­mu­nity. So I had dif­fer­ent flavours. A lot of soul mu­sic and reg­gae.”

“I was also get­ting turned on to Amer­i­can im­ports for the first time, and un­der­stand­ing that there was like a se­cret so­ci­ety of record col­lec­tors. You had to be in the know. Then I would go up to Lon­don and go to shops like All Ears in Harls­den. My rep­u­ta­tion grew. I also worked for a bit in a record store in Gravesend.”

He fin­ished sixth form at school. “I got my O-Lev­els but I didn’t do that well,” he says. “My par­ents wanted me to go to uni, but I didn’t want to go. I was al­ready too into mu­sic. When I left school, I went and got a Tran­sit van and went DJing.”

Pete was hugely in­flu­enced by un­der­ground DJs and wanted, he says, “to be part of that gang”. He en­tered a DJ com­pe­ti­tion — “it sounds re­ally cheesy” — run by the Bri­tish Tea Coun­cil and got to the fi­nal at the Empire in Leicester Square. Cheese­tas­tic BBC DJs Peter Pow­ell and Kid Jensen were the hosts. “I thought I was go­ing to win, and I brought my own crowd up there. I came sec­ond. But that night two guys from Blues & Soul mag­a­zine came along and said to me that I played the best mu­sic. So I got a job at the mag­a­zine.”

It was a bap­tism of fire be­cause they wanted Pete to run around Lon­don sell­ing ad­ver­tis­ing. “Which,” he laughs now, “I had no in­ter­est in do­ing. I was go­ing around to th­ese reg­gae shops. I got a gun pulled on me!”

Un­de­terred by firearms, Pete did that for four years, from 1979 to 1983, as well as writ­ing an in­flu­en­tial mu­sic col­umn and DJ-ing around Bri­tain. “Then, as my name was get­ting big­ger, I got on the radar of the record com­pa­nies,” he says, and even­tu­ally, in 1983, he got a big job at Lon­don Records.

“I was in at the deep end,” he says. “One day I would be taking Bana­narama around to re­gional ra­dio sta­tions, and the next day I’d be in New York. I was go­ing to New York a lot.”

He was liv­ing in Kent and com­mut­ing to Lon­don for work in his com­pany car, a 3-Se­ries BMW. One night, he had a hor­ri­ble ac­ci­dent. Work­ing late and tired, he fell asleep at the wheel com­ing back from a Blue­bells gig.

“The car drifted into the part of an on­com­ing lorry and as I drifted, I just caught the cor­ner of the lorry and it spun around like that. I woke up as I was hit­ting it. I thought I was go­ing to die,” he says.

But he lived, and his life changed for­ever when he met leg­endary rap im­pre­sario and pro­ducer Russell Sim­mons in Man­hat­tan in the mid-1980s. Through that meet­ing, Pete ended up sign­ing a hip-hop group from Hol­lis, Queens, New York who wore Adi­das sneak­ers. “I re­mem­ber we flew Run-DMC over to Lon­don to sign them. I took them to an In­dian restau­rant on the West­bourne Road with Russell, and they fin­ished their meal and they sat on the pave­ment. We thought we had of­fended them. And Russell said, ‘No, they’re just like that. They fin­ish their food and they leave the ta­ble. They don’t chit-chat.’”

In 1986, when Walk This Way, their col­lab­o­ra­tion with Aero­smith, be­came a gi­ant world­wide hit, Run-DMC’s suc­cess, Pete re­calls, “blew open the doors of the com­mer­cial world to the power of rap. It de­fined a whole new era. Rap wasn’t un­der­ground street mu­sic any more.” The doors blew off again a year later for Pete. “The year zero was 1986/1987 when house mu­sic started and the rave scene started and the stars of that were re­ally the events and in the early 1990s we had all th­ese bands. If you looked at any flier in the 1990s you would never see a DJ at the top. You’d see the Prodigy or The Chem­i­cal Broth­ers or Un­der­world or Or­bital and then that changed and the DJs be­came the big­gest thing in the world...”

It was a long way from Hart­ley vil­lage hall. Pete Tong & the Her­itage Orches­tra, Satur­day, November 24, 6:30pm, 3Arena, Dublin

UN­DER AT­TACK: From left, Kevin Lun­ney, chief op­er­a­tions of­fi­cer, Liam McCaffrey, chief ex­ec­u­tive of­fi­cer, and Dara O’Reilly, chief fi­nance of­fi­cer of Quinn In­dus­trial Hold­ings in Der­rylin, Co Fer­managh. Photo: Oliver McVeigh

HAP­PIER TIMES: Sean Quinn cel­e­brates his re­turn with drinks for staff at the com­pany’s head­quar­ters. Photo: Lor­raine Tee­van

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