18 August 2012     

Quinnasty

By Wise Owl


The financial problems of the Seán Quinn family and their group of companies, commented on in last week’s Unity editorial, have certainly caught the attention of some of our local journalists in the Belfast Telegraph and Irish News.
     The story certainly needs comment, but the fact that thousands of people have demonstrated their support for the Quinns has obviously been an added motive for these journalists, something that moved Fionnuala O’Connor to write in the Irish News, 7 August, under the heading “Pro-Quinn campaign just stretch too far.” She added: “What’s more intriguing is plain people’s sympathy with the rich, as long as they hymn their roots.”
     She finished her piece with the comment, “From richest man in Ireland to persecuted dupe is some story, but it isn’t funny, or convincing.”
     Martina Devlin, Belfast Telegraph, 1 August, described the family as the Quinnasty and devoted quite a lot of her article to the earnings of members of the Quinnasty. She started off with Seán Quinn’s daughter-in-law, Karen, who, she claims, earned €320,000 (£250,550) after tax as a part-time receptionist in a car dealership, doing what she described as “unspecified duties relating to Quinn business interests.”
     She adds that “Karen is not alone,” as “virtually everyone with a close family connection to Seán Quinn has been paid on a par with the chief executive of a major company.”
     Since April 2011, family members have received €2.7 million (£2.11 million) “in so-called salaries.” She itemises this figure by claiming that the three Quinn daughters, Ciara, Aoife, and Colette, each took home more than €300,000 (£235,000). Ciara’s husband, the solicitor Niall McPartland, was paid €280,000 (£219,000), and Aoife’s husband, the accountant Stephen Kelly, was paid more than €260,000 (£204,000). “Curiously, those salaries were paid into accounts they had opened with a Moscow bank.”
     Quinn’s son Seán jnr was paid €400,000 (£313,000), which means he and his wife took €700,000 (£548,000) from Quinn assets.
     Last, but not least, is Peter Darragh Quinn, the man on the run from the Republic’s authorities, who, as head of the international property portfolio, earned in the region of €475,000 (£372,000). This international property portfolio apparently takes in the Kutuzov Tower in Moscow, which, according to Devlin, is where the family has been receiving these payments.
     She also claims that the property brings in rent to the tune of over £19 million. It is claimed that much of the rent is “unaccounted for,” and “there is suspicion that it has been diverted into secret offshore accounts.”
     According to the courts, the family has breached orders not to interfere with its foreign property portfolio. One High Court judge has described the scheme as of “mesmeric complexity” (for mesmeric read hypnotic), reeking of “dishonesty and sharp practice “ and designed to “feather the Quinns’ own nest.”
     Writing in the Irish News, 9 August, Newton Emerson—not a man I would find favour with—wrote rather unfavourably about Peter Quinn, the brother of Seán and father of the man on the run, Peter Darragh Quinn. Emerson wrote under the heading “Pleas as bankrupt as man they’re made for,” taking exception to P. Quinn’s claim that the Irish establishment treats his brother with contempt because “he doesn’t speak with a Dublin accent” and “he is from the north.”
     Emerson pointed out that the Taoiseach, Enda Kenny, doesn’t speak with said accent, and the former president Mary McAleese was from the said North.
     What really vexed Emerson, though, was Peter Quinn’s comment that the “entire Irish political and media system should be towed out into the middle of the Atlantic and sunk.” This prompted Emerson to write, “Perhaps Mr Quinn felt differently about this nefarious establishment nexus when he joined it.”
     Emerson is basically questioning Peter Quinn’s claim that he, and obviously his brother, are treated as outsiders.
     He then lists some of his involvement in various ventures, for example, being a founding investor in Ireland on Sunday and his stake in Scottish Radio Holdings, “one of the largest media groups on both sides of the border.” In 2007 he was appointed first chairman of the Irish-language television station, TG4, by the Fianna Fáil minister Noel Dempsey.
     Emerson asks, "How can a man so well connected at every level of Irish business, politics and the media, who is also a former chairman of the GAA, possibly portray himself as an outsider?”
     The last word goes to a letter in the Irish News, 7 August, where the writer makes the point that workers at Quinn Cement were not allowed to join a union and had to go to court to get basic rights, such as sick pay and a 39-hour week.
     That’s a side of the Quinns we’ve not heard before.

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