THE savagery of the capture and attack on Quinn Industrial Holdings executive Kevin Lunney has been brought home to us in his harrowing account broadcast by the BBC Spotlight programme on Tuesday evening.
In the interview, he recounted how he was abducted outside his home in Derrylin, Co Fermanagh, and later dumped in Co Cavan, after enduring hours of hideous torture and horrific abuse. Throughout his capture, armed men slashed with a knife, doused him with bleach and branded him.
During the TV interview, he became tearful as he recalled praying and thinking about whether he would see his wife Bronagh or their six children again.
During his ordeal, Mr Lunney’s leg was broken in two places and one of his arms beaten black, before the men who abducted him slashed both sides of his face and cut the letters ‘QIH’ into his chest. He has since grown a beard to hide the scars on his face.
What is particularly disturbing about Mr Lunney’s ordeal is not just the sheer brutality of it but the fact that the abduction and the manner of the attack on him appears to have been orchestrated by somebody directing operations from afar. He recalled overhearing one of his captors talking on the phone, addressing someone as “boss.” He believes his captors were acting on a “list of brutally specific orders” dictated in advance of his capture.
This indicates a level of criminality that is able to operate with relative impunity along the border area. Since the Good Friday Agreement, Northern Ireland has enjoyed relative peace but there remains simmering gangster and paramilitary activity along the border which has never been effectively tackled.
The PSNI and gardaí are working closely together but there are still practical obstacles as a result of there being different jurisdictions, north and south. That allows criminals from either side of the border to slip through the net.
The suggestion by Fianna Fáil leader Micheál Martin that a cross-border agency along the lines of the Criminal Assets Bureau be established is worth considering as ordinary
policing is clearly not working. CAB has proven to be a
very effective tool in combating criminal gangs in Dublin
and Limerick, albeit that it took the murder of journalist
Veronica Guerin to lead to its establishment.
But whatever the level of co-operation between them, the gardaí and the PSNI can only do so much. They need community help. The likelihood is that there are people on both sides of the border who watched the BBC programme — and may even have empathised with Mr Lunney — know the identity of his abductors but chose to remain silent.
It is the kind of silence that allowed the Troubles to fester for more than 30 years; the kind of silence that was broken only by the Peace Women whose courage galvanised communities to stop supporting paramilitaries.
Whether Mr Quinn’s abductors were disaffected Republicans or simply thugs for hire, it is now time for those communities in which they live and operate to call a halt.