Sean Quinn was Ireland’s richest man and the 177th richest man in the world.
At the height of his wealth in 2003, Quinn said in his own words, “Money is a very strange thing. Money is a piece of paper, what good does it do you?
“You don’t take it to the grave, you take your reputation to the grave.”
Those words may have come back to haunt him as an explosive new three-part documentary Quinn country disclosed.
The opening episode aired on RTÉ One on Monday night, with the series tracing his rise from the son of an illiterate farmer from Derrylin, Co. Fermanagh, to the so-called ‘reclusive billionaire’ who lost it all.
The three-part documentary, made up of three hour-and-a-half episodes, consists of fresh interviews with Quinn and his wife Patricia, as well as contributions from commentators including Ian Kehoe and Fintan O’Toole and author Colm Toibin , and former IBRC Chairman and Fine Gael leader Alan Dukes .
The program began with Quinn sitting back at the sprawling mansion near Ballyconnell, Co Cavan, where he now lives, saying: “There are achievers in life and there are destroyers in life. I’m one of the top performers.”
Despite the loss of his vast fortune and questions surrounding the campaign of intimidation against former Quinn executives who took over running his companies – including the kidnapping and torture of Kevin Lunney in 2019 – he remains defiant.
While the documentary wove in images of on-site signs posting Mr Lunney’s £345,000 a year salary, burnt-out cars and archival footage of reports of assault, vandalism and bullets in the post, Quinn says: “It’s hard to believe it Your own is people you’ve worked for for 25 years do it to you. It’s just hard to believe.
“And now to turn back and blame us for criminal activity and the kidnapping of Kevin Lunney, it’s incomprehensible that your own associates, your friends, your neighbors would do that to you.”
Quinn also insists that he has not accepted the loss of his empire.
“I would accept the fact that I viewed her critically, and some of the truths I spoke about her would have created a toxic climate,” he said.
“If telling the truth is incitement to hatred, then I am guilty.”
Using archival images from his youth and childhood, and aerial views of his once vast factories and estates on the Cavan-Fermanagh border, the first part of the three-part series traced Quinn’s roots as a high school dropout – or as he calls it “the fool who stayed at home”. and milked the cows” – until he realized that life on the farm wasn’t for him.
“I think I was too greedy,” he said. “I was just looking for cash all the time and farming was too slow for me.”
Interviewed during the drive, he points to former businesses and properties he’s amassed in the area over a 30-year period, saying, “I never expected it to belong to anyone else, but it is.”
The opening segment traces his rise to success during the riots, when violence tore apart the border region, and his strong connection to his local community, including his local GAA club where he played football, noting: “What football would have taught was natural, it could be a hard life and you have to be resilient.”
“I said, ‘What is it made of? and Bertie said ‘rock and shit’ and I said ‘we have rock and shit’.”
He explained his business acumen and recounted a meeting with Albert Reynolds at the Longford Arms Hotel where the quarry owner confessed to Bertie Ahern that he didn’t yet know how to make cement.
Quinn recalls, “I said, ‘What is it made of? and he said rock and shit and I said we have rock and shit.
Fast forward to his growing business interests in the area in the mid-1980s, including a controversial cement factory, where it was reported that he was funding local opposition to a rival cement factory trying to establish himself in the area – and he replied, “Everything.” fair in love and war.”
As his empire continued to grow and local factories made roof tiles, cement blocks and glass, Quinn is asked if he invests out of instinct or research, to which he replies, “Mostly out of instinct. If I see something good and I like it, I buy it.”
In a 1992 interview with RTÉ, after building the opulent Slieve Russell Hotel next to his mansion in Co Cavan, he is portrayed as a local, homely hero in contrast to the flashy and self-promoting Celtic tiger cubs of the era.
“I see myself as a captain. We’re a team, we were 500 or 600 players and I’m the captain of the team,” he said.
Quinn also revealed he felt his best investment was building Quinn Direct insurance, which he described as being so profitable “it was unreal.”
But in 2005 he seems to have been lured by the trappings of wealth, with a private jet and mansions. He snaps up prestigious properties in Prague, Kraków, Moscow, Kyiv and elsewhere around the world as a property portfolio for his five children, who would receive a huge inheritance the likes of which has never been seen in Ireland.
But as a writer Colm Toibin, author of Hiking along the border said of meeting Quinn, “An item on his desk should be his future,” in reference to the financial times.
The newspaper, he believes, was the beginning of his decline when he started investing in stocks.
“He didn’t know that and I didn’t know that [at the time]’ Tobin said.
The first part ends with the dying days of the Celtic Tiger and the collapse of the Anglo Irish Bank in which Quinn had invested heavily and which ultimately led to his downfall.
Ironically, he said he saw “a lot in common” with the bank’s former chairman, the late Sean Fitzpatrick, and its disgraced CEO, David Drumm.
“I was impressed by Sean Fitzpatrick [and David Drumm]. I thought they were two good operators. I was always very impressed with what I saw and heard,” he said.
“I thought they would do everything right. They were ambitious and they grew fast,” he said.
But in hindsight he said: “We took money from good companies. I stupidly – I won’t blame anyone – put the money in Anglo.”
Quinn country will continue on Tuesday and Wednesday evenings at 21:35 on RTE One and on the RTE Player.
https://www.independent.ie/irish-news/if-telling-the-truth-is-incitement-to-hatred-im-guilty-all-we-learned-about-ex-billionaire-sean-quinn-as-first-part-of-rtes-documentary-airs-42180738.html Quinn Country: Sean Quinn on RTE Documentary – “If telling the truth is incitement to hatred, I’m guilty”