We have all been appalled at the horrific violence and threats meted out to the staff and directors of Quinn Industrial Holdings in Cavan and at the barbaric, professional kidnapping and assault on Kevin Lunney.
At the weekend, one of the directors of Quinn Industrial Holdings, John McCartin, gave a wide-ranging interview to John Lee in the Irish Mail on Sunday. What Mr. McCartin had to say was worrying and telling. He was asked to explain how the threats were tolerated for so long. Many people in the country are asking that question because this has been going on for years. Mr. McCartin responded that "the pig's head was annoying, the posters were annoying, the defamation was annoying but as regards the physical threats to our lives, I wasn't taking it seriously because the guards weren't taking it seriously." He remarked that he had met named individuals who had threatened him, his children and family and had shared those names with the Garda and the authorities. He asserted that the Garda, the PSNI and the Government had paid "scant attention" to their pleas since the intimidation, arson and assaults reached new levels four and a half years ago. The big question hanging out there is why action was not taken earlier. I watched the Garda Commissioner last week attempt to answer a question on why the intimidatory posters were not taken down and there was no answer to that question. They were left up for a long time and, apparently, they have been taken down this week.
There is also the issue of jobs. There are 850 direct jobs in Quinn Industrial Holdings and 2,500 indirect jobs. The American investor has made the point that it will close down the business rather than be intimidated into selling it off. The issue is a very serious one in terms of the challenge to the State in the Border area. There have also been other attacks, including the shocking attack on the car belonging to Deputy Martin Kenny in County Leitrim, which are unacceptable.
I ask that the Taoiseach take a point I made some weeks ago a bit more seriously this time. He had a go at me and engaged in typical partisan stuff to the effect that I was just into creating agencies. I have long asserted that the rule of law is gone in the Border area, on both sides of the Border. The State has not been in control for some time and criminality reigns supreme. We need to fundamentally alter what we have been doing in relation to that. That means establishing a multidisciplinary joint agency, similar to the Criminal Assets Bureau, between the PSNI, An Garda Síochána and others. A task force will not cut it because statutory underpinning is needed. That would send a message once and for all to these warlords that enough is enough, we are not taking any more and we will assert the supremacy of the democratic State and law and order above and beyond anything else. Operation Loft, conducted by the Criminal Assets Bureau, indicated what is going on in the Border area. I am not exaggerating this issue, which has been ongoing for a long time. The point made by John McCartin is that there has been a vacuum since the Good Friday Agreement. Will the Taoiseach give my proposal serious consideration? Perhaps he will also give me an answer on why it took so long for the authorities to move and respond to the threats and intimidation.