Irish PM sends police to 'lawless' border region

John Walsh
Leo Varadkar's announcement followed a spate a violent attacks - AFP

Leo Varadkar has pledged to send extra police resources to the border with Northern Ireland amid claims that the region has become “lawless”.

The Taoiseach’s intervention follows a recent spate of violence including kidnappings and death threats made against executives at one of the biggest employers in the border counties.

It comes as the Irish border has become a flashpoint in Brexit negotiations, with fears that the issue has emboldened gangs, paramilitary and dissidents known to operate in the area.

Last week a police station in county Monaghan was burned in an arson attack. A car belonging to an MP was also burned out at his home close to the border. 

But the most alarming incident surrounds Quinn Industrial Holdings, a manufacturer of industrial goods company operating on the border, which is at the centre of a bitter ownership row involving Ireland's former richest man.

Kevin Lunney, an executive at Quinn Industrial Holdings (QIH), was abducted on his way home from work and subjected to a savage beating before being dumped at the side of the road a number of hours later.

He sustained a broken leg and his face was bleached during the attack. The gang responsible for Mr Lunney’s kidnap issued further threats to five other executives at QIH on Wednesday.

The gang promised a “final solution” which would result in the death of at least one QIH executive. This prompted Liam McCaffrey, the chief executive of QIH to claim the border region was coming “perilously close to lawless.”

Mr McCaffrey urged police to identify and apprehend the ‘paymaster’ funding the criminal gang’s campaign of intimidation against QIH, which has being waged over the past number of years.

QIH, which manufactures industrial goods, belonged to Sean Quinn until 2011. Mr Quinn was once Ireland’s richest person with a fortune estimated at €5 billion, but he was declared bankrupt in 2011 following heavy losses sustained during Ireland’s financial crisis.

The current management of QIH bought the company out of administration with the help of private investors. Mr Quinn has complained in the past about the manner in which he lost control of his company. However, he denies that he is the paymaster or that he has any role in the campaign of intimidation.

The area where QIH is located is also the base of the gang allegedly behind the people smuggling operation that resulted in the deaths of 39 migrants in Essex last week.

Drew Harris, the head of the Irish police force, said there was no evidence yet to link the criminals behind these events.

After an emergency meeting with the Irish government on Wednsday night Ireland's police commissioner Drew Harris said that he does not accept that the border region is “lawless”.

Dublin warned that if a physical border was erected because of the UK’s exit from the EU, then it would lead to an escalation in the level of violence as dissident paramilitaries would target customs infrastructure.