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Sight. Sounds. Touch. Kevin Lunney recalls the horror

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It was a gripping story, from shocking start to terrifying finish.

As midday struck, Judge Tony Hunt leaned forward and addressed the man calmly telling it.

“Now, Mr Lunney, there is an hour to go to lunch. Do you want to continue?”

Kevin Lunney, who had just been recalling in grisly detail his brutal beating with a fencepost, barely skipped a beat.

“Aah, I’m okay,” he casually replied, as if declining the offer of a nice cup of tea.

And that was the thing about the businessman’s testimony at the trial of four men accused of his abduction and torture: the matter-of-fact way he spoke about what happened him that autumn evening when he almost made it home from work.

But didn’t.

It is the stuff of nightmares.

Kevin Lunney’s disturbing evidence was delivered with such chilling clarity and coherence it could have been drawn from the pages of a Stephen King novella. A blow by blow account.

Court number 17, in pre-Covid days, would have been packed solid with people eager to hear the first witness in this case. The kidnapping of the Quinn Industrial Holdings (QIH) executive made big news at the time. Instead, there was a strict limit on numbers allowed into the non-jury Special Criminal Court trial, with an overflow room fitted with monitors set up for journalists.

The quietness in the courtroom heightened the sense of tension.

Sean Guerin SC, for the prosecution, opened with a simple question.

“Do you remember the 17th of September 2019?”

Slight pause from the witness.

“Yes. I do.”

And yes, he did. Every little detail gleaned during his ordeal, even though he was hooded for most of it. His thoughts, his reasoning, his fears, his pain, his attempts to work out where he was and how he might escape. What the masked attackers did to him and what they said. What it might mean. His brain working feverishly as he was bundled into the boot of a car, then tied up and taken on a long drive to a filthy horsebox where he was tortured and threatened with death and ordered to resign his position with QIH.

Among those listening was a grey-haired man wearing a violet-blue jumper and navy corduroy trousers. Luke O’Reilly (67) sat in the back row, leaning forward, taking everything in. He is one of the defendants.

Not far from him sat Kevin Lunney’s family, his wife and children. Familiar with the detail, they didn’t react as he dispassionately described the appalling violence.

To break a leg

Two more defendants sat in the dock, a few metres away from the witness. Alan O’Brien (40) from East Wall and a second man who can’t be named. They both wore blue disposable face masks and pristine white open-neck shirts. They didn’t look at Kevin Lunney.

The fourth defendant, Darren Redmond (27), wore dark casual clothes and also sat in the back of the court.

Mr Lunney, who is from Fermanagh, rested his forearms on the ledge in front of him, fingers entwined, and leaned forward into the microphone. A slight man, with greying hair and a neat beard, he wore a navy suit, light-blue shirt and grey-patterned tie.

And so he began his story, speaking softly and slowly, never raising his voice or becoming emotional as his two-hour stint on the stand unfolded. At one point, after describing how men said they had to “rough him up” before letting him go, he told how they set about breaking his leg using “a wooden implement” with great force.

He recalled roaring in pain and one of his abductors asking his fellow henchman:

“‘Did that snap?’ ‘No.’ And I shouted as well. I said ‘YES!’”

Then, for the one and only time, the witness laughed quietly, smiling at the absurdity of his interjection. “I believe I said ‘Yes’.”

From the time his car was rammed and he was kidnapped to when he was finally found in the darkness hours later, almost naked, shivering, bloodied and broken on the side of the road, Kevin Lunney painstakingly relived his nightmare for the court.

People in the court sat, riveted, as he told how they dragged him from his car, took his wallet and sliced the watch off his arm with a Stanley knife. “We want to talk to you,” they said before overpowering him and stuffing him into the boot of a waiting car.

He managed to force it open while the vehicle was speeding along. “I tried to gauge how difficult it would be to jump.” He gingerly put his right foot slightly onto the road but the sole of his shoe started to rip. He waited for the car to slow down. “I had one foot on the road, about to jump.”

Just as he was about to go for it, someone in the car turned down the back seats, slid through on his belly and grabbed his right leg. The car stopped, his shoe came off and he fell onto the road.

He was given a beating then bundled back into the boot, this time with one of the men holding both his hands through the gap in the back seat.

Animal manure

He could see a little through that gap – “the tops of trees, occasionally a building”. He heard one of the men on the phone saying “Boss, boss he has resisted and we’ve had to hit him.” He saw various signs, one for a dairy, another for a pub.

“I was conscious of blood running down from my face onto my arm.” In the courtroom, he tracked its course, running a finger along his face and down onto his neck.

He could have been 40 or 50 minutes in the boot. They had partially covered his eyes with some sort of cloth by then. Sight. Sounds. Touch. Smell.

“I had a sense of a building . . . I was conscious I was walking on animal manure. . . I felt there was a step up.” He was taken to a container, probably a horsebox. One shoe on, one shoe off.

He was ordered to resign from QIH, and tell three other executives to do the same or accept the consequences.

“I was saying, don’t kill me, I will do whatever you want.”

Worried about DNA, they tried to take the dirt from under his nails with the knife. “They started to scrape . . . underneath my fingernail, not particularly deep but enough to draw blood.” He begged them not to cut off his fingers.

One of the three judges started tapping the tips of the fingers of one hand against the palm of the other, then felt around his nails, then scrunched up his fingers.

Mr Lunney was left along with one of the men when the others went to get bleach. They tightened the hood over his head, made him kneel down and tied his hands behind his back.

They scrubbed him with bleach. It burned. Then they stripped him, cutting off his clothes, and some skin, with the knife.

“I was left in my boxer shorts.” One of them wanted to remove them too. “No, leave him with his dignity,” said the man who had driven the car and would shortly break his leg, slash his face and carve the letters “QIH” into his chest, saying each one as he cut.

The witness wiggled his hand, like he was writing in the air.

Finally, they moved him into a van and dumped him on the side of a road. They would kill him if he didn’t resign, or if he went to the guards.

And then, like in a movie, with his broken leg and damaged arm, he dragged himself, inch by inch, along the road. Only one side of his body was working. He could feel the blood running down his chest. He was shivering violently and exhausted. He thought he might not survive.

“I pushed myself out into the middle of the road and sat there for a short period then realised it probably wasn’t that sensible.” He pushed himself back to the side.

He heard a tractor approach. The farmer saw him and stopped, but he couldn’t get a signal on his phone and had to go running up and down the road to get one. More people arrived to help. Kevin Lunney finally got to safety.

“It probably goes without saying – the threats that were made to you, did you take them seriously?” asked Mr Guerin.

“Yes.”


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Bank of Ireland linked to fund involved in massive European tax fraud

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Bank of Ireland’s services were used by a company involved in a network of hedge funds at the centre of financial transactions, dubbed fraud by a German court, that have cost European tax authorities billions of euro.

The Irish bank’s fund administration unit, Bank of Ireland Securities Services (BOISS), was the custodian bank of an investment fund involved in the scheme.

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Reader question: When must I change to winter tyres in Switzerland?

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While winters have been a little milder in recent years, the snow, ice and sleet can still play havoc with your car.

Landslides and other road damage caused by inclement winter weather can also mean you lose control a little easier. 

Even in city areas, the colder weather can increase the risk of losing control. 

READ MORE: Ten strange Swiss road signs you need to know about

In Switzerland, the law is relatively complex. While there is no hard and fast rule for winter tyres at certain times, you have a responsibility to ensure your vehicle is roadworthy – which means being ready for the conditions. 

When do I need to put winter tyres on – and what happens if I don’t? 

Unlike many of its neighbours – and many cold countries from across the world – winter tyres are not mandatory in Switzerland. 

Therefore, you will not face any penalty if you continue to drive on summer tyres all year ‘round, either on a federal or cantonal basis.  

This is somewhat surprising for people from Austria, Sweden, Finland and some parts of the United States where winter tyres are mandatory during colder months. 

In Austria, for instance, winter tyres are required from November to April, regardless of the conditions. 

In Germany, Italy and Norway, winter tyres are not mandatory on the basis of the year’s calendar, but they are required in certain road conditions. 

However, certain roads can require you to have chains or winter tyres in order to drive on them at certain times.

This will be designated by a sign on a particular road or pass that winter tyres are required. 

Generally speaking, this will be on mountain roads or other passes, rather than in city streets. 

OK, so I don’t have to, but when should I change? 

The Swiss Road Traffic Act (Art. 29) says that all drivers on Swiss roads have a responsibility to ensure their vehicles are in a roadworthy condition. 

In slippery, winter conditions, the best way to ensure that your car does not lose control is to have it fitted with winter tyres. 

There are also insurance obligations to consider. 

The Swiss government notes that drivers without winter tyres may be deemed to be negligent. 

Driving in Europe: What are the Covid rules and checks at road borders?

“In the case of an accident, the driver may be found liable if the car is not properly equipped for the winter. The insurance company may not cover the full cost of the damage or may even take action against the insured person for negligence.”

Touring Club Switzerland (TCS) says that you should consider putting winter tyres on your car if the temperature drops below 7 degrees. 

Auto Suisse says that a default rule to follow is consider replacing summer tyres with winter ones from October until Easter, although this is of course dependent on the conditions. 



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Social media: Why vaccines, paella and ‘tortilla’ trend on Spanish Twitter | Opinion

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The content that gets shared the most on social media is not always an indignant message or an ingenious insult. Sometimes, it can even be pleasant to be on Twitter. This past weekend, the German television network Deutsche Welle published an English-language video special about Spain’s successful Covid-19 vaccination campaign. This video has been shared by Twitter users more than a thousand times in messages that expressed pride and included the hashtag #marcaEspaña (or, Brand Spain).

The Deutsche Welle video compared the 78% rate of fully vaccinated people in Spain at the time the report was made (the figure is now closer to 80%) to the 69% in Italy, 68% in France and 65% in Germany. Some of the reasons put forward to explain this success, despite a slow start, include widespread faith in the country’s public health system, the media’s scant coverage of vaccine conspiracy theories, and also “the devastating first wave of the pandemic.”

Positive messages about Spain from a foreign source are usually popular on social media. But at the same time it seems that if a Spaniard mentions that the country is doing something reasonably well, such as the vaccination campaign for instance, their fellow countrymen have trouble believing it. The impression (not always off base) is that the speaker has an axe to grind or may be trying to sell us a story (or even worse, a flag). But if a foreign media outlet says the same thing – well, we may not be fully convinced, but at least we enjoy hearing it.

And it’s not just with crucial subject matter such as vaccines. It also happens with other less critically important issues, such as Spain’s famous potato omelet, or tortilla de patatas. When a reporter from The New York Times extolled celebrity chef Ferrán Adriá’s version, made with potato chips from a bag rather than freshly sliced potatoes, it prompted nothing but satisfied tweets. But messages about the same recipe shared before the article came out showed a marked difference of opinions, to put it mildly.

It also works the other way around: when our dear old Spain comes under attack, we view it as an affront requiring revenge. There are still Twitter users out there who have not forgiven British celebrity chef Jamie Oliver for making a paella with chorizo in 2016 (at the time, some people compared his creation with the notorious botched restoration of a Christ figure in 2012).

And let’s not forget what happened to an Italian citizen who tweeted this summer that Spain was like Italy, but a bit worse. I will refrain from mentioning his name because he has already put up with enough grief. “Hey guys,” he amusingly tweeted afterwards. “Just checking, does ‘me cago en tu puta madre’ mean ‘I respectfully disagree’?”

I don’t think that Twitter turns us into patriots, fortunately enough for everyone. There’s no doubt that a lot of different elements are at play here: it’s easier to praise the Deutsche Welle video if you are a supporter of public healthcare (or even of the government). As for the food disputes, there is a lot of joking and pretending going on there. There is also an element of surprise: while we find it normal for there to be talk in Spain about the US, the UK or Germany, we are surprised every time Spain is mentioned abroad, and that’s because we tend to view ourselves as rather insignificant (which is understandable). And I’m also not ruling out the view held by some that focusing so much on what the foreign media says is, in itself, quite provincial.

But it’s also true that we should all find some joy in the fact that, once in a while, we can work together to do something well. And perhaps even celebrate with a good tortilla de patatas. I won’t go into whether it should have onion in it or not, because I don’t want to ruin the moment with another argument.



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