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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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HSE staff should receive bonus for work during pandemic, says Donnelly

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All Health Service Executive (HSE) staff, including those working in administrative roles, should get a financial bonus for the work done during the Covid-19 pandemic, Minister for Health Stephen Donnelly has said.

“I want to see something done, yes, I absolutely really do. I think our healthcare teams have been incredible. We are still fighting the fight, but I definitely want to see some form of recognition for the extraordinary work that they have all put in,” he said.

Speaking after a visit to the HSE’s Limerick Covid-19 vaccination centre at Limerick Racecourse, Patrickswell, Mr Donnelly said: “We need to listen to the frustrations that they have.

“We do need to acknowledge that for nurses, doctors, allied health professionals, administrators – for everyone who has worked in the HSE over the last year and a half – that they’ve had an incredibly difficult time.

“I think they represent the very best of us and they have stepped up to the plate,” he said. “When the rest of us were told to stay at home to keep ourselves safe, they went into the hospitals, and into the Limerick hospital to keep other people safe, and we need to recognise that.”

The arrival of the Delta variant has been delayed by the use of some of the “strongest” lockdown measures in the European Union, but foreign travel now is adding to case numbers.

“We are seeing spikes in some parts of the country. There are cases linked to [international] travel, we know that. Most of the cases we are tracking are Irish people going abroad and coming home,” he said.

Advice

Some people travelled without a vaccination, or before their vaccinations had time to work. “They shouldn’t have done that. Some of them have come back and they have contracted Covid, but we will take care of them, we’ll make sure they get the care they need,” he said.

In “certain cases”, people have received a second dose of vaccine within 17 days of their first jab, as opposed to the previous advice of four weeks, and this may happen more generally, he said.

A HSE spokeswoman later said “For operational reasons and due to the pace of the rollout we are in a position to offer the second dose after 17 days in some cases. Second doses within this widow are clinically safe and effective.”

On the vaccination programme, the Minister said: “There aren’t that many people who would have thought just a few months ago that, in July, we would be vaccinating 16-year-olds.”

There will be no immediate change to rules around attendance at funerals, Masses, Confirmations or Communions, while the closure of indoor summer camps is being kept under review.

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Covid-19: More than half of Austrians now fully vaccinated

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With 53,386 vaccinations carried out on Thursday, Austria cross the 50 percent mark for total vaccinations. 

This means that 4,479,543 people are completely vaccinated against Covid-19 in Austria as at Thursday evening, July 29th. 

A further nine percent of the population have received one vaccination, bringing the total percentage of people who have had at least one shot to 58.9 percent or (5.2 million people). 

UPDATED: How can I get vaccinated for Covid-19 in Austria?

The Austrian government has welcomed the news. 

“More than half of the total population is now very well protected against the coronavirus and thus the highly contagious Delta variant thanks to the full immunisation,” Health Minister Wolfgang Mückstein said on Thursday afternoon. 

Burgenland has the highest percentage of vaccinated people with 66.1 percent, followed by Carinthia (55.7 percent) and Salzburg (55.2 percent). 

The lowest percentage is in Upper Austria, where 54.9 percent of the population is vaccinated. 

Kleinmürbisch in the Güssing district has the highest percentage of vaccinated people in Austria, with just under 80 percent of people vaccinated. 

The village however only has 230 residents. 

“But we are still a long way from reaching our destination,” warned the minister. 

Around one quarter of the Austrian population has indicated a reluctance to be vaccinated, with around 15 percent saying they will refuse the vaccination. 



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6 Amusing Historic Stereotypes of Major Russian Cities

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About the authorFor lovers of Russian culture, folklore, and history, Kotar’s work is a treasure. The grandson of White Russian immigrants, the 34-year-old is an author of epic fantasy novels inspired by Russian fairy tales. You can see his four books here on Amazon.

He is also a deacon of the Russian Orthodox Church, a professional translator, and choir director at the Holy Trinity Monastery in Jordanville, NY, where he lives. Here is his bio from his blog, where he writes about many aspects of Russia. We highly recommend following it and subscribing to his email list to get exclusive material.

He has an excellent Pinterest page, and you can follow him on Facebook. Here is an archive of his work published on Russia Insider.

He is currently running a remarkably successful crowdfunding on Kickstarter to be able to publish his upcoming novels. Please support him if you can!


Stereotypes are a funny thing. On the one hand, they’re often no more than caricatures. On the other hand, there’s a surprising amount of bitter truth to some of them. Like the Russians say with their morbid humor, “In every joke, there’s a bit of a joke.”

This is especially interesting when we consider old Rus. We don’t have much to go on, historically speaking, other than chronicles, treaties, and a few bits of birch bark.

However, Russians have preserved some interesting stereotypes about the inhabitants of old Russian cities. Whether there’s any truth to them or not is almost beside the point. They’re fascinating, revealing a window to a world long gone, yet still persisting in the habits and personalities of today’s Russians. (Here’s the original Russian article that I translated)

EVERYONE IN GREAT NOVGOROD IS A REBEL

Novgorod’s rebelliousness is legendary. The image of a brawling Novgorodian is almost a calling card of the city. The reason this stereotype came about has to do with the old chronicles. They were filled with illustrations of the constant arguments at the Novgorodian Veche, a kind of popular assembly that met in the central square. (See my translation of “Martha the Mayoress” for a vivid fictionalized example).

Of course, there were arguments and even fights during the Veche. However, they did not constantly devolve into fist-fights, as the legends suggest. Naturally, the chroniclers would choose the most vivid and bloody examples from history to illustrate their point. After all, Novgorod was often an opponent of Kiev and, later, Moscow. But in actual fact, the inhabitants of Great Novgorod were fiercely loyal to their government and loved their city. Compromise was the order of the day, not broken heads. Plus, they were more than usually literate.

EVERYONE IN PSKOV IS A THIEF OR A MORON

Even in modern times, Pskovians have had to endure countless jokes about their crudeness, stupidity, and their lack of good manners. This may or may not be true. As for their lack of manners, that is entirely a matter of hats. The inhabitants of Pskov, no matter what their social standing, hardly ever doffed their cap before anyone (which is extremely bad form in old Rus). However, this wasn’t crudity or bad breeding.

It used to be that a hat symbolized one’s personal dignity. In Pskov in particular, to actually take off your hat meant to be shamed. It may be a bastardization of the more generally accepted rule that if someone else took your hat off your headthat was a terrible insult.

EVERYONE IN NIZHNI NOVGOROD IS A DRUNKARD

The painful topic of Russian alcoholism became especially relevant in Nizhni Novgorod at the end of the 17th century. A kind of epidemic of alcoholism rose up, and it was normal to see women as well as men lying in the streets in a drunken stupor. Foreign travelers recounted after their visits to Nizhni Novgorod that “Russians don’t do anything but feast.”

Of course, they did more than feast. But on holidays, Russians have always allowed themselves some excesses. It’s not entirely fair to single out Nizhni Novgorod, when alcoholism still is the gravest problem facing Russia today, as in olden times.

EVERYONE IN VLADIMIR IS A CRIMINAL

This stereotype appeared very early. It’s easy to understand. Vladimir itself had five prisons, including the famous “Vladimir Central Prison.” From the beginning, Vladimirians have been considered con artists who like a dangerous life. It didn’t help that the path to Siberia for exiled convicts went through Vladimir. It was even called the “Vladimirka.”

Exiled convicts stopped in Vladimir to have half their heads shaved (a scene vividly recounted in the excellent Russian film The Siberian Barber). Then they’d be branded as exiles or thieves, clapped in irons, and set upon the road to Siberia. In old times, the path could take as long as two years, and those two years were not counted as part of their allotted time.

Vladimir itself, for all that, was a typical enough provincial town.

EVERYONE IN ROSTOV IS AN ARTISAN

When a Russian hears the word “finift’” (enameling), he immediately thinks of Rostov. Nothing could change the old stereotype that every inhabitant of ancient Rostov worked in the enameling guild. That’s complete nonsense, of course. First of all, the best enamellists in old Rus were as a rule in Kiev, the capital city. There were also some famous artisans in Pskov, Yaroslavl, Kostroma, and Great Novgorod.

The only difference is that Rostov alone has preserved the traditional techniques of enameling since ancient times. Even today, there is a factory producing enameled work. Perhaps for this reason alone, tourists still visit Rostov exclusively to see enameled boxes.

THE INDUSTRIOUS YARSOLAVIAN

The industrious muzhik from Yaroslavl is an image that we even find in Gogol. From the times of Rus, Yaroslavians were known as people who were never apathetic, lazy, or prone to tiredness. Instead, they’re known to be active to a manic degree. This may have something to do with the odd tradition that Yaroslav is a city of buried treasure.

Apparently, wherever you turn, you see someone uncovering a jewelry box or trying to break into an ancient chest of drawers. Perhaps a little more seriously, Yaroslavians have long been known as “chicks of the cuckoo.” In other words, they’re more than usually capable of leaving their homeland without much regret. This quality has a clear historical origin.

Yaroslav was built on the crossroads of ancient roads—a path used by merchants from Scandinavia all the way to the Arab lands. From the middle of the 16th century, Yarsolavl became the most important center for trade in all of Rus. This constant movement often inspired young Yaroslavians to try out their luck in foreign lands.

True or not, such stereotypes make for fascinating stories. For myself, the “myth” of the boisterous Novgorodian comes to life in my third novel, The Heart of the World, in a semi-fictionalized setting of the Veche that goes fabulously wrong for all concerned.


Source: Nicholas Kotar

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