Bankrupt businessman Sean Quinn has said he will apologize to the Irish people if the courts find that the state and Anglo Irish Bank, now the state-owned Irish Bank Resolution Corporation (IBRC), were legally entitled to seize control of his companies.
The 66-year-old insisted that his reputation will be restored when a legal battle with Anglo concludes.
He was repeating, on his release from prison last week, an observation he made in October when he said he doesn’t owe Irish taxpayers an apology.
Quinn was released from prison after being jailed for nine weeks for contempt of court orders which had been put in place to stop assets in the Quinn Group from being put beyond the reach of the bank.
His family is involved in a bitter dispute with the IBRC over debts allegedly owed to the bank while also challenging the legality of the bank taking control of the Quinn Group.
The case is due before the courts again next week. Quinn could be jailed again if he is found to be still in contempt of court.
Quinn told his local radio station, Northern Sound, “If the assets under dispute are found to belong to the Irish public and that they were taken legally by Anglo Irish Bank, and the receivership of the Quinn Group and administration of the Quinn Direct was done legally and correctly, then we will apologize to the Irish public.
“But if it’s not, if it’s the other way around, who’s going to compensate me?”
A welcome-home sign was erected on the side of a crane as Quinn returned to his native heartland on the Cavan-Fermanagh border.
He only had a short break from his prison term during Christmas when he was able to attend the christening of his granddaughter Orna.
When he spent the first day at home on his full release with his family he was filmed during a BBC interview cradling the baby.
The former billionaire – once Ireland’s richest man worth more than €4 billion – spoke of meeting hardened criminals and “some very hard-luck cases” in prison. He said, “I tried to make as many friends as I could, and talk to as many people as I could.”
Quinn reckoned that he received so many thousands of letters that the prison management service, which had to open every item of mail because prisoners cannot open their own, were probably delighted his sentence was completed.
He defiantly said, “I certainly felt I shouldn’t be there, after creating 7,000 jobs. Never in my life did I owe anyone a penny. Never in my life did I steal a penny that didn’t belong to me. I felt it was just wrong.”
He insisted that the family had not been defeated. “The Quinns are not killed off,” he said. “The Quinns are still there.”
Farmer John O’Reilly, who erected a sign welcoming Quinn home, said he did so because the businessman created thousands of jobs in Co. Cavan.
O’Reilly, from Virginia, Co. Cavan, said, “The word was out that Sean Quinn was coming down, and Virginia being the first stop, I thought I’d welcome him back. You wouldn’t want him coming home without somebody recognizing the fact he had done the state some service.”
Quinn was heavily critical of Anglo Irish Bank and of those who had taken over the running of his administration-hit empire.
Paul O'Brien, now Quinn Group chief executive appointed by the Financial Regulator, said he reckons Quinn won’t return as chair of the company even if the family wins his their battle against IBRC and wipes the disputed debt of over €2 billion that they claim was loaned “illegally” to prop up Anglo’s share price.
The Quinn family seeks to portray O’Brien as having destroyed huge business value in the way the company is now being run. But O’Brien, who took over as CEO of the company nearly three years ago, refutes this.
He said it will be proved in the long term that it was the right decision that he be appointed by the Financial Regulator because “the reality is that the business was insolvent.”