The sight of Ireland’s richest man just two years ago being declared bankrupt in a Dublin court is a very striking one.
Sean Quinn, worth $4 billion at his height, typifies and magnifies what happened to so many Irish people during the height of the boom years followed by the spectacular bust.
Quinn was a massive employer through his Quinn Insurance company located in one of Ireland’s poorest rural areas.
A self-made man with swagger, he typified the era of the Celtic Tiger, moving from deal to deal with seemingly unblemished success.
His downfall was as unexpected as it was dramatic. He essentially gambled on Anglo Irish Bank shares at a time when those shares were about to plummet to zero.
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Quinn’s downfall has its tragic overtones too. For many in rural areas his company was their only mainstay, especially as the economy turned.
Then for some unknown reason, arrogance, greed, or maybe both he took the incredible punt on the shares of Anglo Irish Bank and lost everything.
There should be no satisfaction, however, at Quinn’s downfall. The task of job creation in Ireland has never been more difficult, and men like Quinn, despite their downfall, were powerful figures for good in their local rural communities.
At his height Quinn provided thousands of well paying jobs for Irish people.
Now his downfall has featured in the lead of The New York Times business section amid allegations that he is concealing great wealth overseas. Quinn himself says he has only a few hundred thousand left in bank accounts and pension entitlements.
He is surely the highest profile casualty of the Irish economic crash, but it is foolish to celebrate his collapse and to forget the thousands who are affected by it.
Quinn accused the former Anglo Irish Bank of a vendetta against him in pursuing its claims that he repay $2.7 billion in loans which he clearly cannot do.
“They have ensured that I will never create another job,” he stated.
The bank is now the masked avenger chasing Quinn and former CEO David Drumm all over the world.
hile there may be some psychic satisfaction for the Irish public in doing so, the facts are that both men are hardly worth the candle at this point, given the massive losses the bank itself endured during the height of its folly.