The world is puzzled by how passively we have borne the gambling losses of the super-rich. Where are the marches, where the strikes, the riots? Are we stoic or fatalistic? Have we internalised the blame for the bankers’ catastrophe? Or is it, as some theorise, just too damn wet here to take to the streets? Whatever the reason, it seems that the Irish just don’t protest.
And then one of the super-rich is convicted in court, and people come out to defend him in their thousands.
What, you might well ask, the holy fuck?
The Irish just put personal loyalty above anything else – including the law? Well there may be something in that, but it is too easy to be a complete explanation. You need to see the perspective of people who believe, not totally unreasonably, that Sean Quinn was a kind of hero. For them the villain is Anglo Irish Bank, Quinn its innocent victim, a decent businessman sucked into its corrupt financial web.
Were Anglo villains? Absolutely. Not the only villains, it must be said. Virtually every financial institution got greedy, took risks, and broke laws. But Anglo it seems were the most egregious of all. Yes, they were villains.
Was Sean Quinn innocent? Was he hell.
Their dealings together were so extensive that his interests and the bank’s were inextricable. His family borrowed something around 2.8 billion from Anglo. Two point eight billion. Just his family! The Quinn group of companies borrowed another one point two. Four billion is not the sort of money you advance to an unsophisticated innocent. Four billion is the sort of money that’s difficult to even conceptualise.
They were a good business empire I guess, as business empires go, that got involved with the boom mania. They spent money to make money, and then borrowed to make even more. It is sad and unfair, yes, that a family that put decades into building a vast fortune can lose it all to some bad decisions. But they made those bad decisions. He created thousands of jobs, but put them all on the line because of ambition. He took huge risks with borrowed money.
And his supporters know that of course. They’re in denial about it, but they know it. Their interests have also been his interests – for so long now that they overlooked the horrifically suspect relationship with Anglo. They turned a blind eye to things that should have been warning signs.
Sean Quinn was not personally responsible for getting the country into this much trouble, no. Perhaps he was one of the biggest single gamblers, but it took a hell of a lot of people like him, doing things like he did, to get the country into this much trouble. And if people can know this but still support him because he was their overambitious, risk-taking billionaire, then they have learned nothing.
- Sean Quinn, son & nephew guilty of contempt of court (newstalk.ie)
- Bankrupt Irish billionaire Sean Quinn’s son and nephew jailed (irishcentral.com)
- Bankrupt Irish billionaire Sean Quinn launches bid to avoid jail – The Guardian (guardian.co.uk)