Northern Ireland

Sean Quinn Sr: Mountjoy prison spell was 'tough'

Sean Quinn Sr, once Ireland's richest man, has described his nine-week spell in Dublin's Mountjoy Prison as "tough".

The former billionaire was released on Thursday after serving his full term for contempt of court.

He said the most difficult part of the sentence was being confined to his cell for up to 12 hours a night but said he had tried to "fit in" to jail life.

The Quinn family are involved in a bitter legal dispute with the former Anglo Irish Bank.

Mr Quinn Sr said it was possible he or another family member could be jailed again.

His son, Sean Quinn Jr, also spent three months in jail last year for contempt of court as part of the Quinns' protracted legal battle with the Irish Bank Resolution Corporation (IBRC), which has taken over Anglo's affairs.

Prison food

Speaking after his release on Thursday, Mr Quinn Sr said: "I suppose I found it tough but when you come to 66 years of age, you've been through many a thing over that period.

"I could fit in with most environments and I fitted in. The staff were very good, very professional, but of course, when you find a door slamming at nine o'clock at night, it's not nice. It's not something I was used to and it's not something I felt I deserved," Mr Quinn added.

The businessman, who built a global business empire from humble beginnings on his family farm in County Fermanagh, admitted that he "wasn't always mad about the food" in Mountjoy prison and was glad to return home.

"There was a lot of people there who went through different experiences over their lifetime and I suppose it was a learning experience. I wouldn't call it frightening but it was certainly one that would make you think," Mr Quinn said.

'Lucky'

He added that despite what had happened to him over the past few years in his dispute with IBRC, his prison term had made him "feel happy that I have a good wife and a good family, that I can come to a warm environment and a warm community".

"From that point of view, I felt lucky in some respects," he said.

The businessman said he had received a "very positive" response from other inmates in the prison.

"I think 100% of them felt I shouldn't be there. I certainly felt I shouldn't be there, after creating 7,000 jobs, after never in my life owing anybody a penny. Never in my life did I steal a penny or take a penny that didn't belong to me," he said.

Mr Quinn was jailed on 2 November but had been allowed home for three days to be with his family in Ballyconnell, County Cavan, over Christmas.

That followed discussions between the Irish attorney general, the prison service and the justice minister.

'Charade'

Reflecting on his future, Mr Quinn said there was a distinct possibility that he would have to return to Mountjoy.

"Can we go back to jail? Yes we can. Could other members of the family go back to jail? They can continue this charade as long as they want, and as long as the public opinion and as long as the media backs them in doing that, they're very keen to do that.

"So I have genuinely no idea what their next move is going to be," he said.

The IBRC took control of Anglo Irish bank after it was nationalised in 2009.

It said the Quinn family owes it more than 2bn euros and is trying to recover the money from their assets.

The Quinns are attempting to prove that the money was loaned illegally in order to prop up Anglo's share price.

Lawyers for the IBRC alleged that members of the Quinn family had tried to strip assets from their firms, putting property worth millions of pounds beyond the reach of the bank, in defiance of a court order.

Arrest warrant

In July, Dublin High Court ruled that Sean Quinn Sr, his son Sean Quinn Jr and his nephew, Peter Darragh Quinn, were in contempt of that court order.

Peter Darragh Quinn did not show up for sentencing in July and a warrant for his arrest was issued.

However, he has remained in Northern Ireland, outside the court's jurisdiction.

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