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Kevin Lunney: Irish PM supports priest's remarks after 'Vatican complaint'

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Media captionPriest describes Kevin Lunney attack as "a modern form of crucifixion".

The taoiseach has praised a priest's "moral guidance" for speaking out about the kidnap and torture of a NI businessman.

Fr Oliver O'Reilly made headlines in September when he condemned the abduction of Quinn Industrial Holdings director Kevin Lunney.

Businessman Seán Quinn reportedly complained to the Vatican.

The Sunday Independent said Mr Quinn claimed he had been "falsely accused of complicity".

Mr Quinn, once the richest man in Ireland, has repeatedly denied any involvement in the abduction on 17 September.

Image copyright Pacemaker
Image caption Seán Quinn has condemned the attack on Kevin Lunney and called for the intimidation to stop

Mr Lunney was seriously assaulted, cut with a knife and doused in bleach during a two-and-a-half-hour ordeal.

Fr O'Reilly spoke out against the kidnapping during a Sunday Mass in Ballyconnell, County Cavan, two weeks later.

The priest told churchgoers there was an "obvious cancer of evil in our midst" which needed to be "exorcised before someone is murdered".

He said the "long reign of terror" now threatened the lives and livelihoods of everybody living in the border areas of Fermanagh and Cavan, and there was a "false narrative" being pushed by a "small group of people in our midst" about the directors of QIH.

Since reports of the Vatican complaint emerged, Fr O'Reilly has received support from the Association of Catholic Priests (ACP) and now, Taoiseach Leo Varadkar.

Mr Varadkar said the priest had shown considerable courage in giving his homily and offering "leadership to a distressed community".

"He offered moral guidance to his community, he condemned the savagery of the kidnapping and the ongoing campaign of intimidation, and called on everyone to cooperate with the authorities," the taoiseach said.

"I believe that Fr O'Reilly showed considerable courage in giving his homily and I commend him for doing so."

The taoiseach's comments followed a weekend statement from the ACP, which also supported the position Fr O'Reilly had adopted over the attack on Mr Lunney

"We admire his courage in speaking the truth in a very difficult situation," the association stated.

Image copyright PA Media
Image caption Leo Varadkar said Fr O'Reilly had shown "moral leadership"

The directors of QIH, who took over firms which Mr Quinn used to own, have been subjected to a long-running campaign of intimidation and arson.

Mr Quinn has repeatedly condemned the intimidation of QIH staff and called for an end to attacks.

The Sunday Independent reported that Mr Quinn sent his letter of complaint to senior Vatican officials as well the administrator of the Catholic Diocese of Kilmore and Fr O'Reilly himself.

According to the paper, Mr Quinn wrote that he and his family had been "frightened and intimidated by being falsely accused of complicity in the attack from the altar in public, by my own priest".

Image caption Kevin Lunney is a director of QIH

Mr Lunney, a father of six, is recovering from his injuries.

Along with sustaining a broken leg and a number of other wounds, he had the letters QIH cut into his chest with a knife.

Recounting the ordeal to BBC Spotlight NI, Mr Lunney said he feared he would never see his wife and children again.

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