In this extract from Quinn by Trevor Birney – the gripping inside story of businessman Sean Quinn – could the moving of a fairy fort have led to his fall?

THE opening of the Slieve Russell was the start of a golden decade in which nothing got in the way of the one-man business bulldozer that was Sean Quinn. By 1995 he was employing an incredible 1,000 people across five factories in Derrylin, Galway and Longford, as well as six hotels and nine pubs. In one week alone he spent IR£3m on The Harp Bar on Dublin’s O’Connell Street and The Ambassador Hotel in Kildare, adding them to the group. He also picked up his first award, winning the ‘Person of the Year’ award from the Cavan Association ‘for his contribution to job creation, tourism and the economy of the whole region’. 
But it wasn’t all plain sailing for Quinn during this period, as a decision he took caused significant controversy in Ballyconnell, with some locals warning that it could come back to haunt him in the years to come. The quarryman had continued to buy up land to feed the hungry machine he’d created on the Mountain Road. In purchasing a parcel of land in the townland of Aughrim, which ran right up against the southern side of the border off the Ballyconnell to Derrylin road, Quinn had inherited a megalithic tomb, or, as locals knew it, a fairy fort. According to experts called in to inspect it, the tomb had been built between 1800 and 2000 bc and had protected status, which meant it couldn’t be touched without approval. 


But it was now a problem for Quinn as it was bang in the middle of his quarry’s insatiable onward march through the countryside spanning the Fermanagh–Cavan border. He contacted the Office of Public Works in Dublin and requested permission to move it. 

The chief archaeologist at the time, Peter Danaher, agreed and his staff supervised as Quinn had the tomb excavated, moved and reconstructed, under the supervision of archaeologist John Channing, at the Slieve Russell Hotel. Indeed, Mr Danahar said the move was ‘a reasonably good result’. He admitted to The Anglo-Celt that he would have preferred it not be moved at all, ‘but in the circumstances, it is in as good a place as any’. 

Some superstitious locals were not on board with the tomb’s removal, however. One, John Forrest, told the same newspaper report that moving the tomb set a dangerous precedent and said it should have been relocated on the mountain or along the Ballinamore canal. Local historian Bryan Gallagher said the tomb was a fairy fort that shouldn’t have been touched at all. ‘Everybody said it was unlucky. You should not do that. You should not touch it at all. As the man Packie Gilleece says, “ah sure you wouldn’t believe in fairies, but they’re there just the same.”’

The fairy fort, or tomb, became a visitor attraction at the Slieve Russell, with the Quinn Group general manager, David Mackey, telling the local paper that it was "10,000 times more accessible now than it was before and those who want to view do not have to go into the hotel to do so". 

Many years later, the same locals who had protested its movement at the time would say that Sean Quinn’s downfall was all because he’d tampered with that fairy fort.
Quinn by Trevor Birney (Merrion Press) priced €19.99/£17.99.