FORMER businessman Sean Quinn has said he has apologised to his family "on a number of occasions" for his "fundamental mistake" in a saga that resulted in him losing control of his multi-billion euro empire, ending up bankrupt and being sent to prison.
In his first interview of the year, Mr Quinn has spoken exclusively to The Impartial Reporter and has told this newspaper of his pain as a father, how spending time in jail last year for contempt of court has made him more "determined" to clear his name and his belief that Taoiseach Enda Kenny "must know there was a cock-up" in how he was sold those ill-fated shares in Anglo Irish Bank.
At his home in Ballyconnell, Co. Cavan, surrounded by photographs of his family, the father-of-five who was once Ireland's richest man, spoke of his regret that his adult children (Ciara, Colette, Sean jnr, Brenda and Aoife) have been getting the blame for his mistakes.
"I should never have bought the shares in Anglo, I should never have taken money from Quinn Direct to buy or support shares. But the Quinn family; the five kids, are the victims of this, and I have apologised to them on a number of occasions. I should not have done what I done. I got carried away, wrongly. I was far too influenced about all the reports I got and I made a fundamental mistake. But at the end of the day it was based on fraudulent information. Why blame the family? Why blame the kids for that?" he asked.
After being found guilty of moving multi-million euro assets from the family's international property portfolio last year, Mr Quinn ended up in Mountjoy Prison for nine weeks, spending time away from his family for the first time ever. In a court of law he was found culpable for moving those assets, as was his son Sean Junior, yet even now he still maintains his innocence and will not budge on this issue. He says the court has yet to decide who has ownership of the assets.
"Could we return to jail? Nothing would surprise me but I am telling you that I should never have been in jail. I say without fear of contradiction if I was to die tonight that I was never in contempt of court. You must remember that the people selling this story are very powerful.
"Life in jail made me more determined. I had a good life, but I found it incredible that Anglo was involved in fraud, that the Quinn family were the greatest victims of that fraud, were the biggest losers in Ireland and Europe because of that fraud, and yet the guys who were the victims and lost the most money finished up in jail. The boys responsible for that fraud were swanning about in big cars while I was in jail," he said.
"You are asking me if I am just blaming everybody else?" continued Mr Quinn, "No, I am not. But I do feel the government and the people who have the responsibility should now know that if they were sold a pup it is time they turned around and admitted they got it wrong," he said.
And in his most strident attack, Mr Quinn has claimed Taoiseach Enda Kenny knew back in 2009 that Anglo's loans to him were "illegal."
"Enda Kenny, when he was leader of the opposition, put it to Brian Cowen in February 2009 in the Dáil that these loans were illegal and were in breach of section 60. He knew about this then. Everyone knew Anglo was in trouble yet they didn't tell anyone. They didn't tell the brokers, they didn't tell me. I had no idea. I thought the bank was doing fine and we continued to buy shares in it," he said.
Mr Quinn has appealed to the Taoiseach to launch a public enquiry into his family's case.
"My message to Enda Kenny is you must know that there was a real cock up. I would say, use your legislation, push the legislation that it is a criminal offence to withhold information regarding white collar crime, push it and give the family our data protection information and freedom of information, release the documents that are being withheld, open up the case, let someone come along in a public enquiry, and question the destruction of the Quinn Group," he said.
Repeatedly Mr Quinn makes the point that he was "stupid" to buy the shares but he will not back down when it comes to heaping criticism on the former Anglo Irish Bank.
"Anglo made a mistake of over lending, of poor lending practices. The government was sold a pup, they were told that Sean Quinn was a disaster and wasn't running his companies well. The company had been doing well for 30 years. What I can't understand is why they don't know at this stage that they were told a pack of lies," he said.
The Slieve Russell Hotel in Co. Cavan, once owned by the Quinn family, has begun a legal action against Mr Quinn's daughter Ciara in a row over the bill for her wedding, including a cake apparently flown in from New York and costing 100,000, a figure disputed by the family.
Mr Quinn has described it as "a mickey mouse argument," adding: "They are suing my daughter for a wedding she had six years ago. At the time the family were making more than the cost of that wedding every day. Since Quinn Group was taken over it has cost the Irish taxpayer two million every day yet they want to deflect the limelight by saying the Quinns stole our assets. They want to blacken the Quinn name, and they have done a fantastic job of it. They have destroyed the family's reputation," he said.
Mr Quinn claims his former companies in Derrylin "have been destroyed", a suggestion that the current management have disagreed with in the past.
Is it sad? Of course it is sad," said the former businessman, adding: "Somebody must call a halt and say this is wrong."
This interview was conducted two weeks ago, ahead of the G8 summit, and prior to the release of the 'Anglo Tapes' that are currently dominating the headlines in the Republic. "I am blessed with a good family. We are united in our determination that the truth will come out and it could be three, four years. There is a moral duty on the family that if lies are being told, if we were framed, if there was a cover up, to see this through," he said.