THE MIGHT OF QUINN
Relatives of those who have become committed to Tony Quinn describe how it has affected their lives.
It was the last day of one of Tony Quinn`s £15,000 seminars. The exotic location this time was Paradise Island in the Bahamas, where Quinn has lived for the past five years. There were about 20 people on this particular trip, less than the usual attendance. Some have had up to 50 people attending, such as the one in Monte Carlo last year. As a special treat, the group was brought on a bus to Quinn`s residence, a sumptuous building with its own private beach, two swimming pools, and a garden stretching across many acres. It is worth many millions of dollars, according to a former associate of Quinn.
However, the group wasn`t allowed across the threshold of the great man`s house, but had to be content with being entertained on the patio. No one could go beyond the hall door, it was explained, because in the past people had pocketed items from the house to keep as mementoes or souvenirs of Quinn, relics of the true cross, as it were. There was, however, a consolation prize. Quinn posed for photographs with the group and then autographed cards for them, some of which bore a portrait of him in white-toothed Cheshire Cat mode.
"Your new life starts here," he wrote on the cards. "Lots of Love, Tony xxx xxxx."
A seminar with a tea party on a patio as the grand finale - accompanied by a card with seven kisses on it - might seem a pretty paltry return for doling out 15 grand, but for Tony Quinn followers, it`s more than enough. For many, even a few seconds with Quinn himself counts as an out-of-body experience. Quinn, as The Sunday Tribune has discovered, is believed to be the next best thing to God by some of his followers and, quite possibly, by himself. Some say he shares similarities with Jesus. Such a view was expressed on RTE Radio`s Liveline last week during a discussion on Quinn prompted by the first part of this Sunday Tribune investigation.
Others describe him as a genius. One of his closest associates, Colette Millea, told this newspaper he is a genius whose achievements, like others who have gone before him, will not be fully recognised in his own lifetime.
Whatever way they see him, however, one thing is certainly true - most of Quinn`s followers are extremely loyal to the man who promises them he can change their lives, even though all the evidence shows that he is not all he claims to be. While people would claim to have benefited from any involvement with Quinn, The Sunday Tribune has spoken to others whose lives have been turned upside down by what they see as his organisation`s less-than benign influence on their loved ones. They say that relationships have been fractured and people distanced from their families because of their involvement with Tony Quinn. And there are others who are opposed to what Quinn is doing. A number of former followers are disillusioned with the organisation`s relentless pursuit of profit.
In the most detailed exploration of Quinn`s background and way of thinking, which includes extraordinary details never before examined, it can be seen that there is a heavy dependency culture among some of those involved and, in a number of cases, their entire lives seem to revolve around Quinn.
Very few people are prepared to speak out against Quinn. Those who do will generally ask for their identity to be protected. Some do not want the Quinn organisation to know that they have a problem with it. Others do not want their relatives, who are involved in the organisation, to know that they are opposed to what they are doing.
Gerry Murphy, a GAA employee, is one of the few people prepared to speak publicly about the Quinn organisation. Neither Murphy nor his wife had ever heard of Tony Quinn until he became ill and was told by a surgeon that he would have to start looking after himself properly. "The first time I had ever heard of Tony Quinn was when we visited one of his health stores in Carrickmacross. I took home some of his supplements and started a new diet. After about a week I didn`t feel any better so I decided the diet was useless. I told my wife, stopped using the supplements and my direct involvement with the Tony Quinn organisation ended there. Hers, however, was only starting."
Murphy`s wife started to attend Quinn`s classes. Within a short time, she began working for Quinn, using his products and believing strongly in his philosophy.
"Over the first two or three years, she changed in personality and in attitude. She became totally different to the woman I had married. Her whole life was dominated by Tony Quinn. She spent every spare moment working for Quinn at the expense of her family and friends. I wouldn`t see her from one end of the week to the other. She attended every seminar and travelled to Dublin all the time. In one six-month period, she clocked up 32,000 miles on the car. At the same time I noticed that no matter how much money we made, we never had any and I came to realise that the reason for this was she was spending huge amounts on Tony Quinn-related things," he says.
Murphy said the problem came to a head when he decided that he could no longer cope with his wife`s involvement with Quinn. He tried to stop her attending a seminar and in the ensuing argument asked her to choose between the Quinn organisation or him. "It was Friday, 26 June 1992 and at 6pm she walked out the door on her entire life and within two hours was in Tony Quinn`s house in Malahide," he said.
Murphy believes his wife is still involved in the Tony Quinn organisation. They are now legally separated. He has spent the last nine years trying to understand what happened and cannot come to terms with the level of loyalty his wife showed to the Quinn organisation or the level of control the organisation seemed to have over her. In that time, he has campaigned against what he believes is a harmful organisation and believes there needs to be government regulation of organisations like Quinn`s.
Murphy is not the only person who believes this. Two people whom we shall call Paul and Ann say that they have lost their partners to the Tony Quinn way of life and both tell very similar stories. Neither of the two will go on record about their experiences as their loved ones are still involved in the Quinn organisation - when they were interviewed for TV3, with whom this newspaper`s investigation was carried out, they both appeared in silhouette.
Paul`s wife has been involved in the Tony Quinn organisation for 10 years. The last four have been very problematic and his marriage has recently broken up. "Initially, when she became involved I had no problem with any of the activities, the gym, the healthy eating, the exercise. However, my concern developed over the years, when I came to understand more about Tony Quinn`s life-system and her involvement increased. At one stage, my wife, without discussing it with me, decided to leave her job to go to work for the Tony Quinn organisation. The move entailed a 50% drop in salary which just didn`t add up."
He said his wife changed dramatically from this point on. "My wife became totally dependent on all Tony Quinn things and she became what I can only describe as de-personalised. It got to a stage where she would get up in the morning and take six or seven Tony Quinn supplements, listen to Tony Quinn tapes throughout the day, wear Tony Quinn t-shirts and use Tony Quinn shampoo. She would keep turning off the news because she had been told not to listen to negative information"
He explains that this dependence is part of the reason his marriage broke up. "Eventually, I asked her to make a choice either to take a break from Tony Quinn or risk ending our marriage. She said she would rather end the marriage than take a break."
He denies that the break-up resulted from problems in his relationship that had nothing to do with Quinn. "There definitely was a total dependency. I know you can say that all husband and wives argue, and that is fair enough, but the Tony Quinn lifestyle also came between my wife and her family."
Ann`s husband is a wealthy businessman who attended one of the £100,000 one-on-one courses with Quinn. She had never heard of Quinn but since her husband went on the seminar, she has been fighting to prevent other members of her family being recruited to the Quinn system. "When my husband returned from the seminar, he was very much unrecognisable from the man I married. He was emotionally withdrawn from both myself and the children. The changes in him had a major effect, our marriage broke up and the children were devastated."
She said he seemed not to have control over his own mind. "I don`t know if I will ever get my husband back to his normal self. I am working very hard at it and I think I will eventually convince him to leave the Quinn organisation, because he does listen to me. At the moment, though, he is carried away on something that he has no control over."
As well as Murphy, Paul and Ann, The Sunday Tribune also spoke to six other families, all of whom had similar stories to tell. One mother said her daughter changed for the worse after she went to a seminar and the problems this caused have devastated her family. Another woman, from a farming background, said her husband recently received a large amount of money in compensation and that he spent £15,000 to go on a course in Egypt. Her family is distraught about the changes they have seen in him and she said her marriage is now destroyed.
In response, however, representatives of the Tony Quinn organisation, Martin Forde and Colette Millea, say that the instances in question were unfortunate, but denied that Quinn`s system was to blame. They say marriage break-ups are a part of life and that their courses have been attended by numerous couples who have stayed together. "We expect from the training people receive that changes can happen to their levels of awareness. I am very sorry to hear that families can be unhappy with it. However, there are at least 50 examples where one member of a marriage has sent the other out on seminars. They are all very happy with what has happened for them," Forde said.
Like the couples who the Tony Quinn organisation states are happy with the product on offer, there are plenty of single people who also find the Quinn life system to be of value. A large number of people use Quinn products, attend his courses or his gym and would say they have benefited greatly from the experience. "If I was to put a figure on it, the number of people unsatisfied it would be way less than 1%,"Forde said.
Shane Cradock, for example, is a chartered engineer. He said he went on a Quinn seminar in 1998 and found it "very helpful". Since then he has left his job and set up a business of his own. He still attends Quinn courses regularly, he believes he now has more control over his life and, he said, his health has radically improved.
John O`Doherty owns a steel company. Both he and his wife have been on Quinn seminars. Since he went, he said, his business has trebled because he has been able to work to his full potential. He claims only a proportion of what he has achieved would have been possible if he had not gone on Quinn`s seminar.
On Wednesday of last week, three women, all of whom had gone on Tony Quinn seminars, were featured on Liveline. Catherine, Barbara and Simone all said that going on the course was one of the best things they had ever done.
"I saw the £15,000 as an investment. My story is a very positive one. I invested in my own personal development and I got a fantastic return from the seminar. I am involved in sales and I found it brilliant. You go on the seminar for the information, it is stand-alone information," said Barbara. "I have to pinch myself in the morning - that is how good things are for me."