Page last updated at 14:25 GMT, Friday, 27 March 2009

Who is Ted Cunningham?

Ted Cunningham
Cunningham was a registered money lender

Locals in Ballincollig, just outside the city of Cork, where Ted Cunningham had established his investment and money-lending firm, Chesterton Finance, described him as a quietly spoken businessman who kept himself to himself.

People in the town said no-one had a clue what was going on.

"Then all of a sudden the bubble burst - it was like a bolt of lightning," said one businessman.

"He was a quiet man that went about his business. He just looked like anyone else going to work, opening his business, and getting on with it during the day."

The registered money lender set up Chesterton Finance in 1999, but resigned as a director during the probe.

Cunningham worked alongside his 33-year-old son, Timothy, who pleaded guilty to four charges of laundering Northern Bank cash.

Most days during his 10-week trial Ted Cunningham's devoted partner, Cathy Armstrong, sat outside the courtroom. She was also arrested in the early stages of the probe but not charged.

The couple live in a bungalow directly across the road from a church in Farran, a small rural village 9 miles (15km) west of Cork City.

He was good fun and any time he was in the local pubs he loved a sing-song. He was somewhat of an operatic singer
A neighbour

But Cunningham, a director of several businesses, also spent a lot of time at a nursing home he owned in Tullamore in the Irish midlands.

One neighbour in Farran described him as a sociable and likeable man, who sang in a local choir and led sing-songs in local pubs.

"He was good fun and any time he was in the local pubs he loved a sing-song. He was somewhat of an operatic singer," he said.

"But when he wasn't, he kept to himself."

The man said residents in the sleepy village were shocked when they found out what the Cunninghams were involved in.

"Some thought he might be up to the odd shady deal, but nothing like this," he added.

Cunningham is originally from a Fianna Fail family in Macroom, County Cork, but was suspected of leaning towards Sinn Fein.

Christmas

Fianna Fail is the largest party in the Republic of Ireland's coalition government.

He described himself in court as a Fianna Fail republican who would like to see a 32-county Ireland, but added that violence was "not the best way forward".

He once sent a Christmas card to veteran IRA leader Joe Cahill and his wife and met Sinn Fein chiefs Gerry Adams, Martin McGuinness and Pat Doherty MP a few times.

"The same number of occasions as I would have met Bertie Ahern (the former Irish premier)," he said.

Throughout his detention he denied that either he or the cash was connected with the IRA.

Cunningham said his time in custody in Cork's Bridewell garda station was as bad as being in Guantanamo Bay, if not worse, and said he would have preferred the US detention camp.



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