DR QUINN MEDICINE MAN?

DR QUINN MEDICINE MAN?

BY DONAL LYNCH ©

Lifestyle guru Tony Quinn made his name by flogging everything from pills to philosophy to the famous Blueprint for Successful Living. But what was he really selling? In Part 1 of a LIFE magazine investigation, Donal Lynch uncovers the mystery man’s early years

Before I began researching these articles, I was only vaguely aware of Tony Quinn. Every so often, one of his flyers would fall through the letterbox, promising me anything from dramatic weight loss to a more successful lifestyle if I only bought a few pills or swallowed some of his hazy philosophy. Or I might have seen him on the TV, peddling the dubious merits of hypnotism and distance-healing. It all seemed harmless enough. I viewed him as part of the ignoble tradition of showboating hucksters who stood on podiums at 19th-century fairs (or, in his case, on podiums at self-help seminars in the RDS) and asked people to “roll up, roll up” and buy their special tonic. Maybe he can help that one that’s born every minute, I thought to myself.

But as I began to delve deeper into what the man is about, I realised that Quinn cannot be laughed off as a benign new-age life coach. The truth is much darker than that. Strange tales I have heard, of fanatical devotees and broken marriages. And, at the heart of it all, a self-styled evangelist who denies reports that he has spoken of himself in comparison with Jesus.

One would think that “a genius who, like others before him, has not been recognised in his own lifetime” (or so says Colette Millea, one of his closest associates) would welcome closer scrutiny. But at every turn of this investigation I was thwarted. “Are you sure you want to do this?” I was asked again and again. Many of Quinn’s former followers wanted to speak, but were reluctant to do so. “I have a wife and kids,” Gerry Kerr, who has gone on Liveline to talk about his experiences, told me. “I have to think of them as well — we’ve been through enough.” “Who mentioned my name?” was the constant refrain from others. Even when I posted a message on an online discussion forum asking for help in researching the piece, I was met with a wall of silence — followed by a rash of new messages, questioning whether my Yahoo email address was secure enough for such incendiary material, and whether I was in fact a plant from the Tony Quinn organisation.

I could not get close to the big man himself. Media-shy but notoriously publicity-hungry, he sent word through his agents that he would not be available for interviews in the foreseeable future. Nevertheless, by speaking to friends, former friends and many of those who have devoted their lives to his teachings, I slowly managed to trace Tony Quinn’s metamorphosis from skinny teenager to the egomaniacal leader of a pseudo-cultish new-age empire.

Tony Quinn was born into a working-class family in Arbour Hill, on Dublin’s northside. He was a skinny, gangling young man and, by his own admission, sought to emulate Charles Atlas, the American bodybuilder who had famously gone from nerdish schoolboy to Mr Universe through sheer hard work. By his mid-teens, Tony was already working out heavily. He left school early and found work, first as a salesman for HB ice cream and then, when he was 17, as an apprentice butcher in a slaughterhouse in Phibsborough. All the while he retained his passion for fitness and the body beautiful, and eventually found work as an instructor at the Grafton Health Studio. With his physique developing nicely, Quinn also found part-time work as a bouncer with Club Go Go on Dame Street. Those who trained under him at the gym remember him as a magnetic character. “I had never met anyone like him,” says one former student. “He had women falling at his feet, and could wrap anyone around his little finger.”

Tony began to compete at bodybuilding competitions. He was remarkably successful, winning 12 titles at national level. According to one man who competed in these competitions, Tony steadfastly refused any steroids which might have given him a greater winning edge. Bodybuilding was still a very embryonic sport in this country at that stage, but, some 30 years later, Tony’s pamphlets and brochures would show what appears to be present-day Tony’s head attached to a mass of striated, overly tanned muscle, boasting as if he had just won an Olympic title.

At the advent of the Seventies, Tony was becoming interested in yoga. He began teaching Ireland’s first-ever classes in the now-popular discipline in 1971, at a modelling agency, and then at 23 St Stephen’s Green, before moving on to 20 Baggot Street. However, it was only in 1974, when the operation relocated once again, this time to Terenure, that the public began to take notice. A report appeared in the Sunday World with the headline “Yoga Cult Broke Up Her Home”. It told the story of a woman who had become immersed in Quinn’s version of the yogic philosophy and had left her husband. This was long before the practice had received any celebrity endorsement (yoga, that is, not leaving your husband) and the hackles of Catholic Ireland were raised. Miles away in Cork, Bishop Lucey even denounced Quinn from the pulpit.

But if the cleric had known the full truth of Quinn’s domestic set-up, he might have been a good deal more outraged. Some newspapers claimed that Quinn’s acolytes lived together in a commune where the women all wore black. In fact, followers from the early days speak of a highly unconventional domestic set-up. Quinn has denied this, though he does recall a time when his lifestyle invited ricidule and suspicion.

For most of the Seventies, Quinn lived with his followers in Howth or in another commune in Kilbarrack. They were a self-sufficient, insular community, united by their belief in Quinn and the power he had over them. “He was a very charismatic character,” says Joe Hoey, a friend of Tony’s and former commune-dweller. The people in the commune had plans to buy property in Meath, but there was very little money (“Sometimes there was barely food on the table,” confirms another former commune-dweller) and, to the disillusionment of some, it became clear that this was not going to happen.

Those who stayed at the commune were generally paying members, but Quinn financed his purchase of the buildings from his yoga classes. Throughout the Seventies and early Eighties, Quinn continued to expand the numbers taking the classes. Mike Garde of Dialogue Ireland, an organisation which specialises in counselling ex-Tony Quinn fanatics, offers a succinct critique of Quinn’s yogic philosophy: “If traditional Indian yoga can in general be described as otherworldly, then Tony Quinn’s yoga is most definitely ‘this-worldly’. Objectives such as business success and having thicker hair would sound very strange in a traditional Indian yoga centre.” His website goes on to point out that Quinn’s teachings are much closer to contemporary new-age western culture than any of the eastern religions which form part of yoga.

Quinn’s preoccupation with the body beautiful and worldly riches even alienated many of his early followers. Joe Hoey says, “It [his association with Quinn] was a great apprenticeship for me, but in the end we had a difference of philosophy. I had to get out.” One woman I spoke to, whose marriage broke down partially as a result of her husband’s heavy involvement in Quinn’s growing empire, was also relieved that she got out early. “Thirty years ago I was naive, and I thought it was wonderful,” she told me. “But I had a small child, and as things got more and more heavy I knew I had to get out. I told my husband it was me or Tony Quinn, and I think it’s pretty clear which choice he made.”

Although relatively insignificant in the context of broken marriages, a sticking point for some people is that Quinn does not have an officially recognised qualification from the Irish Yoga Association, founded in 1978. Joanne Douglas, herself an experienced yoga instructor, remembers taking a course that was offered by Tony Quinn in the Seventies. “They were giving a class for pregnant women and recommending a position which tones the pelvic floor. In fact, that would be dangerous for someone carrying a child.” Nevertheless, is there not a grudging respect for Quinn, who, after all, brought yoga to Ireland, I ask. “People were practising yoga privately even before he came here. He’s a great self-promoter, but I’d hate people to think that that’s offered in Ireland,” she says.

Quinn’s lack of official recognition is a subject that rears its ugly head time and time again. He promotes himself as an academic expert, but he left school early and most of his qualifications are of a highly dubious quality. In the Seventies he attended the British College of Naturopathy and Osteopathy in London, but inquiries reveal that the college has no record of Quinn as a graduate. According to his own literature, he claims to have earned “a doctorate in clinical hypnotherapy and counselling, a master of science degree in psychotherapy and numerous qualifications in mind technology, holistic medicine, nutrition and exercise”. Richard Morrissey, an employee of Quinn’s, told me that “he is the world’s leading expert in the area of the mind, recognised by all the top universities in London.”

In fact, Quinn’s doctorate was awarded by the somewhat less-than-prestigious American Pacific University, now based in Hawaii, which specialises in distance learning. When I rang this college, none of the course directors was actually on site (there is no campus as such). By Irish academic standards, a doctorate would represent an original piece of research, which should be fit for publication in an academic journal, and which, crucially, has been defended in person by the scholar in a viva voce presentation. Dr Quinn’s thesis has never been published anywhere, nor was he required to defend it in person before a board of experts in the field.

Rhoda Draper, spokeswoman for the Irish Institute of Counselling and Hypnotherapy, maintains that, by its very nature, hypnotherapy is unsuitable for distance learning. “Hypnosis is a very easy thing to learn,” she says. “The reason people need to attend courses and spend time is because of the ethical concerns involved. We have been involved with helping individuals who were previously devotees of Quinn’s.”

All of these caveats to his doctorate would have been too cumbersome on a flyer (not that Quinn is averse to small print; early copies of his promotional literature contained the fine-print warning “Results shown may not be typical”) and by the late Eighties he had a veritable alphabet of letters after his name and was putting his newly-acquired skills to good use on television. In an effort to gain a truly national profile, he hypnotised a series of patients who, live on the Late Late Show, then underwent their procedures without the benefit of anaesthetic. The show was without doubt the first of many PR coups for Quinn but, according to Draper, his results were not surprising. “It has been well documented that certain people who are especially susceptible to the suggestive nature of hypnosis can be placed in a trance-like state where they will not feel pain,” she told me.

What the audience also wasn’t told was that two of the ‘contestants’ were actually employed by Quinn. Colette Millea is the most notorious hard-seller of Quinn’s services and, with Tom McKenna, forms the first power couple of the Quinn empire. She worked with an accountancy firm in Dublin, advising Quinn on legal tax avoidance before coming to work for him. Demonstrating ‘the power of the mind’, she had her ears pinned back with only Quinn’s heavy Dublin accent to soothe her.

Using paid guinea pigs has long been a standard Quinn trick. Personal testimony was crucial in launching his own branded range of supplements in the late Eighties and early Nineties. The pamphlets would boast that “none of those sharing their experiences were paid” but, in fact, many were not just paid, but long-time employees on the payroll. On one of the more recent brochures displayed prominently outside the Tony Quinn outlet in the Stephen’s Green Centre, we are introduced to Martin who, through the use of Tony Quinn products and supplements, went from flabby and out of shape to tanned and muscular. What we are not told is that Martin is actually Martin Forde, longtime senior associate of Tony Quinn. As one former follower of Quinn remarked, “It would be like the senior stylist at Peter Mark saying, ‘I only ever get my hair done at Peter Mark.’”

“Truly Amazing Results” such as these were featured alongside a host of Quinn services in his promotional newsletter, the now-infamous Blueprint for Successful Living. This was a magazine delivered to homes throughout Ireland from the mid- Eighties. It promised that, unlike all other newspapers, it contained only good news. And some of the news was so ‘good’, one had to continue to remind oneself that it was verified by numerous (unnamed, always unnamed) university studies, and therefore entirely believable. We learned of the fascinating Educo Postal Report System which “allows you to make a request for yourself for success, healing or self-improvement. Working with the photograph of the person on a daily basis we use the Educo system. This can take place without us and the person meeting and can be conducted by post.” Readers were invited to enclose £25 (£40 for a family) and Tony and his team would use their “positive mind power” to bring health, wealth and new-age happiness to your nearest and dearest. The new service was a remarkable success and one former associate of Quinn’s spoke to me of “envelopes full of cash piling up on the mat each morning”.

But though distance healing and vitamin pills were nice moneyspinners for Quinn, they would seem almost quaintly low-key when compared to the new line of business which would eventually win “the world’s leading expert on the mind” infamy and adoration in equal measure. Because by the early Nineties, Dr Quinn’s star was rising and he had found a much more lucrative and controversial forum for his brand of messianic proselytising: The Educo Seminar.

Next week, in part two of LIFE’s special investigation: Tony Quinn goes mainstream, deciding “Ireland is ready for him”; he becomes a boxing guru; how he helped get Steve Collins a world title; and former devotees speak out

CHRIST

ALMIGHTY

IT’S TONY QUINN

PART 2

OF LIFE’S

INVESTIGATION

Tony Quinn’s advertising promises personal and financial success, but

despite the achievements of winners like Steve Collins, there are those who are less enthusiastic. Donal Lynch hears the tales of some unhappy people who have undergone his courses

In the 1970s, anything even vaguely ‘new-age’ was viewed with suspicion. The Catholic church had exclusive custody of our spiritual lives and the competition was denounced as charlatans from the pulpit. The words ‘yoga’ and ‘cult’ seemed to belong naturally together in a sentence. But by the 1990s Ireland was a very different place. Yoga was suddenly cool and self-betterment was the new religion. The clergy were in turmoil and the market was open for a different style of preacher, someone with big muscles and infomercial charisma, to come to our spiritual rescue. Tony Quinn’s time had come.

By this stage, Quinn had gone mainstream. His shops were occupying shopping-centre units alongside Boots and Marks & Spencer, and the Tony Quinn branded health supplements were big sellers. He was also achieving vicarious legitimacy by his faint association with various Irish success stories. The increasingly slick looking Blueprint for Successful Living (Quinn’s promotional newsletter) included unctuous interviews by Tony with celebrities such as Niall Quinn and Gabriel Byrne.

However, Quinn’s greatest publicity coup occurred in 1995. Middleweight boxer Steve Collins enlisted his services for his world title fight with Chris Eubank in Millstreet. In the run-up to the fight, Collins talked publicly about his work with Quinn while Eubank claimed that it was unfair to fight a man who had — supposedly — been hypnotised to believe he could not lose. Collins, of course, won on points and Eubank later admitted that Quinn’s involvement had played on his mind. In photographs taken after the fight, Quinn is to be seen in nearly every shot. The running joke was that he was to Collins as Charlie Haughey had been to Stephen Roche when he won the Tour de France in 1987. An innocent bystander could have mistakenly believed that it was the guru, or the politician, who was the real world champions.

Quinn boasted it was actually possible to make Collins bleed less and to prevent bruising and swelling, but this claim was dismissed by others. Harry Mullan, then editor of Boxing News, said: “That’s rubbish — the skin does not have an intelligence of its own. You can’t tell it to heal itself.” Others such as Paul McKenna and John Butler, a consultant at the Royal College of Nursing, criticised these aspects of Quinn’s practices.

Quinn’s role in Collins’s success was somewhat disputed. Quinn claimed he had not merely helped to psyche Collins up for the fight but had also negotiated the boxer’s contract with promoter Frank Warren. In an excerpt from Collins’s autobiography, (available, naturally, from the Tony Quinn online health store), which Quinn quotes in his promotional material, Collins wrote: “Tony explained to me that most people, despite having the potential to realise their ambitions in life, never do . . . once a person is taught to take full control of his mind then his inner potential can be drawn out.”

However, more recently Collins has taken a few steps back from this statement and

has been quoted as saying of Quinn, “He was one of many people who helped me on the way. I used a couple of hypnotists to help me focus. In my opinion, the best of all was Tony Sadar.” Collins would continue to defend his world title without Quinn’s help.

Nevertheless, Tony Quinn was able to leverage his new status as guru to the stars to bring his message to an even wider audience. The Blueprint for Successful Living newsletter had begun to advertise classes where people could get techniques on giving up smoking and “learn to use more of their mind”. The classes were a huge hit. In venues such as the RDS in Dublin, hundreds of people from all walks of life would gather and watch rapt as Quinn stood on a podium and delivered blustering speeches on self-improvement.

But although the classes were successful they were in reality no more than a recruitment drive for his latest venture: the Educo Seminars. These were two-week courses held in exotic locations around the world where, for £15,000 each, participants could “learn to realise their potential and achieve their goals”. People were told that if they really wanted to solve their problems, the seminar was the ultimate one-stop solution. At the end of the Dublin classes, a group of suntanned Educo converts would take to the podium to gush about how Tony had helped them change their lives and Quinn’s associates would then aggressively market the seminars to those present. Possible candidates were told that they would be provided with information “so vital you can’t truly live without it”. Those who had completed the seminars had “increased their ability to achieve goals by up to 67 per cent”. Their businesses apparently increased their turnover by an average of 360 per cent and if you still weren’t fully convinced they were shown a graph which indicated that upon completion if the seminar their “satisfaction with life could increase by up to 55 per cent”. All of these statistics, they were told, were “researched under university conditions”. The university or body which researched them was, as usual, not named.

Many people balked at the amount of money involved but were told that it was a minor investment when measured against the benefit they would receive. Those who could not afford it were urged to get a loan but advised that it might be a good idea not to tell the bank manager what precisely the money was needed for. Others were warned that their family and friends might express misgivings or be against the idea of going on the seminars but this is because they were “living in fear”. They also learned that there was the added incentive of “a discount” of several thousand euro if they could recruit others to go on the seminars.

The seminars have been highly lucrative for Tony Quinn. Each seminar yields over €1m, with the potential for much more if more than a handful of the participants avail of one-to-one sessions, which cost €100,000. Quinn pays no tax on these monies as they are channelled through an offshore company called Human Potential Research, which is based in Guernsey.

In the course of researching this article, I spoke to many people who had actually been on these seminars. Most refused to go on the record and told me that they wanted to put the whole thing behind them, but one woman has courageously and for the first time agreed to speak about what it was like on one of Tony Quinn’s seminars. To protect the privacy of her family, she requested that I only use her first name.

Caroline first came into contact with the Tony Quinn organisation when she attended a six-week course at the Spa Hotel in Lucan, Dublin. She had undergone numerous operations and was having trouble sleeping. “I would wake up absolutely terrified, covered in sweat,” she told me. “I was approached after the classes by a woman called Yvonne. She told me, ‘Tony will be your saviour.’ I wasn’t sure about the whole thing but, bearing in mind that I was desperate, I agreed to go on one of the seminars.”

In the summer of 2000, Caroline’s ticket to Cairo was delivered by courier. “Yvonne flew with me because I am afraid of flying and I had missed the first flight. We travelled to Heathrow where Martin Forde [a long-time associate of Tony Quinn] and his wife Margaret met us. We left Yvonne there and they travelled on with me. As soon as the plane took off, I became upset again.”

When Caroline got to Egypt, she felt she had already been earmarked as a troublemaker and was totally ignored by Tony Quinn staff. Despite the hefty fee of over €15,000, she discovered she would have to share a bungalow with others. But that was the least of her worries. As soon as Quinn came to address the group, Caroline knew she had made a mistake.

“He just wasn’t making any sense,” she told me. “He was talking a load of crap about leading the life of your dreams. He was speaking very slowly to us, telling us we needed to ‘get in the flow’. We were encouraged to get up and start screaming and roaring, and nearly everyone did. I didn’t know what to do so I got up and went down the back. It scared the life out of me, I can tell you.”

Caroline was appalled to find that any kind of dissent was discouraged during the talks by Quinn. “I went to put up my hand and one of the people organising it motioned to me to put it down again. A guy came up from behind me any told me that it was being filmed so we weren’t allowed to ask questions.”

Caroline noticed that the staff and the participants on the seminar revered Quinn. “He was spoken about like he was Jesus Christ Almighty. I spoke to one guy — John was his name — who told me that he had come out there [to Cairo] to find out Tony Quinn’s answer for Ireland. The women worshipped him. I was standing waiting to go to the ladies on the first week when Tony Quinn happened to walk by on his way to answer nature’s call. The girl beside me grabbed me on the arm. ‘Did you see that?’ she said. ‘It’s Tony Quinn and he’s actually going to the toilet!’ I was amazed. ‘What did you think he does?’ I said. They didn’t believe he was flesh and blood.”

Caroline could feel her health deteriorating and, isolated from her family and friends, she felt helpless and alone. “I had a sort of breakdown,” she told me. “I was left in a room on my own for days on end. After a few days, two men arrived in a white van at the bungalow. They took me to a hospital in the middle of the desert. I was incredibly upset at this stage, crying and everything. They sedated me.”

Caroline’s husband had not been informed of her exact whereabouts or condition. She was eventually flown back to Dublin. “When my husband met me at the airport my clothes were dirty even though I had packed more than enough for the two weeks,” she recalled.

Caroline still can’t quite believe what happened to her. “It took me a long time to come to terms with it. That’s why I’m only speaking about it now.” She still gets the odd Tony Quinn flyer in the door. “They go straight in the bin, I can tell you. People need to know what they’re getting into. I hope you’re going to write that in your article.”

When asked about Caroline’s account of her experiences at the seminar, Martin Forde said: “There was clearly a pre-existing medical condition — which you, not I, mentioned —which is obviously inseparable from the rest of what she says.”

However, it seems clear from what Caroline says that she was not properly screened before being allowed to participate in the course. This was long been a concern of those who have followed Tony Quinn’s progress.

In a letter which has been seen by LIFE, Dr Robert Verkerk, a research scientist at Imperial College London, submitted a number of findings at the request of the Tony Quinn organisation. He suggested that Tony Quinn should open channels of communication with Dialogue Ireland, a body which offers “pastoral support for people who have returned from Tony Quinn seminars and are feeling disorientated or are in some form of distress” and for family members “who are coping with behavioural or other changes in their loved ones”. He went on: “The codes of conduct relating to the public demonstration of catalepsy are published by some major, internationally recognised professional bodies (eg International Society for Professional Hypnosis) and these should be heeded as far as possible.” He also suggested that the School of Psychology at the University of East London (UEL) should become involved in the editing of material to ensure its scientific accuracy. He received no response to this letter.

Verkerk mentioned UEL presumably because he knew that Quinn, the man who modestly calls himself “a philosopher”, is currently a student of that college. Professor Brian Clifford is supervising Quinn’s doctorate on Educo. I spoke to Professor Clifford who told me that Tony Quinn’s claims for the Educo systems in his business life were of no concern to the college. When I asked whether Dr Quinn’s previous doctorate from the American Pacific University would have an impact when this one was being awarded, Professor Clifford told me, “No, we don’t count that one.” He also revealed that Tony Quinn’s thesis had just been returned to its author with heavy notations, and that I could “read into that what you will”. He added that he hoped and expected that Quinn would eventually get his doctorate from UEL.

As Quinn continues to add to the alphabet of letters after his name (some of them meaningful), in the last few years he has once again complemented his seminar work with some celebrity pet projects. Last year, he famously met with Jim Sheridan, whom he knew through Hugh O’Donnell, father of Quinn’s girlfriend Tara (who, posing as a member of the public, gives yet another glowing testimonial on Quinn’s website), with a view to making ‘a sort of sci-fi film’. Sheridan had met Quinn once before when he was interviewed for the Blueprint for Successful Living. On that occasion, Sheridan noticed nothing untoward, but this time around Quinn’s tone was different. Sheridan was quoted as saying: “He was telling me all sorts of stuff about himself, some of which I couldn’t believe. He told me he was walking along one day when all of a sudden a group of Middle Eastern people appeared to him. He told me he was walking on sand and he followed the people to the top of a hill. He said that there were thousands of people there and he thought he heard Jesus speaking to them, but then he realised that it was him. This is verbatim what he told me. I found the whole meeting unnerving.” Needless to say, the ‘sci fi film’ never made it off the ground and Sheridan has severed contact with Quinn.

But not everyone in showbiz was immune to Tony’s charms. Marcus Henry Fearon was a waifish, bespectacled redhead who had won young Person of the Year for his charity work with Concern. After attending a Tony Quinn seminar, he decided that he wanted to be a superstar and went on a strict diet with the goal of building his slight frame into something more photogenic, just like Tony Quinn himself once had. With the financial backing of fellow Tony Quinn enthusiasts, whom he met at Quinn’s Educo seminar in the Bahamas, Marcus travelled the world in pursuit of his dream, dismissing lavish recording studios because the vibe was not right or there wasn’t enough gym equipment. While most aspiring pop stars were queuing in the rain to meet Louis Walsh and Phil Coulter, the man referred to by fellow Quinn followers as “an enigma” was hanging out at the prestigious Abbey Road studios in London where he told an astonished producer that money was no object.

Unfortunately for all concerned, Marcus had two problems that no amount of seminars or money would fix: he did not look anything like a pop star and, in the words of producer Bill Hughes, “hadn’t a note in his head”. However, thanks to Tony Quinn, he did have a surplus of groundless self-belief. Viewers of an RTE True Lives documentary on Marcus winced in embarrassment for him as he was filmed singing out of key for Michael Jackson’s voice coach and patronising Will Smith’s well-meaning stylist in his thick Dundalk accent. At meetings to discuss Marcus’s potential, his minders and handlers would freely quote Tony Quinn to each other. Marcus himself gave an unconscious parody of the seminar speak: “I think if I live the life of a star I can train the mind to think it’s successful, even if . . . maybe . . . it’s not.” His financial backer, also a Tony Quinn devotee, invested over €1m in him but to date the closest Marcus has ever come to stardom is that painful-to-watch documentary.

Although Tony Quinn’s Educo system claims it can open the door to worldly success and increase turnover, not everyone is so successful. It was recently reported that the group of companies owned by Galway-born builder Brian Cunningham owed First Active €29m. Cunningham’s group had been involved in several high-profile developments. He owns Salthill Properties, which developed the €30m Bailey Point Project in Salthill. First Active foreclosed on the group and now Cunningham is suing them. Cunningham had gone on a Tony Quinn seminar and, to the distress of his family, had become very committed to Quinn’s philosophy.

Strangely, stories such as those of Caroline, Marcus and Brian have never made it into those glossy pamphlets that stand outside Tony Quinn’s shops. No amount of negative publicity seems to quell the demand for his slick snake-oil salesmanship. (As I write this, a group has just returned from the isle of Capri and another seminar is planned for November).

Quinn has written of his ability to reverse the ageing process — and, at 56, he shows no signs of slowing down. The literature he has produced throughout his career shows him one minute as a respectable retailer of health supplements and the next moment as a charlatan making occult claims such as those relating to distance healing. Quinn has been issued with a warning by the Irish Medicines Board for making medicinal claims for his food-supplement products, but the dubious benefits of his seminars have never been investigated by consumer watchdog groups.

Despite the gardai being quoted as saying that Quinn’s method of offering ‘incentives’ for people to recruit friends to go on Tony Quinn seminars “bore all the hallmarks of pyramiding” (a type of financial structure illegal since 1980), they have never prosecuted Quinn. The aftercare for those who react badly to his public displays of catalepsy falls to voluntary bodies like Dialogue Ireland and individual hypnotherapists and counsellors like Sean Collins.

Tony Quinn, from his mansions in the Bahamas and Miami, runs an organisation which, according to his critics, bears a strong resemblance to a cult. For his supporters and employees, Tony is “a saviour” — someone who can help to “uncover the new human being” inside. To them, the evidence outlined above must be weighed against the word of “the world’s leading expert on the mind” and all that “research carried out under university conditions”.

And anyway, they know that you only read negative stuff in newspapers like this. It says so in the Blueprint for Successful Living.

Dialogue Ireland can be contacted on

(01) 830-9384 or (087) 239-6229, or see www.esatclear.ie/~dialogueireland

THESE ARTICLES APPEARED IN THE LIFE SECTION OF THE SUNDAY INDEPENDENT ON SUNDAYS 17 & 24 OCTOBER 2004

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