The High Court has appointed permanent administrators to Quinn Insurance Limited. Mr Justice Nicholas Kearns was told this afternoon that the company was no longer opposing the Financial Regulator's application to have the provisional administrators appointed at the end of last month made permanent.

The Financial Regulator welcomed the High Court's decision, saying that the step was in the best interests of policyholders.

The High Court was told there had been considerable progress made between the parties since the matter was last in court on Monday.

Senior Counsel Michael Cush said the company was now consenting to an order appointing permanent administrators to Quinn Insurance.

Mr Justice Nicholas Kearns said that, having read the material presented to him, he was satisfied this was an appropriate case in which to make such an order.

He said it did not follow that that meant every assertion made by the Regulator was accepted or every assertion made by Quinn Insurance was rejected. But he said there was sufficient material before him to make the order.

The judge appointed Paul McCann and Michael McAteer of Grant Thornton as administrators to the company. He also granted them the power to act separately, if necessary.

Mr Justice Kearns said it was important to stress, particularly in view of the concerns of employees, that part of the statutory function of the administrators was to carry on the business as a going concern with a view to placing it on a sound commercial footing.

Lawyers for the administrators said they wished to deliver their first report in a month. The case will be mentioned before the court again on May 20.

Today's move marks a significant shift in the position of the Quinn Group in recent days. It clears the way for the administrators to sell, or seek a new investment in, the insurance company if they see fit.

Quinn Insurance chairman Jim Quigley said the company had concluded that it was in the best interests of all parties that it work closely with the administrators and regulator to get the situation resolved as quickly as possible.

'In particular, we would hope that working together we can find a way to re-commence business in the UK,' he said. A Quinn Group spokesman said it fully backed the decision of the Quinn Insurance board to accept the appointment of administrators.

'We continue to pursue a number of options and are confident that a solution will be found to secure the long term future of the business,' the spokesman said.

Move in interests of policyholders - regulator

The Financial Regulator welcomed the High Court's decision, saying that the step was in the best interests of policyholders.

The regulator said Quinn Insurance was still able to pay claims and renew policies in the normal way in the Republic of Ireland and continued to settle claims in the UK.

It said it would continue to work with the administrators and the Quinn Insurance board to address issues to resolve the financial position of the firm in the interests of its policyholders.

'Separately, the Financial Regulator continues its own investigations into the circumstances surrounding the creation of the guarantees,' it said. When it brought the original court action, the regulator said it had become aware that certain subsidiaries of Quinn Insurance had given guarantees which had the effect of reducing the insurer's assets.

A statement from the administrators said they woud continue to engage constructively with staff and management at Quinn Insurance as they tried to secure the future of the company. 'Customers of the company continue to be unaffected by our appointment - all valid claims will be met,' they stressed.