Businessman Seán Quinn has been declared bankrupt at a court in Belfast today.

In a statement, Mr Quinn said he was born, reared and worked all his life in Co Fermanagh and that was why he made the bankruptcy application in
Northern Ireland.

The 64-year-old businessman, once Ireland's richest business man, was granted a voluntary adjudication over an alleged €2.8 billion debt owed to Anglo Irish Bank. It is believed to be one of the biggest bankruptcy orders of its kind ever made in either Ireland or Britain.

IBRC, the former Anglo Irish Bank, said it was examining the validity of the application.

By declaring himself bankrupt in Northern Ireland, it means he only has to wait a year before going back into business - rather than 12 years here.

He claimed to have been left with no alternative but to take the "drastic decision" over problems which stemmed from "ill-fated investments in Anglo".

The former billionaire was stripped of control of his manufacturing and insurance business empire in April. He had fallen into financial trouble by purchasing Anglo Irish Bank shares which then became worthless.

As a consequence, receivers were installed and he and his family lost any role in the management of the Quinn Group. Mr Quinn accepts that he owes around €194m to Anglo for property loans which he cannot repay. But the rest of the alleged debt, which relates to Contracts for Difference (CFDs) used to buy bank shares, is disputed.

The Quinn family are currently suing Anglo, claiming the CFDs were tainted with illegality.

Mr Quinn applied for voluntary bankruptcy through his lawyer and licensed insolvency practitioner, John Gordon of Napier and Sons. The order was granted during a brief hearing before a Master at the High Court in Belfast.

"I have done absolutely everything in my power to avoid taking this drastic decision,'' Mr Quinn said in a statement.

"I am certainly not without blame. I am not in the business of pointing fingers or making excuses. However, recent history has shown that I, like thousands of others in Ireland, incorrectly relied upon the persons who guided Anglo and who wrongfully sought to portray a 'blue chip' Irish banking stock,'' he added.

Bank to examine bankruptcy move

IBRC, the former Anglo Irish Bank, said it noted Mr Quinn's application for bankruptcy in the UK, and was examining its validity "in the light of Mr Quinn's residency and extensive business interests and liabilities within the State".

"Mr Quinn and his family, who live in Co Cavan, owe the Irish State, through IBRC almost €2.9 billion," the bank said in a statement. It said its mandate was to recover as much of the debts as possible on behalf of the Irish taxpayer.