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Anger over Nama refusal to attend probe at Stormont

By Rebecca Black

Published 17/07/2015

Sinn Fein's Daithi McKay
Sinn Fein's Daithi McKay

The chairman of Stormont's finance committee is set to call on the Irish Government for help to pressure the National Asset Management Agency (Nama) to attend its inquiry into allegations around the sale of the Northern Ireland portfolio.

Sinn Fein's Daithi McKay was speaking after a brief meeting of the committee yesterday morning, during which he revealed that the Republic's 'bad bank' has indicated that it will not attend the committee.

Questions over the propriety of the sale of Nama's Northern Ireland assets for over £1bn arose after TD Mick Wallace claimed in the Dail that a local politician was to benefit from £7m in an offshore bank account.

Ian Coulter, a lawyer at the centre of the affair, has denied that any of the money in an Isle of Man account was intended for any politician.

The Stormont finance committee is conducting an investigation into the matter.

Speaking during the meeting yesterday morning, Mr McKay revealed that Nama had indicated it will not give evidence to the Stormont probe. He also said it was an "insult" that the Department of Finance and Personnel (DFP) did not send anyone to the meeting either.

Mr McKay told committee members that the inquiry would continue despite the ongoing criminal investigation into the matter by the National Crime Agency (NCA).

"We are not being shut down, we just need to reframe how we approach this," Mr McKay told the committee.

SDLP MLA Dominic Bradley echoed Mr McKay's sentiments, describing it as "unacceptable" that the department "snubbed" the committee.

The committee has received letters from venture capital firms Cerberus and Pimco, solicitors Tughans, Nama, and an anonymous email about the sale of the assets.

Representatives from the Law Society attended Stormont yesterday, but were not called.

The DFP committee is due to meet again next week and the inquiry will continue, but with new terms of reference due to the NCA probe.

Mr McKay has indicated that he plans to write to the Irish Finance Minister Michael Nooan asking him to urge Nama to attend.

"Nama have a responsibility to attend the finance committee inquiry to answer questions about the sale of their northern loan portfolio," he said.

"I proposed the committee write to Finance Minister Michael Noonan asking him to ensure that Nama come before the inquiry.

"We are prepared to compel Nama to attend if they do not accept our invitation.

"Given the serious nature of these allegations, the Department of Finance and Personnel should also send officials to the inquiry and must not be seen to be running away. The committee and the public are entitled to the truth."

All those involved in the deal deny any wrongdoing.

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