Belfast Telegraph

I've resigned from Sinn Fein but we're still on amicable terms, insists Daithi McKay

Former MLA suspended over Nama coaching storm quits party

By Noel McAdam

A former Sinn Fein MLA has dramatically resigned from the party - but insisted they remain on "amicable" terms.

Daithi McKay confirmed he had quit yesterday.

It came a few hours after he gave his first interview since leaving Stormont to the Belfast Telegraph.

He had already been suspended from the party.

The former North Antrim Assembly member also confirmed he stood down while internal party inquiries into his meeting with loyalist blogger Jamie Bryson - which led to his suspension - were ongoing.

"I feel it is time to move on," he told the Belfast Telegraph. "I want to be able to commentate and to do that from an independent perspective."

Sinn Fein said it wished Mr McKay well for the future, but also pointed out his admission of a "serious error of judgment" in meeting Mr Bryson over the Finance Committee's investigations into the Nama scandal.

Mr McKay said he had "no regrets", but was looking forward to a new role.

"I have made many friends in the party and have good relationships with people in the party," he explained.

"We are parting on amicable terms. Obviously, I was suspended in August, so I have had a long time to think about what I want to do.

"I want to be able to move on now to the role of a communicator, which would not be compatible with being a member of any party."

Mr McKay broke his long silence yesterday in an interview with the Belfast Telegraph in which he said he had not "taken a bullet" for another senior Sinn Fein member over claims that he coached Mr Bryson (below) on how former First Minister Peter Robinson's name could be drawn into the Nama controversy.

A councillor who spearheaded en masse resignations from Sinn Fein over how Mr McKay was treated told this newspaper in September that the party "threw Daithi MacKay under a bus".

Paul Maguire was the senior figure among 18 activists who dramatically quit the party, throwing on-the-ground organisation in north Antrim into crisis.

The 18 former members were in effect the entire election team behind former MLA McKay, who had been chairman of Stormont's Finance Committee, to which Mr Bryson gave controversial evidence.

Mr Bryson used a meeting of the committee to name then First Minister Peter Robinson as "Person A", who he claimed had gained personally from the £1.2bn sale a portfolio of property in Northern Ireland.

Mr Robinson, who was also DUP leader at the time, strongly rejected any claim that he had sought to benefit in any way from the deal.

Nevertheless, Mid and East Antrim councillor Maguire said he believed Mr McKay was "sacrificed" and was also severely critical of the party's decision to co-opt Philip McGuigan to replace Mr McKay in the Assembly.

In a personal letter he sent to the party leadership, the activist asked why a man who was replaced by McKay in 2007, when he was deemed "not suitable", could be chosen to replace McKay now.

But Mr McKay said yesterday: "I have moved on from all this and I think that most of the public have moved on from this as well, so I don't dwell on it and I don't think there's any need to dwell on it."

A Sinn Fein spokesperson said: "Daithi McKay served as a Sinn Fein MLA from 2007 to 2016 and was a talented and respected public representative.

"He acknowledged that he made a serious error of judgment over his involvement with loyalist blogger Jamie Bryson, and took the correct decision to stand down as an MLA.

"His membership of Sinn Fein was also suspended at this time.

"He has now decided to leave Sinn Fein and we wish him well in the future."

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