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Philip McGuigan to replace Daithi McKay as Sinn Fein's North Antrim MLA

Published 24/08/2016

Philip McGuigan replaces Daithi McKay, pictured, after he apologised and resigned over his back channel contact with an inquiry witness
Philip McGuigan replaces Daithi McKay, pictured, after he apologised and resigned over his back channel contact with an inquiry witness

Sinn Fein is to co-opt a senior party activist into its North Antrim seat at Stormont.

Philip McGuigan replaces Daithi McKay after he apologised and resigned over his back channel contact with an inquiry witness.

Mr McKay is a former Sinn Fein chairman of the Assembly's finance committee who oversaw an investigation into Northern Ireland's largest ever property deal during the last mandate.

He was in contact with loyalist blogger Jamie Bryson before he gave explosive evidence to Stormont's finance committee about the efforts of Ireland's bank for bad loans to dispose of its Northern Ireland portfolio to US investors.

Sinn Fein chief whip Caral Ni Chuilin said: "Philip is an excellent public representative and has served as a councillor in the area since 2001 and was an MLA for North Antrim from 2003 to 2007.

"I have no doubt that with Philip's return, the Assembly will continue to provide first-class representation to the people of North Antrim."

The current finance committee has called on Northern Ireland's Sinn Fein Finance Minister Mairtin O Muilleoir to stand aside pending the outcome of a probe into the Bryson affair.

Mr Bryson was preparing to name former Democratic Unionist leader Peter Robinson in connection with the case.

The then first minister strongly denied seeking to benefit from the agreement involving US investors and the National Asset Management Agency (Nama).

The Irish News reported what it said were leaked messages between Mr Bryson and Sinn Fein Twitter users including Mr McKay. Sinn Fein's Martin McGuinness has denied any knowledge of the matter.

The deal two years ago by Nama with US investment giant Cerberus, involving the £1.2 billion sale of a Northern Ireland property loan portfolio, has been dogged by controversy after £7 million linked to it was found in an Isle of Man bank account.

Critics have claimed the arrangement included multimillion-pound fixer fees.

None of the Twitter messages indicated that Nama-related information came to Mr Bryson from Sinn Fein.

Nama was established in Ireland at the height of the financial crisis to take property-linked loans off the books of bailed-out banks.

It sold 800 property loans to Cerberus, a multibillion-pound fund.

The £7 million was paid into an account controlled by a former managing partner of Belfast-based law firm Tughans, Ian Coulter, who resigned after it was unearthed.

Tughans, which was involved in the Nama transaction as subcontractor for Cerberus's US lawyers, Brown Rudnick, insisted it was not aware of the transfer.

All parties involved in the 2014 transaction have denied wrongdoing.

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