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Police continuing investigation into 'coaching' of Stormont witness

Police in Northern Ireland are seeking to question a number of individuals in relation to allegations Sinn Fein "coached" a loyalist blogger before he gave evidence to a Stormont inquiry.

Detectives from the PSNI's serious crime branch have asked the individuals to present themselves voluntarily for questioning as part of their investigation into alleged misconduct in public office.

The allegations are based on leaked messages between blogger Jamie Bryson, Sinn Fein's Daithi McKay and another Twitter user, also believed to be in Sinn Fein.

The messages were exchanged before Mr Bryson appeared at Stormont's National Asset Management Agency (Nama) inquiry.

Sinn Fein has denied knowledge of the communications.

Mr Bryson said he is one of the individuals police have asked to come in for questioning.

"I have been asked to voluntarily come in for questioning. I believe that the PSNI request to interview me is an attempt to try and get my phone and access my communications by making me a suspect in a criminal investigation," he said.

PSNI Detective Superintendent Kevin Geddes, from the PSNI serious crime branch, said: "As there is an ongoing police investigation it would be inappropriate to comment further at this time."

The Stormont Finance Committee inquiry, chaired then by Mr McKay, was set up in 2015 due to political controversy over the multi-million pound sale of Nama's Northern Ireland property portfolio.

It followed an allegation made in the Dail, the Irish parliament, that a politician or political party in Northern Ireland stood to profit from the loan sale.

Mr Bryson used a meeting of the Stormont Finance Committee to name former DUP leader Peter Robinson as the individual he referred to as Person A in relation to the scandal.

The then first minister of Northern Ireland strongly denied he had sought to benefit in any way from the multi-million pound property deal.

It is now claimed Mr McKay and another Sinn Fein member advised Mr Bryson about his evidence before the hearing.

Leaked social media messages showed on September 17 2015 Mr McKay sent a direct message to Mr Bryson, telling him to follow a Twitter account in the name of Thomas O'Hara, who is understood to be a fellow Sinn Fein member.

The following day, a direct Twitter message from Mr O'Hara to Mr Bryson said: "You may only get 10-15 seconds on this before Daithi as chair has to pull you on it so squeeze your best points on this into 1-2 lines and come straight to the point."

Another message from him said: "Keep it short if you can, when it's said it's said and it's privileged. Will be a great finisher."

Nama is a body created by the Irish government in 2009, in response to the Irish financial crisis and the deflation of the Irish property bubble.

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