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Daithi McKay resignation over Jamie Bryson coaching claims: Sinn Fein may have a scapegoat, but this story is far from over

By Suzanne Breen

Published 19/08/2016

Daithi McKay. Photo: Paul Faith/PA Wire.
Daithi McKay. Photo: Paul Faith/PA Wire.

The first politician to resign because of Nama is Daithi McKay. It sounds utterly incredible. Had Paddy Power opened a book on whom the most likely candidate would be, the Sinn Fein man's name wouldn't even have registered.

I took part with McKay on BBC Radio Ulster's Seven Days programme just after he was elected to the Assembly at the tender age of 25.

For one so young, he was a remarkably safe pair of hands.

There was no cockiness or showmanship.

Over the next nine years at Stormont, he continued as a quietly confident and capable performer.

He was one of Sinn Fein's more able MLAs.

There is nothing to suggest that he would recklessly embark on a solo run to help destroy Peter Robinson.

It defies belief to suggest that McKay was acting without the blessing of his party.

Freelance operatives just don't exist in Sinn Fein.

The culture of the party doesn't allow it.

As someone on the blog Slugger O'Toole remarked yesterday: "Sinn Fein are complete control freaks. A member couldn't take the decision to switch from Digestives to Hobnobs at meetings without getting approval from the party."

Sinn Fein, corporately, had every reason to collaborate with Jamie Bryson.

Its relationship with the DUP was poisonous during the welfare reform stand-off.

The party's agenda completely coincided with the loyalist blogger's.

SDLP leader Colum Eastwood was on the money when he quipped: "Sinn Fein don't do lone wolves, they do scapegoats."

Once that cardinal rule of politics - thou shalt not get caught - was broken yesterday. The Shinners had to act swiftly.

It would be impossible internally for the DUP to remain in government with a party that had stitched up its so recently departed former leader.

For the power-sharing institutions to be saved, an individual had to be sacrificed.

And Daithi McKay was low enough down the food chain for it to be him.

The DUP leadership notably hasn't made a song-and-dance out of the political bombshell that exploded.

It's in their interests to give Martin McGuinness and Co a soft landing in order to protect the joint administration.

Despite the gravity of what happened yesterday, no statement was forthcoming from Arlene Foster.

Can you imagine a similar situation unfolding at Westminster, and Theresa May staying silent?

Remarkably, Peter Robinson also said nothing.

By offering McKay's head on a plate, the Shinners hoped that this story would be a one-day wonder.

But if the DUP seem keen not to inflame the situation, others have different ideas.

The Ulster Unionists and the SDLP will be hell-bent on truth and transparency at all costs.

Mairtin O Muilleoir's name appeared in Bryson's correspondence.

The SDLP is already demanding answers about what he did and didn't know.

As an Executive minister, and someone hailed as Sinn Fein's star turn at Stormont, the party will rally the wagons around him.

Yesterday's revelations have done enormous damage to the finance committee's Nama inquiry.

Of course, the Assembly election has meant a change of personnel on the committee.

But now in the public's eyes, Bryon's evidence to it will no longer be seen as impartial.

The behind-the-scenes chats with Sinn Fein have tainted Bryson's evidence, and potentially tainted the inquiry despite the fact that credible evidence from other witnesses has been heard.

Given the skeletons in some other Sinn Fein politicians' closets, Daithi McKay would have reason for feeling hard done by.

He certainly isn't the biggest political rogue around.

McKay, and indeed Sinn Fein, are perhaps just collateral damage in a far bigger game being played out.

It's no secret that some DUP figures who wanted Peter Robinson to go gave Jamie Bryson bullets to fire at him.

Those individuals must be extremely concerned that their dealings with the loyalist blogger could now find their way into the public domain.

Belfast Telegraph

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