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Nama row: Stormont enquiry 'slowly pushing doors ajar'

Published 01/10/2015

Frustrated: Daithi McKay
Frustrated: Daithi McKay

The chair of Stormont's finance committee has spoken of the frustrations MLAs have faced probing Nama's sale of its Northern Ireland portfolio with doors "slammed in their faces" but said that slowly their investigation is pushing those "doors ajar".

MLAs in the finance committee travelled to Dublin to appear before TDs today in the Oireachtas Public Accounts Committee.

Chairman Daithai McKay provided an update on the scope and progress of the committee's investigation.

He described as "frustrating" Nama's refusal to appear in front of the committee.

However, he said the organisation - the Republic's so-called bad bank - has provided written evidence.

The Sinn Fein MLA said: "The committee has been very sceptical of a number of parties.

"A lot of that has been borne out of frustration as from the outset,  doors were firmly shut in our faces and there was a lot of debate as to whether we should continue. But I am glad we continued.

"We are slowly but surely pushing those doors ajar.

"All the public want, north and south, is the truth."

He added: "Nama and others cannot continue to use the excuse of the ongoing criminal investigation as a reason for not coming before the committee."

Nama chairman Frank Daly offered to get support from the board to meet the Stormont finance committee in private after the agency was accused of stonewalling the Assembly's inquiries into Project Eagle.

Mr McKay also outlined how committee members had met with National Crime Agency officials to discuss how the committee's proceedings would not hinder the criminal investigation.

He said: "They have no issues with ourselves proceeding and obviously we do not want to prejudice any proceedings."

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The North Antrim MLA said the committee had been "bogged down" in legal advice over the matter, but that it had been worth it.

TDs asked how much weight was given to claims made by Mick Wallace in the Dail given, as they put it, his claims were "questionable".

Mr McKay said they had been unable to question Mr Wallace as he had refused to cooperate with the Stormont body.

The North Antrim MLA said he had hoped to hear from Peter Robinson by the end of the day his intention to appear before the Stormont committee after the DUP leader had pledged to do so in the media.

His party colleague and TD Mary Lou McDonald said Mr Robinson along with former finance ministers Sammy Wilson and Simon Hamilton should appear before the Dail committee.

Sinn Fein's Martin McGuinness, the NI Deputy First Minister, said he would be willing to give evidence on his knowledge of the Project Eagle sale to the Public Accounts Committee.

During the hearing, Nama offered to publish full details of fees it paid over the sale of Project Eagle - the portfolio of loans linked to about 800 properties in Northern Ireland and sold for £1.6billion to US investor Cerberus.

Its chairman Frank Daly told the parliamentary allegations around the Project Eagle sale were vague, implausible and without evidence.

Thursday's hearing was also told the PAC has yet to decide whether or not it will call the loyalist blogger Jamie Bryson to give evidence.

He has already given evidence to Stormont's inquiry into the deal, during which he made a series of allegations about the Nama sale.

Last week, Mr Bryson told Stormont's Finance Committee that Northern Ireland First Minister Peter Robinson was among five people to benefit from a £7m success fee lodged in an Isle of Man bank account.

Mr Robinson dismissed the claim as "scurrilous and unfounded" and without "one iota of evidence".

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