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Cash handover claims in Nama case incredible, says Enda Kenny

Published 12/09/2016

Taoiseach Enda Kenny said he was not opposed to an inquiry into the handling of Project Eagle
Taoiseach Enda Kenny said he was not opposed to an inquiry into the handling of Project Eagle

Taoiseach Enda Kenny has described allegations of bags of cash being paid to a former adviser to bad bank Nama as incredible and extraordinary.

Mr Kenny said he was not opposed to an inquiry into the handling of Project Eagle, the biggest property deal in Northern Ireland when US investment giant Cerberus paid Nama £1.2 billion for a loan portfolio in 2014.

The sale was first dogged by controversy after £7 million linked to it was found in an Isle of Man bank account.

Subsequently BBC Spotlight reported a series of taped conversations between developer John Miskelly and Frank Cushnahan, the former member of Nama's Northern Ireland advisory committee, including one about a handover of £40,000 cash in a hospital car park.

Mr Kenny said he had watched the programme.

"I found it quite incredible," he said.

"Nothing surprises me at the kind of activities that take place in politics, in that sense I find it extraordinary to hear the audio reports of engagements and meetings between certain personnel."

Project Eagle has been examined on several occasions at the Public Accounts Committee in Dublin.

The Comptroller and Auditor General (C&AG) ran its own audit of the same. Its report, which is due to be examined by cabinet ministers this week, is expected to find that taxpayers lost out on hundreds of millions of euro.

Fianna Fail leader Micheal Martin has joined calls from opposition politicians for an inquiry.

Mr Kenny told Kfm: "If I find or our colleagues in Government find that this is a case that has to be examined then I won't be opposed to that.

"If there are questions arising from the Public Accounts Committee engagement with Nama, and they are due before them shortly, I'm not averse to taking action, but I need to know what it is I'm taking action on."

Mr Cushnahan has denied any wrongdoing.

Nama is due to appear before the Public Accounts Committee (PAC) on September 22 and its executives are also to be questioned at the Oireachtas Finance Committee, chaired by John McGuinness, a former PAC chairman.

Investigations have been launched into Project Eagle by the UK's National Crime Agency, the US Department of Justice's Securities and Exchange Commission as well as a parliamentary inquiry in Stormont.

Opposition parties in the Northern Ireland Assembly voiced anger on Monday when their attempts to have a debate on the Nama controversy were blocked.

DUP Speaker Robin Newton turned down requests for the topic to be raised as a matter of the day during the first plenary session of the new Assembly term.

Jim Allister, leader of the Traditional Unionist Voice party, made his feelings clear as business got under way at Stormont.

"Am I to understand that despite the most astounding revelations last week on BBC Spotlight this Assembly today is going to bury its head in the sand and proceed as if none of those revelations were made?" he said.

"Is that really so - we aren't even going to have the opportunity by questions on matters of the day or anything else to debate those shocking issues?"

Mr Newton insisted Nama was not the type of issue that would usually be the focus of a matter of the day debate.

"The member will know there are considerations I take into account when matters of the day are raised," he said.

"The member will also know there are procedural matters and a mechanism by which matters can be raised.

"I would say to all the members that I have taken my decision clearly in line with speakers' rulings and conventions on the type of issue which is accepted as a matter of the day."

Ahead of the start of plenary business, the Ulster Unionists also criticised the refusal to put the issue on the agenda.

UUP leader Mike Nesbitt said Stormont was indulging in "ostrich politics".

"This head in the sand ostrich approach does nothing to protect the integrity or relevance of the institutions under the control of DUP/Sinn Fein," he said.

Last month, Sinn Fein MLA and former Stormont finance committee chair Daithi McKay quit amid allegations he coached a witness who was due to appear before the committee's inquiry into the Nama deal.

Mr McKay apologised after admitting "inappropriate" communication with loyalist blogger Jamie Bryson ahead of his appearance before the committee.

The Twitter contacts were made before the loyalist made explosive claims to the finance committee.

Mr Bryson went before committee members to allege that former Democratic Unionist leader Peter Robinson was set to benefit from the £1.2 billion transaction - a claim the then first minister vehemently denied.

On Monday, Mr Newton told MLAs that he and his officials had been reviewing committee procedures in light of the revelations involving Mr McKay.

He said it was prudent to consider whether committee rules and arrangements needed to be "clarified, made more specific or strengthened" and said he would be contacting the chairs of the various committees to discuss the issue further.

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