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Bewildering day up on the Hill

Editor's Viewpoint

Published 24/09/2015

Jamie Bryson leaving Stormont
Jamie Bryson leaving Stormont

The current developments at Stormont are becoming more baffling, and many people will be wondering why the high-profile loyalist blogger and flag protester Jamie Bryson has had access to a senior committee investigating the Nama deal.

They will also be wondering why he made the most damaging and unsubstantiated claims against First Minister Peter Robinson, alleging that he was one of five people who would benefit financially if the deal went through.

Mr Robinson has strenuously denied the allegations which, he claims, lack credibility and which have no evidential basis.

He also said that he was prepared to appear before the Stormont finance committee himself.

It is difficult not to agree with Mr Robinson's claim that "the scripted performance" at the committee yesterday was "little short of pantomime". It certainly seems odd, even bizarre, that a figure who made his name mainly during the loyalist flag protests is able to make such allegations to a senior committee without, so far, providing evidence.

While the committee system at Stormont provides essential checks and balances on ministerial conduct, there has to be a fairer and more equitable way of discharging its role rather than hearing what is - technically - hearsay evidence in open session.

It is all the more ironic that the entire Nama scandal is being played out against the backdrop of crisis political talks to save the same power-sharing institutions on which the committee system is based.

While the Nama investigators, including the police and legislators, must follow the path the evidence takes them without fear or favour, their inquiries should be set in context.

No one will emerge unscathed from all of this if the price of full disclosure over Nama leads to the destruction of power-sharing and the possible return of direct rule with all that this drastic development will entail.

In the end the truth will out, but the public could be forgiven for taking another weary sigh at the extraordinary developments taking place at Stormont these days, on different levels.

The political maze is difficult enough, and the ramifications of the Nama affair make it all the more complex. This is a time for cool heads and patience - as well as a determination for getting the truth.

Belfast Telegraph

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