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First Minister Arlene Foster urged to 'pressure' Peter Robinson into giving evidence to Dublin Nama inquiry


Peter Robinson

Peter Robinson

Peter Robinson

First Minister Arlene Foster has been urged to "pressure" Peter Robinson into appearing in front of the public accounts committee in Dublin to give evidence on the Nama scandal.

Mr Robinson has, however, said he is not answerable to the Oireachtas committee.

Nama has been accused of treating the Republic's parliamentary inquiry into its £1.2billion sale of Northern Ireland property loans with "utter contempt".

The inquiry has been warned it has been shunted into a very difficult situation by former Northern Ireland First Minister Peter Robinson's refusal to appear before the hearings.

In a letter, Mr Robinson said he was not answerable to the inquiry and that he had already given evidence to a separate inquiry into Project Eagle in Stormont.

The former DUP leader said the committee could email him if it wants his views on any specific issues and he would be happy to respond.

Committee chairman Sean Fleming said much of Mr Robinson's statement to the Stormont hearing "flatly contradicts" evidence given by Deputy First Minister Martin McGuinness to the Dublin hearing last week.

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The inquiry would have to adjudicate on that, he said.

Independent TD Catherine Connolly said she was disappointed Mr Robinson has refused to appear.

"I believe it would have been very helpful if Mr Robinson attended," she said.

"We are now placed in a very difficult situation. He has flatly contradicted what the Deputy First Minister said here."

In Northern Ireland SDLP leader Colum Eastwood has called on First Minister Arlene Foster to "pressure" Mr Robinson into giving evidence.

He said: “The contradiction between the former First Minister and the current deputy First Minister means one of two things has happened; either Martin McGuinness is correct and was asleep at the wheel, or Peter Robinson is correct and Martin McGuinness was aware of this shady deal, did nothing to intervene and is now trying to wash his hands of it.

“There is now clear public perception that both parties in this Executive are afraid of the truth of the NAMA scandal. In the interests of public confidence both must now be unreservedly transparent and forthcoming in any and all investigations into the matter.

“As his Party Leader and as the leader of an Executive cast into disrepute by this scandal, Arlene Foster must pressure Peter Robinson to give evidence to the Public Accounts Committee in Dublin. Up to now she has shown only indifference and equivocation on this critical issue. If she does not, and this contradiction is not resolved, then the Executive Office must be asked which version of events is correct.”

It has also emerged that key witness Ronnie Hanna, Nama's former head of asset recovery, has snubbed invitations to appear before the hearings.

Mr Hanna wrote to the committee saying he was declining the invite principally because of an ongoing investigation into the affair by the UK's National Crime Agency and the PSNI.

He added that he still has not been released from a duty of confidentiality to Nama.

Frank Daly, chairman, and Brendan McDonagh, chief executive, of the Republic's toxic assets agency, were called before Dublin's Public Accounts Committee again to be cross-examined about the so-called Project Eagle portfolio.

Several TDs on the committee expressed outrage that their lengthy opening statements - testimony on which the witnesses are questioned - were only handed into the inquiry 40 minutes before it was due to start on Thursday.

Labour's Alan Kelly said it was "unacceptable" and "frankly insulting", adding under normal circumstances he would call for the hearing to be adjourned.

Independent TD Catherine Connolly added: "I think it is totally unacceptable ... This is treating the committee with utter contempt."

Sinn Fein's Mary Lou McDonald also said it was contemptuous and "sadly it seems to be part of their pattern".

Ms McDonald said Nama must be called back again before another hearing and urged the inquiry to "mark their cards for disrespecting the committee".

The inquiry was forced to adjourn for a period to read the Nama testimony.

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