Belfast Telegraph

Nama deal: Peter Robinson had dinner with top bankers before scandal

By Maeve Sheehan

First Minister Peter Robinson and Frank Cushnahan were treated to drinks and dinner with top Irish bankers in the south Dublin village of Dalkey after a tour of Bank of Ireland's headquarters, only two weeks before they were dragged into Namagate.

The First Minister and Mr Cushnahan, a prominent businessman and former member of Nama's advisory board, were drawn into the scandal over the sale of Nama's Northern Ireland loan book, amid allegations of a pay-off to a politician.

Mr Robinson has denied he was to get any benefit from the deal, while Mr Cushnahan, who sought a £5m fee from a potential buyer, has denied wrongdoing.

On June 18, the date of the innocuous Dublin outing, the two men were probably blissfully unaware of the storm clouds gathering.

The First Minister was in Dublin for the British Irish Council summit hosted by Taoiseach Enda Kenny in Dublin Castle.

Afterwards, Mr Robinson and his group went to Bank of Ireland headquarters on College Green for a meeting with Richie Boucher, its chief executive, and other senior figures to discuss the bank's strategy in Northern Ireland.

When the meeting was over, according to informed sources, Mr Cushnahan, a former banker and prominent businessman, joined Mr Robinson's party at Bank of Ireland's headquarters.

Mr Boucher treated Mr Robinson and his group to a tour of the bank's historic headquarters.

It was once the seat of the House of Lords in Ireland and is hung with famous tapestries of the Siege of Derry and Battle of the Boyne.

The party, which included Mr Boucher, Mr Robinson and Mr Cushnahan, proceeded to Dalkey, repairing to the famous local pub Finnegan's, and then had dinner in the Guinea Pig restaurant, where fresh Dalkey lobster and Clew Bay scallops are highlights of the menu.

Sources said that neither Bank of Ireland nor Mr Boucher picked up the tab. Nor did Mr Robinson, who said he was a guest.

A spokesman for Mr Robinson said Mr Cushnahan did not attend any meeting of the British Irish Council.

"As the First Minister was in Dublin, he took up an invitation from Bank of Ireland to discuss the bank's strategy for Northern Ireland and to share views on the prospects for the Northern Ireland economy," said the spokesman.

"The meeting was in College Green and included a tour of College Green. Mr Robinson did attend a private dinner as a guest."

Belfast Telegraph


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