Belfast Telegraph

Republic of Ireland Government to investigate Northern Ireland Nama sale

The Republic of Ireland Government is to investigate the sale of Nama's Northern Ireland portfolio.

Nama - the so-called bad bank - sold its Northern Ireland portfolio for £1.2billion in 2014

However, last year independent TD made extraordinary claims in the Dail that a Northern Ireland politician was to benefit from £7m sent to an Isle of Man bank account for part of the sale process.

The Stormont finance committee is investigating the sale, as too is the National Crime Agency (NCA).

The move comes as Sinn Fein Minister Mairtin O Muilleoir told MLAs he still believes an all-Ireland inquiry into the Nama allegations could happen — even though First Minister Arlene Foster ruled it out.

The Finance Minister’s comments came as he was questioned in the Assembly yesterday in the aftermath of the fall-out of allegations that loyalist Jamie Bryson was coached before giving evidence on the controversy last year.

Mr O Muilleoir — who has denied knowledge of the ‘coaching’ before Mr Bryson gave evidence — said he would step up rather than step aside.

The SDLP’s Claire Hanna  said she believed the public is united in wanting to understand what happened in the run-up to the Nama property deal.

“Will the Minister raise this at the next Executive meeting with a view to getting a united Executive commitment to a full, clear and transparent inquiry into the issue?” she asked.

Mr O Muilleoir said he was in favour of an all-Ireland inquiry, but DUP leader Mrs Foster does not share that position. “In my view, it would not be a sensible path to try to take an argument in the public domain into the Executive.”

He added he believed there could be progress by the National NCA own investigation, and added he was as keen as anyone to get to the truth.

“I believe that there was wrongdoing. I do not want to speak about individuals, but I hope that the NCA is able to use the evidence that it has gathered to bring to a higher court than this Assembly those who were responsible for the scheme.”

Quizzed by David Ford of Alliance, Mr O Muilleoir said: “I am as keen as he is to get to the truth of what happened in the Project Eagle deal. Much of the information that we are getting has come from sources outside any official investigation. In particular, we all have to tip our cap to the journalists who have been working on the issue.

“I would not give up on the possibility of there being an all-island inquiry.”

SDLP leader Colum Eastwood MLA said that because of the complex inter-jurisdictional issues involved that any investigation must have an all-island basis if it is to achieve truth, justice and accountability for the largest property deal in Irish history.

Mr Eastwood said: "The Irish Government’s plan to establish an inquiry into the Project Eagle sale of NAMA’s northern loan book is a welcome development. So too is the Taoiseach’s plan to consult with opposition parties on how to proceed. This issue demands a political consensus on the way forward because it’s bigger than any one party or any one jurisdiction.

"Any inquiry established must, at its core, reflect that alleged corruption at the heart of this deal is an all-island scourge and that a resolution can only be achieved through a comprehensive all-island investigation. There are complex jurisdictional issues involved in parallel criminal investigations but we cannot allow the border to become a barrier to justice or accountability to the Irish people. Neither can the deep divisions in the Executive act as a veto to a thorough examination of the matter. Arlene Foster’s DUP is a minority voice resisting an inclusive investigation encompassing both jurisdictions. They cannot stymie progress here.

"On Monday I’ll meet Fianna Fáil Leader Micheál Martin and among the issues discussed will be how all parties can work together across the island in the interests of securing the truth of this matter and ensuring justice is done. There can be no safe haven for those involved in a deal which has cost the Irish taxpayer hundreds of millions."

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