Belfast Telegraph

Taoiseach under fire for not following Northern Ireland lead by launching an inquiry into scandal

By Brian Hutton

Taoiseach Enda Kenny has been accused of taking a dramatically different approach to a controversial billion-pound plus property deal being investigated by UK authorities.

Fianna Fail leader Micheal Martin said questions remain over the £1.1bn sale of Northern Ireland assets owned by the Dublin Government's 'bad bank' Nama to US investment firm Cerberus last year.

He has called for a State inquiry into the affair.

"It's quite a dramatic contrast, in terms of the respective responses from the two jurisdictions," he told Mr Kenny, during Leader's Questions in the Dail. "It's about ethics. Was the deal done ethically? Nama seems to be saying everything is okay on the seller side, we are not really responsible or that bothered about what happens on the purchaser side, that satisfies us, we got the best value for money - or so we think."

The UK's National Crime Agency (NCA) is leading an investigation into the sale after allegations levelled in the Irish parliament by Independent TD Mick Wallace.

Using parliamentary privilege, Mr Wallace alleged that £7m in an Isle of Man account linked to the deal was "reportedly earmarked for a Northern Ireland politician or political party".

Mr Martin said Dublin's Finance Minister Michael Noonan knew as far back as March last year that former Nama adviser Frank Cushnahan was to be paid £5m by another US investment fund, Pimco, if it won the bidding war for the portfolio. Pimco said it later withdrew from the bidding.

"It's shocking and no one batted an eyelid," Mr Martin said. He said letting the sale go ahead was at the least an extraordinary error of judgment.

He also said a memorandum of understanding drawn up for the proposed sale to Pimco was "extraordinary in itself" as it would have released all debtors of corporate guarantees.

The Fianna Fail leader again joined other Opposition leaders in urging a commission of inquiry to be set up into Nama. But Mr Kenny said the NCA and Northern Ireland's Law Society were already investigating the issues.

There have been no allegations of wrongdoing against Nama and the portfolio was eventually sold in an open process to the highest bidder, he told the Dail.

"The only potentially illegal activity we are aware of here to date is the potential diversion of funds due to a Northern Ireland law firm, and allegations raised are being taken very seriously by authorities," he said.

Sinn Fein deputy leader Mary Lou McDonald also called for an inquiry.

Despite knowing things had gone "badly awry", Mr Noonan and Nama were happy to let it "trundle on" without collapsing the sales process or alerting the Northern Executive, Ms McDonald told the Dail. "I believe the credibility of Nama is now on the line," she said. "How can the public have confidence?"

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