DUP may have Nama probe veto

Enda Kenny
Enda Kenny

There is confusion after mixed messages from the Taoiseach over a major inquiry into Nama’s sale of its Northern Ireland loans.

Enda Kenny has long been unenthusiastic about launching a formal inquiry into the process but, under mounting political pressure and a torrent of media revelations, he relented on Wednesday and said that an inquiry would be established.

Opposition to setting up an inquiry became even more difficult when BBC Spotlight revealed earlier this month that Stormont’s Nama advisor, Frank Cushnahan, received a bag of cash from a property developer before asking him to lie about it.

However, speaking on Thursday morning, Taoiseach Enda Kenny said: “With two different sovereign states and two different jurisdictions, you couldn’t operate that [inquiry] in any extent unless you had full co-operation and clearly there have been signals from Northern Ireland that that will not be so.”

But by Thursday night, Mr Kenny and the Dail opposition agreed in principle that there will be a statutory inquiry into the sale.

That comment appeared to hand the DUP a veto over a full inquiry, despite the fact that Sinn Fein’s Stormont Finance Minister, Máirtín Ó Muilleoir immediately on Wednesday pledged the full cooperation of his department – which holds much of the documentation relating to Nama in Northern Ireland – with the inquiry.

The Republic’s public spending watchdog found that Irish taxpayers could have lost as much as £190 million over how Nama handled the sale.

The Irish Comptroller and Auditor General’s investigation found that during Nama board meetings Mr Cushnahan had “declared his involvement as an advisor, mainly on a non-fee basis, to six Nama debtors and to a third party engaged in a joint venture with a seventh debtor”.

It found that the loans of the six debtors for whom Mr Cushnahan was acting represented about half the value of the entire Northern Ireland Nama loan book and said that the Nama board should have considered whether such a conflict of interest was acceptable. It also said that Nama should have investigated further once it was told that one bidder for the loans was to pay £5 million to Mr Cushnahan.

Nama chairman Frank Daly reacted bullishly to the report, rejecting its findings and insisting that “this was an excellent outcome for the Irish taxpayer”.

Alliance leader David Ford wrote to other party leaders on Thursday asking for a meeting to “discuss the most appropriate way to look at the allegations” and calling for a “fully independent investigation”.

The first day of Opposition Business at Stormont will see a full debate on the Nama scandal, the Ulster Unionist Party has announced.

This week Assembly Speaker Robin Newton faced Opposition criticism for refusing to allow an emergency debate about Nama on the first day of the Assembly after the summer recess.

But now the UUP says that it has secured a full debate on the scandal for Monday, September 26.

Opposition leader Mike Nesbitt’s motion expresses “deep concern” about “the allegations made during the recent BBC Northern Ireland Spotlight broadcast” and calls on Arlene Foster and Martin McGuinness to make a statement in order to “restore public confidence”.