Independent inquiry ‘needed to restore public confidence’

Stephen Farry

Stephen Farry

The Alliance Party said revelations that Sinn Fein ‘coached’ Jamie Bryson ahead of him giving evidence on Nama “casts real doubt” on the process, and demanded an independent inquiry.

North Down MLA and party economy spokesman Dr Stephen Farry was speaking after newspaper allegations that the then chair of Stormont’s finance committee, Daithi McKay, arranged a Sinn Fein back channel to the loyalist to tell him how to approach his evidence session last year.

The claims include precisely how to make allegations against former First Minister Peter Robinson and when Sinn Fein MLA Mairtin O Muilleoir would step in, he said.

Dr Farry said the disclosure was “incredibly telling” for both Sinn Fein and Mr Bryson.

“Prior to Mr Bryson’s appearance at the Nama evidence inquiry session, Alliance expressed concern over the potential for his evidence to consist of hearsay, to be politically motivated or that it would be otherwise unreliable and could possibly prejudice any police investigation. This revelation vindicates that caution.

“It is clear from the evidence produced today by the media that Sinn Fein’s consideration of advice to the committee on the admissibility of Mr Bryson’s evidence was politically tainted, as Sinn Fein were actively coaching him as a potential witness about the best way to get in front of the committee and place his allegations regarding Peter Robinson on the record.”

Alliance deputy leader Naomi Long said: “I find it incredibly difficult to imagine a senior member of Sinn Fein such as Mr McKay would have gone on a ‘solo run’ as the party are claiming, going by my experience of interacting with the party over many years.

“That explanation may have satisfied the Deputy First Minister but the wider Assembly and more importantly, the general public, may not be content with it.

“There are other questions which also need asked, such as if the other Sinn Fein members named in the social media messages printed in the media today had any involvement in this episode. It’s right those questions are asked and it’s right an independent investigation is held into this entire matter in order to attempt to restore public confidence in politics.”