McKay ‘sacrificed over committee revelations to protect colleagues’

Press Eye - Belfast  Northern Ireland - 23rd July 2015 - 

Stormont's Finance Committee Chairman Daith� McKay pictured at Stormont after Finance Committee heard from a senior civil servant about the sale of Nama's Northern Ireland loan portfolio.

Picture by Kelvin Boyes / Press Eye.

Press Eye - Belfast Northern Ireland - 23rd July 2015 - Stormont's Finance Committee Chairman Daith� McKay pictured at Stormont after Finance Committee heard from a senior civil servant about the sale of Nama's Northern Ireland loan portfolio. Picture by Kelvin Boyes / Press Eye.

Sammy Wilson has claimed that Sinn Fein’s Daithi McKay was “sacrificed” over the Stormont committee evidence revelations to protect others in the party.

The DUP MP was commenting after a former chair of an Assembly watchdog dramatically quit as a public representative – following “inappropriate” contact with a witness at an inquiry into Northern Ireland’s largest ever property deal.

Mr McKay, an MLA for North Antrim who chaired the Finance and Personnel Committee’s Nama (National Asset Management Agency) inquiry, denied coaching loyalist blogger Jamie Bryson before he gave explosive evidence about the efforts of Ireland’s bank for bad property loans to dispose of its Northern Ireland portfolio to US investors.

Mr Bryson was preparing to name former Democratic Unionist leader Peter Robinson in connection with the case.

The then first minister strongly denied he had sought to benefit from the agreement involving US investors and Nama.

Last night, Mr Wilson said it was clear Sinn Fein hopes the current controversy “will die a death before the spotlight falls” on anyone else in the party.

“It is inconceivable that all of those who would play their part in this charade had not been briefed especially since it was carried out according to the now leaked plan,” Mr Wilson said.

“All those who knew about and played their part in this plan must be dealt with otherwise the standing of the Assembly will be further tarnished and the injustice perpetrated against two individuals will have been permitted to go unpunished,” he added.

Sinn Fein’s chief whip in the Assembly Caral Ni Chuilin has said the party welcomes “any examination of facts” and will co-operate fully.

“Sinn Féin would welcome an inquiry into these issues,” she said.

Ms Ni Chuilin added: “Sinn Féin will co-operate fully with any inquiry and I am totally confident that any examination of the facts will confirm that Sinn Féin had absolutely no knowledge of, or involvement in, these events.”

Yesterday afternoon, a PSNI spokeswoman said: “Police have not received a complaint, but if one is made it will be examined by police.”

Mr McKay was the mercurial face of Sinn Fein’s youth generation who spent more than a decade working for the party in North Antrim on causes like the environment.

His fall from grace was precipitated by claims in Belfast newspaper the Irish News about his contact with Mr Bryson.

The suspended Sinn Fein representative said: “Whilst I don’t offer this in any way as a justification for my action, I want to be absolutely clear that my intention was not, as alleged, to coach the witness in question with regard to the substance of his testimony, but rather ensure that the inquiry had full access to the truth with regard to all the issues relating to the Nama scandal.”

The Irish News reported what it said were leaked messages between Mr Bryson and Sinn Fein Twitter users including Mr McKay.

Sinn Fein leader Martin McGuinness has denied any knowledge of the matter.

The deal two years ago by Nama with US investment giant Cerberus, involving the £1.2 billion sale of a Northern Ireland property loan portfolio, has been dogged by controversy after £7 million linked to it was found in an Isle of Man bank account.

Critics have claimed the arrangement included multimillion-pound fixer fees.

None of the Twitter messages indicated that Nama-related information came to Mr Bryson from Sinn Fein.

On Thursday, in response to the revelations, Mr Bryson tweeted: “The evidence provided to the Department of Finance and Personnel (DFP) committee was not, in any shape or form, influenced or sourced from any member of Sinn Fein.”

He added it was “absurd to suggest I was coached by Sinn Fein. If, as is alleged, Sinn Fein were manipulated into assisting my passage to DFP that’s a matter for them”.

Nama was established in Ireland at the height of the financial crisis to take property-linked loans off the books of bailed-out banks.

It sold 800 property loans to Cerberus, a multibillion-pound fund.

The £7 million was paid into an account controlled by a former managing partner of Belfast-based law firm Tughans, Ian Coulter, who resigned after it was unearthed.

Tughans, which was involved in the Nama transaction as subcontractor for Cerberus’s US lawyers, Brown Rudnick, insisted it was not aware of the transfer.

All parties involved in the 2014 transaction have denied wrongdoing.

See Morning View, page 52