Nama accused of treating parliament inquiry with contempt

Peter Robinson
Peter Robinson

Nama has been accused of treating a parliamentary inquiry into its £1.2 billion sale of Northern Ireland property loans with utter contempt.

Separately, the inquiry has been shunted into a very difficult situation by former Northern Ireland first minister Peter Robinson’s refusal to appear before the hearings, it has been warned.

Frank Daly, chairman, and Brendan McDonagh, chief executive, of the Republic’s toxic assets agency, were called before Dublin’s Public Accounts Committee again to be cross-examined about the so-called Project Eagle portfolio.

Several TDs on the committee expressed outrage that their lengthy opening statements - testimony on which the witnesses are questioned - were only handed into the inquiry 40 minutes before it was due to start on Thursday.

Labour’s Alan Kelly said it was “unacceptable” and “frankly insulting”, adding under normal circumstances he would call for the hearing to be adjourned.

Independent TD Catherine Connolly added: “I think it is totally unacceptable ... This is treating the committee with utter contempt.”

Sinn Fein’s Mary Lou McDonald said it was contemptuous and “sadly it seems to be part of their pattern”.

Ms McDonald said Nama must be called back again before another hearing and urged the inquiry to “mark their cards for disrespecting the committee”.

The inquiry was forced to adjourn for a period to read the Nama testimony.

It has also emerged that Mr Robinson and key witness Ronnie Hanna, Nama’s former head of asset recovery, have both snubbed invitations to appear before the hearings.

Mr Hanna wrote to the committee saying he was declining the invite principally because of an ongoing investigation into the affair by the UK’s National Crime Agency and the PSNI.

He added that he still has not been released from a duty of confidentiality to Nama.

In a letter, Mr Robinson said he was not answerable to the inquiry and that he had already given evidence to a separate inquiry into Project Eagle in Stormont.

The former DUP leader said the committee could email him if it wants his views on any specific issues and he would be happy to respond.

Committee chairman Sean Fleming said much of Mr Robinson’s statement to the Stormont hearing “flatly contradicts” evidence given by Deputy First Minister Martin McGuinness to the Dublin hearing last week.

The inquiry would have to adjudicate on that, he said.

Ms Connolly said she was disappointed Mr Robinson has refused to appear.

“I believe it would have been very helpful if Mr Robinson attended,” she said.

“We are now placed in a very difficult situation. He has flatly contradicted what the Deputy First Minister said here.”