Friday 30 September 2016

Nama under pressure to appear before North's finance committee

Published 07/08/2015 | 02:30

Fianna Fáil's finance spokesman Michael McGrath has called on Nama to cooperate with the Northern Ireland finance committee
Fianna Fáil's finance spokesman Michael McGrath has called on Nama to cooperate with the Northern Ireland finance committee
Sinn Féin MLA Daithi McKay, who chairs the Northern Ireland finance committee

NAMA is coming under intense political pressure to appear before Stormont's finance committee to face questions over the controversial €1.bn sale of its Northern Ireland loan book.

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The sale has been shrouded in controversy following allegations made in the Dáil about the existence of a secret off-shore account containing a large sum of money which it was claimed was earmarked for politicians.

But Nama has shot down a request from the committee to send senior officials to a hearing in the North to discuss the allegations surrounding the so-called 'Project Eagle' loan book.

Nama has received the backing of Finance Minister Michael Noonan, who insisted that it is answerable only to the Oireachtas.

However, Fianna Fáil's finance spokesman Michael McGrath has called on Nama to cooperate with the Northern Ireland finance committee, which is chaired by Sinn Féin MLA Daithí McKay.

"To date, Nama has suggested that as it is not legally answerable to the Stormont Assembly, it will not require its staff to appear as witnesses before the committee's hearing," Mr McGrath said.

"While this is strictly true, it is not in keeping with the spirit of the Good Friday Agreement, which envisaged closer co-operation and the development of an all-Ireland economy."

Mr McGrath said the sale of the Northern Ireland loan book was a "very significant event" for the economy in the North and allegations surrounding the deal needed to be investigated thoroughly.

"I believe that senior Nama personnel should, if requested, appear in person before the committee to provide whatever information they can," he said.

Sinn Féin leader Gerry Adams also urged Mr Noonan to use his influence to force Nama to attend a hearing in Stormont.

Nama said it would answer in writing questions sent to the agency by the committee, but it has completely ruled out attending to discuss any matter relating to the sale.

It insists that it answered any questions relevant to the sale when it went before the Oireachtas Public Accounts Committee (PAC) in July.

The Department of Finance this week dismissed claims that it had not responded to Northern Ireland's finance committee's request to have Nama officials appear before a hearing at Stormont.

Meanwhile, Mr McKay is seeking a meeting with PAC chairman John McGuinness to discuss a cross-border exchange of information on the Nama deal.

The National Crime Agency in Northern Ireland is also investigating allegations surrounding the sale, which were first raised by Independent TD Mick Wallace.

Irish Independent

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