Sunday 25 September 2016

SF's Ó Muilleoir refuses to quit over 'witness-coaching' row

John Mulgrew

Published 24/08/2016 | 02:30

Sinn Féin’s Máirtín Ó Muilleoir. Photo: PA
Sinn Féin’s Máirtín Ó Muilleoir. Photo: PA

Northern Ireland's Finance Minister, Sinn Féin's Máirtín Ó Muilleoir, has insisted that there is "zero chance" of information emerging that could implicate him in the furore over the coaching of a witness at a probe into the €1.4bn sale of Nama's Northern Ireland loan portfolio in 2014.

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Mr Ó Muilleoir said he would not step aside, despite calls from a Stormont committee for him to do so amid allegations that loyalist blogger Jamie Bryson was "coached" ahead of his appearance during its Nama probe last year.

Sinn Féin's Caitríona Ruane was the only member of the all-party committee who did not support the call for her colleague to stand aside.

Mr Ó Muilleoir said yesterday he had "no knowledge of, no involvement with and no part" in the alleged witness-coaching.

Sinn Féin MLA Daithí McKay resigned following claims that he and fellow party member Thomas O'Hara had coached Mr Bryson before he gave evidence to the finance committee.

Mr Ó Muilleoir said his comments would "stand the test of time", adding: "I will be vindicated in any inquiry."

He refused to give a direct answer when quizzed about the 'lone wolf' claim that Daithí McKay was the only Sinn Féin assembly member who was aware of contact with Mr Bryson. The finance minister said: "I am very happy with the responses I have made, the responses Martin McGuinness has made. But it is time to not allow ourselves to be diverted and deflected."

Calls for the Sinn Féin minister to step aside during the investigation came after the Twitter messages published last week made reference to Mr Ó Muilleoir, who was then a member of the finance committee. It indicated how he might intervene during the evidence session involving Mr Bryson.

Regarding what discussions had taken place, in any form, before the committee sat to hear evidence from a range of witnesses - including Mr Bryson - Mr Ó Muilleoir would not be drawn on details.

He said: "We are going to wait until the standards commissioner starts his investigation and I will be co-operating."

Following the committee meeting, Deputy First Minister Martin McGuinness said his party colleague would "not be stepping aside on the basis of calls from opposition parties".

Mr Ó Muilleoir said: "I made a very firm statement on that issue yesterday. I had no knowledge, no part in, no involvement with the three gentlemen."

A majority of committee members voted to send a letter to the minister, asking him to stand down from his ministerial role during the investigation.

Read more: Ó Muilleoir faces fresh calls to resign in North property scandal  

Irish Independent

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