Sinn Féin TD says that 'witness-coaching' row is embarrassing for McKay
Published 25/08/2016 | 02:30
Sinn Féin TD David Cullinane has said the 'witness coaching' controversy in the north is "embarrassing" for the former MLA at the centre of the row and insisted the party was not aware of his actions.
North Antrim MLA Daithí McKay has been suspended from the party and resigned his seat in the Northern Ireland Assembly amid the furore over allegations of witness coaching while he was chairman of the Stormont finance committee probing the sale of Nama's northern loan portfolio, Project Eagle.
The Irish Independent asked Mr Cullinane if the episode is embarrassing for the party and he replied: "It's embarrassing for him [Mr McKay] as an individual obviously.
"It's not a situation that we would have wanted one of our MLAs to find themselves in but if somebody falls short of the standards that we set as a party then they have to pay a price for that and that's what happened."
Mr Culliane insisted: "There was absolutely no way that the party would have been any way knowledgeable of what was happening." He said that the issue was a "distraction" from the matter that the Stormont Committee was investigating.
Mr Cullinane also accused political opponents of "trying to make as much hay as possible on this".
Mr McKay last week resigned from the Assembly and apologised after accepting that his contact over Twitter with loyalist blogger Jamie Bryson - who would later give evidence to the committee - was "inappropriate, ill-advised and wrong".
Sinn Féin disowned McKay and denied all knowledge of the alleged dirty tricks that led to claims about ex-DUP leader Peter Robinson under privilege.
Mr McKay, Sinn Féin said, had engaged in a "solo run" when he discussed the sale of Project Eagle with Mr Bryson.
Another Sinn Féin member, Thomas O'Hara, was also suspended from the party amid allegations that he influenced evidence at the inquiry. Leaked private Twitter messages purport to show that Mr O'Hara coached Mr Bryson on how to deliver testimony.
Mr Bryson gave sensational testimony at an inquiry hearing last September, claiming Mr Robinson was among five people who had been due to share a £7.5m (€8.7m) "success fee" from the deal.
The then DUP leader strenuously denied benefiting from the sale of the portfolio, but announced two months later he would be stepping down.
Meanwhile, Mr Cullinane yesterday published a draft Bill aimed at protecting workers hit by business closures similar to what happened at Clery's in Dublin last year.
He said Sinn Féin is seeking cross-party support for the legislation that he says will provide protection for employees in collective redundancy situations where the employer is insolvent.
Giving preferential creditor status to the workers and ensuring they get the full 30-days notice are among the proposed measures.