Sunday 17 December 2017

Peter Robinson aide picked to sit on Nama inquiry

Peter Robinson
Peter Robinson
Shane Phelan

Shane Phelan

A FORMER special advisor to Peter Robinson is to be nominated to the parliamentary inquiry investigating claims the North’s First Minister was in line to benefit from a corrupt payment.

The expected appointment comes ahead of Mr Robinson’s much anticipated appearance before the Stormont committee probing the sale of Nama’s northern loan portfolio.

His former aide Emma Pengelly is to be formally nominated to the Northern Assembly’s Committee on Finance and Personnel on Monday.

Her nomination to the cross party committee was confirmed in a provisional order paper circulated to MLAs yesterday.

Mrs Pengelly only became a member of the assembly earlier this week after being co-opted following the retirement of DUP MLA Jimmy Spratt.

She is regarded as one of Mr Robinson’s inner circle and previously held a Stg£91,809 (€124,500) role as one of his special advisors.

Mr Robinson is facing questions over what involvement, if any, he had in the deal which saw loans on 900 properties sold to US vulture fund Cerberus for €1.6bn last year.

He has agreed to appear before the inquiry.

Last week political blogger Jamie Bryson alleged the First Minister was one of five people who stood to share a Stg£7.5m (€10.2m) “success fee” from Cerberus linked to the deal.

The accusation was strongly denied by Mr Robinson.

Since that meeting, the DUP has decided to shake up its representation on the committee.

Two of its four members, Paul Girvan and Adrian McQuillan, are to be replaced by Mrs Pengelly and another new MLA, Gordon Lyons.

When contacted by and asked if it was appropriate for her, as a former advisor to Mr Robinson, to be appointed to the inquiry, Ms Pengelly said: “I am not clear about what committee I am going on to.”

A DUP spokesman said: "The party is making a large number of Committee changes which are on the Order Paper to be approved within the Assembly on Monday. As a new MLA Emma Pengelly will play her role in the scrutiny role of Assembly Committees."

The North’s former finance minister Sammy Wilson previously recommended to his southern counterpart, the late Brian Lenihan that Mrs Pengelly’s husband Richard and businessman Frank Cushnahan be appointed to a Nama advisory committee in 2010.

While Mr Cushnahan was appointed, Mr Pengelly, who is a senior civil servant, was not.

Mr Cushnahan was also alleged by Mr Bryson to have been due to share the success fee payment. Mr Cushnahan has firmly denied any wrongdoing.

Investigations into allegations about the Project Eagle deal are being probed by the UK’s National Crime Agency and parliamentary committees on both sides of the border.

Nama chief executive Brendan McDonagh and chairman Frank Daly are due before the Dail Public Accounts Committee to answer questions about the deal today.

Mr Bryson, who has been written to by PAC chairman John McGuinness, is not expected to appear today, but could do so at a later date.

Online Editors

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