Sunday 19 November 2017

I'm not answerable to Dáil committee, insists Robinson

Peter Robinson. Photo: Niall Carson/PA Wire
Peter Robinson. Photo: Niall Carson/PA Wire

Brian Hutton

Peter Robinson has said he is not answerable to the inquiry probing the controversial sale of Nama's Project Eagle loan portfolio.

The former Northern Ireland first minister said he would want to help the Oireachtas Public Accounts Committee investigation, but he has not gotten an invitation to attend.

"I have not received any invitation yet, but constitutionally Northern Ireland ministers are not and should not be answerable to a Dáil committee for their actions," Mr Robinson said.

"However, I would want to be helpful to the committee in carrying out its role.

"If they do want to contact me I'm sure we can devise another way to provide my views to the committee.

"My position has already been set out in detail at the Northern Ireland Finance Committee hearing."

Deputy First Minister Martin McGuinness has previously said he thinks Mr Robinson should attend the hearings.

The PAC is investigating the sale by Nama of a massive Northern Ireland property portfolio, known as Project Eagle, to American investment fund Cerberus in 2014.

It wants to speak to Mr Robinson and Mr McGuinness about a phone call they were involved in, along with Finance Minister Michael Noonan, about Project Eagle in January 2014, months before the sale.

Another US investment company, Pimco, has told the committee it pulled out of an earlier bid for the portfolio after it discovered a "success fee", or fixer payment, of €18m for three parties behind the scenes.

Pimco said the money was to be shared equally by Belfast businessman Frank Cushnahan, US law firm Brown Rudnick, and Ian Coulter, a managing partner of Tughans, a Belfast law firm subcontracted to assist in the deal.

Mr Cushnahan was formerly a Nama adviser on Northern Ireland on the recommendation of the Democratic Unionist Party.

Brown Rudnick also acted as advisers in the deal with Cerberus, which has been dogged by scandal for more than a year, including €8m linked to it being found in an Isle of Man bank account. Mr Coulter resigned after it was found.

Pimco said it was first approached about buying the portfolio in April 2013, by Brown Rudnick, which introduced Mr Cushnahan and Mr Coulter.

Irish Independent

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