Friday 18 October 2019

Noonan accused of ignoring letters from North finance officials

Minister Michael Noonan
Minister Michael Noonan

Philip Ryan and Yvette Shapiro

Finance Minister Michael Noonan has been accused of ignoring letters from Northern Ireland's finance committee regarding the ongoing controversy over the sale of Nama loans.

The committee's chairman, Sinn Féin MLA Daithi McKay, said he wrote to Mr Noonan two weeks ago seeking details about the controversial sale of Nama's Northern Ireland property portfolio.

Speaking outside the Dáil yesterday, Mr McKay said he has so far not received a response from Mr Noonan's office.

"It's quite clear that some doors and some shutters are being pulled down in regard to this particular inquiry.

"What we are intent on doing is using our powers to ensure that those shutters are pulled up again, and that witnesses that are here before the committee are compelled to do something," he said.

The Department of Finance could not be reached for comment.

Mr McKay was speaking at the launch of Sinn Féin's discussion paper on ensuring Nama gets the best return for the taxpayer.

The document proposes the temporary suspension of all non-contracted asset sales and a detailed examination of executive salaries and cooling-off periods for new and exiting staff.

Also speaking at the launch, Sinn Féin junior finance spokesman Peadar Tóibín said the Government was "dragged kicking and screaming" into establishing a Commission of Investigation into IBRC.

"There is a growing unease around the activities of Nama and the shortened timeframe within which it is now to wind-up, yet Government has failed yet again to adequately address these concerns," he added.

"Property values continue to rise year-on-year, yet Nama and Fine Gael/Labour are pursuing an arbitrary wind-up deadline of 2018, with the 80pc of Nama bonds redeemed within the lifetime of this Government.

"There are examples of investors effectively flipping properties purchased from Nama for significant sums of additional profit in very short periods of time. These lost profits are desperately needed monies for the public purse.

"There is no advantage to the taxpayer for this fire-sale strategy. A review of Nama loan book is needed if the State is to realise the true value of the agency's loan book, and ensure absolute transparency in Nama's remaining transactions."

Meanwhile, investigators from the North's National Crime Agency probing the controversial Nama Northern Ireland land deal are to travel to Dublin to interview Independent TD Mick Wallace.

It was Mr Wallace's allegations in the Dáil that led to a series of cross-border inquiries.

In July, he claimed that a payment of £7m was due to be made to an unnamed Northern Ireland politician in the wake of the £1.3bn deal. Officers are due to interview Mr Wallace at the Dáil tomorrow, following his return from a holiday in Italy.

Elsewhere leader of Ukip in the North, David McNarry, has claimed Nama's Northern Ireland loan book could have been worth up to £8bn. A full inventory of the assets was never disclosed because it was considered commercially sensitive. However, Mr McNarry said that, according to property sources, the portfolio could have fetched up to €8bn.

Irish Independent

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