Tuesday 21 November 2017

Noonan under pressure to publish Project Eagle report

Finance Minister Michael Noonan Photo: Tom Burke
Finance Minister Michael Noonan Photo: Tom Burke

Kevin Doyle Group Political Editor

FINANCE Minister Michael Noonan is under pressure to quickly publish a report by the Comptroller and Auditor General on Nama's 'Project Eagle'.

The sale of the agency's Northern Ireland portfolio two years ago for €1.5bn has led to repeated calls in the Dáil for a commission of investigation.

However, the Government has consistently pointed out that the C&AG is carrying out his own probe - which was delivered to Mr Noonan on August 9.

The minister has three months to lay the report before the House of the Oireachtas but the Public Accounts Committee (PAC) wants him to do so within the next week.

The PAC's chairman, Sean Fleming, said it should be put in the public domain "as early as possible".

Committee members plan to meet on September 29 to discuss the asset sale to US investment firm Cerberus.

The UK's National Crime Agency and the US Federal Bureau of Investigation is already investigating the deal, amid allegations that up to £6m deposited in an Isle of Man account was a 'fixer's payment'.

"It is important the report is published promptly to enable Committee Members prepare for this meeting and enable us to conduct a productive and effective engagement.

"Therefore, we are asking for the minister to publish the report within the next week," Mr Fleming said.

Sinn Féin has been at the centre of a political storm relating to Project Eagle in recent weeks after it was claimed that former prominent MLA Daithí McKay "coached" loyalist blogger Jamie Bryson ahead of an appearance before the Northern Assembly's finance committee.

Mr Bryson used the protection of Stormont privilege to claim that former DUP leader Peter Robinson was to get a kickback for helping with the deal.

Mr Robinson has strongly denied the allegation.

Mr McKay has resigned as an MLA but many within the party see him as a "sacrificial lamb".

Earlier this week, 18 Sinn Féin members in North Antrim resigned in what they claimed represented a challenge to the "control and censorship" the party traditionally exerts on its grassroots.

Those who resigned include Paul Maguire, one of three Sinn Féin councillors on Mid and East Antrim Borough Council.

They said they had quit in protest at how Mr McKay had been forced to step down as North Antrim MLA in the wake of the controversy. They also protested against the co-option of Philip McGuigan to fill the Assembly seat.

The Sinn Féin hierarchy has claimed that Mr McKay had engaged in a "solo run" in allegedly "coaching" Mr Bryson.

Irish Independent

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