Nama: Jamie Bryson and Martin McGuinness due at Stormont inquiry

Loyalist blogger Jamie Bryson has made claims about the Nama deal online
Brendan Hughes

LOYALIST flag protester Jamie Bryson and Sinn Féin's Martin McGuinness are set to give evidence today at a Stormont inquiry into the Nama scandal.

But some testimony could be heard behind closed doors as part of the probe into claims surrounding the £1.3bn sale of Nama's property loan portfolio in Northern Ireland.

MLAs launched an inquiry following sensational allegations in the Dáil in July that a £7m offshore fund linked to the Nama deal was earmarked for a northern politician or party.

Deputy First Minister Martin McGuinness is expected to appear before the finance committee probe in open session.

However, it is uncertain if members will also agree to hear evidence in public from loyalist blogger Jamie Bryson, who has made claims about the Nama deal online.

Committee members will decide on the matter today after it voted last week to hear evidence from some witnesses behind closed doors.

A majority of members backed Alliance MLA Judith Cochrane's proposal that all future witnesses must prove a "direct link" to those involved in the deal if their evidence is to be heard in public session. Those who can't prove such a link will be heard in private and a transcript, potentially redacted, will be published later.

Ms Cochrane insisted her option ensured all evidence would be heard in some form, but the move has been criticised.

TUV leader Jim Allister said the committee was "bringing itself into disrepute by hiding Nama evidence behind closed doors".

Sinn Féin MLA Daithí McKay, chair of the finance committee, yesterday said it was a "test for political transparency and accountability" in the inquiry.

"All witnesses should be heard in public session at the finance committee. The public wants to see transparency and openness," he said.

"If some political parties have an issue with some of the evidence being put forward then it is up to their committee members to effectively scrutinise the witnesses to see if it stands up.

"Putting witnesses behind closed doors is not a good idea."

Mr Bryson had said if his evidence is held in private he will counter this by "walking straight out of the meeting and releasing exactly the same information into the public domain".

Mr McGuinness is expected to be questioned about his knowledge of events in the run-up to the Nama northern loan book sale.

Sinn Féin has previously denied that he was "fully briefed and engaged" with a failed bid by US investment firm Pimco to purchase the portfolio.

The deputy first minister has said he was unaware of a 'memorandum of understanding' with Pimco sent by the first minister's office to Nama, which Nama later dismissed as a "debtors' charter".

He has also said he was unaware of meetings DUP leader Peter Robinson had with Pimco and Cerberus, which was the eventual buyer of the property loan book last year.


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