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Sinn Féin tried to blacken my name says Naomi Long

Naomi Long said she will be seeking legal advice following revelations she was implicated in a property scandal by Sinn Féin during a back channel exchange with loyalist Jamie Bryson.

Alliance Party MLA Naomi Long said she will seek legal advice after a Sinn Féin 'backchannel' to loyalist Jamie Bryson tried to implicate her in a controversial Nama property deal.

Former chair of the Finance committee Daithí McKay resigned this week after the Irish News revealed Sinn Féin had been 'coaching' the loyalist blogger ahead of presenting his evidence to the Stormont investigation into Nama last September.

Messages sent to the loyalist came from a Twitter account belonging to north Antrim party member Thomas O'Hara who has since been suspended from the party.

Sinn Féin has denied other members of the party were aware of the secret communication.

Among the messages sent to the Co Down loyalist from the O'Hara account were questions linking Ms Long to an east Belfast property development.

Nama announced in April 2013 that it would provide £9m for the 95-unit development on the Millmount site in Dundonald to a developer that employed the then First Minister's son Gareth Robinson.

In 'private' messages between Sinn Féin and the loyalist whistle blower dated September 22, 2015, the day before he gave evidence to the committee, the Alliance party's objection to the hearing being held in public session was discussed.

Judith Cochrane, the Alliance Party member who sat on the finance committee at the time had voted against allowing the loyalist to be heard in open session, saying his evidence should be heard behind closed doors.

Read full Nama coverage

A message to Mr Bryson from the Sinn Féin account asked? "Why's the Alliance doing what they're doing?

"Would Naomi Long have connections relating to Millmount? East Belfast thing?"

Speaking last night Ms Long said was "outraged" at the party trying to implicate her in the controversial property deal and said she would be seeking legal advice as a result.

"Our only interest in asking for Jamie's evidence in a private written exchange was to ensure procedure was followed", she said.

"Given that Jamie was prone to theatrics there were also concerns that it would be turned into the Jamie Bryson show and spurious allegations could be made that could undermine any ongoing legal case.

"There needs to now be an investigation looking very carefully at the account these messages were being sent from to establish just who was managing it.

"Whoever it was set out to question my integrity when I wasn't even directly involved in the committee.

"I am angry at any suggestion I was involved in a property deal, whoever managed that account was casting aspersions on my character at a time I was already under considerable pressure, with two years of bullying and intimidation (from flags protesters).

"To suggest I was trying to shield the DUP or involved with them in negotiating a Nama deal is disgraceful.

"Jamie Bryson could have put that out in the public domain had he wanted and caused me damage, to find that kind of allegation was being bandied about by Sinn Féin has angered me.

"I will be taking legal advice and I'm genuinely concerned that these baseless allegations - allegation with no substance - were being bandied around simply because Sinn Féin weren't happy at how we voted", said the Alliance MLA.

"It shows they (Sinn Féin) had lost the run of themselves, and to claim that a party worker from north Antrim or indeed Daithí McKay was making such allegations without higher up authorisation is beyond belief.

"To suggest this was a solo run is a claim without credibility", she added.

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