Who is the ‘third man' in Sinn Féin and Jamie Bryson scandal?
QUESTIONS have been raised about the owner of an email address Sinn Féin used to receive secret communication from Nama inquiry witness Jamie Bryson, as the investigation into who in the party knew about the backchannel contact with the loyalist was discussed at Stormont on Tuesday.
Documents showing communication between the loyalist and former Sinn Féin chair of the finance committee Daithí McKay lead to the North Antrim republican resigning his assembly seat last week.
A second party member Thomas O'Hara has also been suspended pending an internal Sinn Féin investigation.
However, with pressure growing on Finance Minister Máirtín Ó Muilleoir to stand down while a Stormont standards commissioner investigation takes place, a further contact address has raised questions about a third party member involved in the contact.
The email address firstname.lastname@example.org was used to send a file of evidence relating to the Project Eagle sale by loyalist Jamie Bryson to Sinn Féin five days before he was due to appear before the committee.
On September 18, 2015 - five days before the finance committee hearing - Mr Bryson said to Mr O'Hara "what is your view of my correspondence? Enough to get it public?"
The O'Hara account replies: "Email email@example.com. The reference to documentation on Millmount should get you over the line."
While there is no suggestion Sinn Féin leaked any of the sensitive material linking a number of people, including the then first minister Peter Robinson, to the Nama sale, it does show the party were in possession of information five days before the rest of the Finance Committee members.
The finance committee agreed on Tuedsay to write to Mr Ó Muilleoir, who was among politicians who questioned Bryson in the finance committee last September, for clarification of what he knew in advance.
Messages seen by the Irish News show that while Bryson forwarded his opening statement to the email address there was no further direct contact between the loyalist and firstname.lastname@example.org
There is however, evidence of contact between the owner of the email address and Sinn Féin.
Using the Thomas O'Hara twitter account, private messages were later sent to the loyalist suggesting what documents could be produced in advance from the file in order to get his evidence into open session.
At the time the DUP, UUP and Alliance were all arguing against allowing the loyalist blogger into open session.
Sinn Féin also suggest amendments to the opening statement and using 'Person A' as a way of getting former first minister Peter Robinson named in connection to alleged corruption and a £7 million off shore account it was alleged was intended to pay off a series of 'fixers'.
The former DUP leader denies any allegations of wrongdoing.
TUV leader Jim Allister, who sits on the current finance committee, said the issue of the email address was "puzzling".
"This email address shows a third leg to this stool.
"I'm a bit puzzled as to why it was introduced and who this person is - if indeed it is a person at all - what role they played and why were they involved?
"It casts the net wider and raises serious questions for Sinn Féin.
"They already had a method of communication through the Thomas O'Hara account so why introduce yet another one?" asked Mr Allister.
And he added that he had "no doubt that O'Hara was not the author" of the message exchanged with Mr Bryson.
"It was interesting that Daithí McKay was not appointed to any senior position in the new administration, did Sinn Féin know about the skeletons then?"
The Irish News contacted the email address but received no response. While Sinn Féin did not officially comment on the owner of the email address one senior party member suggested it may have belonged to Thomas O'Hara.
Deputy First Minister Martin McGuinness has repeatedly insisted that no other member of Sinn Féin was aware of the correspondence between McKay, O’Hara and Bryson.
"I want to state categorically that I had absolutely no knowledge of this exchange or contact," Mr McGuinness said last week.
"And having spoken to all relevant personnel in the Assembly I am now entirely satisfied that Sinn Féin had no knowledge of any such contact."