Nama: Parties to discuss format of inquiry into £1.24bn sale

The Irish government is to set up an inquiry into the sale of Nama's northern loan book

TAOISEACH Enda Kenny will today meet the Republic's opposition parties to decide the format of an inquiry into the sale of Nama's northern loan book.

The Irish government has agreed to investigate the £1.24bn Project Eagle sale - Northern Ireland's biggest-ever property deal.

Mr Kenny's announcement came after the Republic's public spending watchdog found that Nama incurred a potential loss of £190 million on the 2014 sale to US firm Cerberus.

Nama has rejected the Comptroller and Auditor General's report and said it "overstates the estimated value of this portfolio".

The report was ordered after Independent TD Mick Wallace claimed in the Dáil last year that a £7m 'fixers' fee' lodged in a Isle of Man bank account was destined for a Northern Ireland party or politician.

In a statement yesterday, the Irish government said the report "raises a number of important issues which... will require further investigation".

It said today's meeting will look at the terms of reference for an investigation into the sale.

"Subject to the outcome of those discussions, the matter will then be the subject of a Dáil debate early in the new session," it said.

The Dail's public accounts committee (PAC) will also hold a series of meetings, beginning on September 29, to examine the report. It will also meet finance minister Michael Noonan on October 6.

Chairman Seán Fleming said the sale "has been a source of considerable controversy".

"It is important that the C&AG report is now in the public domain," he said.

"Its findings show that there was a significant deviation from Nama's normal marketing and sales process in relation to the Northern loan book. In this case, Nama appear to have imposed considerable restrictions of time and access to complete property documentation that combined to reduce the number of interested buyers and buyer competition.

"The end result means that from this sale there was a huge loss to the taxpayer that the C&AG puts in the region of £162 million. Nama may dispute this but if so, they should provide more convincing evidence to the committee.

"In addition, the report point to conflicts of interest in relation to members of Nama's Northern Ireland Advisory Committee. I think that Nama have serious questions to answer on how they managed these when they came to light."

Public expenditure minister Paschal Donohoe said holding an inquiry "in relation to the matters of public concern that have been identified in the report is appropriate and is necessary".

Fianna Fáil's Michael McGrath (left) and Dara Calleary, speak in response to the Nama report. Picture by Brian Lawless, Press Association

Fianna Fáil TD Michael McGrath said any probe will have to look at both Nama and the role of government.

"The decision by Nama and the political direction if necessary should have been to stop the entire process," he said.

Independent TD Mick Wallace called for an independent commission of investigation.

"The C&AG Report deals with just one aspect of Nama's operation - if the government want all the truth in the open, only a truly independent commission of investigation has any chance of exposing just how dysfunctional this organisation has been, and what the cost has been to the people of Ireland," he said.

"Until then, the proceeds of the sale of Project Eagle should be frozen under the Proceeds of Crime Act and all Nama activities should be suspended."

Sinn Féin leader Gerry Adams said any inquiry "needs to have a strong north-south dimension" and urged maximum co-operation between authorities north and south.

SDLP leader Colum Eastwood also said an inquiry must have an "all-island basis" if it is to prove effective.

"This issue demands a political consensus on the way forward because it’s bigger than any one party or any one jurisdiction," he said.

Today's horoscope


See a different horoscope: