Daithí McKay breaks silence on scandal that crashed his political career

Daithí McKay making his victory speech after being elected to represent North Antrim at May's election. Picture by Cliff Donaldson

Former Sinn Féin MLA Daithí McKay says he's not bitter about how his political career ended but in future he plans to voice opinions that his old party colleagues may disagree with.

Mr McKay resigned as an MLA in August after The Irish News exposed his back channel dealings with loyalist blogger Jamie Bryson.

It was revealed he had been exchanging messages with Bryson ahead of the loyalist's appearance before Stormont's finance committee last year.

The committee probing the sale of Nama's 'Project Eagle' northern loan portfolio was chaired at the time by the North Antrim representative.

But within hours of the scandal breaking, Mr McKay resigned his seat, ending what many regarded as a promising political career.

He had not spoken publicly until yesterday.

The former MLA told The Irish News he had quit Sinn Féin just hours previously but that it was an "amicable arrangement".

"I've no qualms in terms of the party and their decisions in regard to that," he said.

"The day after I resigned I decided to move on and I bear no grudges."

Mr McKay declined to answer questions about the scandal that ended his Stormont career or respond to allegations that he coached fellow Sinn Féin MLA Máirtín Ó Muilleoir ahead of the committee hearing, citing a "live investigation".

However, he hinted that he may reveal more "when the dust settles".

"I don't think the public are that interested in what I did compared to the real scandal at the heart of Project Eagle," he said.

"The sooner the institutions north and south get to the bottom of that the better it will be for restoring public confidence in politics."

Asked how he looked back on the episode that saw him resign, he said he "quickly became philosophical about it".

"I don't think you appreciate situations like that until you're caught in the eye of the storm," he said.

"But being an MLA is a very demanding job with long hours travelling and to be able to leave the kids to school in the morning and collect them again, and have time to write, and read books – the benefits became apparent pretty quickly," he said.

"Being an MLA or full-time politician isn't everything – though I'll always be a political animal."

He now plans to voice his opinions through writing and has ruled out a return to frontline politics

"I think I have finished that chapter – certainly in terms of being an elected official," he says.

"I'll always be a republican and I will always continue to have republican ideals and to pursue a progressive political agenda."

He said he was looking forward to airing his own opinions without being constrained by being a party representative.

"Some of my views may be contrary to the party," he said but declined to elaborate on where the divergence might be.

"You have to read the articles."


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