Southern parties agree on Project Eagle probe

THE Dublin government and opposition parties have agreed there should be a statutory investigation into Nama's controversial sale of its Northern Ireland loans portfolio.

Taoiseach Enda Kenny has bowed to pressure for an official inquiry in the wake of Wednesday's report by the Republic's Comptroller & Auditor General into the £1.24bn Project Eagle deal.

The public spending watchdog found that the 'bad bank' undervalued its northern assets by as much as £190m when selling it US firm Cerberus in 2014.

Nama has dismissed the report's findings, however, insisting it achieved the "best commercial outcome".

The C&AG also raised concerns about how Nama handled potential conflicts of interest involving Co Down businessman Frank Cushnahan, who acted as an adviser from 2010 to 2014.

Mr Cushnahan, who was recommended for the Nama role by former Stormont finance minister Sammy Wilson, was arrested in June by the National Crime Agency before later being released from police bail.

BBC Spotlight last week broadcast secret recordings of Mr Cushnahan accepting £40,000 in cash from developer John Miskelly, whose properties were under Nama's control. He denies any wrongdoing.

Following a meeting between the taoiseach and the Dáil's opposition parties yesterday, it was agreed that there should be a statutory investigation into the Project Eagle sale and potentially other aspects of Nama's business dealings.

Mr Kenny's department will now consider submissions from the party leaders on the probe's exact remit.

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Sinn Féin finance spokesman Pearse Doherty welcomed the agreement.

"Sinn Féin will submit our views in terms of what we believe the scope of this investigation should be," he said.

"While it should be modular, with Project Eagle being the first module scrutinised, it can’t be limited to that alone. It has to look at the other allegations that have been made in relation to Nama."

Meanwhile, Alliance leader David Ford has written to other Stormont leaders to urge an independent investigation into the Project Eagle sale.

"It is clear with each passing day and every new allegation in relation to this matter, the public’s trust in the political system takes another blow," he said.

“Only a fully independent investigation can satisfy those public concerns, while being above party politicking, and that is the action I will be advocating with the other party leaders if they wish to accept my offer."

Earlier this week, the chair of the Dáil's public accounts committee Séan Fleming said he would invite members of Stormont's finance committee to Dublin to help TDs grill senior Nama officials.


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