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McKay's 'double agent' remark has sinister connotations

Former NI advisory committee member Frank Cushnahan

THE lawyer representing businessman Frank Cushnahan has described his "horror" at hearing his client referred to as a "double agent" by the chairman of Stormont's finance committee.

Solicitor Joe Rice said Daithí McKay's remarks about the former member of Nama's Northern Ireland Advisory Council had "sinister connotations".

The Sinn Féin MLA made the comment last week as he chaired the finance committee's latest evidence gathering session as part of its probe into the £1.2bn sale of Nama's northern debt portfolio, also known as Project Eagle.

During questioning of Richard Bullick, a special adviser to First Minister Peter Robinson, it emerged that Mr Cushnahan had developer "clients" in Nama while he sat on the bad bank's Northern Ireland Advisory Committee.

The revelation would appear to confirm a conflict of interest on Mr Cushnahan's behalf.

Mr Bullick said he was unable to recall the names of the clients, who he felt were likely to benefit from a memorandum of understanding that had been drawn up by the first minister's office and passed onto Nama before US firm Cerberus bought the loan portfolio.

Mr McKay described the revelation about Mr Cushnahan's clients as "quite fascinating stuff" that was "deeply concerning" and embarrassing for Nama.

"Here you effectively had a double agent, who was supposed to be working in the interests of Nama, who appears to have a litany of conflicts of interest," he said.

But Mr Rice has taken issue with what the committee chairman said.

In a letter to Mr McKay, he wrote: "We have noted with horror the various references made by you about our client and in particular you have described our client as a "double agent" during a committee session on Wednesday the 9th of December.

"You will be aware of the sinister connotations of these words in the context of Northern Ireland and we now await a full transcript of Richard Bullick’s evidence before considering whether we wish to engage further."

The committee has written to Mr Cushnahan seeking answers to 39 questions about his role in the sale of Nama's Northern Ireland's debt book. In July, Nama chairman Frank Daly revealed that Mr Cushnahan had sought a fixer's fee of £5m from Pimco, another Project Eagle bidder. As of yesterday, the committee has received no response.

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