Still no answers from Finance Minister Mairtin O Muilleoir on Nama coaching

Finance Minister Máirtín Ó Muilleoir in Belfast. Picture by Ann McManus
Finance Minister Máirtín Ó Muilleoir in Belfast. Picture by Ann McManus

FINANCE minister Máirtín Ó Muilleoir continues to refuse to answer his critics on the Nama coaching scandal, four days after the revelations stunned Stormont.

The Sinn Féin MLA is facing calls to step aside as investigations into the controversy take place.

His party colleague Daithí McKay has resigned as an MLA after it was revealed he had coached loyalist blogger Jamie Bryson ahead of an appearance before the Stormont finance committee.

Mr Ó Muilleoir sat on the committee at the time when it was looking into the sale of Nama's Project Eagle property loan portfolio, prior to becoming minister.

Despite coming under the spotlight following the revelations made in last Thursday's Irish News, Mr Ó Muilleior has not made any public comment.

Speaking to Irish News on Sunday, Mr O'Muilleoir said he would take advice before answering any questions.

Asked if he had any response to make on the scandal, he replied "No I don't".

"I'll be back at work tomorrow, we'll get a good briefing and we'll talk then," he added.

"I'll be making a statement tomorrow but thank you, we'll get a briefing first."

Mr Ó Muilleoir spoke to the Irish News as he emerged from Belfast restaurant Hadskis following Sunday lunch.

The upmarket eatery - owned by James Street South owner Niall McKenna - is at the heart of the city's Cathedral quarter.

Mr Ó Muilleoir was back in Belfast following leave during which he had visited political counterparts in the Basque region.

A Sinn Féin spokesman said he would return to work today adding: "Martin McGuinness has already said that this was carried out without the knowledge of any senior figure in the party and that would obviously include Máirtín (Ó Muilleoir)."

Among his first items of business will be to address mounting calls for him to step aside.

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Ulster Unionist finance spokesman Philip Smith said he should do so "until the truth is known about the full extent of allegations that members of Sinn Féin coached a witness at a Stormont inquiry".

SDLP leader Colum Eastwood has said the finance minister had a "responsibility to remove doubt" about any involvement.

Green Party leader Steven Agnew said a key question was "how much knowledge the current finance minister had of the communications".

And TUV leader Jim Allister said Mr Ó Muilleoir's role required "rigorous investigation".

The controversy arose after the Irish News revealed messages between then committee chairman Daithí McKay, his Sinn Fein colleague Thomas O'Hara and Mr Bryson.

The exchanges made reference to Mr Ó Mulleoir and what questions he might ask at last September's hearing.

"I'm just trying to establish what Mairtin or someone can jump upon and say: 'there's no way we can turn him away, this is credible, relevant and in the public interest'," one message from Mr O'Hara to Mr Bryson said.

Another states: "Try to get Mairtin to say something in the meeting, even let him see how comprehensive the document is, so as he knows it's not bullshit."

Mr O'Muilleoir was appointed Stormont finance minister in May.

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