A FORMER Sinn Fein Assembly committee chairman has resigned following allegations that he communicated with loyalist Jamie Bryson before he gave explosive evidence about the Nama property deal.
The Irish News revealed today that Daithí McKay, the former chair of the finance committee which investigated Northern Ireland's largest ever property sale, arranged a Sinn Féin back channel to Mr Bryson to 'coach' him ahead of his appearance in front of the committee.
Mr McKay has also been suspended by his party and has apologised "wholeheartedly" for his contact with a witness to the inquiry.
"I acknowledge and accept that my contact with a witness to the Finance and Personnel Committee's Nama inquiry in advance of his testimony was inappropriate, ill-advised and wrong. I apologise wholeheartedly for this," the former North Antrim assembly member said.
"Whilst I don't offer this in any way as a justification for my action, I want to be absolutely clear that my intention was not, as alleged, to coach the witness in question with regard to the substance of his testimony, but rather ensure that the inquiry had full access to the truth with regard to all the issues relating to the Nama scandal.
"This scandal was and remains an unresolved matter of wholesale fraud and corruption at the highest level affecting parties across the board. I hope that my own error of judgment on a matter of process will not provide cover or obscure the real and unresolved questions of substance which remain.
"It has been a privilege to represent the constituency of North Antrim for the past nine years. I regret that I will no longer be in a position to do so. I have no further comment to make at this time."
Mr Bryson made numerous allegations about political corruption linked to the £1.2 billion sale of property in Northern Ireland, owned by the Republic's so called bad debt bank, Nama.
Announcing Mr McKay's resignation, Sinn Fein Stormont chief whip Caral Ni Chuilin said: "Daithi McKay has resigned as MLA for North Antrim with immediate effect and has been suspended from Sinn Fein."
DUP peer Lord Maurice Morrow said he would be referring the matter to the PSNI.
The evidence provided to the DFP committee was not, in any shape or form, influenced or sourced from any member of SF.— Jamie Bryson (@JamieBrysonCPNI) August 18, 2016
Deputy First Minister Martin McGuinness said neither he nor the party had any knowledge of contact with Nama witnesses.
"The allegations surrounding North Antrim MLA Daithi McKay are profoundly disturbing."
Ulster Unionist leader Mike Nesbitt has demanded an inquiry.