Taoiseach does not rule out inquiry into Nama deal

Enda Kenny did not rule out an inquiry into the Nama scandal. Picture by Niall Carson, Press Association

TAOISEACH Enda Kenny has not ruled out launching an inquiry into the sale of Nama's Northern Ireland property portfolio.

The Fine Gael leader said a "Commission of Investigation or a Tribunal of Inquiry will commit the taxpayer to many millions of euro" but that "if an investigation is warranted, then so be it".

He said there should be a "process here to see what are the elements that need to be investigated" if that is the case.

A report by the Republic's Comptroller and Auditor General into the Project Eagle sale is set to be published today.

It is expected to find that "hundreds of millions of euros" may not have been realised for the Irish taxpayer when the northern loans were sold for £1.24bn to US 'vulture fund' Cerberus.

The Taoiseach said he had not read the report, which he expects will be discussed with Nama officials when they go before the Dail's public accounts committee (PAC) on September 22.

He added: "I will meet with the leaders of the opposition to discuss what if anything needs to be done, or can be done, and I temper that with being careful in respect of the two jurisdictions that are involved here, the criminal investigations that are going on, the allegations by members of NAMA and the formal complaint lodged."

Mr Kenny was speaking as PAC chairman Sean Fleming said he hopes members of Stormont's finance committee will travel to Dublin to help TDs grill Nama chiefs.

There have been calls in recent days for a cross-border investigation into the controversy surrounding Northern Ireland's biggest ever property deal.

Stormont finance minister Máirtín Ó Muilleoir told the assembly yesterday that such a move should not be ruled out.

"I wouldn't give up on the possibility of an all-island inquiry," he said.

"A commission of investigation is needed so that we understand what happened and so that mistakes don't happen again."

Mr Ó Muilleoir also rejected claims he knew about a back channel between party colleague Daithí McKay and loyalist blogger Jamie Bryson ahead of an appearance before the Stormont finance committee.

He repeated his assertion that he had no involvement in or knowledge of the communications between Mr McKay, Sinn Féin worker Thomas O'Hara and Mr Bryson.

Mr Fleming said his committee's unprecedented invitation to Stormont MLAs would enable north-south co-operation without the need for new legislation.

He would seek the support of fellow PAC members next week.

"As Nama has so far refused to go before Stormont's finance committee as part of the MLAs' investigation into Project Eagle, we would happily ask questions on their behalf," he said.

"This is the single biggest sale Nama has conducted and many questions around it remain unanswered, such as was there political pressure to reduce the price and why was this process not halted when inregularities were identified ahead of the sale?"

Mr Flemming said ultimately he hoped the invitation could be reciprocated and that TDs could attend a finance committee hearing at Stormont.

"I'm confident TDs on the committee will support this initiative and I'm hopeful there would be no reason why it should be blocked," he said.

SDLP leader Colum Eastwood described the PAC chairman's initiative as a "good idea".

"Any move which recognises the need to deal with this issue on a cross-border basis is very welcome," he said.

"The air of corruption surrounding the Project Eagle sale is blind to jurisdiction and bureaucracy but nothing short of an all-Ireland commission of inquiry into this affair, bringing together all relevant agencies and all available expertise, will do."

Enjoy reading the Irish News?

Subscribe now to get full access