Political news

Remarkable story of Nama 'coaching' unlikely to die off with Daithí McKay resignation

Sinn Fein's Daithí McKay resigned as an MLA after leaked messages showed Jamie Bryson was 'coached' ahead of a finance committee appearance. Picture by Cliff Donaldson

THE Nama scandal may have claimed an unlikely first victim but it's also unlikely to be the last.

It took less than 15 minutes from Sinn Fein distancing itself from Daithí McKay before his resignation was confirmed as North Antrim MLA.

A party high flyer, he had consolidated the Sinn Féin vote in his constituency and comfortably held the seat for the last two elections.

An able and likeable politician, his loss will be felt by the party.

However, while the speed of his departure may have surprised many, his resignation was inevitable given the nature of the contact between the republican and the loyalist blogger Jamie Bryson as revealed by the Irish News.

Read the correspondence between Sinn Fein and Jamie Bryson

Last year's finance committee hearing, during which the Co Down man made explosive allegations about former DUP leader Peter Robinson, was in itself a remarkable event.

How a 26-year-old loyalist, who rose to prominence through his involvement in street agitation linked to the Union flag protests, ended up suited and booted in front of a room full of MLAs discussing a £1.2 billion property deal astounded even seasoned commentators.

The calm, self-assured manner as he presented his evidence was also notable. It was apparent he was well briefed by people close to the Nama property sale and there was speculation that enemies of Peter Robinson had his ear.

Those people were believed to be using the whistle-blowing blogger with scant regard for libel laws to filter out allegations about the DUP leader.

But what has surprised many was that Sinn Féin figures were also 'coaching' the high-profile loyalist in order to cause maximum damage to the then first minister.

With the two parties now in a cosy coalition government, it's worth remembering that less than a year ago relations between Sinn Féin and the DUP were toxic.

So much so that the Sinn Féin chair of the finance committee was willing to form an alliance with a hard-line loyalist who has in the past refused to condemn the actions of the UVF in order to damage the DUP.

Daithí McKay was foolish, and his apology issued yesterday following his resignation accepts that he acted inappropriately.

However, it seems unlikely that he and his 'back channel' - party member Thomas O'Hara - were on a solo run.

In a party known for its discipline and top-down leadership, for such a senior member to go it alone is practically unthinkable.

Sinn Féin will now be hoping that this scandal will die off with McKay's resignation.

However, with calls for investigations now coming from all sides it may not be that simple.

Who is Thomas O'Hara?

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