Political news

Stormont's standing falls further after Daithí McKay's resignation over Jamie Bryson and Nama debacle

Stormont committees and the assembly itself suffer from a credibility deficit but don't expect things to change any time soon

The DUP-Sinn Fein partnership at Stormont is likely to survive the fall-out of the McKay resignation. Picture by Paul Faith/PA

THE startling revelations around the coaching of Jamie Bryson are a major embarrassment for Sinn Féin and have signalled the likely end of Daithí McKay's promising political career.

The exchanges between the former finance committee chairman, party activist Thomas O'Hara and the flag protester-turned-blogger show a degree of co-operation between ostensible adversaries that could easily sour, if not destabilise, relations at the heart of the executive.

It must be noted, however, that the messages deal solely with the choreography of Mr Bryson's explosive claims at last year's finance committee hearing, where he alleged under privilege that then First Minister Peter Robinson benefited from Nama's sale of the Project Eagle loan portfolio – a suggestion Mr Robinson ardently denies.

At no point does Mr O'Hara tell the prominent loyalist what to say – only when to say it.

Who is Thomas O'Hara?

Mr Bryson stands by his claims and insists that rather than Sinn Féin feeding him information on Nama that would damage the DUP, his sources are much closer to home.

Therefore, while these revelations do little to enhance the credibility of Mr Bryson's evidence to the committee, nothing has come to light in the messages that shows his substantive claims were fabricated.

Contrary to what DUP chairman Lord Morrow claims, they neither support or debunk the allegations against his former party leader.

However, yet again the standing of the Stormont committee system has taken a nosedive.

The DUP's disruptive approach to the social development committee's probe into the Red Sky affair had already highlighted the ineffectualness of MLAs taking on the role of investigators.

During those hearings, former DUP councillor Jenny Palmer was barracked as former party colleagues suggested she was lying.

Meanwhile, DUP special adviser Stephen Brimstone, who was said to have told Housing Executive board member Mrs Palmer to vote against a proposal to end Red Sky's maintenance contracts, stubbornly refused to answer questions that would shed light on the affair.

It did nothing to help the assembly and political process's public standing, which suffers from a perennial credibility deficit, and while the latest revelations are unlikely to prove fatal, they will further undermine confidence in the institutions.

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But despite this potential setback we can expect the DUP-Sinn Féin partnership to prevail. Mr McKay has been thrown under a bus and, despite widespread scepticism, the Sinn Féin leadership has distanced itself from the affair.

When it comes to the wider political process, the reality is that there's no alternative if the two parties want to govern.

They are trapped in what to date has been a loveless marriage that lurches from one crisis to the next but still this odd couple remain wedded to one another.

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