The 26 County government’s financial institution for managing the assets of its collapsed banking system has refused to cross the border to answer questions over corrupt practices in the sale of assets at heavily discounted prices in the north of Ireland.
Sinn Fein has strongly criticised the refusal of NAMA (National Asset Management Agency) to give evidence to an Assembly scrutiny body in Belfast.
The finance committee of the Stormont Assembly wants Michael Noonan, the 26 County Minister for Finance, to put pressure on NAMA’s Frank Daly to ensure that his officials appear before the committee. It is inquiring into persistent allegations that politicians or parties were set to gain by up to seven million pounds as a result of the purchase of NAMA’s property assets in the North by a US vulture fund.
DUP leader Peter Robinson has denied that he or his son were participants in the deal which saw 4.5 billion euro worth of properties sold at a discount of over 50% to US investment firm Cerberus.
Mr Daly has insisted that NAMA would not give evidence to the Stormont committee as it was accountable only to the 26 County parliament in Dublin. Sinn Fein’s Daithi McKay insisted Noonan should seek to compel NAMA to give evidence at Stormont.
“Last week, the committee wrote to Finance Minister Michael Noonan asking him to ensure that NAMA appears before the committee to answer questions on the sale of their Northern loans portfolio,” said Mr McKay, the chair of the Assembly’s Finance and Personnel committee.
“NAMA have a responsibility to come before the committee to answer questions and it is disappointing that Michael Noonan has so far not responded,” he added.
Noonan has claimed he has no powers to make Irish officials travel to Belfast, and that it would set a dangerous precedent for State bodies being forced to account for their actions in other jurisdictions.
That statement sharply contradicts previous statements by his party to secure the testimony of European officials at the Banking Inquiry which is currently taking place at the Dublin parliament.
Independent TD Mick Wallace, who made the allegations, has also warned that a construction company seeking to recover its assets from the agency was asked by a NAMA official to make two payments of 15,000 euro each “in a bag”.
NAMA is also currently involved in a dispute with a Czech property company that alleges it was excluded from the 80 million euro sale of a property in Prague because of an insider deal on the sale.
Wallace has now called for the suspension of NAMA’s latest operation, the 8.4 billion euro ‘Project Arrow’. He has warned that selling the 500 loans as a single lot is likely to encourage their purchase by faceless US vulture funds.
The Wexford TD has said that the sale of the loans would involve a “very serious write down” and would not be in the best interest of the Irish people.
THEATRICS AND LIES
Meanwhile, Sinn Fein has accused the coalition government of helping to render the parliamentary Banking Inquiry in Dublin meaningless by seeking to use it as an election platform.
The inquiry’s parliamentary support staff are currently facing allegations that they prevented the release of information which could prove politically damaging.
And after two melodramatic, self-serving performances by former Fianna Fail Taoisigh Bertie Ahern and Brian Cowen this month, Sinn Fein leader Gerry Adams said the performance at the inquiry this week by current Taoiseach Enda Kenny was another “shameless exercise”.
“Mr Kenny sought to use today’s hearing to mislead the public about the fact that Fine Gael policies before the crash were indistinguishable from those of Fianna Fáil,” he said.
“When Fianna Fáil were driving the economy over the edge of a cliff, Mr Kenny and Fine Gael urged it to drive even faster.
“The only thing we learned from Mr Kenny today is the type of election campaign that he is planning. It is one which will seek to avoid his own party’s responsibility for encouraging policies which led to economic disaster.
“Fine Gael and Fianna Fáil are two sides of the same coin with no discernible policy differences. What citizens now need is a change of government and a change of political direction.”