NI property ‘fire sale not on agenda’, senior civil servant says

According to Richard Pengelly’s testimony to Stormont inquiry, Brian Lenihan and Nama had not interest in such an eventuality

Former minister for finance Brian Lenihan. According to testimony at the Stormont Inquiry into Nama’s sale of the ‘Project Eagle’ property portfolio in Northern Ireland Mr Lenihan had no interest in a fire sale.

Former minister for finance Brian Lenihan. According to testimony at the Stormont Inquiry into Nama’s sale of the ‘Project Eagle’ property portfolio in Northern Ireland Mr Lenihan had no interest in a fire sale.

 

The former Minister for Finance Brian Lenihan and Nama officials made it “very clear from day one” that they had no interest in conducting a fire sale of property in the North, according to a senior civil servant in Northern Ireland.

Richard Pengelly, who was previously public spending director at the Department of Finance and Personnel until December 2012, told the Stormont inquiry investigating the sale of Nama’s Project Eagle loan portfolio that a fire sale was not on the agenda.

The North’s former finance minister Sammy Wilson had put forward three names for consideration when Nama was establishing its Northern Ireland advisory committee . Mr Pengelly’s name was on the list but Frank Cushnahan was subsequently selected.

Mr Pengelly was asked by members of the Stormont finance and personnel committee if he could share any detail about the selection process for Nama’s NI advisory committee and why he had not been appointed.

He told politicians that he believed that Mr Lenihan was not very keen for civil servants to be part of any of the structures around Nama and that included civil servants from the North.

When asked in light of the allegations that have arisen in connection with the sale of the Nama portfolio in the North if he was glad he had not been selected for the committee Mr Pengelly declined to comment.

It was not the only question that he appeared unable to answer during the latest evidence gathering session at the Stormont inquiry.

He was heavily criticised by some politicians about his vagueness and his recollection of key meetings which was described as unhelpful to the inquiry.

But Mr Pengelly said in his defence that the events referred to were “six years ago and I have done rather a lot in two different, very heavily loaded jobs since then, so my mind has been on other things”.

He is currently the permanent secretary of the Department of Health, Social Services and Public Safety.