Noonan role in North’s Nama portfolio ‘raises questions’

McGuinness tells a Stormont inquiry he was ‘kept in the dark’ about Project Eagle sell-off

Jamie Bryson leaving Parliament Buildings in Belfast: He told  the finance and personnel committee that former first minister, Peter Robinson, was one of five people earmarked to benefit from the Project Eagle sale. Robinson denies the claim. Photograph: Niall Carson/PA Wire

Jamie Bryson leaving Parliament Buildings in Belfast: He told the finance and personnel committee that former first minister, Peter Robinson, was one of five people earmarked to benefit from the Project Eagle sale. Robinson denies the claim. Photograph: Niall Carson/PA Wire

 

The role played by the Minister of Finance Michael Noonan in the sale process relating to Nama’s former Northern Ireland loans portfolio “raises questions” according to the North’s deputy first minister.

Sinn Féin’s Martin McGuinness told a Stormont inquiry yesterday that he was “kept in the dark” about the sell off of Nama’s Northern Ireland portfolio, known as Project Eagle, and was unaware at the time of telephone calls, correspondence and meetings relating to the transaction.

The deputy first minister said he was never “fully briefed or engaged” in the £1.2 billion Nama transaction because he had repeatedly not been informed of various meetings and discussions relating to the deal.

Mr McGuinness described how he was not involved in what could be interpreted as the opening chapter in the sale of Nama’s former Northern Ireland portfolio.

‘Huge significance’

He also highlighted a meeting that took place in September 2013 at Stormont between Michael Noonan and the Northern Ireland finance minister at the time Simon Hamilton, of which he also unaware

Mr McGuinness yesterday outlined to the North’s finance committee various calls and correspondence relating to the Nama transaction including a “letter of intent” regarding the outcome of any sale, of which he said was unaware at the time.

He also described a meeting that took place at Stormont Castle on 25th March 2014 involving the then first minister Peter Robinson, the former finance minister Simon Hamilton, Ian Coulter, the former managing partner of law firm Tughans and representatives from the US investment group Cerberus, which ultimately acquired the Nama portfolio. This included the former US vice president Dan Quayle, who is chairman of Cerberus Global Investments.

Mr McGuinness said this meeting was “hugely significant”.

Disputed claims

Mr McGuinness also responded to questions from the inquiry relating to his office and Mr Robinson’s role as first minister .

“It raises very serious questions in relation to what capacity the first minister was acting,” he said. He raised questions about “an enterprise” that involved Mr Noonan.

“Now that raises questions about how Michael Noonan the Minister for Finance in the south that was handling this situation. “The only conversation that I had with Michael Noonan was on the 14th January 2014 when the first minister and I were involved in a conference call with Michael Noonan and outside of that it was quite clear that there all sorts of other meetings taking place that I was unaware of”.

The Department of Finance made no comment on Mr McGuinness’s remarks yesterday. Nor did it comment on a letter that Mr McGuinness wrote to Mr Noonan in July of this year to express his concerns about the “lack of respect” he had shown in respect of the “joint nature of the Office of the First and Deputy First Minister” in the North.

The Committee for Finance and Personnel also heard evidence yesterday from the loyalist blogger and flag protester Jamie Bryson who claimed that politicians and business people were to benefit from a “success fee” from the Nama sell off.

Project Eagle timeline

June 2013:September 2013:November 2013:December 2013:March 10th 2014: March 25th 2014: April 2014:January 2015: July 2nd: July 3rd: July 7th: July 9th:July 10th: September 7th: September 16th:September 23rd:

Deputy first minister, Martin McGuinness, tells the committee that he was kept in the dark over Project Eagle and was never fully briefed.

Barry O’Halloran