Project Eagle: Noonan knew of Cushnahan role in NI loans bid

Minister confirms to Dáil committee that Nama chief told him of Pimco’s auction exit

Minister for Finance Michael Noonan knew that former National Asset Management Agency adviser Frank Cushnahan was advising one of the US companies bidding for agency's Northern Ireland loans in March 2014.

US investor Pimco dropped out of the race to buy the loans, known as Project Eagle, after Nama discovered that it had agreed to pay £15 million in fees to Mr Cusnahan, Belfast solicitors Tughans and multinational lawyers Brown Rudnick.

Mr Noonan confirmed to the Dáil's Public Accounts Committee on Thursday that Nama chairman Frank Daly told him in March 2014 why Pimco dropped out of the auction.

However he stressed that Mr Daly was not looking for permission to continue with the £1.3 billion sale, which has since become mired in controversy. Mr Noonan also said he had no power to halt the process as the agency is independent .


"From the outset, during the formulation of the Nama Act, the Oireachtas shared the view and strived to ensure Nama would be independent in its decision-making," he said.

“As a result of this broad consensus, section 9 of the Nama Act is unambiguous when it states ‘Nama is independent in the performance of its functions’, prohibiting political interference for good reason.”

Cerberus purchase

Project Eagle is the name given to about 500 loans secured on properties in Northern Ireland, the Republic and Britain, which Nama sold to US company Cerberus in April 2014.

Shortly after Pimco’s exit, Nama discovered that Tughans and Brown Rudnick had switched sides to Cerberus, the winning bidder. The agency sought assurances that no one connected with it was working for Cerberus before it accepted its offer.

Comptroller & Auditor General Séamus McCarthy has since questioned the sales process and whether Nama got the best value for the taxpayer.

Barry O'Halloran

Barry O'Halloran

Barry O’Halloran covers energy, construction, insolvency, and gaming and betting, among other areas