Robinson met Cushnahan when he still had Nama role
Meeting included investment firm Pimco and Ian Coulter, former managing partner of Tughans
DUP leader Peter Robinson, who has temporarily stepped aside as First Minister in the North, said he had no concerns about Frank Cushnahan’s involvement in the meeting despite his ongoing role at the time with the Nama advisory committee. Photograph: Niall Carson/PA Wire
Nama’s former advisor Frank Cushnahan attended a meeting with the North’s First Minister Peter Robinson in May 2013 and the investment firm Pimco, while he was still an active member of Nama’s Northern Ireland advisory committee.
Mr Robinson confirmed details of the meeting, which also included Ian Coulter, the former managing partner of Belfast law firm Tughans, while giving evidence on Wednesday to the Stormont inquiry investigating the sale of Nama’s former loan portfolio in the North.
The DUP leader, who has temporarily stepped aside as First Minister in the North, said he had no concerns about Mr Cushnahan’s involvement in the meeting despite his ongoing role at the time with the Nama advisory committee.
Mr Cushnahan did not resign from the committee until November 7th, 2013.
Mr Robinson said he did not believe there was a possible conflict of interest in Mr Cushnahan’s involvement because the chairman of Nama has consistently indicated that “no confidential information” was available to the advisory committee.
He also told the inquiry: “I think you need to recognise that we saw the advisory committee as being on the Northern Ireland side of this issue, looking after the interests of Northern Ireland as opposed to looking after the interests of Nama - clearly if we had been successful in having a board member it would have been a very different fiduciary responsibility that they would have had.”
“So from that point of view I didn’t see any conflict of interest although I have to say that quite frankly it never entered my mind at the time, it wasn’t something we considered,” Mr Robinson said.
He said he did not believe Mr Cushnahan brought any information to the table that would not been available from data provided publicly by Nama.
Mr Robinson detailed to the Assembly’s Finance Committee that he had known both Mr Cushnahan and Mr Coulter for a significant period of time and said he believed that both men were motivated by the “best interests of Northern Ireland”.
He highlighted Mr Coulter’s track record as chairman of the Confederation of British Industry and as a local campaigner for lower corporation taxes and referred to Mr Cushnhan’s reputation locally as a “guru of sorts in banking and financial” matters.
But Mr Robinson also told the Stormont inquiry that in relation to their role when it came to the meeting with Pimco, a potential bidder for Nama’s Northern Ireland portfolio, that he never considered that either men would receive a fee for their work.
“Ministers just don’t talk about fees with people who come to them or how they are going to benefit from it,” he said.
The former First Minister also said it was “outrageous” as had been alleged by a previous witness at the inquiry, loyalist blogger, Jamie Bryson that he personally stood to benefit from the sale of Nama’s Northern Ireland loans portfolio.
“For the record I repeat, I neither received, expected to receive sought nor was I offered a single penny as the result of the Nama sale,” Mr Robinson stated.
Throughout his evidence giving session at Stormont today Mr Robinson was at pains to stress that in all his dealings in relation to the sale of the Nama portfolio in the North his key objective was to act in the “best interests of the economy”.
Mr Robinson said in any such circumstances he would have asked two questions -was it in the Northern Ireland interest and was it the right thing to do and he remained convinced that by 2013 the sale of the Nama portfolio in the North was the best outcome for the local economy and local businesses.
The former First Minister delivered a lengthy and detailed witness statement to the Stormont inquiry which on a number of occasions directly contradicted the evidence previously given by the North’s Deputy First Minister Martin McGuinness during his evidence giving session.
He suggested that perhaps Mr McGuinness might not have any “recollection” of certain and meeting and phone calls which took place and also warned the committee that he also might not remember in great detail what he was doing a couple of years ago.
The inquiry continues.