North’s Minister for Finance claims no knowledge of Bryson Twitter exchanges
‘I am totally relaxed, totally chill-axed about this’ – Máirtín Ó Muilleoir tells Stormont committee
Loyalist blogger Jamie Bryson who gave explosive evidence to the Stormont inquiry last September. Photograph: PA
The North’s minister of finance has insisted he had “no knowledge” of any communications between individuals involved in an alleged coaching scandal directly connected to a former high-profile Stormont inquiry into the Nama Project Eagle sale.
Máirtín Ó Muilleoir has told the current Stormont Committee for Finance that he had “no involvement whatsoever” in relation to the communications, at the heart of the coaching allegations, exchanged between two Sinn Féin members and a loyalist blogger .
Mr Ó Muilleoir was a member of the previous Stormont Committee for Finance which conducted an extensive inquiry into the £1.24 billion (€1.4 billion) sale of Nama’s former Northern Ireland loan book.
The chair of this inquiry, Sinn Féin’s Daithí McKay, had to resign in August as MLA for North Antrim and was suspended from the party when the Irish News published leaked Twitter messages between Mr McKay, another Sinn Féin member,Thomas O’Hara and the loyalist blogger Jamie Bryson, who had given explosive evidence to the Stormont inquiry last September.
Mr McKay and Mr O’Hara’s communications with Mr Bryson led to allegations of witness coaching, which Mr McKay has maintained was not his intention.
One of the transcripts of the Twitter exchange between Mr O’Hara and Mr Bryson contained a reference to Mr Ó Muilleoir.
This led for calls from some politicians for the Minister for Finance to step aside temporarily while the issue was investigated.
At the time Mr Ó Muilleoir said there was no basis for him to do so and, addressing the Stormont Committee for Finance on Wednesday the minister for finance said “those who were throwing the mud” in his direction in relation to the Nama coaching allegations “haven’t been able to get any thread, any scintilla” of evidence that could show he had any knowledge of it.
“I had no involvement whatsoever with this particular affair - none, zilch, nada, nothing,” Mr O’ O’Mulleoir declared in one of a number of lively if terse exchanges with the current Stormont Committee for Finance chair, DUP MLA Emma Pengelly.
The minister also sought to completely downplay the fact that he was named in the transcript of the Twitter exchanges.
“Whether I am mentioned two times or 200 times I had no knowledge of the communications,” he insisted.
When questioned by the committee on whether he knew if Mr McKay had spoken to him of his contact with Mr Bryson or whether he knew Mr O’Hara, the North’s minister of finance maintained that he was a “blank slate” on the alleged coaching allegations relating to former Nama inquiry.
He also stressed that he had not been coached in relation to his participation in the former Stormont inquiry into the Nama sell off in the North which Mr O’Mulleoir has previously said was a “bad sale that should never have happened”.
“No-one directed me in my evidence - no-one said to me: ‘Jump in here, don’t jump in there.’”
According to Mr Mr O’Mulleoir he has not been stressed over the fact he was referenced in the Twitter exchanges between Mr O’Hara and Mr Bryson and the speculation this has so far generated.
“I am totally relaxed, totally chill-axed about this.
“I am not in any way stressed or concerned about this matter because what I have said has proven to be right,” he told the committee.