Opposition parties call for inquiry into Nama sale of NI portfolio

‘Irish Times’ reports C&AG fears Nama may have lost ‘hundreds of millions’ in asset sale

A commission of inquiry into the sale by the National Assets Management Agency (Nama) of its huge property portfolio in Northern Ireland has been called for by Fianna Fáil, Sinn Féin and the Labour Party.

The calls came in the wake of a report in The Irish Times that the Comptroller and Auditor General (C&AG) has found that the agency may have lost "hundreds of millions of euro" because of the way it handled the sale.

Mary Lou McDonald, of SF, said the Government needs to “face the fact that it cannot run away from this any longer.”

The Government, and Fianna Fáil, had for a long time resisted calls for a full judicial inquiry, she said. The C&AG report should be published, the report should be examined by the Public Accounts Committee (PAC), and an inquiry with full judicial powers should be established.

Speaking on RTÉ radio, she said Minister for Finance, Michael Noonan, should have acted earlier on the Nama sale.

Alan Kelly of Labour, who like deputy McDonald is on the PAC, said the report in The Irish Times, as well as a report last week on BBC Northern Irealnd's Spotlight programme concerning the sale, changed everything.

“This stinks to high heaven by the looks of it,” he said. It was now “inevitable that there will be an inquiry of some sorts.”

Mr Kelly said he had been approached by Nama and offered a briefing prior to the agency’s scheduled appearance before the PAC on September 22nd next.

He didn’t think that was appropriate, refused the suggested meeting, and referred them to the chairman. “I don’t think it was malicious. I think it was another indication of naivety,” he said.

He said he thought primary legislation might be needed in order to allow for a cross-border inquiry into the Nama sale.

It would be “incredible” if politicians north of the Border refused to co-operate in the establishment of such an inquiry. A refusal would “damage the credibility of Northern Ireland politics.”

The Fianna Fáil leader Micheál Martin was quoted in the Sunday Business Post as supporting the establishment of an inquiry, following the report that the C&AG had found there were "irregularities" and "shortcomings" in the so-called "project eagle" sale. "Project Eagle stinks to high heaven at this stage," he said.

PAC committee member Noel Rock, of Fine Gael, speaking on RTÉ, said that if the required answers were not received from Nama when it appeared before the committee later this month, then he "couldn't rule out" an inquiry.

Any public inquiry could be organised in modules so that it didn’t interfere with any criminal inquiries that might be underway in this or other jurisdictions.

The sale by Nama of the Northern Ireland properties to US firm Cerberus for €1.6 billion in 2014 has been the source of enormous controversy.

Independent TD Mick Wallace, who has been highly critical of the agency, has told the Dáil that politicians and business people in the North were to benefit from the deal.