Arlene Foster says Máirtín Ó Muilleoir should step aside

DUP also asks PSNI to examine claims Daithí McKay involved in conspiracy to damage Peter Robinson

Northern Ireland First Minister Arlene Foster said Sinn Féin Minister of Finance Máirtín Ó Muilleoir should have stepped aside due to the latest Nama disclosures.

Ms Foster, on her first day back from her summer holidays, said the DUP has asked the Police Service of Northern Ireland (PSNI) to investigate allegations that former Sinn Féin Assembly member Daithí McKay was involved in a conspiracy with loyalist blogger Jamie Bryson to damage former DUP leader and first minister, Peter Robinson.

“It is apparent that there was a most disgraceful attempt to impugn and discredit my then party leader Peter Robinson,” Ms Foster told BBC Radio Ulster following the allegations that Mr McKay helped “coach” Mr Bryson.

Ms Foster said if evidence comes forward that Mr Ó Muilleoir was implicated in the alleged collusion against Mr Robinson then his position would be “entirely untenable”.


Mr Ó Muilleoir is mentioned in one of a number of Twitter posts that prompted the “coaching” allegation against Mr McKay and another Sinn Féin member, Thomas O’Hara.

“I believe, probably on balance, it would be to the benefit of the institutions if he had stepped aside even temporarily,” Ms Foster said on Friday. “But Sinn Féin has decided he is to remain in place.”

Last September, Mr Bryson claimed at the Stormont finance committee, which Mr McKay then chaired, that Mr Robinson was to financially gain from the £1.2 billion sale of Nama's Northern Ireland property portfolio to US investment company Cerberus. Mr Robinson said this claim was "scurrilous and unfounded".

Ms Foster said if evidence comes forward that Mr Ó Muilleoir was implicated in the alleged collusion against Mr Robinson then his position would be “entirely untenable”.

She indicated that for the moment, the issue was unlikely to interfere with the DUP-Sinn Féin powersharing Northern Executive.

While she felt Mr Ó Muilleoir should stand down, she said “that is not my call, he is not my minister, and Sinn Féin have decided otherwise and that probably is an end to the matter”.

Asked if the controversy would damage trust with Sinn Féin, Ms Foster repeated what she said when she succeed Mr Robinson as First Minister in January, “I trust Sinn Féin to always be Irish republicans, and that hasn’t changed. I will continue to be alert on behalf of the people of Northern Ireland.”

Ms Foster also criticised Mr Bryson for allegedly allowing himself to be “coached” by Mr McKay on how he could make the claims against Mr Robinson at the finance committee last year.

She said, “People will not understand how someone who purports to be a so-called loyalist could collude in such a way with a member of Sinn Féin to try and bring down my former party leader, Peter Robinson, a man of huge integrity, a man who always had the best interests of Northern Ireland at heart. It seems your enemy’s enemy is your friend.”

Ms Foster said that as a result of the alleged attempt to damage Mr Robinson there was also “an attempt to destabilise the DUP and also ultimately to destabilise the institutions at Stormont”.

Ms Foster said Mr McKay did the right thing in resigning as an Assembly member whether it was “falling on his sword or told to do so by his party”.

Ms Foster did not say directly whether she believed Mr McKay was involved in a “solo run” and that no other Sinn Féin Assembly member was implicated, as senior Sinn Féin figures have insisted. “The (Stormont Commissioner of Standards) investigation must be allowed to go forward by the Assembly and indeed by the police service as well,” she said.

After Mr McKay resigned as an MLA and was suspended from Sinn Féin the focus turned to the Minister of Finance Mr Ó Muilleoir, who was a member of the finance committee which Mr McKay chaired.

In one direct message Twitter from Mr O’Hara to Mr Bryson, Mr O’Hara said: “I’m trying to establish what Máirtín or someone could jump on and say there’s no way we can turn him ( Bryson) away (from giving his evidence to the finance committee), this is credible, relevant and in the public interest.”

This prompted the DUP, Ulster Unionist Party, SDLP, Alliance, Green and Traditional Unionist Voice Party politicians to call on Mr Ó Muilleoir to stand aside as Minister.

The Minister, with the strong support of Sinn Féin Deputy First Minister Martin McGuinness insisted he had done nothing wrong and refused to temporarily step down.

Gerry Moriarty

Gerry Moriarty

Gerry Moriarty is the former Northern editor of The Irish Times