The Democratic Unionist Party (DUP) has called for a PSNI and Stormont investigation into allegations that a senior Sinn Féin Assembly member coached a loyalist blogger to make allegations of financial impropriety against Peter Robinson.
The DUP Minister of Education, Peter Weir, issued his demand after Sinn Féin MLA Daithí McKay stood down as an Assembly member and was suspended from the party. This followed allegations that he colluded with loyalist blogger and former flags protester Jamie Bryson to try to damage former DUP leader and first minister Peter Robinson.
Against allegations Sinn Féin was involved in a wider party conspiracy against Mr Robinson, Deputy First Minister Martin McGuinness yesterday insisted his party had no knowledge of the alleged contact between Mr McKay and Mr Bryson.
It was claimed Mr Bryson was coached with the assistance of Mr McKay and another Sinn Féin member on how to make public allegations, under the protection of Stormont privilege, that Mr Robinson financially gained from the sale of the Nama properties in the £1.2 billion deal known as Project Eagle.
Mr McKay was then chairman of the Stormont finance committee which was hearing evidence relating to Nama and allegations a “kickback” payout of £7 million was to be shared with some business and legal people and politicians.
At the time, Mr Robinson said Mr Bryson’s claims were “scurrilous and unfounded” and the loyalist blogger delivered a “scripted performance that was little short of pantomime”. In the wake of the claims, Mr McKay was interviewed yesterday morning by senior Sinn Féin members, according to the party.
Yesterday afternoon, Sinn Féin chief whip Carál Ní Chuilín issued a statement, saying: “Daithí McKay has resigned as MLA for North Antrim with immediate effect and has been suspended from Sinn Féin.”
Mr McKay denied his intention was to coach Mr Bryson but “wholeheartedly” apologised for his “inappropriate, ill-advised and wrong” action. Sinn Féin sources said Mr McKay had engaged in a “solo run” in allegedly “coaching” Mr Bryson.
Several politicians such as the DUP's Sammy Wilson, Ulster Unionist Party leader Mike Nesbitt, SDLP leader Colum Eastwood and former Alliance minister Dr Stephen Farry rejected these comments, stating that such was the internal discipline in Sinn Féin that no MLA would dare engage in such unilateral action.
Mr McGuinness, however, insisted the party leadership had no knowledge of the contact with Mr Bryson. “I want to state categorically that I had absolutely no knowledge of this exchange or contact,” he said.
He was also adamant no other Sinn Féin MLA was implicated. “Having spoken to all relevant personnel in the Assembly I am now entirely satisfied that Sinn Féin had no knowledge of any such contact,” he said.
The Irish News and BBC Radio Ulster's Stephen Nolan Show reported Mr McKay exchanged direct personal messages on Twitter in the period before Mr Bryson gave evidence to the Stormont finance committee in September last year about the Nama issue.
They reported the MLA advised Mr Bryson to follow a separate Twitter account of a Sinn Féin member and adviser. This Twitter account holder advised Mr Bryson on how to make the allegations against Mr Robinson, it is alleged.
Mr Bryson in his evidence referred to a “Person A” as benefiting from the Nama sale and only at the end of his evidence he said “Person A” was Mr Robinson.After this allegation was made last September, Mr Robinson said he “neither received, expected to receive, sought, nor was I offered a single penny as a result of the Nama sale”.