Micheál Martin wants Project Eagle investigated

Fianna Fáil leader says a “group of shadowy individuals” stitched up deal on loans

A "group of shadowy individuals was stitching up" a deal on the National Asset Management Agency (Nama) sale of the loans on 800 properties in Northern Ireland, four years before the transaction was completed, it has been claimed.

Fianna Fáil leader Micheál Martin made the allegation in the Dáil as he again called for a commission of investigation into the controversial “Project Eagle” sale to a US investment company, concluded in 2014.

And he said the Minister for Finance should have called "pause" on the sale. Michael Noonan was on record that he wanted to accelerate the sale of the Nama loan book generally, he said.

And “it’s not good enough for Nama to say that everything is okay on its side, but there may have been issues on the side of the purchasers.


“The fundamental point for the Government and Nama to consider is that the entirety of the deal must pass a basic ethics test.” And there was £7.5 million lying in an offshore account that “makes me seriously concerned about whether this deal passes that ethics test”.

Nama executives should attend before the Stormont inquiry and should give evidence publicly, he said.

Taoiseach Enda Kenny said two investigations were already under way including the Stormont committee inquiry and a police investigation, as well as interest from US authorities. Legal systems in the North and South were different and there were legal difficulties for Nama to appear before the committee at Stormont, he said.

The Project Eagle sale was hit by controversy because of allegations that £7.5 million was held in an offshore account for “fixer” fees for the sale.

Mr Martin said a letter was published in the Irish News yesterday which was written by David Watters an accountant, to the firm of solicitors involved in the North, Tughan's, which held the £7.5 million "acquisition fee". He was laying claim to the fee which ultimately to be paid to a vehicle specifically formed for the purpose of the sale, Cadogan Futures LLP, in November 2010.

“It seems a group of shadowy individuals were meeting behind closed doors stitching up this deal as far back as 2010, the ultimate goal being to get it into one bundle, after which people would use contacts to interest investment funds,” Mr Martin said.

Mr Kenny said the issue was being treated very seriously and there were two investigations going on. He hoped the investigations could lead to the truth behind the “finder’s fee”.

But Mr Martin said the Taoiseach knew the Stormont inquiry would not get to the bottom of the issue because the same person who wrote the letter seeking the acquisition fee, told the inquiry he had nothing to do with the Project Eagle transaction.

He said the more that unravelled in relation to the deal the more genuine concern there was out there and he claimed the Government was determined “to try to make this go away”.

The Taoiseach said they wanted full accountability and transparency and Nama was fully committed to responding to any questions from the Stormont inquiry. He said no third party had any influence over Nama’s decision on the sale or was in a position to “confer an unfair competitive advantage on any bidder”.

Marie O'Halloran

Marie O'Halloran

Marie O'Halloran is Parliamentary Correspondent of The Irish Times