Noonan will appear before Public Accounts Committee

Minister for Finance confirms he will give evidence on Nama’s Project Eagle sale

 

Minister for Finance Michael Noonan has confirmed he will appear before the Public Accounts Committee (PAC).

Mr Noonan had been invited by the PAC to give evidence before it on his knowledge of the sale of the Project Eagle portfolio by the National Asset Management Agency (Nama).

In a statement, the Minister said: “I have today decided to accept the invitation of the Committee of Public Accounts to assist the committee in its examination of the C&AG’s special report on the National Asset Management Agency’s sale of Project Eagle.

“I intend to reply by letter to the Committee of Public Accounts to confirm this and to request assurances from the committee that the proceedings of the committee will be conducted in line with its terms of reference.”

Mr Noonan had earlier sought the opinion of fellow Ministers on the matter at the weekly Cabinet meeting.

It is understood there was agreement among the Cabinet that the PAC was not the appropriate forum for Mr Noonan’s evidence and his attendance could set a precedent.

However, several sources confirmed the Minister was urged to give evidence before the committee.

Mr Noonan, who returned to work on Monday after a brief illness, will attend a meeting of the PAC on October 6th.

The committee will meet on Wednesday to discuss the Comptroller and Auditor General’s report into Nama’s sale of its Northern Ireland loan portfolio, which was called Project Eagle.

The report concluded that Nama’s sale of the portfolio to US firm Cerberus in 2014 involved a number of “irregularities” and a loss to the taxpayer of €220 million.

Attendance

Several committee members are expected to insist on Mr Noonan’s attendance at Wednesday’s meeting.

Labour TD and vice-chair of the committee Alan Kelly said it would have been untenable of him to refuse the “modest request” that Mr Noonan appear before the PAC.

He said: “The PAC is entitled to hear from any witness who has material evidence relevant to those issues and Minister Noonan is certainly relevant to these hearings.

“He must tell the PAC about his role, his briefings and all his correspondence on this issue.”

On Tuesday, Taoiseach Enda Kenny also briefed the Cabinet on his meeting with Opposition leaders on the setting up of an inquiry into the Project Eagle sale following the C&AG’s report.

Mr Kenny is expecting written requests on the issue from the party leaders by the end of the week.

However, it is understood there is no appetite to expand the inquiry beyond the sale of Project Eagle.

A Government spokesman said an inquiry into the Project Eagle deal by the PAC would have to be halted if a commission of investigation was to be established.