Noonan will consider appearing before PAC over Nama issue

Minister for Finance under pressure to give evidence in Project Eagle loan sale controversy

Tánaiste Frances Fitzgerald: she said Noonan should appear before the PAC only “if there is a real need to give information that only Michael can provide”.

Tánaiste Frances Fitzgerald: she said Noonan should appear before the PAC only “if there is a real need to give information that only Michael can provide”.

 

Government Ministers have played down the prospect of the Minister for Finance appearing before the Dáil’s Public Accounts Committee (PAC) to give evidence about the Project Eagle controversy.

Michael Noonan, who returned to work yesterday after a brief illness, is under political pressure to give evidence to the PAC on his knowledge of the sale of the Project Eagle loans portfolio by Nama, the National Asset Management Agency.

Nama sold the loans, which related to Northern Ireland properties, to a US investment fund, Cerberus, for £1.24 billion (€1.6 billion).

The deal has been dogged by controversy over the price and aspects of the sale.

The Comptroller and Auditor General, in a report published last week, said the sale resulted in a probable loss to the taxpayer of more than €200 million because Nama offered too large a discount to the buyer. Nama has strenuously disputed these findings.

Fianna Fáil and Sinn Féin have insisted that Mr Noonan must make himself available to the PAC.

In a statement, Mr Noonan said he would consider the invitation to appear before the committee and make a decision in due course.

The right reason

Frances Fitzgerald

“It can’t be for a kind of political posturing. It has to be if there is a real need to give information that only Michael can provide, but it has to be done for the right reason,” Ms Fitzgerald said during a visit to the United Nations General Assembly.

“I personally think there isn’t a precedent there for it,” she added. “Let’s consider when you break precedent, you have to consider it very carefully if it is the right thing to do from every point of view.”

Seán Fleming, chairman of the PAC, said Mr Noonan’s evidence was key to the committee’s investigation into the sale of the Northern Ireland loan portfolio.

“There are letters bearing his name, there are phone calls he was personally involved [in] with people from Nama,” the Fianna Fáil TD said. “He involved himself in the process and he is a link in the chain.”

Sinn Féin deputy leader Mary Lou McDonald said it appeared the Government would resist her call for Mr Noonan to make himself accountable before the PAC.

“This is unacceptable,” she said. “Refusal by Minister Noonan to appear before the PAC would render his position untenable.”

Brexit concerns

“The US treasury have been so clear about this kind of invasion into a country’s tax policy that I think that anything that potentially harms our reputation, of course I am concerned about,” she said.

“But my experience of meeting investors . . . what they have been saying to me in fact – particularly if you take the financial services – they are saying that we should be even more ambitious.”