Fine Gael ministers initially resisted committing to the idea of an investigation into Nama’s Project Eagle during this week’s Cabinet meeting, the Irish Examiner has learnt.
Independent ministers piled pressure on their Fine Gael colleagues to commit to considering a full inquiry in a formal statement, warning the Government otherwise might be “bounced” into one later.
Different Alliance sources have confirmed this, also saying a “door had to be pushed open” to get Enda Kenny and his ministers to commit to more than the report just going to the the Public Accounts Committee.
Another Alliance source said that for the first hour of three-hour Cabinet meeting, Fine Gael resisted suggestions that the Government commit to the idea of an inquiry.
However, another Independent TD, Minister for Children Katherine Zappone, is understood to have backed Alliance ministers Shane Ross and Finian McGrath and their call to scope out an inquiry.
“The case had to be made that it was in the public’s concern to have an inquiry and that there was a public perception that Fine Gael was stalling [over Nama],” said a government source.
“The first hour was just ‘send it to PAC and we will decide next week’. But there was a warning the Government would be bounced into it by the opposition.”
The cave-in by Fine Gael came after Fianna Fáil shifted to supporting an inquiry this week and previous rejections for an independent probe by Mr Noonan and Mr Kenny over the last two years.
Meanwhile, it has also been confirmed that the State’s financial watchdog is investigating other sales by Nama besides Project Eagle.
A memo on behalf of Finance Minister Michael Noonan was presented by Taoiseach Enda Kenny to Cabinet on Wednesday, at which this was mentioned.
The private note described how other transactions are being analysed by the Comptroller & Auditor General, Mr Kenny said yesterday.
The offices of the C&AG has confirmed to the Irish Examiner that other reviews of deals, above and beyond the Project Eagle deal, are to be investigated.
This is despite a standoff between the two agencies. The C&AG in its report this week found there were serious problems with the Project Eagle deal, including a loss of £190m (€223m) for taxpayers. Nama rejects this and said the C&AG did not have staff equipped to look at such loan sales.
Mr Kenny described the finance’s minister memo, saying: “The memo from the finance minister pointed out two things; the C&AG did inform the PAC last year that it was carrying out also an analysis of a number of sales by Nama in some detail ,and also the investments that were made, as distinct from the specific process of project eagle.”
The C&AG had said there were no further deals being evaluated, but an email to the Irish Examiner said a further review was under way, stating: “It is planned that further Nama deals will be examined as part of the Section 226 review, but that work was deferred while the value for examination [on Project Eagle] was being completed.”
Section 226 of Nama’s legislation allows the C&AG carry out a review of operations at the agency every three years. It is expected this analysis could be finished by the end of the year.
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