Northern Ireland deputy First Minister Martin McGuinness has insisted he had “no involvement” in the appointment of businessman Frank Cushnahan to a Nama advisory group linked to Project Eagle.
Mr McGuinness will make the comment today to the Dáil’s public accounts committee, which is examining the financial scandal, in an opening statement in which he will also say Finance Minister Michael Noonan and Nama have clear questions to answer.
As part of its inquiry into the Project Eagle scandal, which involves claims that taxpayers may have lost out on €200m amid alleged corruption, the PAC is questioning key officials linked to the Belfast property sale.
They include Mr McGuinness, who will face questions over his role, if any, in what happened and what level of information politicians in the North had on the Nama deal.
In his opening statement to the PAC this afternoon, a copy of which has been seen by the Irish Examiner, Mr McGuinness will say he was never involved in the appointment of Mr Cushnahan — who had links to firms bidding for the Project Eagle portfolio — to a Nama advisory group connected to the deal.
He will also deny any knowledge of a series of meetings, conference calls, and correspondence — including some sent directly to his own adviser — relating to the sale of Project Eagle to a US vulture fund. He will tell TDs they should focus their attentions on Mr Noonan and Nama officials.
“As far back as 2010, the [Northern Ireland] executive obviously was aware of and supportive of the intent to appoint Northern advisers to the Nama advisory committee, but I had no involvement in the individuals appointed — Brian Rowntree and Frank Cushnahan,” says the statement.
“There was a process in place to take forward the sale. That process was under the stewardship of Nama and the finance minister in the south, not the executive.”
Mr McGuinness will tell the PAC that, despite records indicating his knowledge of aspects of the negotiations with the separate US firms Pimco and Cerberus, he was not aware of the finer details of what was taking place. He will say he learned of a meeting between Northern Ireland former first minister and DUP leader Peter Robinson and US former vice-president Dan Quayle “through the media”.
He will say this includes “meetings and engagements” between the companies, DUP ministers, and Nama officials; Mr Noonan’s meeting with Mr Robinson on September 27, 2013; and Pimco’s May 2013 meeting with Mr Robinson and party colleague Sammy Wilson.
Mr McGuinness will claim he was unaware of a memo outlining the discussions sent to Nama and his own private adviser, Dara O’Hagan, in January 2014 as he only received an unofficial draft which was “not worth the paper it was written on”.
Mr Robinson has claimed he never received a request to attend the PAC inquiry as the DUP did not forward a request to him.
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