Daithi McKay led a Stormont probe into Northern Ireland’s largest ever property sale. He was accused in the media of getting in touch with Co Down blogger Mr Bryson as he prepared to name former DUP leader Peter Robinson during a finance committee inquiry into the deal.
The then first minister strongly denied that he had sought to benefit in any way from the agreement involving US investors and Nama, the bank used for bad property debts. Sinn Féin Stormont chief whip Caral Ní Chuilin said: “Daithi McKay has resigned as MLA for North Antrim with immediate effect and has been suspended from Sinn Féin.”
The Irish News reported what it said were leaked messages between Mr Bryson and Sinn Féin Twitter users including Mr McKay. Sinn Féin leader Martin McGuinness has denied any knowledge of the matter.
The deal two years ago by Ireland’s National Assets Management Agency (Nama) with US investment giant Cerberus involving the £1.2bn (€1.39bn) sale of a Northern Ireland property loan portfolio has been dogged by controversy after £7m linked to it was found in an Isle of Man bank account.
Critics have claimed the arrangement included multimillion-pound fixer fees. None of the Twitter messages indicated that Nama-related information came to Mr Bryson from Sinn Féin and the party has said its aim was to get to the truth of the £1.2bn sale of Northern Ireland properties by Nama. Mr Bryson, for his part, has dismissed claims that he was advised as absurd.
The Irish News reported t Mr McKay was in contact with Mr Bryson via social media in the weeks before the high-profile hearing last year and that he then referred him on to another Sinn Fein member.
DUP peer Maurice Morrow said: “As chairman of the Democratic Unionist Party (DUP) I will also be referring the matter to the PSNI for investigation.”
On Thursday, in response to the revelations, Mr Bryson tweeted: “The evidence provided to the Department of Finance and Personnel (DFP) committee was not, in any shape or form, influenced or sourced from any member of Sinn Féin.”
He said it was: “Absurd to suggest I was coached by Sinn Féin. If, as is alleged, Sinn Féin were manipulated into assisting my passage to DFP that’s a matter for them.”
All parties involved in the £1.2bn transaction in 2014 have denied wrongdoing. Nama was established at the height of the financial crisis to take property-linked loans off the books of bailed-out banks. It sold 800 property loans to Cerberus, a multi-billion fund which boasts former US vice president Dan Quayle in its ranks.
The £7m was paid into an account controlled by a former managing partner of Belfast-based law firm Tughans Ian Coulter, who resigned after it was unearthed. Tughans, which was involved in the Nama transaction as subcontractor for Cerberus’s US lawyers, Brown Rudnick, said it was not aware of the transfer.