‘Growing consensus’ for Nama probe

Political parties have agreed the need for a statutory inquiry to be set up into Nama and Project Eagle but disagree on whether other deals should be probed.

‘Growing consensus’ for Nama probe

Taoiseach Enda Kenny met opposition TDs yesterday after which it was agreed proposed terms on an inquiry or commission of investigation would be submitted by the end of next week.

A spokesman for Mr Kenny said there had been a growing consensus among all present on the need for an inquiry, following a critical report by the State’s financial watchdog this week.

The Comptroller & Auditor General found potential conflicts of interest were not assessed sufficiently and that taxpayers suffered a loss of £190m from the Northern Ireland loan book sale.

Mr Kenny yesterday met with Green Party leader Eamon Ryan, Independent TD Catherine Connolly, Labour leader Brendan Howlin, Sinn Féin’s Pearse Doherty, and Fianna Fáil leader Michael Martin.

Mr Martin said an inquiry could potentially be split into modules. Terms for one and a chairperson needed to be decided quick, potentially before the budget, he said.

It was possible other deals or asset sales by Nama should be examined or “warranted” attention, said Mr Martin. The issue of success fees, the potential conflict of interest, and how the sales process differed from other deals all needed to be investigated, he said.

He also said it seemed the process of Nama selling its assets had been “over accelerated” and this needed to be investigated. This claim follows suggestions there was political pressure on the agency to wrap up its work.

Mr Kenny, asked about this yesterday, said: “In general the longer you leave an entity like Nama in situ [and the longer] you leave it with bad debts, the less time it has to reduce the overall debt for the taxpayer. In the context of accelerating that, obviously Nama is ahead of schedule and they expect to return a surplus of profit for the taxpayer in line with their remit.”

Mr Martin also agreed that Finance Minister Michael Noonan had questions to answer and this would likely form part of any inquiry.

Regarding concerns that an inquiry’s power’s may be limited, he pointed to the successful completion of the Oireachtas banking inquiry. There was also an acknowledgement that there may be difficulties compelling witnesses from the North to give evidence, added Mr Martin.

However, he said he had doubts about co-operation working North and South for a Project Eagle inquiry. This has been suggested by the Public Accounts Committee and Labour also put forward this idea last night.

Mr Howlin wrote to TDs outlining how the SDLP in the North supporting such a move. There was existing legislation which allowed for a cross-border inquiry, he said. Labour has also drafted legislation which could be used for a cross-border probe into Project Eagle, he wrote.

“The purpose of this bill is to provide for the establishment of commissions of investigation jointly with the competent authorities in Northern Ireland.

“It will be necessary for comparable legislation to be enacted in Northern Ireland, and I understand from my discussions with the SDLP that they will make complimentary proposals in Belfast and London.”

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