Noonan seeks to block PAC criticisms

Finance Minister Michael Noonan has been accused of attempting to “influence or muzzle” a Public Accounts Committee investigation into the Project Eagle controversy after demanding negative findings against him are removed.

Noonan seeks to block PAC criticisms

The Dáil’s Public Accounts Committee discussed the issue last night as Taoiseach Enda Kenny was separately unable to explain why a promised €10m in funds for a commission of inquiry into the scandal is not in his department’s revised budget.

In recent days, leaked copies of the PAC’s draft report into the Project Eagle controversy revealed a series of damning findings against Mr Noonan, the Department of Finance and Nama.

Specifically, the report into the €1.6 billion sale of Nama’s Northern Ireland property portfolio to US firm Cerberus has concluded, among other matters, that:

  • It was “not appropriate” for Finance Minister Michael Noonan, Department of Finance officials, and Nama to meet with senior Cerberus representatives in the days before the sale, as it “gave the perception Cerberus was benefiting from special treatment”.
  • The Project Eagle deal was “marked by poor record keeping, deficiencies in relation to the management of conflicts of interest, a flawed sales process and an inability by Nama to demonstrate value for money”.
  • The C&AG’s initial finding that the deal cost the taxpayer up to €220m during the economic crisis was “evidence-based, balanced and reasonable”.
  • Despite opposition claims, the Troika pressurised Government and as a result Nama to sell the Northern Ireland property portfolio quickly due to Ireland’s national debt, this was “general”.

In a letter to the PAC late on Wednesday night, Mr Noonan expressed his “great concern” at the draft findings against him, insisting they should be removed.

He said he “refutes absolutely the validity of any such purported conclusions”, sought a right of reply and “strongly requests” his criticism is taken on board.

Fianna Fáil TD Marc Mac Sharry wrote directly to committee colleagues to say it is “troubling” Mr Noonan “would seek to influence or muzzle the PAC”.

Mr Noonan earlier this month provoked committee anger by saying an inquiry may not be needed.

A Department of Finance official later denied he was “rowing back” on the inquiry, and simply meant a decision must wait until the PAC report is published.

Meanwhile, Taoiseach Enda Kenny was yesterday unable to explain why a promised ring-fenced €10m in funds for a commission of inquiry into the scandal is not in his Department’s revised budget.

Asked at the finance committee about why the money “isn’t there” in a section on the cost of commission of inquiries by Sinn Féin finance spokesperson Pearse Doherty, Mr Kenny said he could not immediately explain the situation.

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