Call for all-Ireland alternative to Nama

An all-Ireland economic summit must be held to find an alternative to the controversial plans to establish a 'bad bank' to handle toxic debt south of the border, Sinn Féin demanded today.

An all-Ireland economic summit must be held to find an alternative to the controversial plans to establish a 'bad bank' to handle toxic debt south of the border, Sinn Féin demanded today.

The existing North South Ministerial Council should be used as a forum to enable governments on either side of the border to examine the National Assets Management Agency (Nama) plan, the party's Jennifer McCann told the Stormont Assembly.

The republicans are fiercely opposed to the Irish administration's proposal to create the agency - which will buy up €77bn worth of borrowings from five banks in the biggest financial rescue package in the history of the state.

Almost €5bn of the bad debt is for property and land in the North.

Ms McCann, who is chair of Stormont's Finance committee, said there would be a potentially catastrophic impact on the northern housing market if Nama decided to release those assets in a quick fire sale.

"Currently there is no agreement on when the finances that will be spent acquiring these loans will be recouped," she said after tabling a motion before the Assembly calling for the summit.

"If this land were to come onto the local market in the next few years there would be significant deflation of current values, leaving many more people in negative equity and having a long term detrimental effect on overall economic recovery plans.

"What we need to see is an all-island economic summit to deal with Nama and its effects island-wide.

"Furthermore it should not be the situation that the two economies, north or south, are acting in isolation. We need to find common practices and close co-operation in future economic planning on an all-Ireland basis."

Finance minister Sammy Wilson said the decision on whether to proceed with Nama was a matter for the Irish Government.

The DUP East Antrim representative said the only input the Stormont administration should have is how the agency's actions would impact north of the border.

He also said he was confident the Irish Government had no intention of triggering a "fire sale".

It would not make economic sense in an already depressed market, he added.

"I don't want to get into a debate about the rights and wrongs of Nama," he said.

"The Irish government has taken a decision that that is the way it is going to manage the banking difficulties which banks based in its jurisdiction have got into.

"That's a decision for the Irish Government and as far as I'm concerned the only input that I wish to have is that if they set up that system then I want to make sure that the issues that effect Northern Ireland are protected through the co-operation which we have on a government to government basis or on a minister to minister."

The minister said he did not feel that the remit of North South Ministerial Council should be extended to look at the issue.

The Sinn Féin motion met with significant opposition within the chamber and was defeated at vote.

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