Stonewalling adds to suspicion on NI deal

THERE are fewer more experienced campaigners in the Dáil than Finance Minister Michael Noonan, so his reticence on the Project Eagle deal, where US company Cerberus paid just under €1.6bn for Nama’s North of Ireland portfolio, is pretty hard to understand.

Stonewalling adds to suspicion on NI deal

Mr Noonan must know that his coyness, and that’s a very kind use of vocabulary, will only darken the cloud of suspicion hanging over the deal.

His continued refusal to engage on the issue, and the inconclusive eight-month inquiry by Stormont’s Finance Committee, can only provoke more suspicion — just like the stalled Siteserv inquiry does.

The Stormont committee struggled to reach conclusions because so many key witnesses, especially Frank Cushnahan, once a Nama adviser and possible beneficiary of a large fee — estimated at £5m — as a result of the sale, refused to testify before it.

Nama did not offer evidence to the NI hearing either, nor was it pressed by Mr Noonan to do so.

That inquiry criticised Mr Noonan for not intervening in the sale when he was made aware, via Pimco, once a potential purchaser that later withdrew from the race, that they were very concerned by the scale of fees involved in the deal.

Irish taxpayers have considerble skin in this cloudy game, so more openness from Mr Noonan is required.

After all, how can a government advocate transparency when one of its linchpin ministers stonewalls on such a sensitive question?

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