“…no evidence that any other person was involved, so I am sceptical of this political allegation”

Jamie Delargy on UTV last night gave as sharp and precise a precis of where we are with the Nama story thus far. Two points worth highlighting:

There is no evidence that that money was then destined for any other person. It was under the control of Ian Coulter, it may have been the case that Mr Coulter intended keeping that money, it may have been the case that he was going to pay other people, but we have no evidence that any other person was involved, and so I am sceptical, if you like about this politician allegation.

The truth is that whatever the rumours that have animating some pretty wild press speculation this week, the money trail appears to stop with Coulter.

If there is a further trail the National Crime Agency should be able to get to the bottom of it: one, because they are above the narrow back scratching politics of NI; and two, unlike the PSNI they are equipped to deal complex cases of fraud.

As Jamie notes if it is shocking that Cushnahan was on the NI Advisory committee to NAMA and then switched to advising Tughans/Cereberus, it is NOT of itself illegal or even suggestive of anything amiss.

But it is telling that no one else seemed to know. It’s also worth noting his point that Tughans had interests on both sides of this sale. Is that an acceptable state of affairs?

A couple of additional thoughts. In my book you should always let the data uncover the story. In this case the money is and always has been the thing: not the politician.

In examining the data you look for anomalies.Secret meetings at OFMdFM are not anomalies, they are the norm.

They shouldn’t be, but this is a department which under the DUP and Sinn Fein has taken the attitude that press and citizens don’t need to know anything they’re up to.

Take these valiant attempts to find just who Peter and Martin were meeting on the US jolly trade mission in March 2013. After Martin’s imperious tweet reply to our own Alan Meban, veteran business editor with the Irish News Gary McDonald noted:

In fact, not only were the media not told of the trip in advance but reporters aren’t normally invited on trade missions because of “commercial sensitivities” around participants doing business and having private one-on-one meetings on their trips.

I’ll bet. To this day, all of those meetings remain secret. Private, private, private. None of our business, apparently.

This is an important story, not least because it has taken place at the interface of public and private sector, where too often the former is at the mercy of corporations who wield large wads of capital that exceed normal incomes to a shocking degree.

It needs lots of light and lots of fresh air thrown on it. NCA, yes. But a commission of investigation, as proposed by Micheal Martin this week might go some way to building provenance and greater public understanding of these matters.

That’s one reason why the Open Government agenda is so critical to engage with, not just at the pretty PR edges of government, but closer to the core where and when the really big money gets spent.

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  • chrisjones2

    I agree re the Tughans money. Other reports have suggested that the total success fee paid may have been around £15m. How reliable that is no one knows.

    The bottom line is that as yet there is no evidence of a crime but there must be a reasonable suspicion or credible allegation one assumes before Police and NCA would open an investigation. In any case we shall see in due course. The politics of it all is a different matter

    In the meantime it seems odd that the threatened legal actions haven’t been lodged / injunction sought. Still it is the holidays

  • Sergiogiorgio

    Mick – you seem keen to shift the focus away from the political angle. Any particular reason?

    I agree though that it’s all conjecture until the investigation takes place, though I know what gut is telling me……time for lunch!

  • mickfealty

    Some of it is not subject to conjecture. That’s substantially what I’m talking about. See my remarks about following the data, not pressing the data to follow what you think/hope has happened.

  • Gingray

    Yes Mick, but from the start you, and slugger, have tried to downplay this. Despite that initial position, its good to see you are involved now (Ed albeit still needing to mention Sinn Féin in each …)

    I would imagine that most people do not really care if a crime has taken place or not – but if politicians and their mates are seen to have made money, then voters need to know. Thanks to Mick Wallace this story has broken, hopefully he can get some praise for that on this blog.

  • Ben De Hellenbacque

    You might have to start preparing yourself for disappointment there. If you’re from NI, you might have to firstly prepare yourself for acknowledging that disappointment is not inalienable.
    I for one welcome the exposure that the NCA’s investigation will reveal whatever the outcome.

  • Gingray

    Disappointment in what? Mick being involved in blogging about the story? Mick Wallace getting praise on this blog? Or the truth coming out?

    If its the latter, well the teflonesque qualities of our politicians can never be underestimated, so we shall see. I am hopeful tho that the involvement of the NCA may uncover a variety of dodgy dealings across the board.

  • chrisjones2

    Dodgy isnt always criminal. Dirty, sleazy, greedy perhaps but not always criminal. Some may even say it was just good business

  • Gingray

    I agree completely – none of what is reported as happening appears to be illegal, but it does appear dodgy. It may change very little if it becomes public knowledge, or it may lead to increased voter apathy, or it could lead to a change in party leadership. It will be interesting

  • Sergiogiorgio

    If it is shown a politician was in line to accept a bribe for facilitating the sale then it will be criminal, but bloody hard to prove as the money looks like it sat in the IOM account. Squeaky bums all round!

  • Granni Trixie

    But does it all end at the door of Coulter? He has association with Tughans and Gareth R did some work for them plus GR currently has a ‘room’ passing for an office in their premises (no employees), Gavin R worked for them before he was selected as political candidate. May be coincidence but could suggest a degree of incestuousnes. NI is a small place.You would think therefore that all parties would be careful to leave a proper paper trail to show all is above board and transparent.

  • paulgraham7567

    I can understand the need to downplay this, as it has the potential to cause imaginations to run wild, but there is clearly a story here, beyond 1 potentially “dodgy” solicitor, and an accounting error.

    Given the haste with which the actors have so far responded, and the immediate traction this story has gained, there is certainly a case to answer by ALL involved in the process, and whilst guilt cannot be determined until all the facts are determined, neither can ANY of those involved duck their own responsibility to uncover the facts.

    A lot of people in NI lost out to NAMA, and if ANYONE looked to profit unlawfully on those tragedies they should be held fully accountable.

  • Sergiogiorgio

    I see Robinson has already started to lay some ground work with his interview earlier today. Me thinks the lady protesteth too much…..watch this space.

  • mickfealty

    Gingray, you are only now coming to a view we’ve been taking from the get go. To repeat my advice from above, let the data uncover the story. My scepticism arose from the lack of evidence.

    As for Mick Wallace, I’ve praised him when he’s deserved it. The Garda whistleblowers story was kicked off by him.

    But on this occasion, it was obvious that Mick was not in command of his material before he dumped on the Dail. That’s a good reason to treat the rest of the story with proper scepticism.

    When someone dumps a good story on your lap, the first thing you do is check out the details. If Mick had spent five minutes on the Slugger archives before making that statement he’d have saved himself the embarrassment of dragging Brian Rowntree into this mess.

    As it was, I don’t see any sign that he looked seriously at this material before dumping into the Dail record and sending half the country on what looks likely to turn out to be a wild goose chase. He’s TD for goodness sake. He should know better by now.

    NOw, if you have an argument with any of that, please be my guest. But can you do us all a favour and cut the man playing guff, and play the ball!

  • Gingray

    “Gingray, you are only now coming to a view we’ve been taking from the get go.”

    Lol, well that does not tally with the initial posts you placed on slugger, but we can move on from that sure. As I have said from the start, there was something to see here, even if it was apparent some editors on Slugger seem very eager to dismiss this story.

    In the comment I am replying to, we see more attempts to suggest this is a wild goose chase – is it really tho? Micks main thrust was that a politician had benefitted from the NAMA sale of the Northern portfolio, and there was something rotten about the whole affair.

    He has not been proven wrong on the former, and well, the NCA involvment and subsequent information has more than vindicated the stance taken by Wallace.

    Its also come to light that many of our journalists had heard the same rumours Mick had. But did nothing. Had you?

  • chrisjones2

    http://www.independent.ie/irish-news/news/nama-debtors-helped-uncover-7m-payment-31368628.html

    By the way the lyrics of this are potentially just so right for this issue

  • mickfealty

    Not until Mick made his disclosures in the Dail. I hear a lot of things about a lot of people. Most of it is unpublishable, either because I only have a single unattributable source, or because I suspect it’s a political play.

    One senior journo told me early on in my time on Slugger that you should always be wary of carrying water for people who are unwilling to go on the record, and to illustrate the point cited a situation where he’d been briefed by someone senior inside the DUP that there was a heave on against Paisley and that my friend should say so in his output.

    He declined the offer saying that if he did what the source suggested that the source would be one of the first out of the box telling the world it was nonsense. Power works in obtuse ways. If you don’t have an independent track on a story (and that requires the possession of intractable and therefore checkable facts), then you are better treating it as dirty data.

    That is not the same as attacking the story, or defending the person under attack. There’s a lot vicarious story writing goes on in NI. I try not to get caught on that hook as far as it is possible to do so.

  • chrisjones2

    “You would think therefore that all parties would be careful to leave a proper paper trail to show all is above board and transparent.”

    ……… yeah!!!

  • Peter

    Yet Cameron invites both the press and half the British chambers of commerce on his investment jaunts to India and China… No commercial sensitivity issues whatsoever…

  • chrisjones2

    …and all done in the open and not under a rock and where, so far as we know, none of his associates / friends / public appointees were paid large fees