“…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.

Mick is founding editor of Slugger. He has written papers on the impacts of the Internet on politics and the wider media and is a regular guest and speaking events across Ireland, the UK and Europe. Twitter: @MickFealty

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