So, the whole of the #SluggerReport from this morning below… It’s a good show this morning, in which I try to deal with two separate issues. One, the material case as presented by Jamie Bryson to the committee and two, the witness evidence presented by the deputy First Minister…
Firstly, confirmation from the dFM that he and the First Minister had no material role in making appointments to the Northern Ireland advisory committee of NAMA. This is important to the wider provenance of the story as you’ll see if you watch the #SluggerReport:
Mr D Bradley:Maybe it would be too strong to say that you had the wool pulled over your eyes, but you certainly were, according to your evidence, kept in the dark about these issues. Would that be a fair assessment?
Mr M McGuinness: I had no knowledge of the meetings. If I was not being told that the meetings were taking place, I was certainly kept in the dark.
Mr D Bradley: What are the implications of that for the relationship between you and the First Minister?
Mr M McGuinness: It raises very serious questions about the approach to the running of the Office of the First Minister and deputy First Minister. One of the difficulties that we have in the running of the Office of the First Minister and deputy First Minister is that it is possible for a Department under the stewardship of the DUP to deal with an issue and for the First Minister to be present, but it is very important to state that, when he is there without my knowledge, he is not there as First Minister of these institutions; he is there as leader of the DUP.
Mr Wells: I just wanted to establish the fact that this is a former MLA that we are dealing with, someone with considerable legal nous and understanding. I have before me an email from David McCreedy of OFMDFM to Dara O’Hagan dated 19 December 2013. Are you aware of that memo?
Mr M McGuinness: No.
Mr Wells: That email states, “NAMA document, as discussed”. It refers to a memorandum of understanding dated December 2013 from BRAVO Strategies, and, of course, we know who BRAVO Strategies are. I have in my hand the document that was attached to that email to Dara O’Hagan. Are you telling me that Dara O’Hagan did not make you aware of the existence of that memorandum of understanding?
Mr M McGuinness: I do not know the veracity of what you are saying, but, working on the basis of what you are saying, if Dara O’Hagan judged, as a senior adviser in the Office of the First Minister and deputy First Minister, that I should not be involved in that, it would not have come to me.
Mr Wells: An issue that she expressed concern about.
Mr M McGuinness: Yes.
Mr Wells: An issue that she knew was — we are talking about a £1·25 billion transaction here; £5 billion-worth of assets. It is the largest property holder in Europe.
Mr M McGuinness: Yes.
Mr Wells: A company that holds a high percentage of all the property in Northern Ireland. Are you saying that Dara O’Hagan, a former MLA and a senior adviser, decided that it was not for your attention?
Mr M McGuinness: If she thought that she was sufficiently concerned that this was something that I, as deputy First Minister, should not be associated with, it was perfectly legitimate for her to do that. I would advise her to do that all the time, which you, as a former Health Minister, would know.
Mr Wells: I can assure you that, if any of the SpAds in the Health Department had failed to provide me with details of a document involving £5 billion, heads would have rolled. We are talking about £5 billion of assets in Northern Ireland, and you say that that was never passed to you and you have no knowledge of it.
Mr M McGuinness: I have absolutely no knowledge of it, other than what I have learned since, which is that it was sent from one side of OFMDFM to Dublin without my consent and that of my principal private secretary. Look at it another way: you would think that, if people thought that that was something that we should sign up for, they would have come to me at a very senior level. That is to say that the First Minister would have come to me and said, “There is a memorandum of understanding that I want to send to Dublin, and I want you to agree with it”. It never happened.
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