#StormontUncut: What really went down yesterday in Stormont’s Nama ‘inquiry’…

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…

So, two excerpts from the Hansard report (You can watch Wells’ whole interrogation from here).

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.
And secondly, an interesting and layered revelation of just how Martin came to know nothing about about one of the biggest single property transactions (ie, half the value of the estimated annual subvention from Whitehall to Stormont) in Northern Ireland’s history:

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 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 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 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.

Mr Wells: I put it to you, deputy First Minister, that, in fact, that document was discussed with you before it was sent to Ms O’Hagan.

  • Granni Trixie

    Mick
    The most important focus for my money (money,geddit? ) ought to be on the question of was there evidence of lack of transparency and openness – this gets us away from questions concerning solely allegations of financial impropriety for it is obvious that cover up has to include not just one politician but several plus civil servants.

    I also think the Stormont Committee itself has questions to answer in view of obvious conflict of interest of its members Who appear defensive rather than truth seeking.
    The worst outcome is if we the public are softened up to tolerate the intolerable.

  • the rich get richer

    McGuinness does not come out of this looking too well.

    Is/was the First Minister running rings around him. McGuinness/SinnFein will have to up their game big time if Stormont survives.

    I personally think that something financially dodgy was going on but will we ever get to the truth.

    Unless Sinn Fein are being so clever as to let “Some dodgy People” hang themselves then they don’t look very good operators on this.

  • Cosmo

    Hasn’t the general carve-up policy in top office just been?? – “we let you have your Green Pastures etc etc , and you let us have our Armagh/N Bank pensions etc etc

  • mickfealty

    Yes. You should focus on the money. But not just the money, the money trail. And we know exactly where the money trail goes. It goes to a bank account in the IoM and then it comes back to Tughans. That’s it.

    There’s nothing else to see (unless someone comes up with a piece of evidence that no one has actually mentioned yet). For my money, the Committee has utterly disgraced itself here.

    One, by demonstrating that it has no clue of the substantive matters being discussed, and two by letting a man who has zero material evidence to offer name five people.

    If Jamie gets fried for this idiocy, the committee should have to answer for it.

  • Gingray

    Why is going to fry Jamie?

  • barnshee

    Nobody Jamie has sfa a straw man with no assets no action could be imposed

  • mickfealty

    If someone named reckons its worth saving their reputation through the courts, he could get fried…

  • murdockp

    Are these people discussing better healhcare, creating jobs, etc . No

  • the rich get richer

    Does Jamie even have a Frying Pan.

  • Zeno

    “McGuinness does not come out of this looking too well.”

    Nobody did, but it was interesting that Wells was prepped for his claim that he was kept in the dark when it turned out that his own SPAD was the guilty party. That was funny.

  • David Crookes

    But when you are at pains to defend yourself against damaging allegations, the assets of the allegator are worse than trivial. You want to demonstrate your own rectitude, not to win lots of money. In the present case, if JB’s allegations are proved in court to be slanderously untrue, and if he is unable to pay a financial penalty for his slander, he may be imprisoned.

    Unless….. Don’t rule out the possibility of a great emotional fund-raising drive to pay the substantial fine that a court may impose on JB. That trick has been played by a politician in the past.

    I wonder who will be defending JB if the case comes to court. What JB did yesterday should not be construed as a reckless act of idiocy.

  • Cosmo

    “Who are these allo-gaters?”
    J McQuade.
    ….a classic quote in NI rich history of malopropisms

  • Cosmo

    There’s a wider question of NAMA management in Ireland, and of course SF will want to distance itself from that, while in election- mode.

  • David Crookes

    That great line was in my head, Cosmo, but ‘allegator’ is in the OED.

  • chrisjones2

    but the alligator could then seek disclosure and subpoena witnesses to produce documents

    Would everyone be happy with that?

  • What I see in much of the discussion around is the reluctance on the part of some people to accept that a working class Loyalist lad could have the goods on some establishment types. How dare the wee slabber! Doesn’t he know his place?

  • Sliothar

    Is there no parliamentary or court privilege built into this enquiry – or parliamentary enquiries in general? I was under the impression that, under these circumstances, there was an absolute right to say whatever you wished with no threat of prosecution.

  • Gingray

    Oh right. To my knowledge Peter Robinson and/or his party have threatened legal action at least 5 times this year with no follow through.

    Indeed, a legal case would take years to work its way through the courts, so I am unsure why you would be putting out the DUP line here?

    For a second close your eyes Mick and imagine that someone was making unfounded accusations against a politician. Not imagine that politician was Gerry Adams.

    Surely you would be all over this? Past actions back that up

  • Simian Droog

    Amazing. Glance at this page and you’d think it was McGuinness expecting the (alleged) massive bung, not Robinson.

  • Granni Trixie

    There is where we differ Mick, it’s not all about money so much as being open to evidence to where it exists which leaves one open to evidence more broadly based than PR and coverup.
    I started off thinking of Jamie as a joke but I have changed.

  • 23×7

    Since when did lawyers and politicians create anything. Most are bottom feeders really.

  • mickfealty

    What evidence??? If there is criminality involved we have the NCA and the US DoJ on this. Thus far there is nothing here but air. And a lot of very bad politics…

  • Tochais Siorai

    Who’s supplying him with the ‘goods’ and why?

  • gendjinn

    Don’t be so pessimistic, if the DoJ can deal with Sepp Blatter (Douglas Adams is kicking himself he wasn’t a character in HHGTTG) then the NAMA scandal players are small potatoes.

    I would no be in the least bit surprised if this investigation reaches it’s noisy crescendo in about 12 months.

  • no-one is coming out of this looking too well.

  • mickfealty

    Just shows what happens when you bother to read the detail…

  • Nevin

    David, you may have missed Martin’s, “You are obviously turning a blind eye to what I am saying” and in a tetchy moment with Jim Wells, “Do not act the smart alec”.

  • Granni Trixie

    I’m not inclined to be on SFside but really this case seems solidly to point at DUP. Note I do not point to one person but if true has to be several.

  • David Crookes

    Bless you, Nevin, many thanks! I had indeed.

  • Devil Eire

    What evidence???

    Someone once said that “Evidence is what you need to be certain of getting a safe conviction. You don’t need that to form an intelligent view of what was is most likely to have happened.”

    Quite.

  • Gopher

    When does Miss O’Hagan get called to the commitee?

  • Mountjoy

    Curiously Mick only Mick Wallace has been menaced with Paul Tweed and as coincidence would have it, shortly before Jamie Bryson’s appearance before the committee. It says something about his strength of conviction that he has effectively shown Johnstones the middle finger by reiterating his allegations and upped the original ‘success fee’ from £7m to £45m. I doubt if Bryson will find himself fried, primarily because it would expose Robinson further to the public exposure his private meeting with Cerberus indicates he wanted to avoid and to which Bryson displays no fear. Moreover there is that old dictum about the inability to remove knickers from a bare arse.

  • Cosmo

    Cushy, what ‘work’ does he do, actually?
    The truth is, not many of us are up to reading complicated company accounts, and busting corporate conspiracies. Which is why the Financial Industry has us ordinary folk bamboozled and defrauded.

  • Jag

    According to Jim Wells (DUP), on 19th December 2013, David McCreedy (whose title isn’t immediately clear, but according to Jim, he works for the OFMDFM, and according to gift records, he seems to accompany the First Minister to functions, so I assume he’s one of Peter Robinson’s assistants) sent an email to Dara O’Hagan (whose title isn’t immediately clear either, but according to Jim, he’s a senior adviser for the OFMDFM and the tenor of Jim’s questioning is that he’s an assistant to Martin McGuinness) enclosing a draft memorandum of understanding that was to be imposed on any purchaser of NAMA’s Project Eagle.

    Martin McGuinness’s position was that he was kept in the dark and he previously said he wasn’t aware of this Memorandum of Understanding, which was ultimately sent by Peter Robinson (or his assistant) to the Irish government/NAMA in January 2014. Furthermore, Martin says that after an exhaustive search for a paper trail in support of PR’s contention that MMG had been informed or kept in the loop on the NAMA sale, MMG had found no such paper trail.

    This isn’t rocket science. If there was an email on 19th December, 2013, then it’s an electronic communication. The sender will have a copy (I told you this is not rocket science), and that copy (assuming it exists in the first place) can be put to MMG and MMG can be challenged about (a) his “exhaustive search” and (b) his position that he was kept in the dark.

    Presumably, as soon as MMG got back to the office on Wednesday, he asked Dara – “Dara, did you receive an email on 19th Dec 2013 from David McCreedy, and if you did, did it attach a draft memorandum of understanding”. And if Dara says “yes”, then MMG should be asking why the “exhaustive search” didn’t throw this up. And if the answer is “yes”, MMG should possibly consider an apology to Peter Robinson.

  • Cosmo

    My prediction is that after long investigation (at cost to the Public purse and giving a lot of lucrative work to lawyers), we will be told the juicy £7m/£45million/whatever ‘fixer’ fees will be categorised as fully TECHNICALLY LEGAL under the rules of NAMA, as it was set up.

    The scandal is really how well paid these homegrown ‘experts’ and ‘professionals’ and ‘local social and political advisors’ actually believe they are worth in the feeding frenzy of big bucks a la NAMA sell-off. Which the taxpayer and their descendants have to under-write.

  • Cosmo

    In (cynical) PR/Media terms – the first story angle which goes out, is often the one that sticks in most of the public mind for a long, long time – until the next election perhaps. (Remember the first police statement about the Brazilian, they shot in the Underground.)
    Oh, and I am sure it is very difficult to prove someone is rewarded to ‘look away’.

  • Sharpie

    Why is it not possible to appoint a forensic accountant to follow the money trail and then from that evidence try to backfill the motivations and backroom chats and deals. It has to start and end with the money. Maybe this is being done by NCA?

  • Niall Chapman

    Clearly something dodgy has happened in terms of the £7 million IoM transfer, but has everyone forgotten about the original monumental blunder of selling a portfolio worth at least £4 billion for £1.4billion, questions need to be asked as to how this was allowed to occur

  • Pigeon Toes

    Mick, surely there are questions to answer regarding the appointment of individuals to the NAMA Ni advisory committee, and how their appointments were arrived at?
    These same individuals have previously had high-profile and sometimes controversial other appointments.
    Lets also not forget that those involved in the NI Water (and other similar controversies) also offered to give testimony to committees, without success and despite public calls from the Auditor General at the time….
    No public release of total submissions from witnesses there
    http://www.newsletter.co.uk/news/northern-ireland-news/appeal-in-ferry-contract-probe-1-1873891

  • Pigeon Toes

    And they had the “Direct Links” now required ;0 http://www.newsletter.co.uk/news/northern-ireland-news/probe-into-tendering-contract-of-ferry-run-1-1871111
    Apparently there was no “smoking gun” there either…. However, there was also none in the NIW story either.. The fact that Declan Gormley had the wherewithal to sue does not damn those, nor undermine the veracity of allegations of those who didn’t. (have the same monetary/social standing to sue)

    It wasn’t tested by ANY Committee

  • Simian Droog

    If you say so Mick, I just seem to be reading between the lines here and I would hardly call this site balanced. It’s amazing how much (NI) content is focused on the SDLP, Sinn Fein, Labour (since Corbyn) and rarely if ever in a positive frame. But then I arrived here under the impression that this site was supposed to be an attempt at a relatively impartial view of politics on this Isle. Tell me where I went wrong?

  • SeaanUiNeill

    Hi Simian, “impartiality” frequently looks like ones own opinions getting a real hammering, and (shock) other opinions that you think are entirely wrong minded getting an airing too (and themselves attracting flack). Hey, a lot of pro-Union posters here get around to claiming that Slugger is all a big anti-Union plot too. As Gerry Lynch pointedly says over on another thread:

    “Western culture no longer seems capable of critical dialogue between people of ideological differences but common goodwill. We want to affirmed, we are sure we are affirmed, and if we aren’t, we shout angrily.”

    http://sluggerotoole.com/2015/10/02/the-pope-is-still-a-catholic/

  • mickfealty

    We’ve a very broad range of writers here, but none of us write to order. 😉