Following through on McKay’s misconduct of Stormont’s Nama Inquiry is a test for the Opposition…

So let me add some rather more sceptical thoughts to Brian’s view that the sacking of Daithi McKay is in itself a positive. For a start, the speed with which Sinn Fein investigated, and then had North Antrim MLA self-dispatch contrasts with the lack of one when more senior careers were on the line.

I won’t detain readers with the plethora of conspiracy theories emerging around who leaked the material or indeed why, but Sinn Fein moved uncharacteristically quickly to punish one of their own, by taking the rather drastic step of having him step down as an MLA.

As Malachi O’Doherty notes, whilst such ruthlessness may be commendable in terms of the fairly low standards of Stormont (where, as alluded to yesterday) no one ever resigns for anything, ever, the casual way the party burns through younger talent is alarming.

Martin McGuinness might be personally appalled at the behaviour of McKay, if we are to believe he knew nothing about it. But he can not be anything but sorry to have lost him.

If the best service a member can give a party is to take the bullet for it, to absorb the full blame for a little mischief, then that is too high a price paid this time for too little gain.

What was the gain after all, but to enable a truculent loyalist, Jamie Bryson, to make allegations against the then First Minister Peter Robinson? This was hardly even a poke in the eye for Robinson.

Maybe those who planned the attack on him had higher hopes than that the whole thing would blow over and get lost in the welter of last year’s more interesting news. Maybe there was a threat of other disclosures implied in it. But it seems the party that has taken a real hit is Sinn Fein itself.

It does have a utility. Breaking in the silly season, McKay’s hasty dispatch may not be news by the time the political season comes around again. With Bryson now publicly threatening to do something similar to the DUP both government parties have an interest in not spinning this out.

More to the point, in bundling McKay out of the Assembly Sinn Fein have potentially blunted the capacity of Opposition parties to hold a proper inquiry into the misconduct of a serious, parliamentary inquiry.

As Colum Eastwood notes, “Sinn Fein don’t do lone wolves, they do scapegoats”. In the same statement, he posits five questions (now more problematic to ask now McKay’s Stormont desk is cleared):

1. What other witnesses did Sinn Féin MLA Daithí McKay & Sinn Féin adviser Thomas O’Hara coach prior to their appearance at NAMA inquiry?

2. Did the Finance Minister Máirtín Ó Muilleoir receive any communication from either the Committee Chair Daithí McKay or Thomas O’Hara to ensure that Jamie Bryson’s evidence was heard in open session?

3. Was the current Finance Minister Máirtín Ó Muilleoir prepped in advance of Jamie Bryson’s choreographed appearance at the Stormont Finance Committee?

4. Did Finance Minister Máirtín Ó Muilleoir receive any communication from McKay or O’Hara with regard to the appearance of any other witnesses?

5. When was Joint First Minister Martin McGuinness made aware of these allegations and what precise steps did he take once he found out? How many members of Sinn Féin did he speak to?

Mike Nesbitt has called for a proper investigation

… it begs the question – was Daithi McKay on a solo run or was it a Sinn Fein operation sanctioned from the top? Certainly the long-standing culture within Sinn Fein is one of centralised control and not of solo runs.

“We also need to know if Martin McGuinness knew about this. Who else in Sinn Fein did and who gave it the go-ahead? And what does Martin McGuinness’s colleague Arlene Foster have to say about it?

“It certainly doesn’t say a lot for their working relationship or the prospect of the First Ministers’ working relationship, given that trust appears to be a very scarce commodity indeed.

But, as David noted on last night’s Evening Extra, this is a test for the Opposition….

As he also observes, what the Opposition wants is not necessarily what the opposition will get. But since it looks like elements of the DUP have also been playing footsie with Mr Bryson, so getting the framing right early could well pay dividends later.


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