Máirtín says he had no knowledge of Daithi McKay’s backchannel with Jamie Bryson until it was published last week, even though the inquiry (which was supposed to be investigating Nama) has, as yet, turned out to be little more than a power play against the then First Minister, Peter Robinson.
No political party worth the name mounts such a play without a substantial discussion about the hows, whys and wherefores of such a move. Odd that Sinn Fein would leave Máirtín out of that.
As Jim Wells note this morning, Máirtín effectively led the questioning in most of the sessions. But the key question is, as Gerry Mullan put it, is not whether Mr Ó Muilleoir knew about the arrangement, but rather when he knew.
Now it is not the case, as Jonathan Bell implied, that there is never contact between committee members and witnesses. But under normal circumstances, it is the clerk’s role to co-ordinate between witnesses and the committee and for them to expand and develop that process.
As Jim Allister noted this morning, what makes this case exceptional is the apparent supplanting of the committee’s interest by a single party interest – highlighting O’Hara’s expectation of gaining a helpful intervention from Mr Ó Muilleoir.
Indeed, Allister’s contribution is worth watching in full, not least because his fire does not all head in the one direction:
Most pertinently, Jim goes back to where Mairtin argued both with force and extraordinary conviction why Mr Bryson should be allowed to give his evidence in public, during Bryson’s public appearance, in which the now Minister for Finance stated:
I think that the public is desperate to find out who was going to benefit from this fixed, crooked, corrupt deal. I believe that Mr Bryson will be able to help us in that. [Emphasis added]
To which Mr Allister adds:
What was the basis of that belief? Where was that belief grounded? Was it grounded from prior sight of the opening statement with the references to persons A,B,C,D and E? Or was it grounded in something else?
Because if he publicly expressed a belief in support of the evidence being given in public that Mr. Bryson would be able to help us in that, then it had to be grounded in something.
And in expressing that opinion of course, he fulfilled the anticipation of the author of the email that he would make a helpful intervention.
And therefore I think it’s not enough for the present Minister to simply say “I knew nothing of these communications”. I think there are many more probing questions in that regard.
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