Northern Ireland

Nama 'coaching': McGuinness dismisses 'ludicrous' claims

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Media captionMartin McGuinness said any investigation would vindicate Sinn Féin

Martin McGuinness has dismissed as "ludicrous" claims Sinn Féin's leadership knew about communication between its former MLA Daithi McKay and loyalist blogger Jamie Bryson.

Mr McKay and Thomas O'Hara are alleged to have coached Mr Bryson before his appearance at Stormont's National Management Agency (Nama) inquiry.

The DUP has complained to the Assembly Standards Commissioner.

Mr McGuinness said any investigation would vindicate Sinn Féin.

The claims emerged after leaked Twitter messages between Mr Bryson, Mr McKay and Mr O'Hara were obtained by the BBC's Nolan Show and The Irish News.

The messages were exchanged before Mr Bryson testified at a finance committee inquiry, chaired by Mr McKay, into the £1.2bn sale of Nama's property loan portfolio in Northern Ireland.

That inquiry was set up last year due to political controversy over the deal.

'No concerns'

Deputy First Minister Mr McGuinness said he wanted to see the inquiry expedited swiftly.

"I do believe the outcome of that will vindicate everything that I have said in the course of the last 24 hours about the non-involvement of the Sinn Féin team at the assembly," he said.

"I have absolutely no concerns about that whatsoever."

Daithi McKay resigned as an MLA on Thursday and apologised for his actions. Sinn Féin has suspended Mr O'Hara.

On Friday, Mr Bryson denied that he was the source of the leaked messages and said he had started "the legal process of making an application to the Secretary of State under the inquiries act, asking for a full public inquiry into the Nama scandal".

DUP Chairman Maurice Morrow submitted his complaint to the Assembly Standards Commissioner, citing paragraph three of the Stormont code of conduct which emphasises the need for MLAs to act with integrity and not bring the assembly into disrepute.

The commissioner has the power to investigate former MLAs.

Image copyright NI Assembly
Image caption Daithí McKay was chairman of a Stormont inquiry into the £1.2bn sale of Nama's property loan portfolio in Northern Ireland

The Nama inquiry was investigating an allegation made in the Dáil (Irish parliament) that a politician or political party in Northern Ireland stood to profit from the loan sale.

Last September, Mr Bryson used a meeting of the committee to name former DUP leader Peter Robinson as the individual he referred to as "Person A" in relation to the scandal.

The then first minister of Northern Ireland strongly denied he had sought to benefit in any way from the multi-million pound property deal.

On Thursday, Mr McKay stood down, accepting that his actions were "inappropriate, ill-advised and wrong".

The clock is ticking on finding his replacement, says BBC NI's Political Editor Mark Devenport, as Sinn Féin would have to co-opt another party member to take over as an MLA within the next seven days in order to avoid triggering a by-election.

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