Northern Ireland

Bryson 'coaching probe': Naomi Long calls on finance minister to 'step aside'

Jamie Bryson looks at TV screen showing Daithí McKay in Stormont, file pic from September 2015 Image copyright Press Eye
Image caption Daithí McKay, right, was chairman of a Stormont inquiry into the £1.2bn sale of Nama's property loan portfolio in Northern Ireland

Alliance deputy leader Naomi Long has called for the finance minister to step aside during an investigation into how Stormont's finance committee chair handled its Nama inquiry.

Last week, the former committee chair Daithí McKay resigned as an MLA.

It follows claims that he and another Sinn Féin member "coached" loyalist blogger Jamie Bryson as a witness to an inquiry.

Ms Long said Máirtín Ó Muilleoir should also step aside.

He was a Sinn Féin member of the committee during the hearings.

The National Assets Management Agency (Nama) is the Republic of Ireland's "bad bank", set up to deal with toxic loans after the 2008 property crash.

It sold its Northern Ireland loans portfolio to a US investment firm for £1.2bn in 2014. The Northern Ireland Assembly's finance committee is investigating that sale.

Image copyright Pacemaker
Image caption Ms Long has called for Mr Ó Muilleoir to step aside during the investigation

Speaking on BBC Northern Ireland's Good Morning Ulster on Monday, Ms Long said: "I would agree with (Ulster Unionist leader) Mike Nesbitt's call that the finance minister should step aside given that, in his position, we need to be very clear who else on the committee was aware of that back channel," she said.

She also called for an "independent investigation" around a twitter feed and who was involved in that.

The allegations that loyalist blogger Jamie Bryson was "coached" followed leaked Twitter messages between Mr Bryson, Mr McKay and Sinn Féin member Thomas O'Hara.

They exchanged messages before Mr Bryson testified to a Stormont inquiry, chaired by Mr McKay, into the National Asset Management Agency (Nama).

Mr McKay said he accepted this was "inappropriate, ill-advised and wrong".

The outgoing MLA for North Antrim also apologised for his actions.

Speaking last week, Mr Bryson told the BBC that allegations he had been coached by Sinn Féin before giving evidence were "absolute nonsense".

"I can categorically state that the source of my information did not come from Sinn Féin," the blogger said.

He also denied leaking the information to the media.

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