Northern Ireland

Nama deal: Claims Sinn Féin coached Jamie Bryson 'must be investigated by police'

Jamie Bryson alleged at Stormont's Finance Committee that Peter Robinson was to receive payment as a result of the Nama NI deal
Image caption Loyalist flag protester Jamie Bryson made allegations about the then DUP leader Peter Robinson during the Nama inquiry in September 2015

Police should investigate allegations Sinn Féin "coached" a loyalist blogger before he gave evidence to a Stormont inquiry, the DUP has said.

The allegations are based on leaked messages between Jamie Bryson, Sinn Féin's Daithí McKay and another Twitter user, also believed to be in Sinn Féin.

The messages were exchanged before Mr Bryson appeared at Stormont's National Management Agency (Nama) inquiry.

Sinn Féin has denied knowledge of the communications.

'Wholly inappropriate'

The Stormont Finance Committee inquiry, chaired then by Mr McKay, was set up last year due to political controversy over the multi-million pound sale of Nama's Northern Ireland property portfolio.

It followed 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 Stormont Finance 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.

Image caption Peter Robinson denied Mr Bryson's claims when he appeared before Stormont's Nama inquiry

It is now claimed that Mr McKay and another Sinn Féin member advised Mr Bryson about his evidence before the hearing.

The leaked social media messages were obtained by the Irish News and the BBC's Nolan Show.

'Great finisher'

They show that on 17 September 2015, Mr McKay sent a direct message to Mr Bryson, telling him to follow a Twitter account in the name of Thomas O'Hara, who is understood to be a fellow Sinn Féin member.

The following day, a direct Twitter message from Mr O'Hara to Mr Bryson said: "You may only get 10-15 seconds on this before Daithi as chair has to pull you on it so squeeze your best points on this into 1-2 lines and come straight to the point."

Another message from him said: "Keep it short if you can, when it's said it's said and its privileged. Will be a great finisher."

'Scandalous breach'

Mr McKay has not responded to the BBC so far, but in a statement Sinn Féin said its "position has always been about getting to the truth about the sale of the Nama portfolio".

"Sinn Féin have only been made aware of these allegations today (Thursday) and if they are true, then this contact would be wholly inappropriate.

"If such contact did occur it was without the knowledge, involvement or sanction of Sinn Féin."

The DUP's Peter Weir told the Nolan Show that Mr McKay's position could now be untenable.

"If the allegations which are carried today are shown to be correct and accurate, I think it's the most scandalous breach of the position of a committee chair that I've seen," Mr Weir said.

"The actions have been highly inappropriate and indeed, run a coach and horses through the processes of the assembly."

'Absolute nonsense'

Image caption Jamie Bryson denied claims that Sinn Féin members coached him on Twitter before he gave evidence to the Nama inquiry

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 said he stood by the testimony he gave to the Stormont inquiry and added he would not co-operate with any investigation into how the information was leaked.

"I won't be co-operating with any investigation into who I talked to, who my sources are. They can throw me in jail first," said Mr Bryson.

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