Northern Ireland Assembly Finance Committee: Discussion on NAMA Project Eagle Sale

I invite Mr. Daithí McKay from the Northern Ireland Assembly, Chairman of the Committee for Finance and Personnel together with his committee colleagues to attend our meeting. I extend a warm welcome to them.

Before we begin the business of the meeting, I advise witnesses that they are protected by absolute privilege in respect of the evidence they are to give this committee. If they are directed by the committee to cease giving evidence in relation to a particular matter and they continue to do so, they are entitled thereafter only to a qualified privilege in respect of their evidence. They are directed that only evidence connected with the subject matter of these proceedings is to be given and they are asked to respect the parliamentary practice to the effect that where possible they should not criticise nor make charges against a Member of either House, a person outside the House or an official by name or in such a way as to make him or her identifiable. Members are reminded of the provision within Standing Order 163 that the committee should also refrain from inquiring into the merits of a policy or policies of the Government or a Minister of the Government, or the merits of the objectives of such policies.

I invite Mr. McKay to make his opening statement.

Mr. Daithí McKay

I thank the Chairman. I am quite hoarse as I was up late reading documents last night. I welcome this opportunity to present to the Committee of Public Accounts. I believe this informal engagement between representatives of our two committees will be a timely and viable opportunity to explore how we might work collaboratively on our respective inquiries into the NAMA Project Eagle sale.

In addressing you formally I will refer to our respective areas of focus and I will outline the activities and outputs from my committee’s work to date. I shall talk about the next steps and suggest some ways in which we might collaborate in a practical way. Clearly both committees have different areas of focus; the PAC’s specific interest is in investigating whether the Project Eagle sale provided value for money for taxpayers in the South while the Assembly committee is to examine the role of Stormont’s Department of Finance and Personnel, the DFP, in NAMA’s operations in the North. This includes the relationship with the Northern Ireland Advisory Committee in the context of Project Eagle. However, I believe there are key areas where our interests cross over and where a co-ordinated action could offer mutual benefit. I have some specific suggestions in this regard to which I will return.

Shortly after the Northern Assembly finance committee initiated its review in early July, the PSNI announced its investigation. In order to minimise the risk of prejudicing this or future court proceedings the committee developed terms of reference for its work which was informed by a meeting with investigators and by independent legal advice. Investigators held another useful meeting with senior National Crime Agency personnel last week. The committee has collated a growing body of written and oral evidence which is published on its website. This includes written communications with NAMA including questions and answers; correspondence with DFP; written submissions from other key players including Cerberus and Mr. Cushnahan; Hansard reports of the five oral hearings to date; and the papers released last night from the finance department.

Despite the significant public interest in the review, the efforts of the committee have been frustrated by some key witnesses. The continued reluctance of NAMA to appear before the committee is very much regretted. As its reason for not travelling to the North, NAMA has said that the appropriate forum to which it should account for its activities is the Oireachtas, and to committees established by the Oireachtas. This point is not disputed by my committee but greater co-operation from NAMA will be crucial if we are to fully understand its relationship with the Northern Assembly's Department of Finance and Personnel since 2009, including the role of the department in making nominations to the NI advisory committee. While NAMA has agreed to answer questions in writing, I believe there is increased onus to appear before the committee out of pure courtesy and respect for the institutions in the North. While critical of NAMA on this point I acknowledge that it has been more forthcoming than some witnesses who continue to cite the criminal investigation as a reason for not providing further written or oral evidence to the committee. I believe this position is becoming more untenable by the day.

Although the committee’s review is still at a relatively early stage I can report some tangible outputs already. It is beginning to establish a public record of key documents, including records of meetings and written submissions from key players. The committee has also prepared a comprehensive timeline of events that is updated as and when evidence and documentation is received. The oral testimony received to date is also highlighting the differing accounts of events which raises further questions and areas for scrutiny. Moreover, the publication of this emerging body of evidence has also informed the wider public discourse including in the media.

The committee is in the process of formulating and issuing further written questions to a range of witnesses and these include NAMA, Pimco, Cerberus and Mr. Frank Cushnahan. Invitations to oral hearings have been issued to the First Minister, former finance Ministers Simon Hamilton and Sammy Wilson, former permanent secretaries, former special advisers in the Department of Finance and Personnel and members of the NI advisory committee. The finance committee is expecting that all of these witnesses will make themselves available willingly and co-operate fully with the review. However, it will keep open the option of using its powers to compel persons and papers should that become necessary.

In conclusion, I wish to suggest some potential areas of common interest and practical measures which we might take to support our respective efforts and to assist each other in adding pieces to this complicated jigsaw. A key concern for both committees should be to investigate the information flow between NAMA and its northern advisory committee. In its written response to the committee on the 4 September, NAMA stated and I quote: "No specific information relating to debtors or assets was ever provided to external members of the NIAC". However, a question remains of precisely what information was shared. We know from the minutes of advisory committee meetings that commercial and confidential matters were discussed in some detail. Indeed, NAMA has redacted parts of the minutes which it has provided to the committee. It would be interesting to have an explanation for those redactions. It was also highlighted in the advisory committee minutes that section 202 of the NAMA Act which deals with the handling of confidential information also applies to the advisory committee including external members. Presumably that provision exists for a purpose.

We also know there was a crossover of membership between the NAMA board and the advisory committee. On 7 October 2013 at Tughans' offices in Belfast, the advisory committee discussed the unsolicited bid by Pimco and feedback was sought from the external members in order to inform the NAMA board’s consideration on 10 October 2013. We need therefore to establish the full facts on this relationship, not just in terms of the formal exchange of information but also the opportunities which individuals may have had to develop commercial intelligence on NAMA's assets and operations in the North.

A further area in which both committees may be able to support each other will be in getting to the bottom of the nominations and appointments of the external members to the advisory committee. A number of questions remain unanswered including where the responsibility rested for due diligence. In practical terms I believe that, as the inquiries progress, we could consider sharing information and papers as applicable. There is also scope for our respective committees to provide each other with suggested areas for questioning of witnesses whose oral evidence is of mutual interest. I thank the Cathaoirleach for this opportunity to address the committee and I welcome continued engagement. I am happy to respond to any questions that members may have and I look forward to hearing their views or suggestions.

I thank Mr. McKay for his statement. I call on Deputy Ross.

I wish to ask Mr. McKay one question. Mr. Bryson appeared before the Northern Ireland finance committee recently. On what basis was he called as a witness?

Mr. Daithí McKay

It is well publicised that this was a point of contention within the committee. The decision was carried by a majority vote to invite Mr. Bryson to make testimony to the committee and he provided a number of papers. There has been a mixed response to what Mr. Bryson has said. Papers which were provided were considered by the committee at its meeting this week. There were mixed views as to whether that information is credible. There is a divergence of views within the committee as there are divergent views within this committee here. Certainly Mr. Bryson’s testimony, I think everybody can agree, did cause a bit of a storm as he did name other parties who are well known in the media coverage of this. This has led to our committee inviting the named parties to use their right to reply. I welcome the fact that the First Minister Peter Robinson, MLA, has replied via the media, to say that he will come to our committee. He will confirm by close of business today the timing of that appearance.

That is fine but why did Mr. McKay's committee ask Mr. Bryson to appear before it and what criteria did the committee use in its invitation? Did he volunteer and did the committee say that it is was a good idea? Did it look for him?

Mr. Daithí McKay

It is well known that he has blogged at some length on this. It is also well known that he appears to have a lot of material which some believe may have been fed to him from another source. It was an issue of debate for the committee. What the committee agreed to do was to set a bar. The bar that has been set for him and future witnesses is that they have to prove that they have some connection to the terms of reference of the inquiry. He provided some information and gave testimony before giving full testimony, as it were, to show that he had information in regard to the Millmount development in east Belfast which was discussed between the Finance Minister and NAMA. In a sense, Mr. Bryson ticked the box in terms of some of the issues that the Department of Finance and Personnel in the North was discussing with NAMA.

I have one other question, if I may. Mr. McKay referred to redactions in the minutes provided by NAMA. Did the committee ask NAMA why anything was redacted? Does Mr. McKay know why there were redactions?

Mr. Daithí McKay

We do not know why they were redacted. We are sending further questions and correspondence to NAMA to ask why the minutes were redacted. We believe, particularly in regard to some of the advisory committee issues, that it would be of benefit to us as a committee to see that unredacted documentation.

Cuirim fáilte roimh Mr. McKay and his fellow committee members. It is useful that Mr. McKay has echoed a position expressed at this committee in respect of the need for NAMA not just to correspond with the committee of the Assembly but, in fact, to appear before it. Perhaps the only efficient mechanism for getting answers to the redaction question that Deputy Ross posed is for NAMA to present before the committee and for the questions of Mr. McKay and his fellow committee members to be put to the agency.

My question to Mr. McKay revolves around the Northern Ireland advisory committee. Mr. McKay strikes what sounds to me like a note of scepticism on the assertion that there was no access to key confidential information regarding debtors or the portfolio. I would like to know why Mr. McKay has arrived at that view. I understand the committee's work is by no means completed but would ask Mr. McKay to set out for us some of the reasons for that scepticism. What is his or the committee's sense - in as much as they have a formed sense at this stage - of the relationship between the Northern Ireland committee and the board proper and the kind of access that committee members had to information? If Mr. McKay could sketch some of that out, it would be useful for our subsequent discussion with NAMA.

Mr. McKay has set out some ideas for co-operation but does he have any thoughts on the mechanisms that might apply to make those ideas or suggestions real?

Mr. Daithí McKay

The committee on a number of occasions has been very sceptical of a number of parties. A lot of that has been born out of frustration because from the outset in July, when we set about looking into this issue, a lot of doors were firmly shut in our faces. There was a debate at that time as to whether there was any point in us continuing with our inquiry. Personally, I am glad that we did continue with the inquiry because we are slowly but surely pushing some of those doors ajar and we are beginning to see that work bearing fruit.

In terms of NAMA and the advisory committee, obviously some of the key players in this saga, going back to the start of this year, include Tughan's solicitors and we do know that on 7 October at Tughan's offices in Belfast, the advisory committee discussed the unsolicited bid by Pimco and feedback was sought from the external members, including Mr. Frank Cushnahan and Mr. Brian Rowntree, to inform the full NAMA board's consideration on 10 October, some three days later. When we learned about that fact through our evidence gathering, it did not sit well with what Mr. Daly had said in terms of there being no risk in that regard at all. We have only some snippets of information in that regard but that in itself is something which is of major concern. It is a contradiction of what we have seen in the minutes and of what Mr. Daly has said.

Am I right in assuming that Mr. McKay would like Mr. Daly to present himself before the Northern Ireland committee so that it can explore these matters with him?

Mr. Daithí McKay

Absolutely. Mr. Daly has said that he is not accountable to us. We do not expect him to be accountable to us. We just need Mr. Daly and NAMA representatives to come before us to assist us with our inquiry because all we want is the truth. All the public wants, North and South, is the truth. We have had representatives of Ulster Bank in Dublin, for example, come before a committee in the past so I do not see why NAMA should be any different.

Cuirim fáilte roimh Mr. McKay and to the other members of the Assembly at Stormont. How will the work that Mr. McKay's committee is doing relate to any investigation being carried out by the PSNI? Are there problems there or are there areas that the committee is unable to visit because of police investigations?

Mr. Daithí McKay

It is a good question and one to which we have to keep returning on a regular basis as this unfolds. In early July, the PSNI announced that it was launching an investigation into this on the back of what Deputy Mick Wallace said in the Dáil. That has since been passed to the NCA.

What is the NCA?

Mr. Daithí McKay

The National Crime Agency. The agency met with our committee on Monday to give us an update. That information is, of course, confidential but I can make clear that the agency had no issue with our committee proceeding with our inquiry. We need to be very careful around certain areas because we do not want to prejudice any future proceedings in terms of a trial. We need to tread carefully. We put together terms of reference for our inquiry after meeting with the NCA to ensure that our focus would be mainly on areas where the risk of that is minimised.

So presumably the committee was getting legal advice to ensure that it did not stray into areas that-----

Mr. Daithí McKay

Yes, we got bogged down with legal advice over the summer.

I know from experience that it can be very frustrating.

Mr. Daithí McKay

It was very frustrating but it was worth it at the end of the day. The NCA, hopefully, will bring someone to book for this if necessary. We certainly made the point to the agency that we need to see some results in that regard.

I welcome Mr. McKay. Has the committee sought a meeting with Deputy Mick Wallace?

Mr. Daithí McKay

We have. He was one of the first names put forward by the committee but Deputy Wallace declined the invitation to appear before the committee.

While the committee members are in Dublin today, is it their intention to meet him? Has the committee requested a meeting with him?

Mr. Daithí McKay

We have not for our business today, no. We might run into him but-----

So he has refused to meet the committee?

Has he refused to meet the committee?

Mr. Daithí McKay

He has refused to meet us, yes.

He has refused to co-operate with the committee.

Mr. Daithí McKay

Yes.

I welcome Mr. McKay and his fellow committee members and thank them for coming down here. We are delighted to have them with us. It was stated earlier that NAMA has stated that the Oireachtas Committee of Public Accounts was the appropriate forum for it to conduct its business and that is the way the agency was established under law. NAMA is accountable to us.

Mr. McKay has said that the committee is inviting NAMA to come along, while recognising that accountability. Has NAMA given any other reason for not appearing? Many other witnesses have expressed the view that because there are criminal proceedings taking place in Northern Ireland, or at least that the authorities are investigating Cerberus, they are not prepared to be witnesses but are prepared to give witness statements. Has NAMA said that its representatives would not appear because of the proceedings that are taking place in two jurisdictions with regard to Project Eagle?

Mr. Daithí McKay

To the best of my knowledge the only reason NAMA gave to the committee was the fact that it was accountable to the Oireachtas. NAMA may have said that there are other reasons in another forum, but that was the primary reason, as far as we were concerned, for not attending.

I presume NAMA would have no problem with Mr. McKay being present during questioning by this committee and would have no problem with questions that Mr. McKay might pose to members of this committee being put to NAMA by us. Has Mr. McKay explored that as a possible means of dealing with the matter?

Mr. Daithí McKay

That is not something I have raised with NAMA but certainly if this committee wishes to put questions from our committee to NAMA, then-----

If NAMA is adamant that this is the only forum it will deal with, then perhaps that is something that Mr. McKay might explore.

Mr. Daithí McKay

It is a proxy mechanism I suppose but I welcome the fact that what we are stating here today and the information we are bringing forward will, in all likelihood, be used to inform the Committee of Public Accounts' questions to NAMA. There is a cross over, of course, but our primary focus relates to issues, for example, concerning the Department of Finance and Personnel on which we have a degree of expertise. In terms of any attendance by NAMA at the Assembly, we would get a lot more out of that but at the same time, we would get a lot more out of co-operation with this committee than not.

I appreciate all of that. This week, Deputy Mick Wallace raised some other issues in the Dáil relating to Project Eagle and other activities. The Taoiseach requested that Deputy Wallace would come before this committee but he has again declined to do so. Deputy Robert Dowds has e-mailed Deputy Wallace requesting that he put forward questions that this committee could pose to NAMA today if he is not prepared to come before us. Deputy Wallace has indicated that his statements in the Dáil, which were made under privilege, would contain all of the questions that he needed to put. In a roundabout way, therefore, we will be putting Deputy Wallace's questions to NAMA today. That is why I am asking whether we could explore a possible roundabout way of making NAMA answerable to the Northern Ireland committee through this forum.

Mr. Daithí McKay

We can certainly explore that and I am sure my committee would be open to exploring all of the options in terms of getting answers from NAMA. That is a decision for the committee but I presume members will be agreeable. We are sending questions to NAMA on a regular basis, in terms of written answers but I think-----

Is NAMA giving the committee written answers?

Mr. Daithí McKay

It has given written answers, to be fair but we would get more value from a face to face conversation.

I thank Mr. McKay for taking the time to come to this committee meeting today. To clarify that last point, the Northern Ireland committee is asking questions and NAMA is giving written responses to those questions. There is a jurisdictional issue which is the reason NAMA has given for not appearing before the committee. Has the committee asked to meet NAMA privately?

Mr. Daithí McKay

We have not asked for a private meeting. We have called NAMA-----

Mr. Daithí McKay

The issue was never raised by NAMA, in terms of written correspondence. If the Deputy is asking-----

It just seems to be a case of all or nothing, with the committee wanting NAMA to appear before it. As Mr. McKay said, this is really about getting to the truth and finding out what happened here. Has the committee made a request to meet NAMA informally or privately to discuss these issues?

Mr. Daithí McKay

The issue and the contradiction that we flagged up to NAMA was that NAMA has been in Stormont before. NAMA representatives have been in parliament buildings, met with officials from the Department, with Ministers and with other arms of government but will not meet our committee. I do not accept the point that it is a jurisdictional issue-----

I see a contradiction here. There is some stonewalling going on with regard to NAMA but there is a good jurisdictional reason, in my opinion, for NAMA not going to Stormont and appearing before Mr. McKay's committee. If the committee has not asked NAMA to meet it informally, it should do so and perhaps NAMA would be open to that. The committee should do so, particularly if its only or ultimate goal is to find the truth in this matter. There is a contradiction here and more of an effort should be made by the committee to deal with NAMA, even if it is in an informal, private setting.

Mr. Daithí McKay

We have made efforts to communicate with NAMA through writing, phone calls and so forth and have asked it to appear before the committee. NAMA has had meetings at Stormont before in both private and public session. If it is an issue of public versus private, we can explore that but from the committee's perspective, we want to try to keep all of our sessions as transparent as possible.

That is fair enough.

Mr. Daithí McKay

We are responding to the calls from the public for that to be the case.

That is fair enough. I will ask Mr. Frank Daly and Mr. Brendan McDonagh if they would deal with Mr. McKay's committee on that basis. Maybe that would be helpful.

Mr. McKay is very welcome here this morning. He made reference to information that he has brought forward today. What information has he brought forward that was not known before?

Mr. Daithí McKay

There is a lot of information. NAMA provided a few hundred pages. All of our documentation is available on the finance committee-----

I know that, but Mr. McKay made reference to information he has brought forward here today. Deputy Mick Wallace has refused to come before this committee today. It is very easy to make allegations in the Parliament when one has immunity but to act on those allegations outside of the House is the real point. Mr. McKay spoke about the information brought forward here today but I have not heard anything extraordinary from Mr. McKay this morning.

Mr. Daithí McKay

That is Deputy Perry's opinion but there is no doubt in my mind and I am quite confident that some of the information referred to in terms of NAMA minutes is of interest. Some of the information we received as a committee was not sent to the Committee of Public Accounts and that information is of benefit to the PAC.

I think that it is very important that we do not damage the process and that parties are given a fair hearing. We should not act as judge, jury and executioner with regard to the integrity of NAMA which took over a basket case when it was set up. It also took over a basket case of properties in Northern Ireland, many of which were valueless at the time. What types of properties are we talking about in Northern Ireland?

Mr. Daithí McKay

The first point I would make is that we are not out to get NAMA. What we want to see is transparency and all of this is about asking questions. That is all we want from NAMA - answers to questions.

That is our motivation too. I have no doubt at all about the integrity and transparency of NAMA. I would have concerns about people coming into Dáil Éireann, being fed information and then making allegations without being prepared to substantiate what they are saying. Mr. McKay's committee asked Deputy Mick Wallace to meet it. The committee members are here in Leinster House today but are not going to meet him. As Deputy Deasy has stated clearly-----

(Interruptions).

My interpretation of what Mr. McKay has said is that there was collaboration between the seller and the buyer with regard to the Project Eagle properties in Northern Ireland. NAMA was selling the properties and the purchaser was a consortium which did what it had to do to put its bid together. It is a major leap to conclude that there was complicity but that appears to be the underlying message from Mr. McKay.

Mr. Daithí McKay

First, the purpose of our committee's visit today is to speak to the Committee of Public Accounts. We cleared our diary for the PAC today and were not going to make any other arrangements with any other parties out of respect for this committee and its members. However, I would make the point again that we are a committee that represents parties from across the political spectrum in the North and we have different opinions on this. The reason the committee has been so successful in its inquiry is that we have focused on getting answers to questions.

If other political parties wish to take those answers and make points, that is for them to do but our work is about getting transparency, which is what the public requests.

However, Mr. McKay must remember that if the Public Accounts Committee in Northern Ireland is conducting its inquiry on the due diligence of the sales, there obviously is a PSNI inquiry to ascertain whether there are irregularities or criminal issues that have been raised. This is not a quick-fix solution if one looks at the documentation regarding accountability and if one considers the position of this economy when NAMA took over. I would like to hear about the properties in Northern Ireland because my information is it was a mixed bag of quite valueless properties with little to no title to many of them. Has the Northern committee carried out due diligence on the portfolio of Project Eagle?

Mr. Daithí McKay

We have not but that is not within our terms of reference.

Would it not do so? It is easy enough to indicate the relevance of the locations, whether they are small businesses or otherwise, and the type of property. One would imagine one would have a portfolio, if the committee is conducting an investigation on the magnitude of this sale.

Mr. Daithí McKay

To answer that point, we have had a lot of difficulty in getting business people to come forward to the committee in this regard. Mr. Gareth Graham was the single exception but as individual committee members, we have heard anecdotally that businesses within our communities do not like how they are being treated by Cerberus, which was the successful bidder at the end of this process. That is another issue into which our committee will look after the sale - that is, how Cerberus has handled the portfolio and how it has treated businesses within our communities.

Obviously there is the seller of the portfolio and the purchaser. I have no doubt but that the long-term ambition of the potential purchaser of these properties is to get a return on its investment and, undoubtedly, there will be some off-loading of the properties but I refer to the integrity of NAMA. One must be very careful on the international stage that due process is taking place at present, where we can have a media gallery on this issue. As for a Deputy making allegations, I note he is not prepared to go to Northern Ireland to meet the committee there. Moreover, he is not prepared to appear before a committee of this House. Mr. McKay places huge merit on what Deputy Wallace has said, whereas on the credible evidence that has been presented to his committee, even though it is documentary, Mr. McKay appears to be casting a doubt on it.

Mr. Daithí McKay

Deputy Wallace has declined to attend our committee. As for his views-----

He treats Mr. McKay's committee in the same way as he treats this committee.

Mr. Daithí McKay

Yes, so-----

Would that not lead to a certain concern on Mr. McKay's part that its credibility would be questionable? If one makes an allegation with impunity and-----

Mr. Daithí McKay

That is more an issue for yourselves than for us. We have not spoken to Deputy Wallace and have no documentation within our inquiry to date linked to Deputy Wallace and we have drawn no conclusions from that.

I refer to the point made by Deputy Deasy, as I am a great believer in finding the information first. Was there not potential for seeking a meeting with NAMA at head office? While it is important to have it in the public domain, did Mr. McKay seek a meeting with the board of NAMA to discuss the Northern committee's concerns?

Mr. Daithí McKay

We obviously sought a meeting with NAMA but it has not sought a meeting with us. If NAMA wishes to hold a private meeting with us, it should tell us so but that has not happened to date. We have no issue with meeting NAMA privately to discuss certain matters but ultimately, we want to see its representatives in public session and I believe the public also wants to see them answering questions in public session.

We will raise some of those questions with NAMA. We will just move on Deputy.

The due diligence on the property is important and I am a great believer in ascertaining the location of the properties. As I note the Northern property market has been flat compared with the increase in property prices here, can Mr. McKay compare property values in the North with those in the Republic?

Mr. Daithí McKay

That is not what I am here to do today-----

But he is making-----

Mr. Daithí McKay

-----but if the Deputy is talking about the actual sale process, I believe that questions need to be asked about that. My committee has put a number of questions to Fortress to which it still awaits a response. We have asked Fortress why it bid as it did, that is, below the reserve price. We have asked it whether it has had any contact or representation from two of the main players in this regard, namely, Frank Cushnahan or Tughans. That absolutely is an area on which there has been a focus.

Has Mr. McKay's committee sought the due diligence report from the potential bidders in respect of the properties?

Mr. Daithí McKay

No, we have not.

It is amazing that it would not.

Deputy Perry should conclude.

It is an important point. It is amazing that the Northern committee has not sought the due diligence in respect of each property that is on sale because I have no doubt but that a report is drawn up on each property by the potential bidders.

Mr. Daithí McKay

The potential bidders have not co-operated with our inquiry. We still are at the stage of getting those witnesses to appear before the committee and getting them to respond to written questions. Certainly, however, that is a stage to which we will come as our inquiry proceeds.

There appears to be a lot of non-co-operation with Mr. McKay's committee, if potential bidders are non-co-operative and Deputy Wallace is not co-operating. Is it correct that NAMA is not alone in not appearing before the Northern committee?

Mr. Daithí McKay

Yes but allegedly, a number of these parties have a lot to hide. I hope NAMA has nothing to hide but certainly, we believe the Department of Finance and Personnel in the North must begin to co-operate with our committee. We also believe that NAMA must co-operate because this is a huge issue of public interest North and South. This was the biggest property deal in the North and it is not good enough for these witnesses not to appear before our committee. It is not good enough that they are not responding to the allegations of corruption in the media. If there is no truth to them, these witnesses should come forward and make clear to our committee they have nothing to hide.

Does Mr. McKay's committee not have powers of compellability?

Can I ask Deputy Perry to conclude?

Does his committee in Northern Ireland not have powers of compellability to bring in those witnesses?

Mr. Daithí McKay

We do. We have taken legal advice on that and are in the process of perhaps using those powers if this situation continues.

Deputies McDonald and O'Donovan have a single question each, after which we will bring in the witnesses.

This is more to be helpful, a Chathaoirligh, and to refer Deputy Perry to correspondence to this committee from 24 September in which NAMA, which one presumes holds all the due diligence information on the properties concerned, set out for it the geographic breakdown of the portfolio. It then broke down further the areas of the North in which the portfolios were and then beyond that into Britain. NAMA also gave us a county-by-county breakdown. This again is where members should come to NAMA, which is the holder of that information. It would not be reasonable to expect this committee to have that information, nor is it reasonable to expect the Northern committee would have it either. The Deputy perhaps should read our correspondence to assist him in his understanding.

I thank Deputy McDonald. I call Deputy O'Donovan.

Briefly Chairman, has the Northern committee requested Cerberus and the other unsuccessful bidders to appear before it?

Mr. Daithí McKay

Yes, we have.

Have they responded?

Mr. Daithí McKay

Yes. Cerberus, Fortress and PIMCO have indicated they do not wish to attend the committee. Obviously, this is a trend of not co-operating with the committee. Yesterday, the committee signed off on four to five pages of questions to send to PIMCO and we will see what comes back but what we found to be productive were the written responses we received from NAMA. They contained some nuggets of information of which we had not been aware previously. We also have received written correspondence from Cerberus outlining its interpretation of how things have happened. As I stated earlier, our inquiry is in its early stages because there were legal issues to get over at its outset. After we receive those written responses, we will home in on who really needs to appear before us.

Has the Northern committee received any reply from PIMCO?

Mr. Daithí McKay

PIMCO has been in correspondence with the committee. It has indicated it does not wish to appear at present but it will respond, hopefully, to the questions we sent to it yesterday.

May I make a proposal? I note Deputy Wallace has been requested to appear before this committee.

Could I propose that we again write to Deputy Mick Wallace and ask him to appear before this committee on the allegations that he has raised?

In preparing for the previous committee meeting and for this one, I wrote to Deputy Mick Wallace asking him whether he would attend and he said, “No, not at this stage”, and that is his position. I call Deputy Costello.

We have got a submission document from Cerberus that has been forwarded to us from the committee in Northern Ireland. I thank the committee very much for that. However, to the best of my knowledge we do not have anything from PIMCO, Fortress Capital or any of the other players involved. I understand that initially nine international consortia were contacted in Project Eagle.

That is on the website. There is a document on the Northern Ireland committee website.

This was circulated to us as part of our documentation.

It has not been circulated yet, but we can circulate that.

Some of the other players who have declined to appear before the Northern Ireland committee as witnesses have made written submissions. Has the Northern Ireland committee asked Deputy Wallace to make a written submission?

Mr. Daithí McKay

We have not, but that is something we could consider and perhaps look favourably on.

I thank Mr. McKay, his colleagues and staff that travelled with him today. They have been very helpful to the committee. I thank Mr. McKay for his statement and answers. We will now invite in NAMA.

The witnesses withdrew.