McKay resigns over allegations he coached Bryson regarding Nama

18 Aug 2016 Ryan Miller    Last updated: 22 Aug 2016

Illustration by Patrick Sanders
Illustration by Patrick Sanders

Sinn Fein MLA Daithí McKay has resigned following an Irish News scoop about Nama evidence concerning Peter Robinson – allegations of corruption within an investigation into corruption. Scope looks at the context.

By normal political rules, Daithí McKay’s resignation was inevitable.

This morning’s Irish News front page laid bare allegations that during the last mandate, while the then Sinn Fein MLA was Chair of the Finance Committee, he coached a witness ahead of an evidence session of the committee’s Nama inquiry which has been looking into allegations of financial malfeasance which involve Peter Robinson.

The same paper has also published a series of messages between Mr McKay, loyalist Jamie Bryson (the witness in question), and others that back up their claims. (How the paper got hold of these messages has not been revealed).

However, Northern Ireland doesn’t play by the normal rules and so there were still questions about how the MLA, and Sinn Fein, would respond.

Those questions were answered quickly. His resignation from the Assembly has been tendered. SF has suspended his membership and immediately cast his actions as those of an individual, done without the knowledge of the party.

Prepare yourself for accusations and counteraccusations about the truth of that, and everything else to do with these machinations, but whatever the truth about whatever – this is bleak news for Northern Ireland.

Mr Bryson has, via Twitter, made the point that his evidence was “not, in any shape or form, influenced or sourced from any member of SF.” That doesn’t help Mr McKay.

If you are chairing an inquiry into serious allegations then you should certainly not be steering witnesses appearing before the inquiry, that is prima facie scandalous. Denials of different, and much more serious, acts of corruption do not mitigate against this.

The DUP has demanded that the police look into the matter – with Party Chairman Lord Morrow also trying to cast doubt on the integrity of the whole inquiry.

What the DUP doesn’t say is that Mr McKay’s successor as Chair of the Finance Committee, Emma Little Pengelly, is a former Special Advisor to Peter Robinson and, as such, it is wholly inappropriate that she now holds this position herself.

Further down the rabbit hole, we have the fact that Mr Bryson maintains that the ultimate sources for all the alleged evidence against Peter Robinson are, in fact, DUP dissenters.

What we have here is the investigation of extremely serious corruption allegations, reaching to the top of politics in Northern Ireland, being turned into a complete farce – with the main forces on both sides of the argument being the DUP and Sinn Fein (and, apparently, not always on opposite sides), which together comprise our coalition government (along with buckle-on-the-belt Claire Sugden, the independent MLA and Justice Minister).

It’s a joke – but also a huge and disgusting mess. If Stormont cannot hold an inquiry into corruption without that investigation requiring another inquiry into its own veracity, what state are we in?

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