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More answers needed following Finance committee - Smith

Ulster Unionist MLA Philip Smith has welcomed today’s Assembly Finance committee decision to call on the Finance Minister Máirtín Ó Muilleoir to stand aside pending an investigation, as the start of a process that must restore public trust and confidence in the devolved institutions.

Philip Smith, who is his Party’s Finance spokesperson, said:

“Today’s meeting of the Finance committee vindicated the Ulster Unionist Party’s demand that it be recalled.  I welcome the fact that there was general agreement that the recent revelations have caused damage to the credibility of the Stormont committee system and that we have to act swiftly and decisively to rebuild public trust and confidence.

“The Committee agreed to the Ulster Unionist Party’s call for the current Finance Minister Máirtín Ó Muilleoir to stand aside whilst an investigation takes place. It has also agreed to seek his appearance before the committee and that he provide all and any records of conversations or communication between himself and Daithi McKay – the former Chair of the Committee -  and anyone acting on behalf of Mr McKay. But many questions still remain to be asked.

“There are obviously other key witnesses – including Jamie Bryson and Thomas O’Hara - and I expect the committee to contact them in due course. This will be essential to ensure we gain access to maximum information and in particular who else – including MLAs, party officials and Special Advisers - were involved in conversations or the sharing of information prior to Jamie Bryson’s appearance at the Finance committee.  

“The Finance committee will meet again in two weeks. We are currently in the initial stage of the scrutiny process and there is no doubt in my mind that where we must get to is a root and branch review of the committee system and how it operates, with a new set of protocols to ensure a clear line is drawn, identifying what is and is not acceptable behaviour by Committee Chairs and members, with defined sanctions for those who overstep the mark.

“These recent revelations about the internal workings of an Assembly committee cannot be allowed to be used as an excuse to distract from the very serious allegations which have been made in connection to NAMA.

“We must not lose sight of the fact that both the National Crime Agency - in conjunction with the PSNI - and the US Department of Justice are carrying out investigations into the sale of NAMA’s Northern Ireland portfolio. I have the utmost faith in their professional capabilities and am confident that these investigations will uncover the whole truth in due course.”

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