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Fianna Fáil and Fine Gael are rowing over whether Michael Noonan should go before the Public Accounts Committee

Leo Varadkar yesterday accused Opposition TDs of launching a “witch hunt”, adding that Noonan is only accountable to the Dáil.

14/07/2016. The National Treasury Management Agenc Michael Noonan Source: Rollingnews.ie

FIANNA FÁIL FINANCE spokesman Michael McGrath has said Finance Minister Michael Noonan should go before the Public Accounts Committee to answer questions on Nama.

Representatives from Nama are soon due to appear before the Public Accounts Committee (PAC) over the decision to sell a huge loanbook to US vulture fund Cerberus, which has just moved against a Kerry shopping centre.

The Public Accounts Committee will meet this Wednesday, 21 September, but Nama are not officially due before it until 29 September, although many believe this will be brought forward to 22 September – this Thursday.

Minister for Finance Michael Noonan is expected to be invited before the committee on 6 October.

Last week, Minister for Public Expenditure Paschal Donohoe said that Noonan, who oversaw the Project Eagle transaction, would co-operate fully with the PAC and offer any support to it.

Yesterday, however, Social Protection Minister Leo Varadkar accused Opposition TDs of launching a “witch hunt” against the 73-year-old Limerick TD, adding that Noonan “won’t go”.

“Ministers don’t go before the Public Accounts Committee,” Varadkar added.

McGrath Fianna Fáil finance spokesman Michael McGrath. Source: Rollingnews.ie

Key role

This morning, Fianna Fáil’s finance spokesman Michael McGrath said “of course” Noonan should attend the PAC if called.

“I think in the first instance, it’s a matter for the Public Accounts Committee to decide as to who it should invite to attend and give evidence on Project Eagle, we know that the Nama officials will be coming before them.

“It’s very much in the gift of the PAC,” he told RTÉ’s Morning Ireland.

But if any individual is invited by PAC to attend and give evidence, then they should do so, and that includes any Minister of the Government, or indeed any executive or official in a State body.

In response to Fine Gael’s contention that ministers are only accountable to the Dáil, not the PAC, McGrath said:

“The Public Accounts Committee is a Dáil committee.

It is probably the most powerful committee in the Oireachtas, it has a key role in scrutinising the Comptroller and Auditor General reports.

“And if members of the committee feel that work will be enhanced by having the minister before them to give testimony, then I’m sure he will have nothing to fear from that. Of course [he should go].”

Noonan and Daly Minister for Finance Michael Noonan with Nama chairman Frank Daly in June. Source: Rollingnews.ie

Worried

Speaking on RTÉ’s The Week in Politics, Sinn Féin’s deputy leader Mary Lou McDonald – a member of the PAC – also called for Noonan to also appear before the committee to discuss the Project Eagle sale.

“I think one of the things we will have to be quite insistent on is that Michael Noonan comes before the committee,” McDonald said.

[He] needs to present himself before the committee and, having failed to discharge his duties and halt the sale of Project Eagle, he now needs to come into the committee and give a full account as to why that was the case.I find it absolutely extraordinary that a senior cabinet minister would try to put this off.

“I would go so far as to say if Michael Noonan refuses to come before the committee it renders his position untenable.”

Statutory inquiry

Last week, the Government and Opposition parties agreed a statutory inquiry into the sale of Nama’s Northern loanbook, codenamed Operation Eagle.

The agreement comes after the publication of a report by the Comptroller and Auditor General into Nama’s 2014 sale of a vast property portfolio to a US firm.

It found that the agency could potentially have lost €220 million in the Cerberus deal. Nama has rejected its conclusions.

The deal – codenamed Project Eagle – has since loomed increasingly large over the body politic of the whole island.

Read: There will be a Commission of Investigation into Nama over Project Eagle

Read: Board member says if Nama was more transparent it wouldn’t make as much money

Read: Nama lost €220 million on sale of loan book, says report

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