NAMA board members have appeared before the Dáil Public Accounts Committee to answer questions regarding the controversial sale of NAMA's Northern Irish property-loans portfolio.

The Comptroller and Auditor General's report last month into the sale - known as Project Eagle - found it incurred a potential loss to the taxpayer of £190m. 

Three NAMA board members appeared before the Committee today.

Addressing the PAC, NAMA board member Willie Soffe gave a statement on behalf of himself and his board colleagues Brian McEnery and Oliver Ellingham. 

Regarding the financial outcome and basis for the decision to sell the loans and set the minimum price, Mr Soffe said he was "acutely conscious" that some people are of the view that NAMA should not have sold Project Eagle in 2014. 

However, he said the NAMA board formed the view that selling in one lot in 2014 was the best strategy and that is still the board's view. 

"We have seen no credible analysis that would prove that another strategy would have delivered a better outcome," he told the committee.

Mr Soffe also rejected the C&AG's "unsubstantiated suggestion" that serious credible bidders were excluded from the process.

He said it was the board's belief that the C&AG also failed to take account of the wider political and economic and financial implications in Northern Ireland of NAMA's decision to sell the portfolio, and the obligations on NAMA as a State agency in Dublin to be cognisant of the concerns of the Northern Ireland Executive and of the Government.

Regarding former member of NAMA's Northern Ireland Advisory Committee Frank Cushnahan's alleged conflict of interest, Mr Soffe said the board took strong exception to the suggestion that the process was corrupted by Mr Cushnahan's alleged activities. 

"He had no influence with NAMA and his alleged activities had no impact on the price ultimately achieved," said Mr Soffe. 

He said NAMA saved on costs arising from the management of the Northern Ireland debtor loan portfolio. 

"Crucially, we reduced the exposure of Irish taxpayers to the impact of Brexit on property values in Northern Ireland, the north of England and Scotland," said Mr Soffe. 

Last month NAMA's CEO Brendan McDonagh and Chairman Frank Daly both told the Committee that they emphatically rejected the report's findings.

Comptroller and Auditor General Seamus McCarthy also appeared before the PAC last month and defended both his report's findings and his investigation team, saying they all had significant audit and evaluation experience. 

This afternoon, Sinn Féin's Mary Lou McDonald asked representatives of NAMA's board to withdraw their criticism of the C&AG in relation to Mr McCarthy's report , describing it as an "outright assault" on his office. 

Mr Soffe said he did not question the credibility of the C&AG, saying that they had a "professional disagreement".

He rejected Ms McDonald's suggestion that they were coming before an Oireachtas Committee trashing the Office of the C&AG, saying he was defending their position.

He told the committee: "We are being judged on what is known ... in 2016 ... against what we knew in 2014". 

NAMA's board members told the committee that they have gained a lot from working with the C&AG.

Mr McEnery said that while there are aspects in the C&AG's report into the sale of Project Eagle that he, as an accountant, would have gone about differently - NAMA had received a lot of significant advice and guidance from the C&AG over the years.

He was responding to Fianna Fáil's Bobby Aylward who accused the members of attacking the comptroller earlier.

Mr Soffe said NAMA board members were just defending their position and that he respected the office of the C&AG. Mr McEnrey said the board had gained a lot from working with the comptroller.

Deputy Aylward said he was glad of their response and said it was "a different tune" from this morning's opening statement.

Earlier, Mr McEnery told the PAC that he is a former director of elections for a Fine Gael TD. 

He was responding to Sinn Féin TD David Cullinane, who asked if any members of the NAMA board had been involved in political campaigns. 

Mr McEnery said he was a former director of elections for Michael Finucane in Limerick West. He said he had no dealings with Minister for Finance Michael Noonan, also a Limerick TD.

Asked by Mr Cullinane if he should have noted his connection to Fine Gael in previous appearances before the committee, Mr McEnery said he was not asked.

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