Minister for Finance Michael Noonan has told the Dáil that he does not believe there are sufficient grounds at this time to hold a commission of investigation into the sale of Project Eagle by the National Assets Management Agency.

Mr Noonan told the Dáil that the House should first wait for the Public Accounts Committee to complete its investigations into NAMA before embarking on a public inquiry.

He said the PAC has received extensive documentation in relation to transactions from NAMA.

"NAMA estimates that it has responded to almost 2,000 oral questions during those appearances, and has provided written responses to the PAC to an additional 100 questions."

He said there had been "hundreds of hours of witness testimony, and documentary evidence".

"I would encourage those considering a commission of investigation into NAMA's activities to study this evidence if they have not already done so. 

"NAMA has answered every question that has been put to it by the C&AG [Comptroller and Auditor General] and the PAC.

"I do not believe we can currently progress a commission of investigation, without first taking the views of the PAC into account." 

Fianna Fáil's Michael McGrath accused the minister of rowing back on a commitment already given by the Government to hold a commission of inquiry into the sale of Project Eagle.

"There is a clear understanding that there would be a commission of investigation into Project Eagle," he said.

"What I'm hearing from you is a row back."

He added: "There seems to be some muddying of the waters on the Government's commitment to hold a commission of investigation."

Mr Noonan interjected, saying that he was not reneging on any commitment.

"I'm saying that until the PAC publishes its report, and until there is further information, until there is a prima facia case, there could not be an inquiry."

Sinn Féin's finance spokesperson also accused Mr Noonan of "rowing back" from a commission of investigation.

Pearse Doherty said it was agreed at a cross-party meeting a few months ago that a commission of investigation should be established.

Mr Doherty said it was the "stated intent" of Taoiseach Enda Kenny in September 2016 that a commission of investigation would go ahead.

He also accused Fianna Fáil of flip-flopping on the issue.

As it Happened: Political updates, developments

Labour TD Joan Burton said: "The country is coming down with commissions of inquiry into so many issues, that if I was to stand up here and ask people to name them all, and what they are supposed to achieve, I doubt anyone could do that. And now we have another one." 

She said the PAC was expected to publish its report soon, and it would not serve the public to make a decision on the terms of reference until such time as the information is available on the floor of the House. 

She said that without narrow terms of reference an inquiry "could become unmanageable". 

"I have been involved in inquiries as a witness and complainant, and I have seen in my own experience, long periods of inquiry into matters which yielded little for the public but made lawyers' very rich," she said.   

"I'm totally open to a commission of investigation, but it's premature until those reports [from the PAC] are available," she concluded.

AAA-PBP TD Ruth Coppinger said Ms Burton's statement was "totally self-serving". 

She accused Ms Burton of trying to excuse her role as a minister in the last government, which set up NAMA. 

Ms Coppinger said Labour never stepped in during its time in government "when NAMA hoarded land, accelerated the housing crisis, hoarded buildings and sold them off in a glut of sales, including to vulture funds". 

Ms Coppinger said an investigation into Project Eagle was needed. 

Independents4Change TD Mick Wallace described Mr Noonan's contribution in the Dáil on the issue as "pathetic".

Mr Wallace said PAC Chairman Sean Fleming was not much better, and the notion of the PAC being an investigative body was "total rubbish". 

He said NAMA representatives have been before the PAC eight times and said nothing. "It's pure rubbish", he said. 

Mr Wallace said a commission of investigation needed to be set up to look at more than Project Eagle. 

He suggested that a "modular" approach be taken by the commission. 

To date 2,378 properties have been acquired from NAMA for the social housing sector, the committee was told by the chief executive of the Housing Agency.

John O'Connor said the agency also bought 305 houses with a value of €46.75m following engagement with the banks on their portfolios of properties.

The dwellings acquired will be sold to Approved Housing Bodies to provide homes for those in need of social housing support.

Mr O'Connor said the objective is for the agency to utilise a €70m rolling fund to acquire 1,600 properties by 2020, the majority of which are formerly buy-to-let properties.

In addition, under an earlier initiative in 2015 and early 2016, the agency acquired 171 properties from banks which were transferred directly to local authorities.