Minister Must Explain “Inappropriate” Broadband Plan Meeting

“Yet here we are again with the same Minister taking a private meeting with the head of a consortium containing some of the same personnel involved in the INM deal. The Minister acknowledges that details of the bid and the consortium were raised at the meeting therefore the question must be asked; is this yet another grave error of judgement from the same Minister?”

Social Democrats TD Catherine Murphy has said she is shocked at the revelations in today’s Times Ireland that the Minister for Communications Denis Naughten met with the only remaining bidder for the National Broadband Plan. According to reports, the head of the private investment firm told Minister Naughten at that meeting that it was possible SSE would withdraw from the bidding process – something which later came to pass.

Minister Naughten admitted that aspects of the bid and the remaining consortium were discussed at the private meeting which took place in New York and Catherine Murphy said this is yet another example of Minister Naughten acting in an inappropriate manner with those involved in big money business decisions which his Department has a direct role in.  Catherine Murphy pointed to the controversy earlier this year when Minister Naughten was forced to admit that he had had direct contact with representatives of Independent News and Media regarding a proposed merger which his Department had responsibility for.

Deputy Murphy also drew attention to a parliamentary reply she received from Minister Naughten on the 18th September when she specifically asked if the Minister had any kind of engagement with the remaining bidder. In the reply the Minister carefully worded the reply to read that he had no engagement of any sort with the bidder since receipt of the final bid.

Catherine Murphy TD said:

“At the time of the revelations regarding the Minister’s inappropriate contact with representatives of INM, both the Minister and the Taoiseach were forced to concede that there had been a bad error of judgement from the Minister when he knowingly engaged with a party involved in a transaction directly under the remit of his department. Yet here we are again with the same Minister taking a private meeting with the head of a consortium containing some of the same personnel involved in the INM deal. The Minister acknowledges that details of the bid and the consortium were raised at the meeting therefore the question must be asked; is this yet another grave error of judgement from the same Minister?”

“Surely the Minister, and indeed the Taoiseach, must see the problem in the fact that yet again Minister Naughten potentially compromised a process under the remit of his Department and most certainly did not act in the manner in which he should have as the Minister in charge. Are we to once again accept the paltry explanation that the Minister was acting in a personal capacity rather than Ministerial? Either way, this meeting was wholly inappropriate and raises even more concerns regarding the tendering process for the National Broadband Plan – a process which already has some serious questions hanging over it.”

ENDS

3rd October 2018