We are dealing with one of the most important state contracts that will ever be awarded and any sniff of impropriety or bad governance must be met with significant urgency and robust questioning until we are satisfied the process to date has been as it should be.

Social Democrats TD Catherine Murphy has said that there is increasing evidence that the handling of the tender process for the National Broadband Plan contract has been below best governance standards.

For that reason Deputy Murphy has formally written to the Oireachtas Business Committee requesting time be set aside in the Dáil this week for the Minister for Communications, Denis Naughten, to make a statement on the matter and take specific questions.

Deputy Murphy said the questions arising from information revealed over the weekend would not be addressed during the Minister’s oral questions on Wednesday and as such a specific time needs to be assigned to deal with the serious concerns arising in relation to the Minister’s handling of the NBP and his numerous interactions with the leading bidder. She also questioned if the Minister’s actions were in keeping with the prescribed code of practice for procurement processes. 

Catherine Murphy, who has tabled a series of PQs and Freedom of Information requests on this issue, said:

“We know that the Minister met Mr McCourt in New York yet the version of events he gave during the Oireachtas Communications Committee hearing does not tally with the version detailed in the minutes of the meeting released by his Department late on Thursday evening last.

“Apart from that glaring variation of events, the Minister, in the Committee testimony, refers to having met with Mr McCourt on the issue of the NBP on ‘a number of occasions’. I urgently want clarity on the nature of these discussions-particularly given the revelations of how other bidders feel they were treated during the process.

“With the Budget consuming a lot of time and attention this week I feel it is hugely important that this vital issue is not allowed to fall of the political radar. We are dealing with one of the most important state contracts that will ever be awarded and any sniff of impropriety or bad governance must be met with significant urgency and robust questioning until we are satisfied the process to date has been as it should be.

“That is why I have formally requested that the Government Chief Whip provide time this week for the Minister to address the Dáil and take questions, as he did last April when similar concerns were raised about his interaction with key stakeholders in a business decision his Department had a role in.” 

8th October 2018