It is clear that this blinkered approach to a contract of such magnitude is a direct result of election season where Fine Gael are once-again prepared to sacrifice the public interest for their own electoral interests.”

Social Democrats Co-Leader Catherine Murphy has said the Government is cynically using the announcement regarding the National Broadband Plan to try and influence rural voters ahead of the local and European elections.

She said it is now clear that Finance Minister Paschal Donohoe is prepared to ignore the advice of his Secretary General, Robert Watt, and other senior civil servants in his Department and push ahead with the project despite hugely escalating costs, a flawed tender process, and an ownership model that will see the State pay billions for something which will then be handed over to a private company.

Catherine Murphy, who has been to the forefront of examining the process surrounding the NBP plan to date as well as its predecessor – the Municipal Areas Network (MANs), says the questions surrounding the plan, the bid, ownership, cost, and ultimately take-up of the scheme, remain unanswered and whilst Government know that to be the case they simply won’t pass up the opportunity to use the promise of rural broadband as an electioneering tool.

She said it is becoming increasingly clear that Fine Gael care more for their own image and spin than they do about value for money or fiscal prudence and we have seen that recently with the National Children’s Hospital and now the NBP.

Catherine Murphy TD said:

“Everybody is acutely aware of the need for quality rural broadband. Apparently not everybody is concerned about the need to ensure that rural broadband is affordable – both for the State and the end-user.

“There is little point in rolling out a network that costs the State billions to install and then handing it over to a private entity like Granahan Mc Court who will dictate the price that homes and businesses will pay to connect to that network.

“Granahan Mc Court was involved in the MANs project (the fore-runner to the NBP) and we have ended up with the most expensive Broadband in Europe and a very poor connection rate as a result.

“When pressed on Morning Ireland last week, Minister Donohoe said Broadband is a public service. Why then is he pressing ahead – against the best advice of his officials – with a plan which hands this public service to a private company?

“We have gone from a plan that was originally estimated at €500 million to current estimates of €3 billion and only one bidder in the process – a bidder whose actions have led to the resignation of a Minister and serious question marks being placed over the integrity of the process. Yet the Minister says he will not consider re-tendering and is determined to press ahead with the current process.

“It is clear that this blinkered approach to a contract of such magnitude is a direct result of election season where Fine Gael are once-again prepared to sacrifice the public interest for their own electoral interests. It is political cynicism and opportunism of the worst kind and one that will potentially leave us with a very expensive mistake to rectify in the future.”

7th May 2019