Monday 16 July 2018

Fianna Fáil vote to condemn sale of Telecom Éireann - even though they sold it

Launching the Telecom flotation in 1999, from left, Charlie McCreevy, Bertie Ahern, Mary O’Rourke, Ray MacSharry and the company’s CEO, Alfie Kane.
Launching the Telecom flotation in 1999, from left, Charlie McCreevy, Bertie Ahern, Mary O’Rourke, Ray MacSharry and the company’s CEO, Alfie Kane.

Kevin Doyle, Group Political Editor

FIANNA Fáil has backed a Dáil motion recognising the sale of Telecom Éireann was a bad move – despite being the party that sold it.

The party was this afternoon celebrating winning cross-party support for their calls to have the Government carry out a review of the National Broadband Plan (NBP).

But in an unusual development, they supported a Sinn Féin amendment to their own motion.

The amendment pushed for the progression of the NBP through State ownership, “recognising that the effects of the decision to privatise the State company Telecom Éireann in the past has had a negative impact on citizens and telecommunications services, and that State ownership would have facilitated a less complex and possibly less expensive roll out of broadband”.

Fianna Fáil leader Micheál Martin was part of the Cabinet that sanctioned the privatisation of Telecom Éireann in 1999.

Some 574,000 small investors bought stock and many made significant losses.

The overall motion placed before the Dáil passed by 76 to 48, inflicting a defeat on the Government.

Fianna Fáil’s Timmy Dooley told Independent.ie they voted for the amendment because “there’s no point in still saying we were right”.

“We can bury our heads in the sand. Virtually everybody believed it was the right thing at the time.

“But if you were doing it now, you wouldn’t do it because of the way things have developed.”

It is now the will of a majority of the Dáil that Communications Minister Denis Naughten should sanction an independent assessment of the process to determine whether or not it is fit for purpose.

It comes after Eir pulled out of the bidding, leaving just Enet in the running for the contract to bring high-speed broadband to more than 500,000 homes.

However, Government sources told the Independent.ie they believe it would take substantially longer to carry out a review than the two months proposed by Fianna Fáil.

“We are six months from having the final contract across the line. A review would delay that,” the source said.

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