Sunday 16 December 2018

Fianna Fáil increases pressure on Pat Breen over broadband controversy

Micheal Martin
Micheal Martin
John Downing

John Downing

The level of taxpayer-funded subsidy for the rural broadband project remains the crucial issue to be decided, Fianna Fáil leader Micheál Martin has told the Dáil.

Mr Martin said that is why questions about contacts between the final bidder for the €500,000 contract, David McCourt, and government ministers was so important.  He was commenting on the controversy which last week saw Communications Minister, Denis Naughten, resign.

The Fianna Fáil leader asked what was the situation of junior industry minister, Pat Breen.  He has acknowledged setting up a dinner meeting between then-Minister Naughten and the Irish-American investor.

Mr Martin wanted to know how Mr Breen conveyed the dinner invitation from Mr McCourt to Mr Naughten.  He also asked about the junior minister continuing in his post - and he criticised the Taoiseach’s attitude to the issue, in saying Mr Breen had just passed on a dinner invitation.

“I think it’s a lot more serious than that and it should be taken more seriously than that,” Mr Martin said.

The Taoiseach said Mr Breen had relayed the dinner invitation by word of mouth which was “unwise.” Mr Breen had no role whatsoever in the broadband project.

“I don’t think it’s a resigning matter,” Mr Varadkar insisted.

The Taoiseach said the Government remained very committed to connecting 540,000 homes with high-speed broadband as soon as possible.  He said the government planning had already encouraged commercial providers to improve their rural services.

The Taoiseach also said he expected the independent auditor, Peter Smyth, who is overseeing the national project will be given terms of reference for an investigation in the coming days.  A full report by Mr Smyth was expected in three to four weeks.

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