Monday 16 September 2019

Roscommon TD met all firms in bidding process


Denis Naughten
Denis Naughten

As communications minister, Roscommon TD Denis Naughten had a string of meetings with all of the companies involved in bidding for the National Broadband Plan.

In his report, Peter Smyth records 40 separate gatherings, including 18 with representatives of the Granahan McCourt consortium. He was able to "independently verify the main focus" of 37 of these meetings.

But question marks hang over the remaining three.

During his inquiries, Mr Smyth spoke to Minister of State Pat Breen about the conversations that took place during a dinner at Mr McCourt's home in Co Clare in September 2017.

But he admits to being reliant on the accounts of Mr Naughten and businessman David McCourt for three other interactions.

The first was a coffee meeting in Dublin on January 31 this year, a day after Eir withdrew from the bidding process.

The two men also had a "short dinner" in the Merrion Hotel, opposite Government Buildings, on March 27.

Mr Smyth was told this meeting related to the use of "the Box in Trinity College to train Syrian refugees".

There was also a phone call on August 8 which Mr Smyth asked the two men about.

Ultimately he decided that he could not "unequivocally state" that the National Broadband Plan was not discussed. However, he adds "that neither the former minister nor Mr McCourt had the opportunity to influence the conduct of the tender process in favour of Granahan McCourt".

Mr Smyth says the minister's resignation "insulates the process from any apparent bias".

Irish Independent

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