Saturday 21 September 2019

Vote for broadband review to be ignored

Denis Naughten will discuss the future of broadband today. Picture: Sean Curtin
Denis Naughten will discuss the future of broadband today. Picture: Sean Curtin
Kevin Doyle

Kevin Doyle

A Dáil vote demanding a review of the troubled tendering process for the National Broadband Plan is to be ignored.

Opposition parties are today expected to unite behind a Fianna Fáil motion that seeks 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.

Communications Minister Denis Naughten will appear before an Oireachtas committee today to discuss the future of the broadband plan in light of Eir's decision.

However, even if the Dáil votes to back a review it is understood the Government will not initiate one.

Fianna Fáil's Timmy Dooley said the study would take just two months and not delay the ultimate delivery of the broadband plan.

But Government sources told the Irish Independent they believe it would take substantially longer and risk collapsing the project altogether.

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

The evolution of so-called 'new politics' means the Government is constantly at risk of losing Dáil votes. However, on a number of occasions no real action has followed because it remains the executive function of a minister to act on a motion.

"We respect the democratic process, but the greater good will be served by ensuring broadband is brought to 540,000 people sooner rather than later," a source said.

The move to ignore a Dáil defeat appeared to be backed up by Taoiseach Leo Varadkar, who said yesterday that Fianna Fáil's solution to the delays in rolling out broadband "seems to be further delay". "We don't believe that makes sense, especially for rural Ireland," he said.

He said he didn't know how the Dáil vote would go, but the Government is moving "full steam ahead" with the project.

Irish Independent

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