Tuesday 17 September 2019

Kevin Doyle: 'No 'rabbit in the hat' but this buck stops with Leo'


Taoiseach Leo Varadkar. Photo: Damien Eagers
Taoiseach Leo Varadkar. Photo: Damien Eagers
Kevin Doyle

Kevin Doyle

Few reports have been as eagerly awaited as the one which lands on Taoiseach Leo Varadkar's desk this week.

It is not the final Brexit deal, nor a bargaining plan for the confidence and supply arrangement - but the impact of Peter Smyth's assessment of the National Broadband Plan could be just as big for this Government.

When it comes to health, Mr Varadkar is able to rightly point out that Fianna Fáil leader Micheál Martin had his opportunity to fix the problems and didn't.

On housing, Fine Gael is quick to remind us that it was 13 years of Fianna Fáil relying on construction taxes which left us vulnerable to collapse.

But when it comes to the more than one million people waiting for broadband in rural Ireland, there is only this Government to blame.

The National Broadband Plan was the brainchild of the Fine Gael/Labour coalition and could well have to be put out of its misery by the Fine Gael/Independent coalition.

Mr Smyth is charged with investigating whether former minister Denis Naughten's meetings with David McCourt compromised the tender process. Mr McCourt heads up Granahan McCourt, which is the sole bidder left in the race for the contract to roll out the plan.

Fianna Fáil has claimed that the process has been "hopelessly compromised" - but sources insist that the evaluation of the tender is continuing "as a priority".

However, they confirmed that alternative options are being looked at in case it does not meet the requirements or has to be scrapped because of the Smyth review.

If Mr Smyth decides that the process can't be rescued, then 'Plan B' will be quickly announced. This would be extremely bad for the Government on many levels.

We will be told that large parts of the work can be reformatted - but it would be a dark day for 'future-proofing' the country.

And as one source put it: "There isn't going to be a rabbit out of the hat."

Irish Independent

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