From top: Denis Naughten (left) and David McCourt; Michael Noonan
Denis Naughten had at least two additional meetings with David McCourt during the procurement process for the National Broadband Plan (NBP), it has emerged.
The former communications minister’s diary shows that he and the Irish-American businessman met in October 2016, when three potential bidders remained in the running for the lucrative rural broadband contract. There are no minutes of the October meeting, which was also attended by officials.
Former Minister for Finance, Michael Noonan met with representatives of Enet, including former government Press Secretary and PR advisor Eoin O’Neachtain, in December 2016 – three months before Denis Naughten made the decision to extend the Municipal Area Networks (MANs) contracts to Enet ” suddenly and without tender”.
Social Democrats co-leader Catherine Murphy said:
“In a series of parliamentary replies to me, including a schedule showing all meetings between either David McCourt, representatives of Enet, and the Department of Communications, it is clear that there was almost an open door policy in Government buildings for Enet and/or David McCourt.
I have said previously that we need to understand the rationale for the former Minister’s decision to extend the MANs contract – which is essentially the precursor to the NBP process – when he did because soon after that contract extension the State bought into Enet at a cost of approximately €200 million and it is important to understand if that extension materially affected the price paid by the State for its 78% purchase of Enet in 2017.
To learn now that the former Minister for Finance met with Enet officials about the MANs just 3 months before the MANs contract was extended in the way it was raises more questions and this is why I have asked the Taoiseach to extend any review of the NBP process to date to include a review of the process leading up to the NBP; namely the MANs contract.”
Previously: Courting David