From top: Former Minister for Communications Denis Naughten, David McCourt, journalist Justine McCarthy


In the Dáil.

Statements about Peter Smyth’s review of the National Broadband Plan procurement process are scheduled to be made by TDs from 6.05pm.

Mr Smyth was tasked with examining the interactions between the former Minister for Communications Denis Naughten and businessman David McCourt, founder and chairman of Granahan McCourt – which is leading the last remaining consortium bidding for the National Broadband Plan.

The purpose of the review was to see if their interactions, many of which were over meals, undermined the integrity of the procurement process.

The review found they didn’t.

Further to this.

Yesterday, in The Sunday Times

Justine McCarthy, in an opinion column, wrote that there was a “confusing tone to Smyth’s report” given that Mr Smyth didn’t name the six people who dined with Mr McCourt and Mr Naughten – even though the Department of Communications named them two months ago.

They were ministerial officials Leslie Carberry and Seána Geraghty, and special advisers Suzanne Coogan and Jean Andrews. Mr McCourt’s brother Frank and daughter Alexandra accompanied Mr McCourt.

Ms McCarthy asked:

“How much will the plan cost the public? Is it €500m, €1bn or €3bn, as have been variously reported?

“Who conducted the reappraisal of the process earlier this year, giving it the all-clear after the other bidders withdrew? (The department has refused a freedom of information request by The Sunday Times for details of the reappraisal.)

“Smyth concluded that Naughten’s resignation as minister in October militated against any tainting of the process but, as Fianna Fail’s Timmy Dooley has pointed out, McCourt was also bound by the rules and he remains in the process. How can that be reconciled?

“Naughten says he informed Varadkar about all his meetings with McCourt on the Sunday night before he resigned from the cabinet. The taoiseach disputes this. Now Smyth’s report reveals nine phone conversations between Naughten and McCourt which had not previously been disclosed to the public. Is there anything else we have not been told?

“According to Smyth’s report, there was a phone call between the two men on August 8 this year, following a meeting of process participants that day. McCourt was seeking “confirmation of the government’s ongoing commitment to [its] completion”. Why did he need reassurance? Had what transpired at the meeting caused doubt?

“On February 28 this year, McCourt met the secretary general of Naughten’s department to discuss his consortium’s commitment to the process after rival bidder Eir pulled out. That night McCourt, Naughten and his press adviser dined together in Dublin. Smyth’s report says they discussed a media studio in Trinity College. What else did they talk about?”

Justine McCarthy: Lack of communication over broadband contract shows poor connection (Justine McCarthy, The Sunday Times)


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6 thoughts on “Question Time

  1. Eoin

    Having studied the “independent” report by Peter Smyth, I am shocked that Peter Smyth (of Peter Smyth Management Consulting Limited) didn’t provide a brief biography which might explain his qualifications and claim to “independence”.,-Climate-Action-and-Environment-.aspx

    Also, in addition to Dail statements tomorrow, the man himself Peter Smyth will be appearing before the Communications Committee on Thursday. On the same day, the public accounts committee will be examining the cost of the National Broadband Plan, so maybe we’ll have a better fix on the cost, though the sole remaining bidder seems convinced the contract is worth €3 billion.

  2. Leopold Gloom

    It’s not that bloody hard to do a tender above board, and this is anything but. It can be a long process, but not hard.

  3. Truth in the News

    First of all what exactly did Enet own and how have they managed the Governments own
    MAN Fibrer optic Networks….next how was Eir allowed to install on both State Property
    and local authority property optical fiber circuits including so called Rural Optical Fiber
    service to Rural Ireland which cherry picks 300 thousand customers and ignores a
    further 500 thousand rural dwellers and businesses…..who are also Eir Customers
    relying on twisted pairs (copper).
    Its about time those who in the end who are responsible for both decisions and policy in
    the Dept of Communications are fired….the former Minister was only scapegoat.

    1. Otis Blue

      Apparently the take up rate for broadband by the 300k households cherrypicked by eir is 14%.

      The NBP as planned is dead in the water.

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