‘The Only Game In Town’

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From top; David McCourt and Denis Naughten; tweet from Government official Fergal Mulligan responding to a Sunday Business Post article on the National Broadband Plan bidding process;

The Dáil heard statements last night on Peter Smyth’s report into the National Broadband Plan procurement process.

Several TDs raised tweets posted by a Fergal Mulligan in response to an article in the Sunday Business Post.

Mr Mulligan called the story “a lot of theoretical nonsense” and that “we” had “dropped 20 million getting the right advice” on what was the “only game in town”.

Yesterday, The Times Ireland edition reported that Mr Mulligan is a senior government official and programme director for the National Broadband Plan.

Fianna Fáil TD Timmy Dooley was the first yesterday to raise the matter:

Timmy Dooley: “The account in question has, I understand, tweeted around five times since it was created. The communications protocol I outlined earlier states that, as a general matter, members of the NBP team shall not discuss or communicate in any way matters relating to the procurement outside of the NBP team.

…It goes on to state that where communications with a third party takes place, whether oral or written, involving a member of the NBP team, the NBP team member will state that they cannot discuss any matters relating to the procurement process. Can the Minister confirm that this person is in fact who he says he is on Twitter?

“Has he carried out any investigation to establish that? Does he believe it is appropriate for the programme director to engage in this kind of communication at this stage of the process? Why did the programme director take it upon himself to make these unsolicited comments?”

Later

Richard Bruton: “I acknowledge that tweets were sent which were attributed to the director of the programme. This should not have happened and will not happen in the future. All engagement with the media will be managed through the press office. The individual concerned has been very passionate and energetic in developing the project. That is fair.”

Social Democrats TD Catherine Murphy also raised the series of tweets, saying:

The tweet mentioned by Deputy Dooley seems to indicate a mindset in the Department involving a very senior official suggesting the decision has already been made. Will the Minister confirm that this is not the case and that there is a robust process under way? At what level is the official? Will he be taking part in the process? Can the Minister really describe this as a competitive tendering process if there is only one bidder?”

Bruton: “The decision has certainly not already been made. The person who issued the tweet should not have issued it. He has played a major role in this, however. He has always been very important and passionate. He recognised that what happened should not have happened, and it will not happen again. Any such communication will go through the press office in the normal course.”

Meanwhile…

Later…

Former Minister for Communications Denis Naughten addressed the Dáil and said:

“In recent months, a theme of innuendo and aspersions inside and outside this Chamber has emerged which questions the capability of the last remaining bidder to deliver. This is not for any of us to determine now. That is the job of the 80-strong expert evaluation team.

“We must ask, however, what is driving this narrative and for what gain. Is it to collapse the plan altogether, perhaps? It may have that desired effect, which would cause more heartache for 1.2 million people in rural Ireland. I appeal to colleagues to let the evaluation team do its job.

“Over the past 34 months, some of the most capable people in Europe, with experience in highly complex procurement projects, have been working on this project. I reiterate that at no time did I interfere or try to interfere in the process to benefit any of the bidders, and the Peter Smyth report concludes this.”

Yesterday: Faulty Leakage

Transcript: Oireachtas.ie

3 thoughts on “‘The Only Game In Town’

  1. Eoin

    Laughable face the Dail statements yesterday evening. In effect, each Opposition TD and there were less than 10 had three minutes to ask a question and get the response. Richard Bruton was constantly talking down the clock though he did reveal the government may not proceed with the sole bidder, though cynics will interpret that as a red herring to stop urgent scrutiny of what happened between Naughten and the sole bidder.

    As for Fergal Mulligan, sure isn’t he as entitled as anyone else to comment on the scandal. Surprised he didn’t claim he was “independent”.

    PS Peter Smyth is before the Oireachtas comms committee tomorrow and that will be far more interesting that yesterday’s farce. Also the public accounts committee tomorrow is examining the cost of the National Broadband Plan.

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