Tag Archives: Denis Naughten

From top: David McCourt with Minister of State for Trade, Employment, Business, EU Digital Single Market and Data Protection Pat Breen; Fianna Fail leader Mícheál Martin and Taoiseach Leo Varadkar.

 

This afternoon.

Further to the resignation of former Communications Minister Denis Naughten last week after it emerged he held several meetings with David McCourt of Granahan McCourt Capital – a consortium which is the final bidder in the tendering process for the National Broadband Plan contract, the State’s largest ever communications project.

And it emerging that Clare Fine Gael TD Pat Breen facilitated one of these meetings.

Fianna Fáil leader Mícheál Martin, who mentioned this article published in the Silicon Republic in September 2017, asked Taoiseach Leo Varadkar if he had spoken to Mr Breen about the meeting he facilitated between Mr McCourt and Mr Naughten.

The Taoiseach told Mr Martin that he had spoken with Mr Breen and that Mr Breen told him that Mr McCourt asked him to pass on an invitation to Mr Naughten, for dinner in his house, Mr Naughten accepted the invitation and this dinner took place.

Mr Varadkar said Mr Breen told him the National Broadband Plan wasn’t discussed during this dinner.

After further questions from Mr Martin, Mr Varadkar said:

“While we may all agree that passing on that invitation was unwise, I don’t think it’s a resigning matter.”

Previously: Courting David

From top: David McCourt with, from top: Minister of State for Trade, Employment, Business, EU Digital Single Market and Data Protection Pat Breen, former Minister for Communications Denis Naughten; Taoiseach Leo Varadkar, and RTÉ’s Ryan Tubridy

On Friday, May 11, 2018.

David McCourt was interviewed by Ryan Tubridy on RTÉ Radio One, during which he spoke about his father, his career and his book Total Rethink: Why entrepreneurs should act like revolutionaries.

Mr McCourt, who has a house in Newmarket, Co Clare, and also bases himself in Dublin, London and New York, is the founder and chairman of Granahan McCourt Capital.

Granahan McCourt Capital is leading a consortium which is the final bidder in the tendering process for the National Broadband Plan contract, the State’s largest ever communications project.

Yesterday, the Minister for Communications Denis Naughten resigned after it emerged he had several meetings with Mr McCourt.

He met Mr McCourt in New York in July and he facilitated a birthday lunch for Mr McCourt and his daughter in Leinster House on April 18, a lunch Mr Naughten didn’t attend.

He also met Mr McCourt on June 26.

Mr Naughten also had multiple more private dinners with Mr McCourt – with one of them facilitated by Clare Fine Gael TD Pat Breen who has met Mr McCourt on a number of occasions, and who last night released a statement saying:

“Mr McCourt’s home is about 10 miles from my home in Co Clare. I have gotten to know Mr McCourt on a personal basis, have visited his Co Clare home several times and met him on other occasions in a private capacity.

“Last year, on the request of Mr McCourt, I asked Denis Naughten, then Minister for Communications, if he would like to come to a dinner in Mr McCourt’s house. Mr McCourt’s wife also attended the dinner. To my knowledge, the National Broadband Plan was not discussed at the dinner.”

Further to this…

Back in May, Mr Tubridy and Mr McCourt had the following exchange…

Ryan Tubridy: “If I could ask you a little bit about Ireland and broadband. And are you…”

David McCourt: “Surprised you’re gonna ask about that…”

Tubridy: “Well tell me about that. What…Are you the guy? Or how did? I mean we know that Eir were the last, or you’re the last people standing? For people who are sitting there, trying to get their laptop working or their, whatever they’re trying to get working, broadband wise and can’t get it. What are you going to do? What can you say to them?”

McCourt: “Well, first of all, the National Broadband Plan that’s, you know, been getting a lot of flak, is because it’s taking so long. But you gotta remember Ryan this is a very audacious, aggressive programme that the Government has put forward. And my hat goes off to them for trying to do it. And they will succeed. Every man, woman and child will get wired in this country. It’ll start in September.

“I know the press keeps on saying eNet is the last man standing but I’d like to think that it’s because everybody else lost. It’s not that we’re the last man standing, you know…”

Tubridy: “You won.”

McCourt: “We won. And everybody else lost.”

Tubridy: “Right. And do you think it’s realisable?”

McCourt: “100 per cent realisable.”

Tubridy: “Right. And is there a timeframe?”

McCourt: “Yeah, the Government issued a timeframe. It’s going to start in the Fall and every time I talk to the Government, they say, ‘I want you to go faster’. ‘Faster, faster, faster, faster’.”

Tubridy: “And are you in a position to answer that request with a positive?”

McCourt: “Absolutely and I’ll be in front of the Government on Tuesday for our monthly meeting. And the Secretary General and the Minister [Denis Naughten] will say ‘I want you to go faster, faster, faster’.”

Tubridy: “So all eyes on you then for the next few years?”

McCourt: “Well, look. I’m happy for that to be the case. We’ll do a very, very good job.”

Good times.

Related: Right To Know and the eNet saga: A Timeline (Gavin Sheridan, TheStory.ie)

Meanwhile: What happens when meet you Leo and you’re not a bug-eyed billionaire? Watch here.

Earlier: Pat Answers

Previously: More Dinners

Picking Up The Tab

Listen back in full here

Meanwhile…

Hmm.

From top: Taoiseach Leo Varadkar (left) and Denis Naughten; Pat Breen, Minister of State for Trade, Employment, Business, EU Digital Single Market and Data Protection

This evening.

Further to the resignation of the Minister for Communications. Denis Naughten…

Mr Varadkar said he was informed late last night by Mr Naughten of a private dinner he had attended at Mr McCourt’s home in 2017.

This dinner was organised by Minister for State Pat Breen, who was also at the dinner.

This morning, Mr Naughten told Mr Varadkar that he had had at least three further private dinners with Mr McCourt. No officials were present and no minutes of the meetings were taken.

Mr Varadkar also informed the Dáil that he had met Mr McCourt last March in the US at a public event but th ebroadband plan was not discussed.

Taoiseach reveals further dinners with Naughten and broadband bidder (RTÊ)

Earlier: Picking Up The Tab

UPDATE: More Dinners

Earlier: He’s To Come Back With A few More Answers

This morning.

Ireland AM on Virgin Media 1.

Leo Varadkar: “I can accept how the optics are problematic and perception does matter in politics and, of course, in business, too. But, as I said, Denis [Naughten] is going to be in the Dáil this afternoon. He’s going to clarify all those aspects and I’d like to give him the opportunity to do that first.

“You know, a lot of the time, people also jump to conclusions and rush to judgement and I wouldn’t like that to happen.”

Mark Cagney: “Do you have confidence in him?”

Varadkar: “In Denis? I do, yes.”

Cagney: “Fully?”

Varadkar: “Yeah.”

Cagney: “OK, so there won’t be a resignation any time soon? And if Fianna Fáil come looking for his head?”

Leo Varadkar: “Well…that’s up to them, obviously, I can’t speak for Fianna Fáil.”

“…Well I asked him [Naughten] to come and see me last night so actually, last night, we had a meeting, went through these issues, asked the kind of questions that you’re asking me now and he’s to come back to me with a few more answers.”

Mark Cagney: “And you’re satisfied?”

Varadkar: “So far, yes.”

Mr Naughten will make a statement and take questions on his contacts with David McCourt in the Dáil at 3pm.

More as we get it.

Earlier: Wiffy

Yesterday: The Birthday Party

From top: Paul Murphy, Timmy Dooley and Denis Naughten; The McCourt family with tenor Ronan Tynan at a gala in New York.

7.01pm UPDATE:

Awkward.

6.10pm UPDATE:

Uh oh.

6pm Update:

A spokesperson for the the Minister for Communications has said Denis Naughten did pay for lunch for a businessman involved in the tender for the National Broadband Plan.

The lunch for David McCourt and his daughter cost €37 and it was deducted from Minister’s Naughten’s salary in July under the Oireachtas payments system, the spokesperson said.

Spokesperson says Minister did pay for McCourts’ lunch (RTÉ)

Earlier…

In the Dáil.

Following journalist Gavin Sheridan, of Right To Know, discovering, under the Freedom of Information Act, that, according to his diary, the Minister for Communications Denis Naughten was scheduled to meet with David McCourt for lunch in Leinster House on April 18, 2018.

April 18, 2018 was the same day Minister Naughten answered questions in the Dáil about Independent News and Media’s proposed takeover of Celtic Media.

Minister Naughten told the Dáil this morning he didn’t meet him for that lunch.

Instead, he said Mr McCourt was in Leinster House that day to celebrate a birthday – while he and his family were in Dublin.

Mr McCourt is founder and chairman of a private investment firm called Granahan McCourt – which is leading a consortium that is the only bidder for the National Broadband Plan contract.

The consortium includes Denis O’Brien-owned Actavo, formerly known as Siteserv.

Last week it emerged that David McCourt, of Granahan McCourt, met with the Mr Naughten in New York last July.

And yesterday it was shown that Mr Naughten, at this meeting, flouted his department’s own protocols regarding contacts between bidders and the state.

From the Dáil this morning:

Paul Murphy: “OK, minister, I’m going to go again on the first question and it’s the only question I’m going to ask so as to avoid any possibility of you answering another question. Were you due to meet with a Mr McCourt in Leinster House on the 18th of April or around the 18th of April?

Would there be a diary entry to that effect about a lunch or a meeting with Mr McCourt in Leinster House on the 18th of April or around the 18th of April?

And if that is the case, what was going to be the nature of the meeting? What was the meeting going to be about and who was going to attend? Was there going to be anyone from the department attending?”

Timmy Dooley: “Yeah, minister it’s really the same question. On the 18th of April, your diary shows an entry to have lunch with David McCourt in Leinster House. I can confirm to you that David McCourt did have lunch in Leinster House on that day.

Whether or not you joined him is a matter for you to clarify to this house. I want to know what the purpose of that meeting? Why you arranged the meeting? Was it your intention to have officials present? What was the expected outcome from Mr McCourt’s perspective?

And why in God’s name did you allow yourself to be embroiled, yet again, on the very day that you were explaining to this house why you had inappropriately involved yourself  in the Celtic Media controversy?”

Denis Naughten: “No, I did not attend the lunch, is the first thing. Second thing is that my understanding is that Mr McCourt and his family came in for lunch that day, to celebrate a birthday.

They had been in Dublin, that was the reason for that particular lunch. But I didn’t attend, I didn’t attend it. If Deputy Dooley says it’s in my diary, it’s in my diary, I don’t know.

Minister Naughten also told the Dáil:

“Yes, the booking [for the lunch in Leinster House] was made under my name. I didn’t speak with David McCourt either in person or on the phone or any other way that day or subsequent days in relation to that.

I facilitated the family coming in to Leinster House as many colleagues do here and I didn’t have any engagement whatsoever with David McCourt.”

On Monday, Social Democrats TD Catherine Murphy asked for time to be set aside in the Daáil to allow for Minister Naughten to answer questions about his contact with Mr McCourt and the tendering process for the National Broadband Plan contract.

All requests were declined.

Update:

Catherine Murphy said:

“It is interesting that the Minister, despite prolific spinning and semantics about his various dinner dates with David McCourt and family, has not defended his flagrant breach of his own Department’s protocols.

I believe he has not addressed this issue because there is no way for him to do so without acknowledging that he has, without question, broken the specific rules governing the tender process and has therefore fundamentally compromised not only the process but himself and his Ministerial office.

I have reiterated my request to the Business Committee that the Minister be brought before the Dáil tomorrow to make a statement and to take questions on the issue.”

Ms Murphy added:

“We know from a parliamentary reply to me that Minister Naughten briefed Taoiseach Leo Varadker in September 2018 and so I think it’s important that we hear if the Taoiseach was made aware at that stage of the Minister’s repeated breach of the protocols throughout the process.”

Hmm.

Previously:  ‘Any Sniff Of Impropriety Or Bad Governance Must Be Met With Robust Questioning’

Breaking His Own Rules

Denis Denis

“I Didn’t Wilfully Or Any Other Way Mislead The Dáil”

Fianna Fáil leader Mícheál Martin in the Dáil this afternoon and the minutes of a meeting between the Minister for Communications Denis Naughten and David McCourt in New York in July

This afternoon.

During Leaders’ Questions.

Fianna Fáil leader Mícheál Martin raised questions with Taoiseach Leo Varadkar about Minister for Communication Denis Naughten and the tendering process for the National Broadband Plan contract.

Mícheál Martin said to the Taoiseach:

“Minister Naughten met with the head of the remaining consortium David McCourt in July and discussed the tendering process with him. Relevant officials from the department handling the bid were not there and were not present – which is very significant.

“Someone on climate change was there, but not anybody dealing with the bid. The minutes are clear: Four issues relating to the bid and consortium were discussed. Taoiseach, decision makers such as Minister Naughten are properly and normally insulated from lobbying and any attempt to influence them during a tendering process.

“It is clear that Mr McCourt was trying to convince the minister that he had addressed the department official’s concerns. They were sorted and they were good to go.

“He was canvassing, he was lobbying and canvassing, Taoiseach, disqualifies. Remember Taoiseach that, at this stage, a decision still has to be taken by the minister. To either go with the bid or not go with the bid.

“The minister should be completely, completely at arm’s length from this process, from the tendering process. I find it extraordinary that I’m even in here, asking these questions and putting these points. Remember this is a massive contract. Which could be providing up to half a billion or more from State funds. From taxpayers’ money.

“It is quite extraordinary Taoiseach, and I’m going to put to you straight: the minister should not have met David McCourt, do you accept that? Has the tendering process, Taoiseach, been contaminated by the minister’s actions?

I mean people externally looking into this country – they might be tempted to say now, that the key to getting a lucrative contract in Ireland is face time with the minister.

“Now we’ve had tribunals about this kind of thing in the past. It is extraordinary Taoiseach that this has occurred. And in my view the minister has contaminated the process and you as Taoiseach need to reflect on that.

“And the Government does – before any further action is taken in relation to this.”

Taoiseach Leo Varadkar spoke about how committed the Government is to the National Broadband Plan and about how it’s a huge an investment.

He went on to list Minister Naughten and his department’s responsibilities in relation to the plan.

He then said:

“In relation to the dinner to which you refer, while visiting New York in mid-July, to speak at the United Nations on Ireland’s progress towards achieving  the UN Sustainable Development Goals, the Irish delegation, including Minister Naughten and his officials were invited to attend a dinner hosted by the McCourt family.

“It’s worth noting that he’s been a significant investor in the country for many years, employing hundreds of people. The exchange was of a ten-minute duration, as the minutes show, and Minister Naughten did not enter into any detailed discussions on the matters with Mr McCourt.

“Mr McCourt has also publicly confirmed this fact and the tender was not discussed. The minutes show that no official from the National Broadband Division was in attendance which is an important fact and that it was not a meeting arranged  to discuss the NBP.

The engagement in question took place in a social setting and the engagement of the NBP lasted no more than 10 minutes with Mr McCourt directing his comments to the officials of the department.

“The procurement department has confirmed that in no way whatsoever has the procurement process been compromised as has been alleged by some members of the Opposition, by the minister and his officials, meeting Mr McCourt in New York.

The short discussion was of an administrative nature. It is a single bidder so competition not a factor here and the meeting took place on July 16 when the evaluation stage had not yet commenced.

“The evaluation stage commenced on September 18, 2018, when the final tender document was submitted to the department. The minutes of this meeting have been published.”

Mr Martin said what the Taoiseach said wasn’t credible and read out the minutes (above).

He then said:

“This is the meat, this is the God damn meat of the bid. This was Mr McCourt saying ‘I’ve answered the case’. Do you not find it’s quite extraordinary Taoiseach, that we are where we are in even discussing this?

“So I think, Taoiseach, erecting Chinese walls, saying ‘I’m at the lunch, there’s an official at the lunch, or around the same table, but the minister becomes deaf and hear’s nothing. Hears nothing of the conversation. That’s not credible Taoiseach.

Mr Varadkar went on to say that he thinks it’s “OK” for Minister Naughten to have met with Mr McCourt, “provided it conferred no advantage on him”.

He added:

“And Minister Naughten is the Minister for Communications and are we really saying that over a two or three year period, as minister, it wouldn’t be possible for him to meet the CEO of Eircom, to meet the CEO of SSE, to meet the CEO of SIRO? That the Minister over a two or three year period would not have any engagement with anyone involved in the sector?”

“Perhaps he shouldn’t meet the CEO of RTE either, or the chair of RTE when issues around their funding couldn’t be discussed. Perhaps he shouldn’t meet the CEO of TG4 when decisions are made about funding of those bodies?

“Perhaps he shouldn’t meet the CEO of anybody in the entire industry?”

Watch back here


From top: Minister for Communications Denis Naughten; broadband consortium bid leader David McCourt; a document containing communication protocols between bidders and the Department of Communications

This morning.

Via The Times Ireland Edition:

A copy of the National Broadband Plan (NBP) communication protocol obtained by The Times has prompted accusations that the exchange between Mr Naughten, his officials and Mr McCourt contravened rules set down to protect the integrity of the procurement process in areas relating to the handling of bidder queries and officials’ permission to discuss the plan.

The internal department protocol said all queries from qualified bidders must be made through the eTenders procurement website and all responses must be made through the same system.

Minutes of the dinner released last week showed that Mr McCourt raised issues relating to the bid’s leadership team, the importance of meeting an impending deadline, the need for the bid team to have finalised its financing arrangements, and its internal decision-making process.

Denis Naughten ‘broke rules over dinner with bidder’ (Peter Dwyer, Times Ireland Edition)

Meanwhile…

Previously: McCourt In The Act

Social Democrats TD Catherine Murphy, Minister for Communications Denis Naughten, and minutes of a meeting between Mr Naughten and David McCourt

This morning.

Social Democrats TD Catherine Murphy has called for time to be allocated in the Dáil this week to allow for the Minister for Communications Denis Naughten to make a statement and answer questions about the tendering process for the National Broadband Plan contract.

There is only one bidder up for the contract – a consortium which includes Denis O’Brien-owned Actavo, formerly known as Siteserv.

The consortium is led by a private investment firm called Granahan McCourt.

Last week it emerged that David McCourt, of Granahan McCourt, met with the Mr Naughten in New York last July.

During this meeting, Mr McCourt informed Mr Naughten that the British company SSE may withdraw from the consortium which it eventually did.

Mr Naughten also told the Joint Oireachtas Committee on Communications last week that he had “a number of discussions with David McCourt about this project”.

In a statement this morning, Ms Murphy said:

“We know that the Minister met Mr McCourt in New York yet the version of events he gave during the Oireachtas Communications Committee hearing does not tally with the version detailed in the minutes of the meeting released by his Department late on Thursday evening last.

“Apart from that glaring variation of events, the Minister, in the committee testimony, refers to having met with Mr McCourt on the issue of the NBP on ‘a number of occasions’.

“I urgently want clarity on the nature of these discussions – particularly given the revelations of how other bidders feel they were treated during the process.”

“With the Budget consuming a lot of time and attention this week I feel it is hugely important that this vital issue is not allowed to fall of the political radar.

“We are dealing with one of the most important State contracts that will ever be awarded and any sniff of impropriety or bad governance must be met with significant urgency and robust questioning until we are satisfied the process to date has been as it should be.

“That is why I have formally requested that the Government Chief Whip provide time this week for the minister to address the Dáil and take questions – as he did last April when similar concerns were raised about his interaction with key stakeholders in a business decision his department had a role in.”

Related: State broadband bidder Granahan McCourt sued for contract breach (Justine McCarthy, The Sunday Times)

Previously: “Here We Are Again”

McCourt In The Act

A ‘Robust’ Tendering Process

Minutes of a private meeting between Minister for Communications Denis Naughten (top) and David McCourt, head of the last consortium to bid for the National Broadband tender.

Details of the dinner hosted by David McCourt, the head of Granahan McCourt, show that a far more wide-ranging discussion than was outlined by the minister took place, with at least four issues relating to the plan having been discussed at the gathering in New York in July.

…This week the communications minister said he had a discussion with Mr McCourt during which the “only issue” raised was that of potential changes to the bidding consortium.

…The document shows that Mr McCourt reassured officials who were accompanying the minister that an individual had been selected to take a role within the consortium which the department had requested be filled by a “permanent, Irish-based” executive.

Fresh doubts over Denis Naughten’s account of dinner with bid chief (The Times Ireland Edition)

Previously: ‘Here We Are Again’

Meanwhile…

Um.

Taoiseach Leo Varadkar and David McCourt, of Granahan McCourt Capital, during a Science Foundation Ireland’s (SFI) ceremony in Washington, USA last March.

Just a fabulous coincidence.

Good times.

David McCourt Awarded SFI St. Patrick’s Day Science Medal for Outstanding Contribution to Technology and Innovation (BusinessWire)