Tag Archives: Denis Naughten

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)

 

From top: Denis O’Brien, Actavo, David McCourt, Minister for Communications Denis Naughten and Social Democrat TD Catherine Murphy

Yesterday.

Social Democrats TD Catherine Murphy asked Taoiseach Leo Varadkar in the Dáil if he was satisfied with the bidding process for the contract for the National Broadband Plan.

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.

This morning, Peter O’Dwyer, in The Times Ireland edition, reported that David McCourt, of Granahan McCourt, met with the Minister for Communications Denis Naughten in New York last July.

Mr O’Dwyer reported that, during this meeting, Mr McCourt informed Mr Naughten that the British company SSE may withdraw from the consortium which it eventually did.

Mr O’Dwyer reported:

SSE pulled out of the consortium at the end of July in what was regarded as a significant setback for the state-backed scheme, which aims to provide high-speed broadband to 543,000 rural homes and businesses.

Mr Naughten told the Oireachtas communications committee yesterday: “Mr McCourt made the point at that discussion that there may be a request put into the Department [of Communications] for an evaluation in relation to a change to the consortium, but that’s not a matter for me. I would have no direct input or role in relation to that and that was a matter for the procurement process.”

Timmy Dooley, Fianna Fáil communications spokesman, described the meeting as bizarre and questioned why the minister would meet a bidder if he had no role in the procurement process.

Naughten ‘must explain’ meeting with bidder (Peter O’Dwyer, Times Ireland edition)

Further to this…

This afternoon…

Ms Murphy released a statement in which she recalled the controversy over how Mr Naughten spoke with Heneghan PR official Eoghan Ó Neachtain, who was representing INM at the time, on either November 10 or 11, 2016, about the proposed takeover of  the Celtic Media Group by INM.

Ms Murphy, in her statement, said:

At the time of the revelations regarding the Minister’s inappropriate contact with representatives of INM, both the Minister and the Taoiseach were forced to concede that there had been a bad error of judgement from the Minister when he knowingly engaged with a party involved in a transaction directly under the remit of his department.

“Yet here we are again with the same Minister taking a private meeting with the head of a consortium containing some of the same personnel involved in the INM deal.

“The Minister acknowledges that details of the bid and the consortium were raised at the meeting therefore the question must be asked; is this yet another grave error of judgement from the same Minister?”

“Surely the Minister, and indeed the Taoiseach, must see the problem in the fact that yet again Minister Naughten potentially compromised a process under the remit of his Department and most certainly did not act in the manner in which he should have as the Minister in charge.

“Are we to once again accept the paltry explanation that the Minister was acting in a personal capacity rather than Ministerial?

“Either way, this meeting was wholly inappropriate and raises even more concerns regarding the tendering process for the National Broadband Plan – a process which already has some serious questions hanging over it.”

Previously: A ‘Robust’ Tendering Process

‘543,000 Families And Businesses Do Not Care What Name Is On The Side Of The Van’

“I Sincerely Regret Expressing My Opinion…I Said Nothing Wrong”

UPDATE:

Namawinelake tweetz:

“It gets sleazier. Comms minister Denis Naughten says he had “a number of meetings” with the person leading the bidding consortium which includes Denis O’Brien’s Sitserv. Unless that “number of meetings” is one, there’s more to come from this.”

Read yesterday’s debate at the Joint Oireachtas Committee on Communications here

From top: Denis O’Brien; logo for Avctavo, formerly Siteserv; Minister for Communications Denis Naughten in the Dáil yesterday

Yesterday.

In the Dáil.

Minister for Communications Denis Naughten confirmed that, earlier that morning, the remaining bidder in the national broadband plan procurement process had submitted its final tender to his department.

This is the only bidder left in the process.

Mr Naughten told the Dáil:

“Bidders wishing to participate in the ongoing NBP procurement process had to pre-qualify in order to participate in that process. Only those bidders that could demonstrate they had the necessary economic and financial standing, together with the required technical and professional capability, were allowed to participate in the procurement.

A single bidder scenario does not change this and the remaining bidding consortium has had to meet the relevant thresholds set out for the procurement process.

“Up until the point where the procurement was about to enter its finals stages, there was a competitive process.”

Further to this confirmation, Sinn Féin TD Brian Stanley told Mr Naughten:

The Minister has only one bidder left in the process. He has no plan B…  Earlier this year, Professor John FitzGerald, speaking in respect of State contracts, stated: “If there is no queue of suppliers there will be no savings for the State.”

I told the Minister a year ago that if one was going to the market to sell a calf, a bullock or anything else, if there was only one buyer, one would be better off turning around and bringing the bullock back home. The Minister knows that is the case, as someone who is living in a rural area.

Fianna Fáil TD Timmy Dooley asked Mr Naughten to confirm the identity of the bidder, as, he said, other bidders – including Eir, Vodafone, the ESB, SSE and John Laing Group – had in recent months pulled out of the process.

Mr Naughten confirmed the bidder is a Granahan McCourt Capital-led consortium.

Mr Naughten told the Dáil:

The 543,000 families and businesses do not care what name is on the side of the van. They want and deserve high-speed broadband and I am determined to ensure they get it.

Further to this, Granahan McCourt Capital yesterday released a statement, saying businessman Denis O’Brien-owned Actavo, formerly Siteserv, is a member of the consortium making the bid.

Good times.

O’Brien’s Actavo joins bid for €1bn broadband contract (Peter O’Dwyer, Times Ireland edition)

Previously: ‘Why I’m Apologising To The House’

From top: Minister for Communications Denis Naughten and Fianna Fáil TD Timmy Dooley and Sinn Féin TD Brian Stanley

Earlier today.

In the Dáil.

Minister for Communications Denis Naughten was asked again about his contact with lobbyist for Independent News and Media Eoghan O’Neachtain in November 2016, in relation to INM’s proposed takeover of the regional newspaper group Celtic Media.

At the time, the minister told Mr O’Neachtain that he planned to refer the proposed takeover to the Broadcasting Authority of Ireland.

This discussion was then relayed to Denis O’Brien in an email of November 12, 2016.

This was two months before the minister’s plans were made public.

In addition, on December 6, 2016, Minister Naughten told Social Democrats TD Catherine Murphy and Sinn Féin TD Brian Stanley he had not yet decided if he was going to refer the proposed takeover to the BAI.

Minister Naughten never took a note of his mobile phone call with Mr Ó Neachtáin, he didn’t tell his officials and Mr Ó Neachtáin didn’t register the approach with the Lobbying Register.

Further to this…

In the Dáil this morning:

Brian Stanley: “Are there two types of meetings with your department? And two types of contacts? Both official and unofficial? And how many of these do occur?”

Denis Naughten: “We do comply with all of the standards and the legislation, as set out, as I’ve said. I’ve discussed this with my secretary general and he is reviewing the situation to consider if there are further changes. I, for one, won’t be taking any phone calls from lobbyists in the future, I can tell you that for nothing. But the reality is that we do comply with it, and as you know, if you look at the register I think, there are, I think 951 occasions in which my own name is mentioned in relation to various interest groups that have lobbied me since I was appointed minister. I think that’s an average of about 50 a month, covering a wide range – right from the environmental sector, right through to communications, energy, broadcasting media, right across the spectrum. So it is a very busy department, a very complex department – many aspects that are very technical and, as I said, I have discussed this with my secretary general.”

Timmy Dooley: “Look, if we could try and bring this thing to a conclusion, rather than having it, dragging it on, it doesn’t suit any of us. But I think we all have a responsibility to this House to try and get it tidied up. So, for me, there’s a couple of straight questions that you need to answer.

“And if you first accept that you provided confidential information, in other words, an insight into what you were, what you were ultimate intentions might be or your future intentions, and let’s not dance around the head of a pin and that, three weeks later, you came in here and misled the Dáil, albeit inadvertently, I would suspect, but nonetheless, you mislead the Dáil. There’s potential for all of us to do it. It’s just a matter of addressing it and getting beyond it. And that your actions amounted to wrongdoing.

“I don’t  bear you any ill will whatsoever. I have considerable sympathy for you, to be honest in this instance. The way you wandered into such a firestorm, but nonetheless minister, you’re responsible to the House. So there’s three things I think you need to do.

You need to accept that there was confidential information, because you did give insight into where you were, where you might ultimately go, you can put the caveat on it. The issue of misleading the Dáil and accepting it was wrongdoing.

“It doesn’t require you to resign, minister. Nobody has been really demanding that. But it requires you to be answerable to the House. And then I think, you know, this issue gets off your desk and gets off everybody’s desks.”

Naughten: “No, I did not give confidential information and I’m quite categoric in relation to that. The conversation that I had, and I sincerely regret that conversation, and I acknowledge that it was a political mistake to have that conversation and I’ve learned form my experience and I apologise for that. And I sincerely apologise for that.

“But I did not give confidential information, because I did not have any information available to me at that stage. The information that I had was the information that everyone else in this House had or was available on Google and yes, I do regret giving my opinion in relation to it at that point and the reality was that three weeks later, when I was here in the House, I had an active file in front of me at that stage, and it was a very different situation at that point.

“And I’ve been at pains to try and point out that. And I do sincerely regret it.”

Stanley: “Minister, just in relation to your reply. The problem arises that I asked you in October of 2016 about this and I asked you again on the 6th [of December] in a Priority Question here, in this seat, and you sitting over there in relation to what was your intentions regarding that merger and what you intended to do and you told me, and the transcript is there from that debate in the Dáil between you and I, that you had absolutely no idea, I remember you, I think you shook your head, as to what you were going to do with it. And you can say that in relation to, that you didn’t have the file in front of you at that point, that you hadn’t entered the process, and I know how that works, I’ve looked at all of that in detail.

“And I was following that very carefully at that time because we had huge concerns about that and I was raising it with you for months before that. But the problem, that’s where the problem arises.

“I accept the fact that you have apologised, what we wish to do now is to make sure that we tighten up all of this area…Would you agree that unofficial contacts with lobbyists, for ministers, has to stop?”

Naughten: “Look. Deputy Stanley, in my initial reply to you, to your supplementary, I said, look, I won’t be taking calls for lobbyists. I’ve said to you that I have discussed it with my secretary general and he will be reviewing the situation to see if there are other changes that, in procedures. But procedures are set out very clearly in relation to this and as I say, look, I have apologised for it. I do sincerely regret it. And look, I just want to get on, focus on the job and work that’s in front of me, the very demanding job, it’s a very demanding department and I know that all of you here want to do the same thing. And look, there’s nothing more that I can say in relation to this.”

Dooley: “I want to let you on with your job, I want to get on with mine. But I’m still at a loss as to understand, why you regret taking the call? Why you’ve apologised for taking the call? Why you’ve asserted that you’ll never take a call again – if you did nothing wrong in the first instance?

The facts remain, minister, that you fail to understand, by providing an insight into your thinking, a personal opinion, whatever it might be, that was confidential information. It’s the confidence of your own personal information that’s at play here – not access to some information in relation to your officials.

Because you had a hunch as to where this thing was going. And you gave that information to the lobbyist and he passed it on. Which is now the result, or is now forming part of evidence which the Director of Corporate Enforcement is using as part of his campaign to appoint investigators [into INM]. So it was confidential information, minister. That’s what you need to accept. That’s what you’ve identified as being regrettable for taking the call, that’s what you’ve apologised for. You need to start at the beginning and just accept that you provided confidential information, that it was wrong, it was on  a relatively low scale and it can be addressed within this House.

“Will you just please, just bring this to a conclusion, minister?”

Naughten:One, I did not give any confidential information. Two, I made it crystal clear that I would be guided by whatever advice that I got from my officials and the file shows clearly that’s exactly what I did. And the reason that I regret and apologise is this is the fourth day in a row, in this House, that we’ve been discussing this issue here regarding a 30-second conversation that I had giving an opinion that I sincerely regret giving and that’s why I’m apologising to this House and to the public out there. That his House has been preoccupied about this for four days in a row.”

Previously: ‘He Didn’t Do Any Favours For Denis O’Brien’

Naughten To See Here

Denis Denis

From top: Minister for Communications Denis Naughten; Taoiseach Leo Varadkar

This afternoon.

In the Dáil.

During Leaders’ Questions.

Fianna Fáil leader Micheál Martin again raised Minister for Communications Denis Naughten’s contact with lobbyist for Independent News and Media Eoghan O’Neachtain in November 2016, in relation to INM’s proposed takeover of the regional newspaper group Celtic Media.

At the time, the minister told Mr O’Neachtain that he planned to refer the proposed takeover to the Broadcasting Authority of Ireland.

This discussion was then relayed to Denis O’Brien in the aforementioned email of November 12, 2016.

This was reportedly two months before the minister’s plans were made public.

In addition, on December 6, 2016, Minister Naughten told Social Democrats TD Catherine Murphy he had not yet decided if he was going to refer the proposed takeover to the BAI.

Further to this.

This afternoon.

Mr Martin claimed the Dáil was mislead and said Minister Naughten should apologise to the Dáil, and correct the record of the House.

M Martin also added:

“His [Minister Naughten’s] officials in the department must have warned him in advance of this issue, given their experience in relation to the Moriarty Tribunal and the awarding of the State’s second mobile phone licence to Esat Digifone. We know that experience traumatised the officials considerably and obviously left a mark within the department.”

In his response, Mr Varadkar said:

“Minister Naughten didn’t do any favours for anyone. He didn’t do any favours for Independent News and Media. He didn’t do any favours for Denis O’Brien. In fact, his action was to delay the merger, delay the proposed merger between INM and Celtic Media by referring it to the Broadcasting Authority…”

Watch Dáil proceedings live here

Previously: Naughten To See Here

Denis Denis