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Taoiseach 'satisfied' with Denis Naughten's account of dinner with Broadband Plan bidder - for now

Naughten has been under pressure after it emerged he attended a dinner with David McCourt in July.

Source: TheJournal.ie/YouTube

The Minister has resigned since the publication of this piece. More on that development can be read here.

TAOISEACH LEO VARADKAR says he is satisfied with Denis Naughten’s explanation for a dinner he had with the head of the only group bidding for the National Broadband Plan contract.

The Minister for Communications is set to appear before the Dáil this afternoon to clarify the circumstances surrounding a number of meetings he has had with David McCourt.

Naughten has previously admitted to attending a dinner with McCourt – head of the Granahan McCourt consortium – in New York in July, while yesterday it emerged that the minister facilitated a lunch in the Dáil for McCourt’s daughter in April.

But speaking to TheJournal.ie today, Varadkar revealed that while he was still seeking clarity on protocols that prevent the minister from influencing the procurement process, he was happy with an explanation Naughten gave him last night.

He said: “I don’t have all the information yet. I’m certainly satisfied with what he said to me last night at the meeting.

“I just need to look at the communications protocol for myself and need to hear from him if he has any further information to share with us.”

Impractical

The Taoiseach reiterated his stance that the minister regularly met with communications chiefs during the course of his work, adding that it was “impractical” to suggest that meetings with potential bidders should not happen during a tendering process.

“I think it’s important to point out that as Minister for Energy and Minister for Communications, he does have to be able to interact with the head of ESB, the head of Vodafone, and all of these companies were bidding as well and he would have met with the chief executive officers in those companies,” he said.

The minister also received the backing of the Táiniste at Leaders’ Questions in the Dáil this afternoon, when Simon Coveney said that Naughten would clarify the issue this evening.

“This has been a long procurement and tendering process that has involved multiple players in the telecommunications company in Ireland,” he said.

“It would be and is inappropriate for a minister to discuss with that bidder any detail that relates to the bidding process and the procurement process, and that is why Minister Naughten wants an opportunity to come before this House to explain [himself].”

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