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Fianna Fáil says it won't bring down the government over the broadband plan

Fianna Fáil’s Timmy Dooley said the decision to proceed is a matter for government.

Launch of the Oireachtas committee's report on the National Broadband Plan.
Launch of the Oireachtas committee's report on the National Broadband Plan.
Image: Sam Boal

FIANNA FÁIL WON’T bring down the government over the National Broadband Plan contract, according to the party’s communications spokesperson.

At the launch of the Oireachtas Communications Committee report on the broadband plan, which does not garner support from the committee’s Fine Gael members, Timmy Dooley said Fianna Fáil continues to support the government in the confidence and supply agreement. 

Last week, the committee voted on a number of recommendations, backing the proposal for the broadband network to remain in public ownership.

The committee – which investigated the government’s decision to award Granahan McCourt preferred bidder status for the multi-billion euro contract – voted to recommend that the government reopen talks over the network. 

One of the only recommendations not adopted by the committee today was a proposal from Fine Gael members to sign the contract and to roll-out the network as soon as possible.

The report also recommends that the government commission an external and independent review on whether the current proposal is value for money.

“Are we going to bring down the government on the strength of whether they are going to accept this report or not, the answer is no. No, we won’t bring down the government on this,” said Dooley today.

He said in their role as the opposition, Fianna Fáil has been “responsible” in highlighting their concerns about the current plan on the table and its €3 billion price tag.

He said the decision on whether to sign the contract is ultimately a matter for the government to decide, stating that no Dail motion or debate is going to change things, in his view.

He told TheJournal.ie that the government must now decide if it is going to listen or ignore an Oireachtas committee’s recommendations on the future of the National Broadband Plan.

Chairperson of the committee Hildegarde Naughten, who is also a Fine Gael TD, said any further reviews into the plan will only delay the roll out of rural broadband further.

broadband 414_90578393 Chair Deputy Hildegarde Naughton at the launch of today's report. Source: Sam Boal

Outlining the timetable, she said the committee’s report will now go to the Communications Minister Richard Bruton to consider.

She said the minister has committed to assessing the report before signing the contract with the preferred bidder.

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Government sources told this publication last week that it is keen to sign the contract and “get started right away”. 

They hit back at Fianna Fail’s position to carry out a review, stating that nothing new will be discovered.

“When the NBP was announced back in May, the opposition claimed they had an alternative that would be cheaper for the taxpayer and deliver broadband to rural Ireland more swiftly. 

“After months of hearings, the opposition’s big plan is to delay the roll out, and instead commission more reports, and hire more consultants.

“It’s proof positive that there is no better plan,” they said.

Dooley questioned if the government will continue to “bury their heads in the sand”, stating that the Eir offer, where the company said the network could be delivered for a lot less money than the €3 billion, should be further investigated.

He said if Eir can deliver the plan for €2 billion less, then a delay is warranted so as to ascertain if it is actually deliverable. Ultimately, however, Dooley said this is a government decision.

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