Naughten has been in touch with ethics body
Ex-minister has supplied a list of dates of his private meetings with billionaire
FORMER communications minister Denis Naughten has provided both the ethics watchdog Sipo and the auditor writing an independent report with a complete list of the dates he met with billionaire businessman David McCourt.
Mr McCourt was the head of the final consortium bidding to supply broadband to rural Ireland under the National Broadband Plan.
The revelation that he had had several private, unminuted meetings with the minister in charge of the plan forced Mr Naughten to resign last month and placed the future of the plan in doubt.
Sources told the Irish Mail on Sunday that Mr Naughten had been in contact with the Standards in Public Office Commission (Sipo). Asked this week whether or not Sipo was reviewing the secret meetings between Mr Naughten and millionaire businessman Mr McCourt, a spokeswoman said Sipo never commented on investigations. It comes as an independent report is due this week on whether the multimillion-euro tender process to provide rural Ireland with highspeed internet access was compromised.
Mr Naughten, the independent Galway Roscommon TD, claims that before he resigned from Cabinet last month he informed the Taoiseach about the meetings with the lead bidder for the national broadband service.
Yet the Taoiseach was still refusing this weekend to reveal when these encounters took place.
The Irish Mail on Sunday has repeatedly asked since October for the dates of these meetings. The timing of these encounters is significant given that contracts were awarded to McCourt’s firm Enet without it having to go through a tendering process.
But when a list of questions was submitted again this weekend to the Taoiseach’s office, that office refused to provide a reply.
Mr Naughten would not comment and a spokeswoman for Sipo would only say that it could neither confirm or deny that it was making separate enquiries.
Meanwhile, serious questions have been raised about the Government’s much-promoted plan to provide broadband in rural parts of the country by connecting hundreds of thousands of households to a fibre-optic network.
The cost of doing so has spiralled from an original estimate of €500m to an estimated €3bn. Experts have told the MoS they believe it could cost as much as €5bn.
They also predict that by the time a fibre-optic network is installed nationwide, the technology will have become obsolete. Many believe a newer technology could be a cheaper, faster alternative.
An industry source said: ‘Any chartered engineer specialising in fibre-optics will tell you that the industry is rapidly evolving, in so far as the networking equipment that pushes the data through the fibre-optic strands.
‘If Ireland were to hold back for just two years, we could significantly reduce the cost of the tender because the same equipment would be cheaper.
‘More to the point, fixed wireless technology will probably beat fibre when measured in terms of deployment timelines. It will be coming to market within the two years.’
Taoiseach’s office refused to answer
forced to resign: