Former Minister for Communications Denis Naughten says that his main objective during meetings with US businessman David McCourt was that his consortium Granahan- McCourt remained a bidder for the National Broadband Plan.
“My sole aim was to keep him at the table,” he told RTE’s News at One.
“The reality is that Siro, the ESB, Vodafone and Eir all walked away, I was desperate to ensure that 1.2million people had access to broadband.”
He said that as a rural TD he was very much aware what it was like for those 1.2million people who were without broadband. He was looking for equality of treatment for them.
Of the 40 engagements he had with all the bidders, 39 of them were minuted or witnessed by department officials. “There are people who know what happened.”
He added that of the 10 meetings he had with Mr McCourt, eight were after he had become the sole bidder.
Mr Naughten pointed out that “significant resources and investment” had been put into the process by both the department and by Granahan-McCourt.
He rejected a suggestion that his meetings with Mr McCourt were inappropriate, he said that any time there was a discussion about the process, he had been fully briefed by department officials.
The Independent TD also said that he had met with representatives of the other bidders too before they withdrew from the bidding process.
He said that this was not a tender “in the normal sense,” it was instead “a competitive dialogue procurement process”.
Once the other bidders withdrew from the process, his priority had been “to get a viable bid from the remaining bidder.”
He did not have access to information, he was kept at arm’s length from the process, and was not allowed to interfere in the process, he added.
Mr Naughten further rejected the suggestion that he allowed Eir “cherry pick” more lucrative broadband services in urban areas. That proposal had been decided before he became Minister he said, it had been brought to him by officials and he went with their advice.
Whoever was Minister was going to have recommendations from a team of 80 officials and external advisers, he said.
He hopes that he will be given the opportunity to become involved in a Dáil debate next week when the matter is discussed.
He concluded by saying that he intends to contest the next election as an Independent candidate.