Focus on soundbite not policy: Naughten hits out at Taoiseach and media

Focus on soundbite not policy: Naughten hits out at Taoiseach and media

Former Minister for Communications, Denis Naughten, has hit out by the lack of support he got from Taoiseach Leo Varadkar ahead of being asked to consider his position.

“Sometimes the focus is more on the soundbite than on the policy. People can see for themselves that I did not interfere in the process and everything I said was true,” he said.

Speaking for the first time since the publication of the Peter Smyth report into his handling of the National Broadband Plan tender process, Mr Naughten hit out at the media for not waiting to hear the facts: “It is not just in relation to politics it is in relation to the media too.

People need to have the time to have the facts presented. I made it clear to the Dáil that I didn't have any information, I was being kept at arm's length.

He denies that meetings with David McCourt, head of the sole remaining bidder for the National Broadband Plan tender were inappropriate.

Speaking in the wake of the publication of the Smyth report, which examined if those meetings contaminated the tender process and ultimately cleared him of wrongdoing, Mr Naughten said that any time there was a discussion about the process, he was fully briefed by department officials.

He said 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 RTÉ’s News at One.

The reality is that Siro, the ESB, Vodafone and Eir all walked away, I was desperate to ensure that 1.2 million people had access to broadband.

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”.

He said that as a rural TD he is very much aware what it is like for those 1.2 million people without broadband.

He is looking for equality of treatment for them.

Asked if he is, as speculation has it, still interested in rejoining Fine Gael, Mr Naughten said he intends to contest the next election as an Independent candidate.

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