Labour: Govt decision-making could 'wreck a very good' National Broadband Plan

Alex White.

Former Communications Minister Alex White has said he is “mystified” by the €3bn cost of providing the National Broadband Plan.

Mr White, now Labour's Dublin MEP candidate, defended his handling of the broadband issue during his time in office between 2014 and 2016, insisting that the project was carefully constructed and developed.

“The problem now is, that the Government has fatally undermined the nature of the process that had been put in place by boxing itself into a corner and allowing the situation to develop where there would be only one bidder,” said Mr White.

“So no, I have no regrets in terms of what we constructed as a process to deliver broadband, but what I would be very critical of would be the Government’s own decision-making which ended up potentially wrecking a very good plan,” he added.

When he was questioned further about concerns raised by Secretary General of the Department of Public Expenditure Robert Watt, Mr White said:

“The idea that it would cost that kind of a bill for the Irish taxpayer - and the taxpayer then not to own the network - I think is unconscionable.”

Party leader Brendan Howlin, at the same rally, spoke of his desire to create an alliance between Labour and the Green party after the local elections.

Mr Howlin said he spoke with Green party leader Eamon Ryan about the possibility of working together after the elections.

“We talked this morning in terms of perhaps, a new civic alliance where Greens and Labour would work together to look at climate change agenda at a local level.

"I’d be really anxious to explore that with the Greens on councils across Ireland after this election,” he said.

When asked if Labour voters should give a number 2 to Green party members, he said it is vital to “build progressive alliances” and has asked people to continue to transfer votes to progressives including the Greens and Social Democrats as well as progressive independents.

“We need to have progressive alliances at local level, at national level and at European level if we’re going to counter the growth of populism and I believe people will vote in that way and I hope that the other parties will reciprocate that,” he said.

Mr Howlin said that in order to change policy fundamentally, “we’ll need the co-operation of everybody".

"We’re certainly not going to shut the door to anybody talking to us," he said.

He was speaking after reports suggested Fine Gael bosses have instructed councillors not to work with Sinn Fein when new councils are formed after Friday's vote.

However, when asked if he would consider another coalition with Fine Gael in the next general election, he responded that “one election at a time is my motto, we’re focused on the European and the locals".

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