Varadkar: Naughten affair was Opposition ‘throwing mud’

The Taoiseach has claimed members of the Opposition were simply “looking for a head” in going after Communications Minister Denis Naughten.

Varadkar: Naughten affair was Opposition ‘throwing mud’

Leo Varadkar continued to defend Mr Naughten, who has come under fire over a telephone call with an Independent News and Media (INM) lobbyist.

Mr Naughten admitted that he told an INM lobbyist he would “likely” refer its proposed takeover of Celtic Media to the broadcasting authority of Ireland.

This was two months before that decision went public, which the Opposition claims amounted to insider information. However, Mr Varadkar said yesterday he is satisfied with Mr Naughten’s explanation, and instead hit out at Opposition parties.

He said: “You know what’s happening here, particularly when it comes to Sinn Féin, really is just old politics of the old sort, looking for a head without giving somebody a fair hearing, throwing mud in the hope something will stick to the Government.

Denis Naughten didn’t do any favour for anyone; Denis Naughten didn’t do any favours for INM, he didn’t do any favours for Denis O’Brien. In fact what he did was delay the merger by referring it to BAI, which I assume is not what they would’ve wanted him to do.

“All he did was take a phone call from a lobbyist in which he indicated he would follow the law and be guided by his officials’ advice.”

However, he went on to say that Mr Naughten perhaps should not have taken the call.

“But in terms of what he actually said and in terms of what he actually did, he behaved entirely appropriately and I’m satisfied with his explanation,” he said.

Housing Minister Eoghan Murphy also backed Mr Naughten and said it would be “impossible to say” if he would have taken the call in similar circumstances.

“In the work that we do, we get calls from lobbyists and sometimes [it] may not be until you’re in the middle of a phone call until you actually know what it’s about,” said Mr Murphy.

He said the last government introduced reforms on lobbying.

“Now we have a registry of lobbyists, we have very important laws to make sure that people can have confidence in how their politicians, not just their ministers, but how any backbencher, any member of the Dáil does their business, to make sure that when they are legislating and acting in accordance with their parliamentary duties that they’re doing that [for] the right reasons,” he said.

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