Broadband bidder David McCourt should be made to "suffer the consequences" for breaking procurement rules by repeatedly meeting ex-communications minister Denis Naughten during the crucial tender process, according to Fianna Fáil.
The party's communications spokesperson Timmy Dooley said Mr McCourt should face the same consequences as Mr Naughten after the author of the Government-backed report into what happened admitted the rules were broken "in the strict sense".
Speaking during an emergency Oireachtas communications committee meeting in response to the publication of the report last week, Peter Smyth repeatedly said the broadband plan has not been damaged by what happened.
However, under questioning from politicians Mr Smyth said what he agrees there was a "breach of rules in the strict sense" due to the meetings between Mr McCourt and Mr Naughten he does not believe canvassing took place.
Asked what action is now needed in light of Mr Smyth's acceptance the rules were broken - a conclusion not made in his official report - Fianna Fáil communications spokesperson Mr Dooley said there are clear issues surrounding the broadband plan's future.
And, while declining to say if the plan should now be scrapped, Mr Dooley said it is essential Mr McCourt still has to "suffer the consequences" of the breach of strict procurement rules.
"I think the rules were broken by [David] McCourt, and by Denis [Naughten] as well. Peter Smyth confirmed that at the committee.
Denis has suffered the consequences but McCourt is still in the process, and put simply I think if there was another bidder in the place they could be in the courts.
"Breaking of the rules needs to matter, but you just wonder if it does or what the purpose of rules are if they don't seem to matter and nothing happens from this," he said.
Noting the fact Mr Smyth admitted in Thursday's communications committee his investigation did not include sworn statements and was based on phone calls and texts with Mr Naughten and Mr McCourt instead of one-to-one meetings, Mr Dooley said there are clear gaps in the inquiry and that it was "unconvincing".
However, pressed on whether Fianna Fáil will push the Government to open a fresh inquiry into the broadband meetings scandal or will block Mr McCourt receiving the contract, he said it is a matter for Fine Gael.
During Thursday's communications committee meeting, Mr Smyth confirmed:
- he never met Mr Naugthen or Mr McCourt during his inquiries
- he only spoke to the two individuals by phone and text
- he did not seek sworn statements of their version of events before interviewing them
- and admitted that while there was a breach of procurement protocols "in the strict sense" due to the meetings, this did not amount to political canvassing