Rural broadband plan not compromised – report

An independent report to determine if the National Rural Broadband plan was compromised has found that former minister Denis Naughten did not unduly influence the tender process.

The report, compiled by auditor Peter Smyth, was commissioned after Naughten resigned as Minister for Communications, Climate Action and the Environment, when it was learned that he had private meetings with Irish-American businessman David McCourt.

Naughten had met with McCourt – who specialises in telecommunications and media, and who was the last remaining bidder for the rural broadband contract – over private dinners, where no minutes were taken and no officials were present.

After it was revealed that these meetings had taken place, Naughten had resigned – in the face of concerns that he may have influenced the contract tender process.

However, this new report has found that Naughten had not influenced the tender process.

Despite the controversy around the meetings between the former minister and McCourt, the report’s finding had been generally expected.

The report is expected to be published in the near future, although the Taoiseach, Leo Varadkar, has said some parts of it may be redacted for reasons of ‘commercial sensitivity’.

The report had been brought before cabinet this morning by Richard Bruton, Naughten’s successor in the ministerial role.