Taoiseach Leo Varadkar speaking about the resignation of Minister Denis Naughten.

VIDEO: Naughten was 'open to conflict of interest claims' says Taoiseach

Taoiseach Leo Varadkar told the Dáil he asked Denis Naughten to reflect on his position as Government Minister after learning that the Roscommon politician had additional private dinners with a businessman involved with a bid for a State broadband contract. 

Speaking in the Dáil a short time ago, the Taoiseach said he has now requested an independent report on the National Broadband Plan, for the roll-out of rural broadband, to determine whether or not the process had been compromised.  

Yesterday (Wednesday), the then-Minister disclosed details of meetings he had held with  businessman David McCourt, who was part of a consortium bidding for the broadband contract. 

Mr Naughten said he paid for a €37 meal for Mr McCourt and his family at the members' restaurant in Leinster House in April. 

The Taoiseach said that, late last night, Minister Naughten phoned him to say he had remembered attending a private dinner in Mr McCourt's home in 2017. "This was organised by Minister of State Pat Breen who was also present," the Taoiseach said. 

Minister Naughten at that stage requested to be moved to a Ministerial position in different Department, according to the Taoiseach, who told him he would reflect on it overnight and meet him in the morning. 

Mr Varadkar said this morning he again met Mr Naughten who informed him of "at least three other private dinners he had with Mr McCourt." 

"There were no officials present (at these additional meetings) and there are no minutes. He had not informed me of these additional meetings either when we met yesterday or when we met last night."

The Taoseach said he had "no doubt" that Mr Naughten's intentions were honourable at all times, "but I do believe he left himself open to allegations of a conflict of interest and an inappropriate relationship with Mr McCourt, which could have, in turn, brought the process into question, thus potentially jeopardising the project in its entirety."

He said he asked Mr Naughten to "reflect on his position" and he subsequently received his resignation as Minister. 

"I deeply regret that these events have happened, but I believe in resigning Denis has acted in the public interest."

The Taoseach said Minister Richard Bruton has been assigned "on a temporary basis" as Minister for Communications, Climate Action and the Environment. 

You can watch the Taoiseach's speech this afternoon here: 

Minister Naughten announced his resignation earlier this afternoon. Here's a video of his comments: