Naughten resigns as Minister in wake of broadband controversy

Thursday, 11th October, 2018 3:33pm

Naughten resigns as Minister in wake of broadband controversy

Denis Naughten announcing his resignation in the Dáil today (Thursday)

Denis Naughten has announced his resignation as Minister for Communications, Climate Action and the Environment. 

The surprise resignation of the Drum, Athlone, native was announced in the Dáil this afternoon (Thursday). It came in the wake of a controversy relating to the provision of broadband in rural areas. 

It emerged yesterday that Minister Naughten had booked and paid for a €37 meal eaten by wealthy US businessman David McCourt and his family in the members' restaurant at Leinster House in April.

Mr McCourt's firm was part of a consortium bidding for a State broadband contract as part of the National Broadband Plan.

This afternoon, Minister Naughten said: "For my family, constituents and more importantly for the 1.1 million people who are waiting for this essential [broadband] service, a vital service for ordinary people in rural Ireland, I've given the Taoiseach my resignation."

He said he didn't feel he still had the confidence of the Taoiseach, and he felt this related more to opinion polls than to poles that would bring broadband into people's houses.

"It’s more about optics than fibre optics," he said.  

Some members of the opposition expressed sympathy for Mr Naughten and said they had not called for his resignation.

Labour leader Brendan Howlin said the resignation meant it was "an extraordinary day even in the extraordinary annals of this Dáil."

You can watch Minister Naughten's address to the Dáil here: 

Denis Naughten remains a TD, and he has been a member of the Dáil since 1997. He was a Fine Gael representative until 2011, when he lost the party whip after refusing to support the closure of the A&E Department at Roscommon Hospital.

Since then he has been an Independent TD and he topped the poll in the three-seater Roscommon-Galway constituency at the last general election in February 2016. In May of that year he became Minister for Communications, Climate Action and Environment. 

Earlier this year he was involved in a separate controversy when he apolgised for engaging with a lobbyist who had contacted him about a potential merger of Independent News & Media (INM) and the Celtic Media group.

In November 2016 Eoghan Ó Neacthan, a lobbyist working for INM, contacted the Minister to discuss the proposed merger between the two newspaper groups.

During the short phonecall the Minister confirmed he was likely to refer the deal  to the Broadcasting Authority of Ireland (BAI) for review.




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