Head of last broadband bid ‘lobbied’ eight times


Head of last broadband bid ‘lobbied’ eight times

Denial: David McCourt’s spokesperson said no canvassing or lobbying has taken place in connection with the NBP
Denial: David McCourt’s spokesperson said no canvassing or lobbying has taken place in connection with the NBP

Contacts involving David McCourt, whose company is leading the last remaining National Broadband Plan (NBP) bid, and politicians and officials have been recorded on the lobbying register eight times.

Denis Naughten resigned as communications minister amid the controversy over his meetings and dinners with Mr McCourt.

There were Opposition claims in the Dáil that the Irish-American businessman had been lobbying and the NBP process has been contaminated.

Mr Naughten has rejected suggestions the project has been compromised, while Mr McCourt has denied lobbying.

The returns to the Register of Lobbying mentioning Mr McCourt were made over the last two years by Enet, a company that has been involved in the NBP bid. Five of the contacts relate to the State-owned Metropolitan Area Networks (MANs) infrastructure, which is managed by Enet. Three of the Enet returns listing Mr McCourt relate to the NBP.

Department officials Mr McCourt was in contact with at various times include secretary general Mark Griffin.

Enet lists a number of meetings at the beginning of 2018 on the topic of the NBP. Mr Naughten, Sinn Féin TD Brian Stanley and Fianna Fáil’s Timmy Dooley are named as politicians Mr McCourt met at the time.

The intended result is listed as giving an update on the consortium’s participation in the NBP and to outline its “ongoing commitment and capacity to deliver the project”.

Earlier this month, Mr Stanley criticised Mr Naughten in the Dáil saying: “He [Mr McCourt] sought a meeting with me this week but I refused.”

The Irish Independent challenged him on why he made this argument given his own meeting with the businessman earlier this year.

Sinn Féin said the issue isn’t with politicians meeting Mr McCourt, rather “it is with the minister who is charged with overseeing the tendering process meeting with one of the main bidders”.

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A spokesperson for Mr McCourt’s company, Granahan McCourt, said certain meetings were registered “as a precautionary measure”.

“Generally speaking, none of the meetings discussed any ‘relevant matter’ – as defined in the Lobbying Act – and were not registrable,” he said.

“Mr McCourt has not canvassed or lobbied in connection with the MANs or NBP.”

The Department of Communications said contact with Enet would be expected in relation to the MANs as it manages the network.

It said that the tender process for the NBP is in the form of a competitive dialogue that requires “extensive engagement between bidders and the department”.

Irish Independent

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