At least three other private meetings took place between the former Minister for Communications, Climate Action and Environment Denis Naughten and David McCourt, who is a member of the consortium which is the lead bidder for Ireland’s National Broadband Plan, An Taoiseach Leo Varadkar has told Dáil Éireann.
In a statement to the Dáil on Thursday evening following Naughten’s resignation, Varadkar said that he sought a meeting with the now-former minister Denis Naughten and there they discussed his meetings with David McCourt.
He subsequently contacted me shortly before midnight last night to inform me that he had just remembered that he had a private dinner in Mr McCourt’s home in 2017
“Yesterday evening, I sought a meeting with former Minister Naughten where I asked him to outline to me his interactions with Mr David McCourt. I was satisfied with the explanations he gave.
“He subsequently contacted me shortly before midnight last night to inform me that he had just remembered that he had a private dinner in Mr McCourt’s home in 2017. This was organised by Minister of State Pat Breen who was also present. Deputy Naughten suggested that in order to protect the National Broadband Plan project that he be reshuffled to another ministry or that responsibility for broadband be assigned to another Minister.
“I said that I would reflect on it overnight and meet him in the morning,” An Taoiseach said.
He continued that he met again with Naughten on Thursday morning, where he informed the Taoiseach “he had at least three other private dinners with Mr McCourt”.
“There were no officials present and there are no minutes. He had not informed me of these additional meetings either when we met yesterday or when we spoke last night.
“I have no doubt that his intentions were honourable at all points. But I do believe he left himself open to allegations of a conflict of interest and an inappropriate relationship with McCourt which could have in turn brought the process into question, thus potentially jeopardising the project in its entirety.
“As a result of this, I asked him to reflect on his position. He asked that he be allowed to explain his position to the Dáil. I have since received his resignation in writing and I have accepted it,” he said.
The Minister for Education Richard Bruton has been appointed as the temporary Minister for Communications, Climate Action and Environment.
Minister for Communications Denis Naughten resigns