Howlin says there is no record of Naughten phone call

SF leader says it was not appropriate for Naughten to relay his opinion to Ó Neachtain

Mary Lou McDonald: “Which official in the Minister’s department knew that he was speaking to Mr Ó Neachtain? ”

Mary Lou McDonald: “Which official in the Minister’s department knew that he was speaking to Mr Ó Neachtain? ”

 

A phone call between Minister for Communications Denis Naughten and Eoghan Ó Neachtain, who was acting on behalf of Independent News and Media (INM), was not recorded in the register of lobbyists, the Dáil has been told.

During a question and answer session in the Dáil on Wednesday, Labour leader Brendan Howlin asked why there was no record of the phone call in which a proposed takeover by INM of Celtic Media, since abandoned, was discussed.

“This was a private call relaying private information that was not publicly available,” Mr Howlin said, adding that Mr Naughten had told the Dáil a month after his call with Mr Ó Neachtain that the INM-Celtic Media case was under consideration.

“He told Mr Eoin Ó Neachtain 25 days previously that he would be referring it to the BAI. That information was not on the public record. There was a clear statutory process in place. In his reply, the Minister said that it would not be appropriate for him to provide further comment while the case was under consideration. That is what he told the Dáil. Yet he was happy to provide that information previously to a lobbyist. Why?”

Sinn Féin leader Mary Lou McDonald said it was not appropriate for Mr Naughten to relay his opinion to Mr Ó Neachtain.

“The Minister contends that was appropriate. It absolutely was not. The process of media mergers is not secret. It is statutory, regulatory, and the Minister is responsible. Which official in the Minister’s department knew that he was speaking to Mr Ó Neachtain? Is there a verbatim log or note of that telephone conversation?”

Conversation

Mr Naughten replied that there was no note of the conversation, and Ms McDonald accused him of misleading the Dáil.

“The Minister says this was a personal view. He is the Minister. He was speaking to somebody acting on behalf of the party that wished to carry out this takeover. That is not a personal view. The phone call happened.

“ The Minister did give inside information to Mr Ó Neachtain. He conceded as much in his opening statement.”

Social Democrats TD Catherine Murphy also called on Mr Naughten to “recuse himself from any role in media regulation in Ireland”.

“I believe it is appropriate that the Minister recuse himself from any role in relation to media regulation in this country given [the] revelations suggest a relationship between the Minister, his department and powerful individuals involved in media operations in this country.”