Broadband to be key element of talks on Government

Leo Varadkar and Micheál Martin to meet next week on future of confidence-and-supply

October 11th, 2018: Taoiseach Leo Varadkar asked Denis Naughten to resign as minister for communications after he revealed he had four private dinners with the key bidder in the broadband procurement process. Video: Oireachtas TV

 

The future rollout of broadband across the country will form a central part of upcoming talks between Fianna Fáil and Fine Gael as the threat of an immediate election recedes.

Fianna Fáil leader Micheál Martin and Taoiseach Leo Varadkar are to meet next week on the future of the confidence and supply agreement after Mr Martin yesterday proposed they both commit to not collapse the Government until a final Brexit settlement had been reached.

Mr Martin said this would include the passage of any Brexit withdrawal deal through the House of Commons and European Parliament, which could take the Government through to next March.

In response, Mr Varadkar said a full renegotiation of the confidence and supply agreement, with a commitment to a summer 2020 election, could be wrapped up within a month.

Possible renegotiation

Senior figures in both parties are preparing for a review and possible renegotiation of the deal underpinning the Fine Gael-led minority Government.

Along with housing and health, Fianna Fáil sources say the rollout of broadband to rural Ireland is now likely to be a major element of the talks.

Denis Naughten resigned as minister for communications this week in a controversy that has thrown the future of the National Broadband Plan into doubt.

Fianna Fáil figures said questions remain over contacts between Mr Naughten and David McCourt, of the remaining bidder Granahan McCourt, which led to the minister’s resignation.

Mr Varadkar has asked for a report on whether the broadband process has been compromised. Four senior TDs each from Fine Gael and Fianna Fáil will comprise their party’s negotiating teams.

One Minister said last night that Mr Martin’s offer was insufficient, adding that it was a vague, unreliable commitment. “It has to be a new confidence and supply, or no confidence and supply and an election.”