Rural broadband deal will be done by September, says Tánaiste

Heated Dáil exchanges follow withdrawal of Eir from procurement process

Tanaiste Simon Coveney and Labour leader Brendan Howlin get involved in a heated Dáil exchange following the withdrawal of Eir from the procurement process to provide broadband in rural Ireland.

 

A scheme to provide rural broadband will be in place by September so the Government can deliver it rapidly, Tánaiste Simon Coveney has told the Dáil. “There are about 80 people working on this for the State to get this contract right,’’ he said.

The Tánaiste was responding to questions on Thursday from Fianna Fáil TD Timmy Dooley and Labour leader Brendan Howlin following the withdrawal of Eir from the procurement process. Its departure leaves just one bidder – the consortium led by energy group SSE and the firm Enet – in the procurement process.

Amid heated exchanges Mr Coveney said the process had been complex and difficult, but the Government was only months away from approving a preferred bidder anyway. “That has essentially been fast-forwarded now, and we have to work with Enet and the others in that consortium, who are big players in this sector, by the way.’’

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He said commercial operators pulled out of competitive processes. The company remaining had been adamant it was committed to the process and wanted to work with the Government on it.

Collapsed

Mr Dooley said three of the most experienced and established utility companies in the State had opted out of the Government process to provide broadband infrastructure to 542,000 homes and business premises throughout rural Ireland. He said the Government’s plan had collapsed.

He asked what “cyber-galaxy’’ was Minister for Communications Denis Naughten living in given that he had welcomed the clarity provided by the withdrawal of Eir. Fianna Fáil had previously proposed that the infrastructure should be built by the State.

Mr Howlin said there were hundreds of thousands of homes and businesses across the country without access to a high-speed process. The tendering process had now effectively collapsed. “A tendering competition with one bidder is not a procurement process.’’