Taoiseach will act fast to ‘steady the ship’ over Naughten resignation – Coveney

Tánaiste Simon Coveney has said the Taoiseach will act quickly to “steady the ship” in the aftermath of the resignation of Denis Naughten as Minister for Communications, Climate Change and Environment.

Speaking in Galway, Mr Coveney said Mr Naughten had left himself open to very difficult questioning and that Taoiseach Leo Varadkar had to act to protect the integrity of the National Broadband Plan.

Mr Coveney said Mr Varadkar had acted appropriately in the timing and manner of his actions.

He had made difficult decisions which had consequences for Mr Naughten but these were in the interests of the country, Mr Coveney added.

Simon Coveney was speaking to RTÉ in Galway

Mr Coveney said the Government did not want a general election at this time and instead wanted to extend the Confidence and Supply agreement with Fianna Fáil. He said he felt with goodwill on both sides this could be achieved.

He said there was a need to end uncertainty and get on with the job of running the country.

Mr Coveney is among a number of Government ministers today who have said Mr Naughten took the right step in resigning as Minister for Communications yesterday.

Minister for Social Protection Regina Doherty has said she believes Mr Naughten “acted honourably”, but that his resignation was the best thing to safeguard the process of the National Broadband Plan.

Speaking on RTÉ’s Morning Ireland, Ms Doherty said that it was not the number of dinners that took place between Mr Naughten and the sole bidder, US businessman David McCourt, but that they should not have happened.

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She said that Mr Naughten was “one of the most inherently decent guys in politics in Ireland”, and that yesterday was “an exceptionally difficult day”.

Ms Doherty said that the most important thing was to safeguard the process, and that a decision on the future of the NBP had to made “really fast”.

Minister for Business, Enterprise and Innovation, Heather Humphreys, has said she believed Taoiseach Leo Vardakar when he said he was not made aware until yesterday morning of Mr Naughten’s four private meetings with the broadband contract bidder. 

Speaking in Longford, Ms Humphreys said that in any event the key issue was that the meetings took place and now that Mr Naughten has taken the honourable course and resigned, she looked forward to the new broadband process being put in place as soon as possible.

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In the Dáil yesterday, Mr Varadkar outlined interactions between Mr Naughten and Mr McCourt.

Mr Varadkar said he was informed late Tuesday night by Mr Naughten of a private dinner he had attended at Mr McCourt’s home in 2017.

This dinner was organised by Minister for State Pat Breen, who was also at the dinner.

Yesterday, Mr Naughten told Mr Varadkar that he had had at least three further private dinners with Mr McCourt. No officials were present and no minutes of the meetings were taken.

Mr Varadkar also informed the Dáil that he had met Mr McCourt last March in the US at a public event but the broadband plan was not discussed.

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