Ireland: Taoiseach Leo Varadkar faces backlash over Government's handling of National Broadband Plan - - PressFrom - United Kingdom
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IrelandTaoiseach Leo Varadkar faces backlash over Government's handling of National Broadband Plan

09:25  09 may  2019
09:25  09 may  2019 Source:   msn.com

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Taoiseach Leo Varadkar has faced questions about his acknowledgement for the first time yesterday that the controversial National Broadband Plan Taoiseach faces questions after saying broadband plan will cost €3bn. PwC accused of 'gross conflict of interest' over children' s hospital review.

While Taoiseach Leo Varadkar has been at pains to make fabulous claims for the benefits of But precisely because capital investment often involves spending huge sums over a long period of time The case for spending €3 billion on the current national broadband plan is not yet proven by the

Taoiseach Leo Varadkar and his Government faced a fierce backlash from critics as the fallout from the National Broadband Plan mess became apparent yesterday.

There was serious anger on Wednesday night when it was confirmed that the Government wants to give away the broadband structure for free to the private contractor.

Meanwhile, there was disbelief when it emerged in confidential documents made public that the head man in the Department of Public Expenditure was vehemently opposed to the whole project and called stop last month.

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Taoiseach Leo Varadkar has confirmed that the cost of the national broadband plan could be in the region of €3 billion. The original plan was expected to “The cost including VAT contingencies and so on could be in the region of €3 billion albeit spread over 25 years,” he said, adding: “Bear in mind the

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Secretary General at Paschal Donohoe’s department, Robert Watt, warned in official correspondence that the project posed “an unprecedented risk” to the finances of the State.

Taoiseach Leo Varadkar faces backlash over Government's handling of National Broadband Plan © Gareth Chaney Collins Taoiseach Leo Varadkar during a Healthy Ireland Campaign 2019 launch at Richmond Barracks, Inchicore, Dublin

The preferred bidder, Granahan McCourt, will roll out the broadband and run it with the Government for 25 years, but after that they will run it on their own for another 10 years.

But after that they will be under no more obligations and the entire broadband infrastructure the taxpayer will have pumped €3billion into will be there’s to do with whatever they want.

There are also options in the 1,500 page proposed contract for sale options after only nine years.

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The Taoiseach has said he would "absolutely welcome" an examination of the National Broadband Leo Varadkar told the Dáil he would have "no objection" to such an inquiry. However he said there " Over €1.5 billion has to be found now from the National Development Plan - over and above the €

He has been asked by Taoiseach Leo Varadkar to conduct a review of contacts between former minister Naughten and members of the Granahan McCourt-led consortium bidding for the broadband plan . His report will enable the Government to assess whether or not the integrity of the procurement

Labour leader, Brendan Howlin, is against this sale of family jewels of the State.

He wants the public to own the broadband infrastructure and believes a State company modelled on the successful ESB is the way forward.

Taoiseach Leo Varadkar faces backlash over Government's handling of National Broadband Plan © Provided by Trinity Mirror Shared Services Limited

“Labour wants to see high speed rural broadband delivered as soon as possible, and all parties in Dáil Éireann agree on this point.

“Labour is committed to covering the cost involved, as long as the network remains in public ownership.

“As proposed by Fine Gael, the private investors in National Broadband Ireland can sell their shares, which could mean vulture funds getting hold of the company.

“The proposed contract will only allow the Minister to block this from happening in the first nine years.

“Why is this allowed at all?

“We know the sole bidder in the National Broadband Plan is primarily a financial investment firm, not a telecoms company.

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Leo Varadkar has pleaded with the opposition to support the National Broadband Plan as it emerged that the winning bidder would invest just €175 million in equity up front in the project, which could now cost €6 billion. The taoiseach confirmed that National Broadband Ireland (NBI)

Leo Varadkar defended the Government ' s decision to delay the Cabinet discussion of the plan . The Taoiseach has told the Dáil that the final cost of the National Broadband Plan could be in the region of €3bn, spread over 25 years. "We are now faced perhaps again with a scandalous cost over -run

“It seems clear to me that they want the option of selling Ireland’s rural broadband network at some point in the future.

Mr Howlin added: “When the public sector delivered rural electrification, it was through a public enterprise that has served this country well and faithfully for generations, as a quality employer and as a profitable company that paid €1.5 billion in dividends to the State following the 2008 crash.

Taoiseach Leo Varadkar faces backlash over Government's handling of National Broadband Plan © Gareth Chaney Collins Labour Party leader Brendan Howlin

“That is why, modelled on rural electrification, we should have an ESB-style National Broadband Company to retain control over prices into perpetuity and to eliminate the possibility of ruthless investors taking over rural broadband.

“Twenty-five years might seem like a long time, but learning the lesson from 2008, which is now 11 years ago, it should be clear that there are too many risks involved in letting a private monopoly run our broadband network.

“The public was rightly determined, as was Labour, that Irish Water should never be privatised.

“But why does Fine Gael think that the public would accept a utility as important as broadband to be privatised from the outset?”

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Varadkar ’ s rise, as a mixed-raced, gay politician in a country where homosexuality was only decriminalised in 1993 has made for celebratory Yet, for all the approving commentary, Varadkar is a deeply conventional politician. Hover over the box to learn more about the article from our partner.

However the Taoiseach Leo Varadkar has confirmed in the Dáil it is going to be far higher than that. “The fact that we were promised that we would have the National Broadband Plan tender done and dusted back last year and then before Christmas and then in January and then we were promised that

There were 20 letters and memos released by the Government yesterday showing some of the serious concerns senior civil servants had with the broadband project.

The most senior of these was Sec Gen Mr Watt who pleaded with his line minister, Mr Donohoe, to scrap the whole thing as it stands.

He said in one of his letters last month: “We strongly recommend against the approval of the appointment of the preferred bidder to the current NDP procurement process.”

Mr Watt added another stinging rebuke to his political master, saying that he had “fundamental concerns” and that he was commenting in light of the recent National Children’s Hospital fiasco.

Taoiseach Leo Varadkar faces backlash over Government's handling of National Broadband Plan © Provided by Trinity Mirror Shared Services Limited Broadband

“There is unprecedented risk that the State is being asked to bear in the event the current NBP contract is recommended for approval by Government”

He added: “We do not believe this Cost Benefit Analysis justifies the use of scarce public funds on this scale,”

The Dáil had to be suspended yesterday to give politicians time to digest the explosive documents that were dropped just moments after Leaders’ Questions had started at 2pm.

When the Dáil resumed at 4pm, Fianna Fáil leader, Micheál Martin, said he was “outraged” at what he had read and said that the NDP plan going ahead as planned presents “unprecedented risks to the Exchequer.”

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Sinn Féin leader, Mary Lou McDonald, described the Government’s handling of it as “a cynical political stunt.”

Last night Taoiseach Leo Varadkar defended the country's most senior civil servant, Robert Watt, despite his  stinging criticism and opposition to the National Broadband Plan.

Mr Varadkar was speaking from the Hague in the Netherlands where he was meeting Dutch Prime Minister, Mark Rutte.

Taoiseach Leo Varadkar faces backlash over Government's handling of National Broadband Plan © Clodagh Kilcoyne/PA Wire Taoiseach Leo Varadkar

He said: "Robert Watt is a civil servant I've worked with for many years and I've immense respect for him.

"But what Government has to do is take all advice and then make a decision in the best interest of the country on the balance of the advice.

"So yes, we'd very strong advice from Robert Watt and his team advising against the National Broadband Plan, but we'd very strong advice including from others, including in the Department of Communications for example arguing in favour of this, and we'd independent cost benefit analyses done which showed that in all scenarios, even the pessimistic scenarios, the benefits of this project outweighs the costs."

Mr Varadkar is in Sibiu on Romania this morning for an EU Summit meeting of the 27 EU leaders.

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