Broadband plan shows recoil is more devastating than the jolt

Taoiseach Leo Varadkar and Ministers Paschal Donohoe and Richard Bruton about to announce that the Government had given the go-ahead for the National Broadband Plan.
Taoiseach Leo Varadkar and Ministers Paschal Donohoe and Richard Bruton about to announce that the Government had given the go-ahead for the National Broadband Plan.

World of Politics with Harry McGee – harrymcgee@gmail.com

It’s hard to know if the National Broadband Plan is providing the mood music to the European and local elections, or if it is the other way around. But the more the controversy continues, the more it seems to be the latter.  All the evidence points to Taoiseach Leo Varadkar pressing for the announcement of the project against the wishes of a nervous Minister for Finance Paschal Donohoe.

The view of Donohoe’s Departments, Public Expenditure, on the project was so damning, it has made the National Children’s Hospital look like a minor infraction.

Varadkar was hoping it would give the Fine Gael election campaign a jolt. The kind of jolt it got was the kind that flattened it and then pinned it to the ground.

In other words, the recoil has been more devastating than the shot. It has become all about damage limitation in Fine Gael.

And that has called into question the political judgement of the Taoiseach yet again.

The submissions and correspondence that came from Public Expenditure and Reform made for extraordinary reading – I can’t remember reading such outspoken internal criticism in my time writing about politics.

Over the weekend, what Brendan Howlin described as the ‘paltry’ investment being made by Granahan McCourt evoked another round of scrutiny and criticism.

It also dominated the Dáil this week. All at a time when Fine Gael was hoping bringing fibre to every house in the country would scoop it the top prize in the locals and European.

All weekend Minister Richard Bruton refused to confirm the €200 million figure given by Minister for Agriculture Michael Creed last week.

Creed obviously spoke out of turn when spilling the beans of Clare FM – but if it is true, politically the project won’t be tolerable.

When the taxpayer is stumping up €3 billion and all that’s being asked of the investor is €200 million – and the investor will own the asset (all the optic fibre network) at the end of the whole project – there are serious answers required.

For more, read this week’s Connacht Tribune.

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