Denis Naughten has called for Labour Leader Brendan Howlin to explain his role in the decision by Coillte to sell off telecoms assets at a time, in 2015, when they could have been key to the delivery of the National Broadband Plan.
“Brendan Howlin is critical of the decision which sees part of the National Broadband infrastructure in private control. Yet when he was Minister, his Department of Public Expenditure would have signed off on the sale of 300 masts and equipment locations around the country owned by the State through Coillte, a fact which makes his current position difficult to understand,” says the Roscommon Galway TD.
“The portfolio, which was sold to a French investment fund, included 104 masts located within forests that were developed and owned by Coillte. The rest of the network included sites that were leased by Coillte to other companies which developed masts while Coillte acted as landlord”.
“The network which was sold, following authorisation by the then Minister Howlin’s Department, comprised about 16 per cent of commercial telecoms towers in the country and as such was a significant decision that required careful consideration. In light of his criticism of the National Broadband Plan in recent days I believe he should clarify his position in relation to the sale of these assets”.
“I would also like to hear what the then Communications Minister Pat Rabbitte had to say about the sale of these State-owned communications assets, three years after he had announced the National Broadband Plan.
“What discussion took place between Ministers Howlin and Rabbitte on the use of this State telecoms network? Because this disposal took place before the decision was taken not to go with a wireless network and some of these Coillte locations already had fibre optic connectivity.
“The decision I took in July 2016 on the ownership model for the National Broadband Plan was not taken lightly but was taken in the best interests of delivering high speed broadband to every home across Ireland, both urban and rural, in the shortest time possible. Can Brendan Howlin make the same justification for the sale of State telecommunications assets under his watch?” asked Denis Naughten.