Fianna Fáil TD for Wicklow Stephen Donnelly has called on Minister for Communications Denis Naughten to obey the High Court and release the State’s contract with enet.
enet is the only bidder remaining in the National Broadband Plan, and already has a contract with the State for fibre provision. Gavin Sheridan submitted a Freedom of Information request on the contract some time ago, but the Department refused the request.
The Data Commissioner ruled in Mr. Sheridan’s favour, but the Department appealed to the High Court. The High Court then ruled in Mr. Sheridan’s favour, but the Department has now appealed to the Court of Appeal.
Deputy Donnelly submitted a parliamentary question asking how many FoI requests the Department has received since 2010, and how many of these requests the Department has taken to court, in order to not provide the requested information. The Minister’s response was that his Department has received 799 FoI requests since 2010, and that only one has been taken to court – that of Mr. Sheridan and enet.
Earlier today at committee, Deputy Donnelly stated that in light of enet being the only bidder left for a vast fibre optic network, the Minister should respect the ruling of the High Court, and release the concession agreement. The Minister refused to discuss the issue, as he believed it to be before the courts.
Speaking after the committee hearings, Deputy Donnelly stated, “It seems to me that if the Government has only gone to court once, in response to 799 FoI requests over 8 years, then they are desperate to keep something hidden from the Irish people. This FoI relates to enet’s existing agreement with the State to provide broadband.
“Nobody is alleging that enet has done anything wrong whatsoever. I would not say the same about the Government however as the public has a right to know what that agreement says, whether it represents value for money, whether enet is compliant with the agreement, and much more.
“The Data Commissioner and the High Court agree. The Minister should do the right thing, and obey the ruling of the High Court.
The Government’s handling of the National Broadband Plan has been grossly incompetent, it has been delayed for far too long , and the Irish people will pay for that incompetence for years to come through high broadband charges. But the Government is taking the Irish people for mugs – this level of State secrecy, coupled with privately owned monopolies of strategic national infrastructure, do not tend to end well.”