Minister for State Pat Breen arranged dinner between Naughten and broadband bidder

Minister of State Pat Breen has said tonight that he did attend a number of meetings and events with David McCourt, including a dinner with former Minister Naughten.

In a statement, he said that he had arranged for Mr Naughten to attend dinner at Mr McCourt's home and said that, to his knowledge, the National Broadband Plan was not discussed.

He said other meetings with Mr McCourt were due to his investment in Ireland and all meetings were recorded in his ministerial diary.

Minister Breen, who has responsibility for Trade, Business & Employment, also says he has no part in the rollout or procurement of the broadband plan.

"Mr McCourt’s home is about 10 miles from my home in Clare," he said. "I have gotten to know Mr McCourt on a personal basis, have visited his Co Clare home several times."

Communications Minister Naughten resigned from cabinet today over revelations he met four times with Mr McCourt, the only bidder still in the national broadband plan process.

On Wednesday, it emerged Mr Naughten held a hugely controversial and previously unknown June 28 meeting with the billionaire Irish-American businessman.

In addition, it also emerged Mr Naughten "facilitated" and paid for a €37 Leinster House lunch for Mr McCourt and his daughter on April 18, although he did not attend.

Speaking in the Dail this afternoon, the Taoiseach Leo Varadkar said that he asked Mr Naughten to resign last night upon learning of the meetings with Mr McCourt.

In a statement issued by the Taoiseach, he said that he had "no doubt that he [Denis Naughten's] intentions were honourable at all points" during his meetings with Mr McCourt.

However, the Taoiseach said the Independent TD left himself open to allegations of a conflict of interest in how he handled the awarding of the contract the broadband plan, and that his actions left him with no choice but to seek his resignation.

Richard Bruton has been appointed as Communications Minister "on a temporary basis", Mr Varadkar said.

Digital Desk

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