Belfast Telegraph

Eir ‘behaving like spoiled child’ over rural broadband contract

The government said on Wednesday that work is progressing on finalising the contract for the National Broadband Plan

Rural and Community Development Minister Michael Ring (Michelle Devane/PA)
Rural and Community Development Minister Michael Ring (Michelle Devane/PA)

A government minister has accused Eir of behaving like a “spoiled child” over the National Broadband Plan.

Rural and Community Development Minister Michael Ring said Eir had “not held themselves in glory” and that they should have stayed in the bidding process if they had wanted to win the contract for the rollout of rural broadband.

“Eir remind me of a spoiled child when they get a sweet,” Mr Ring said.

“When they get the sweet, the child doesn’t want it and when you give the sweet to somebody else the child starts crying and wants the sweet back – and that’s the way they’re behaving now.

“I have to say that they have not held themselves in glory.”

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(Yui Mok/PA)

The government said on Wednesday that work is progressing on finalising the contract for the National Broadband Plan, and that it expects to sign the contract later this year.

A consortium led by Granahan McCourt, the last remaining bidder for the three-billion euro contract for the rollout of rural broadband, was announced as the preferred bidder in May.

But representatives of Eir told an Oireachtas committee last month that they were “certain” they could deliver the plan for less than one billion euro.

The company had previously submitted a bid of 2.75 billion euro before making the decision to withdraw from the process.

Communications Minister Richard Bruton told his Cabinet colleagues on Wednesday that the reduced-cost proposal put forward by Eir for the rollout of broadband for more than 500,000 homes and businesses across the country was not feasible.

Mr Ring said Eir had lost out on the opportunity of their own volition.

“They had an opportunity. They were in the bidding game and they pulled out of the bid and they created part of the problem that we have now,” he said.

Mr Ring added that a preferred bidder had been chosen and the process now needed to move forward.

“We cannot open the process again or we won’t have broadband in rural Ireland for the next 10 years,” he said.

The Mayo TD maintained they should have stayed in the process if they wanted to win the contract.

“If they really wanted the contract, they were in the process, they should have stayed in the process, and they would have been considered like everyone else,” he said.

“They pulled out of the process and created a problem. I want them to stop now telling us that they could do it cheaper.”

He also said that he was “shocked” at the criticism being levelled at the government by Fianna Fail over the plan given thousands of people across rural Ireland were waiting for high speed services to be delivered.

“I’m shocked that Fianna Fail are against broadband in rural Ireland, now they’d want to make up their mind if they’re for broadband for rural Ireland or they’re not,” he said.

“They’re speaking out of both sides of their month. They’re saying one thing in Dublin, to please the supporters they have in Dublin, and they’re saying something else in rural Ireland.”

He challenged Fianna Fail party leader Michael Martin to state whether the party was going to support the Fine Gael-led government when they sign the contract.

“We’re about to sign that contract. Are they going to support us on that contract,” he asked.

He added: “I want to know now are they going to support the broadband. The people of rural Ireland want the broadband, need the broadband and are entitled to broadband.”

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