Belfast Telegraph

National Broadband consortium ‘will invest 220m euro in initial funding’

Leo Varadkar said Granahan McCourt will be responsible for investing 2.4 billion euro over the next 25 years.

Taoiseach Leo Varadkar confirmed details of the private company’s investment in the National Broadband Plan in the Dail on Tuesday (Michelle Devane/PA Wire)
Taoiseach Leo Varadkar confirmed details of the private company’s investment in the National Broadband Plan in the Dail on Tuesday (Michelle Devane/PA Wire)

The preferred bidder for the National Broadband Plan will invest 220 million euro in initial funding to the rollout of the multimillion-euro project, the Taoiseach has confirmed.

But Leo Varadkar said Granahan McCourt, the private consortium behind the bid, would be responsible for investing 2.4 billion euro over the next 25 years.

The total cost of the project will be about 5 billion euro.

The Government had been under increasing pressure from opposition parties to divulge the financial details of the plan since it gave the project the green light last week.

Ministers approved Granahan McCourt, the last remaining bidder in the tendering process, as the preferred bidder for the rollout of high-speed broadband to more than 540,000 homes and businesses across the country, despite warnings from senior civil servants that the plan posed “unprecedented risks” to the taxpayer.

Mr Varadkar told the Dail on Tuesday that it was the consortium, and not the state, that was taking all the risk.

“If this project is successful, yes this company will get its equity back and return on that,” he said.

“But if rollout is delayed, as some people predict it will, if take-up isn’t as fast, then the company will have to put in more equity. That’s the crux of this.

“The private company, National Broadband Ireland (Granahan McCourt), is taking the risk here. Their risk is not capped. The risk to the state is.”

Amid sustained criticism of the plan from Fianna Fail leader Micheal Martin, Sinn Fein head Mary Lou McDonald and Labour leader Brendan Howlin during Leaders’ Questions, the Taoiseach appealed to the opposition not to rule out supporting the plan.

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Micheal Martin (Brian Lawless/PA)

“There isn’t a better option,” he said. “Any alternative option will involve delays, it will be slower, will cost as much, if not more, and may not even meet that objective of connecting all homes, farms and businesses.

“Spend some time to hear the arguments, spend some time to consider it, because if we do not sign this contract in a few months’ time it is back to square one, and the rural divide between urban and rural Ireland will remain and will deepen.”

Asked by Mr Martin whether he agreed with civil servants at the Department of Public Expenditure on the level of risk to the taxpayer, Mr Varadkar replied: “No I don’t agree that this is an unprecedented investment, nor do I think it is an unprecedented risk.”

In response to Ms McDonald, Mr Varadkar told the Dail he was “confident” in the company’s capacity to deliver the project.

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