‘I’m not here to make a quick buck’ – McCourt defends broadband role
The head of the consortium bidding to land the National Broadband Plan tender has strongly rejected accusations he is seeking to make a quick profit from Ireland’s broadband crisis.
David McCourt, who runs Granahan McCourt, insisted he is committed to rural Ireland and added: “I wouldn’t have started four businesses here if I didn’t think it was right.”
He told Science Foundation Ireland’s Science Summit conference that he is a dual citizen in Ireland and the US who has had a house here for 25 years. He also said he is committed to rural Ireland “for the long term”.
“I pay tax here,” he told the Dublin audience. “I’m not some private equity guy, I’m a telecoms builder.
“I’ve owned a house in Ireland for over 20 years, not recently as it says in the paper.
“I sold two businesses in Ireland and used that money to invest in starting two other businesses in Ireland.
“I’ve never taken a penny out of the country and used the money to invest in other countries.”
Mr McCourt was speaking as the Government awaits an audit report on whether the National Broadband Plan’s tender process was unduly influenced by contact between Mr McCourt and the former communications minister Denis Naughten.
The report from consultant Peter Smyth is expected this week.
The Government will consider alternative options, if the audit report concludes the tendering process was “contaminated” by inappropriate contact between the lead bidder and the minister.
Opposition parties have suggested state utility firms such as the ESB, Bord na Móna or Ervia might be used as an alternative means of delivery for the rural broadband rollout, which is planned to reach 540,000 homes and businesses and affecting more than one million people.
Mr McCourt also told the conference his daughter had been dragged into the recent controversy between him and Mr Naughten for the “sin” of having come to Ireland to help 100 people at Mr McCourt’s various businesses.
“She also made the paper recently, for her sin of coming over here to start a company and hiring 100 Irish people for that company,” he said.
“And she did get a tour of Leinster House for hiring 100 people, which has been mentioned over and over.”
One of the meetings being assessed by Mr Smyth revolves around contact between Mr McCourt and Mr Naughten during the businessman’s Dáil visit.
Mr McCourt declined to comment further on the National Broadband Plan or about meetings between him and Government figures.