Wednesday, 18 April 2018
We read in The Irish Timestoday that the Minister for Communications, Climate Action and Environment, Deputy Denis Naughten, told the public affairs director of Heneghans PR firm two months before it was made public that he planned to refer the proposed takeover of Celtic Media by Independent News & Media to the Broadcasting Authority of Ireland. It appears that this information was then passed on to the senior director of the PR firm who passed it on to the former chairman of INM who then relayed it to the largest shareholder of INM, all in advance of it being made available to the other shareholders. This may or may not have been in breach of new market abuse regulations. The public relations executive told the former chairman of INM that the Minister's decision was to be treated as highly confidential. The director of public affairs of Heneghans confirmed that this morning, saying the Minister would have known that he was working for INM. He was asked by the company to find out the Minister's view on the suggested merger after the decision of the Competition and Consumer Protection Commissioner and said:
I ascertained what his reaction would be and I told the client. What they did with it after that is a matter for them.
It is my view that the Minister should come into the House to clarify the matter and confirm whether he did or did not tell the public affairs director of Heneghans two months in advance of making the information public. Has the Taoiseach raised queries with the Minister on the issue and does he have concerns about his behaviour? Why would it be normal practice for a Minister to inform a company what his intentions were relating to a proposed merger before they were publicly announced? Was this not commercially sensitive and price-sensitive information? Why would the Minister make known his intentions? Had he received any other representations about the proposed merger? Did the Minister inform the Government that his office had given a heads-up about his plans to refer the proposed takeover to the Broadcasting Authority of Ireland two months it was referred?