Tuesday, 14 May 2019
Ceisteanna ó Cheannairí - Leaders' Questions
Brendan Howlin (Wexford, Labour)
The Taoiseach makes a compelling case against the folly of the privatisation of Telecom Éireann all those years ago. It was a disaster. The point I am making is that instead of learning from that disaster the Government proposes to do the same thing in that it proposes to privatise the next generation of telecommunications. The Taoiseach is right that we had to test the market in the way that we agreed in government because that was what the EU required us to do but now we have proven market failure. From my reading of Article 345 of the Treaty on the Functioning of the European Union there is no impediment for a public company in this area. In terms of the model, I invite the Taoiseach to read the judgment in the Croatia case in regard to its provision of broadband, which is analogous to what we are doing here. The European Commission found that Croatia's next generation network broadband plan is in line with state aid rules. We can create a State monopoly where the market has failed. The management of that scheme is attributed to a public undertaking offering long-term leasing agreements on the infrastructure to all interested parties. No operator has shown any interest in commercially doing it. Therefore, it is perfectly legitimate - this was endorsed by Commissioner Vestager in 2017 - for the State to set up its own company to do that. This is the way to go, and what I am asking the Taoiseach to do.