The Digital Terrestrial Television service will be up and running by 31 October.

Minister for Communications Eamon Ryan said it would be a tight schedule but that the necessary set-top boxes were ready to go.

Furthermore, in reference to the recent 'free to air' controversy, Minister Ryan said that he believes it is important that young people can see high-level sports.

He was responding to questions from Labour's Liz McManus, who said the Minister had not given the 'free-to-air' sports issue enough consideration but had probably consulted his son on the issue.

Minister Ryan said he had not asked his son about it, but that he did think it was important that young people can watch such high-level sports and see their heroes and maybe dream of being the next Brian O'Driscoll.

He also said that after designating Heineken Cup matches and RBS Six Nations matches as 'free to air', the issue moves to a process of consultation where submissions are invited by interested parties.

He said it then has to go to the EU and said this was a statutory process enshrined in the Broadcasting Act 2009.

Former Minister for Sport John O'Donoghue has criticised Mr Ryan's proposals.

Speaking in the Dáil tonight, Mr O'Donoghue said he was convinced that the proposals would mean a significant reduction in the resources for the professional game in Ireland and the rapid decline of Irish rugby to the status of a second tier contender internationally.

The Kerry South TD said upsetting the balance and structure of the current arrangements as proposed by Mr Ryan would be potentially disastrous for Irish rugby.

However, in response the Minister said: 'As part of the consultation process I am more than happy and willing to listen to all sides of this debate.

'However, I would ask Deputy O'Donoghue to be more questioning and to get to the bottom of the figures he quotes.

'I argue that both the short-term and long-term future of Irish rugby would be better guaranteed through the approach I’m advocating.'