The author of a report into the tendering process for the National Broadband Plan (NBP) has been told he believes in fairytales if he thinks there were no discussions about the plan between former Communications minister Denis Naughten and bidder David McCourt at a meeting in Co Clare in September 2017.

Auditor Peter Smyth was criticised by TDs when he appeared before the Oireachtas Communications Committee to discuss his review, published last month, which concluded that the process had not been tainted by a series of meetings between the Minister and the leader of the only bid for the state contract.

Fianna Fáil's Timmy Dooley said he was surprised that Mr Smyth appeared to accept the words of Mr Naughten and Mr McCourt without there being sworn statements from either men about what was discussed in those meetings.

Mr Smyth said he spoke to both men over the phone eight times as part of his review, but did not meet them face to face.

"I am not a lawyer and my process is not a process which requires people to make a statement under oath," he said.

Referring to one particular meeting in Co Clare, Mr Dooley said that "the average punter on the street cannot accept" My Smyth's finding that the NBP was not discussed.

"They absolutely think that you and everyone else believe in fairytales if you believe that at no time during that kind of an encounter was there a discussion whatsoever about the NBP."

Asked by Mr Dooley about whether a meeting between both men at a dinner in New York last July was a breach of the communication protocols for the NBP, Mr Smyth responded: "Yes I consider that to be a breach of the rules in the strictest sense.

"Do I consider it to be canvassing? No." 


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Mr Dooley said: "I don't think you could term what happened here as anything other than canvassing - one bidder, having multiple opportunities to ingratiate themselves in the eyes of the minister."

Green Party leader Eamon Ryan, who was previously a Minister for Communications, said department officials "would not have allowed me to go for a dinner with a bidder on my own, it would have set alarm bells off, it would have been red, red, red alert."

He said it was "hard to believe" that the NBP was not discussed at certain meetings.

"The thought that there wasn't any conversation on that is not really credible," he said.

"That is why, when the Dáil came to debate this, there was not really a single dissenting voice within the chamber against the minister having unfortunately to resign."