The Secretary General at the Department of Communications, Mark Griffin, has been asked to provide an assurance that the roll-out of broadband to rural Ireland will not be compromised by Fine Gael's electoral strategy.  

The demand was contained in a letter issued today by Fianna Fáil's Communications spokesman Timmy Dooley, which has been seen by RTÉ News. 

In his letter, deputy Dooley expresses "deep concern" at regular media reports that the National Broadband Plan is set to be approved by Cabinet, and will require a "six-fold increase in the taxpayer's contribution".

The Fianna Fáil TD for Clare asks Mr Griffin to confirm if preferred bidder status is to be conferred on Granahan McCourt; when the contract will be signed; and the likely date for broadband roll-out. 

Mr Dooley cites reports suggesting that the Government intends ".. to deploy a communications strategy to try to convince rural dwellers of the bona fides" of the project and he requests Mr Griffin provide "... your assurance that the Department will not be compromised by the Fine Gael PR strategy as we enter the final weeks of the election cycle." 

The letter also asks for further information about any discussions with other bidders concerning the broadband contract, as well as "... what would be the additional cost for the State of ownership of the network." 

Earlier today, on foot of further media reports that the Government is preparing to press ahead with the broadband plan at a cost of €3 billion.

However, a Government source said tonight that "no decision" has been taken on the National Broadband Plan "at this point", adding that Minister Bruton will "take a recommendation to Government shortly."

The source added: "It would not have been appropriate to make this decision earlier this year, given the possibility that as recently as this day two weeks ago, we were facing the prospect of a crash out Brexit."