Canal Bank Walk

People are surprisingly friendly first thing in the morning and most are happy to take our leaflet. But it’s much harder in the rain, as Brendan Howlin and I found this morning on the canal bridges. Umbrellas are useful but risk defeating the purpose of the exercise – which is at least to be seen. We managed a decent hour and adjourned for porridge in Fallon & Byrne up the road in Rathmines. Back in to town then to attend a briefing on cycling organised by my friend Ivana Bacik, a canvass along Dawson Street, and on to the Grand Canal dock where sadly we were thwarted again by the incessant rain. Just sitting in ‘Fresh’ would normally be a calming experience but for a candidate seeking to “press the flesh” it is a stressor.

Onward to Churchtown for a pleasant hour chatting to many former constituents and being faithfully promised their votes.

I had not one, but two “hot dates” with Ivan Yates today: on Newstalk at 5.30 to discuss broadband, and later to The Tonight Show at Virgin Media. The government’s decision to award the rural broadband contract to the only remaining bidder has been widely criticised, especially the price tag of €3 billion. It is a complete misnomer to refer to a “preferred bidder” when there is no-one else involved. When we were in government we passed legislation that would have allowed ESB to deliver broadband and they went on to express an interest in doing so through SIRO. As Minister I refused to allow eir to cherry-pick for themselves the more profitable areas of rural Ireland. I insisted on maintaining the integrity and viability of the State intervention area. But my decision was reversed by the current government. I think this fatally undermined the whole procurement process. It led to the departure of SIRO. Later eir withdrew, complaining that the process was becoming  too complicated. Mind you they are still getting a big piece of the action under the plan announced this week.

As the Department of Public Expenditure and Reform said in their memo (and it’s my Quote of the Day):

“The lack of a competitive process in arriving at the final bid is…a real concern…in terms of assessing the value for money of the final proposed solution”.

How will we ever know? Not a good outcome at all.