Naughten Under Pressure Over Proposed INM/Celtic Media Merger
The Communications Minister Denis Naughten remains under pressure today over the controversy centring on a proposed merger of INM and the Celtic Media group.
It's alleged he told a representative of INM about a Broadcasting Authority review of the merger deal - two months before he made it public.
That's led to claims of insider information being given to Independent News and Media.
Denis Naughten yesterday told the Dáil he wasn't guilty of any wrongdoing.
Social Democrats co-leader Catherine Murphy thinks Minister Naughten suffered a lapse of judgment.
"He separated himself out and said that he was talking about this in a personal capacity.
"He said... it would have been preferable that he didn't take that call - he could have immediately, he should have immediately realised that that call was utterly inappropriate".
Minister Naughten confirmed he had a phone call with Eoghan Ó Neachtain - a former government press secretary now working for Heneghan PR and then representing INM - about the media group's planned takeover of the Celtic Media Group.
Denis Naughten says he got a call from Eoghan Ó Neachtain on Celtic Media in November 2016 and expressed a personal view there would need to be a second stage assessment of the takeover— Sean Defoe (@SeanDefoe) April 18, 2018
It's alleged in court documents that the minister told Mr O'Neachtan he'd be referring the deal to the Broadcasting Authority of Ireland (BAI).
This news was passed from Heneghan PR to then INM Chairman Leslie Buckley, who told businessman Denis O'Brien.
Why this is significant is because Mr O'Brien was the only INM shareholder to be told, which potentially means stock market rules were broken.
There was also an allegation of insider information against the minister.
That's something Denis Naughten denied in the Dáil - saying he only said the referral to the BAI was likely, not guaranteed.
Naughten says he "by no means expressed a definitive view" when it came to referring the acquisition to the BAI. Says it was just one of the options and there was no inside information given— Sean Defoe (@SeanDefoe) April 18, 2018
He told deputies: "I had no inside information to give.
"It may be preferable if the conversation had not taken place, but I was by no means expressing a definitive view - nor could I do so at that time".
He says he acted to the letter of the law.
When asked why there was no record of the phonecall in the department, the minister said he didn't see the significance of it.