Denis Naughten facing more questions over proposed INM/Celtic Media merger

It is alleged he told an INM representative about a review of the deal

Denis Naughten facing more questions over proposed INM/Celtic Media merger

Communications Minister Denis Naughten speaking at the Communications Committee - Forum on Public Service Broadcasting in 2017 | Image: Sam Boal/Rollingnews.ie

The Communications Minister Denis Naughten remains under pressure over the controversy centring on a proposed merger of Independent News and Media (INM) and the Celtic Media group.

It is alleged he told a representative of INM about a Broadcasting Authority review of the merger deal, two months before he made it public.

That has led to claims of insider information being given to Independent News and Media.

On Wednesday, Mr Naughten told the Dáil he was not guilty of any wrongdoing.

He denied passing insider information to INM, contrary to suggestions in a court affidavit filed by the State's corporate watchdog.

He told deputies: "There is nothing wrong or inappropriate with me, as minister, saying to anyone or to the public 'if the plan for a media merger continues, I would take advice on sending it to the Broadcasting Authority of Ireland'.

"This is not inside information, but simply a reflection of the legislation itself. I had no inside information to give."

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.

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's Dáil statement came following revelations he gave information to representatives of businessman Denis O'Brien about the takeover bid by INM.

Mr O'Brien is the largest shareholder in INM, which tried to take over the Celtic Media group in 2016.