Irish Minister for Communications, Climate Action and Environment, Denis Naughten, on Thursday resigned over having private dinners with a bidder for a government-funded broadband project in the country, Xinhua reports.
The resignation was announced by the minister at a meeting held at the country's lower house of the parliament.
In a short statement read out at the meeting, Denis Naughten said that "For my family, constituents and 1.1 million people waiting for this essential (broadband) service, to ordinary people in rural Ireland, I've given the Taoiseach (prime minister in Irish) my resignation."
Irish Prime Minister Leo Varadkar has accepted Naughten's resignation and announced that the vacancy of the post left by Naughten will be filled on a temporary basis by Richard Bruton, Minister for Education and Skills.
Pressure for Naughten's resignation came after reports revealed that he had several private dinners with a U.S. businessman of Irish origin named David McCourt who is involved in a bidding for a National Broadband Plan project, a government-sponsored project to provide high-speed broadband access to all premises in Ireland, especially in its rural area.
Leo Varadkar told the lower house of the parliament that he met with Naughten late Wednesday night over the private dinner issue, in which Naughten admitted he had a private dinner at McCourt's home in 2017, which was organized and attended by another Irish minister.
Later on Thursday morning, Naughten admitted that he had at least three further private dinners with McCourt in which there were no other Irish officials present and no minutes were taken, said Leo Varadkar.
Naughten told the lower house that having met Leo Varadkar Wednesday night it was clear that the Prime Minister did not have confidence in him and asked him to consider resignation.
In his resignation statement, Naughten defended him by saying that "as Minister I have to meet investors, whether it is in the telecoms or energy or any other sectors. These are the people who provide jobs in this country. That is the context in which I had meetings with Mr.McCourt and that is how it should be seen."
He said that he was "absolutely satisfied " that there was no interference in the procurement process of the broadband project by him.
Naughten is an independent politician who became the country's communications minister in May 2016.