Ireland’s use of Chinese conglomerate’s tech may come up in Tánaiste’s US Brexit talks

FF calls on Government to ’steer clear course’ to ensure best technology into future

The US has accused Huawei and its chief financial officer of stealing American technology, breaking US sanctions against Iran and cooperating with China’s spy agencies.

The use by Ireland of Chinese conglomerate Huawei's technology may be raised in discussions when Tánaiste Simon Coveney visits Washington for talks on the impact of Brexit on the Belfast Agreement.

Mr Coveney confirmed that the US approach to the company was “briefly” raised during a “wide-ranging” meeting last month (JANUARY) between the Secretary General of the Department of Foreign Affairs and the US Charge d’Affaires.

Their discussion came in advance of Mr Coveney’s three day trip to the US, which starts on Tuesday.


Huawei, the world's biggest producer of telecoms equipment is at the centre of an escalating technology cold war between the US and China which is spreading internationally.


Mr Coveney returned on Friday from a two-day informal meeting in Bucharest, Romania of EU foreign affairs at which EU relations with China were discussed, although not formally on the agenda.

Huawei is not on the Tánaiste’s formal US agenda either which includes discussions on Africa at the UN in New York, talks with the State department in Washington DC on Isis and discussions with senior officials at the White House on the Middle East peace process.

He will also mark the centenary of the first Dáil and meet the Congressional Friends of Ireland, part of the Irish-American caucus which had a major role in the Northern Ireland peace process and has expressed concern over the direction of Brexit and its impact on the Belfast Agreement.

But Fianna Fáil foreign affairs spokesman Niall Collins said the Government needed to "steer a clear course forward in ensuring we avail of the best technology into the future".

The US has accused Huawei and its chief financial officer of stealing American technology, breaking US sanctions against Iran and cooperating with China’s spy agencies.

The company denies the charges and insists that it does not pose a security threat to clients.

But the US is urging its own firms and other countries to look elsewhere as they upgrade to 5G (fifth generation) mobile technology that is expected to redesign the framework that underpins the internet.


Germany is reportedly considering whether to restrict Huawei’s access to its next-generation networks, and Britain has raised concerns over the security of the firm’s equipment. Australia and New Zealand have already banned Huawei from providing 5G equipment.

Ireland has not expressed any such worries, however, and Huawei hardware is believed to be used by all the State’s telecom operators.

Mr Collins said the Tánaiste “should clarify what action, if any, the Government intends to take” on the issue.

He pointed out that the US had brought serious criminal charges against the company including arresting key personnel. “Several EU countries have followed suit, for example the Czech government excluded Huawei from a bid to build a national online system for filing tax returns.”

Mr Collins said he understood “the US administration is pressing other countries into adapting a similar stance” and he noted from replies to parliamentary questions that the issue was being raised at a diplomatic level in Ireland.

The Tánaiste merely confirmed to the Limerick TD in a parliamentary reply that “the Secretary General of my department met the US Charge on January 24th for a wide-ranging discussion, during which the US approach to the company in question was briefly raised”.

In a separate reply on the issue to Limerick TD Minister for Education Joe McHugh said his department had not issued any directives to universities or institutes of technology in relation to Huawei.

Mr McHugh said educational partnerships with companies were overseen by “appropriate institutional governance arrangements, national IP (intellectual property) protocols and associated policies.

Marie O'Halloran

Marie O'Halloran

Marie O'Halloran is Parliamentary Correspondent of The Irish Times