Chinese cameras used in Garda stations across Ireland despite national security concerns

Office of Public Works says it is reviewing use of cameras in light of developments

Chinese-made surveillance cameras at the centre of national security concerns are being used in Garda facilities across the State.

The Irish Council for Civil Liberties (ICCL) and some TDs last week raised concerns about the use in Leinster House of cameras manufactured by Hikvision, which is partly owned by the Chinese Communist Party. The cameras have previously been banned or removed in the UK, US, Australia and the European Parliament.

Investigations have, according to the ICCL, found that the devices may be reporting back to locations in China, raising concerns that the cameras may be used to spy on behalf of the country.

The Irish Times has learned that Hikvision cameras and related technology are being provided for use in Garda stations by the Office of Public Works (OPW), which is responsible for security infrastructure at State facilities. The OPW obtains the technology through third parties as part of wider contracts rather than purchasing directly from Hikvision.


Material obtained under Freedom of Information legislation shows the Garda has made at least one direct payment to Hikvision. It paid €5,000 for a HD video recorder in November 2019, a month after the company was blacklisted by the US government due to security and human rights concerns.

A separate Freedom of Information request to the OPW seeking data on its use of Hikvision cameras was refused on security grounds. It said it has “hundreds of separate security maintenance contracts” relating to about 1,800 buildings occupied by Government and State agencies. It said it could not release specific details of these as such information is “commercially sensitive”.

In response to further queries, the OPW said “in light of recent developments” it is to “continue to review best practice in collaboration with industry experts and implement any recommendations as necessary”.

The ICCL wrote to the OPW and Oireachtas on Tuesday asking what this “review of best practice” would entail.

It is understood that Defence Forces facilities have also used Hikvision cameras in the past. Tánaiste and Minister for Defence Micheál Martin on Tuesday said he did not believe they were currently in use at military installations but confirmed they were used at the Civil Defence Headquarters in Tipperary.

A spokeswoman for the Defence Forces said it did not comment on security matters, while the Garda referred queries to the OPW.

ICCL executive director Liam Herrick said the use of these cameras at Garda facilities “highlights just how urgent this issue is”. He asked the force or OPW to confirm if any of the devices had facial-recognition technology capabilities.

A spokesman for Hikvision said it was “categorically false to represent Hikvision as a threat to national security” and that “no respected technical institution or assessment has come to this conclusion”.

“As a manufacturer, Hikvision does not store end-users’ video data, does not offer cloud storage in the Republic of Ireland and therefore cannot transmit data from end-users to third parties,” he said.

The Chinese embassy in Dublin called the issue an “incredible conspiracy theory” and joked that, by the same logic, Irish-made whiskey poses a national security threat in other countries.

A Government spokesman said after Tuesday’s Cabinet meeting that the National Cyber Security Centre was developing measures to issue formal procurement recommendations “on the use of certain types of IT infrastructure and software in securing Government data and services”.

He said that the Oireachtas and Garda worked closely on security arrangements for Oireachtas members and on the parliamentary estate.

Conor Gallagher

Conor Gallagher

Conor Gallagher is Crime and Security Correspondent of The Irish Times

Jack Horgan-Jones

Jack Horgan-Jones

Jack Horgan-Jones is a Political Correspondent with The Irish Times