An Garda Síochána has moved to replace IT equipment made by Chinese company Huawei.
Minister for Justice Charlie Flanagan said the only pieces of Huawei equipment used by the force are “branded modems supplied by mobile network operators”.
“These external modems are being phased out, as they are being replaced by laptops with an internal modem,” Mr Flanagan said.
Fianna Fáil science and technology spokesman James Lawless has tabled a series of parliamentary questions on the issue of Huawei, which has been at the centre of cyber security concerns across the world. It is claimed that its technology could be used for spying or international property theft by China, allegations rejected by the company. Countries such as the United States, New Zealand, Australia and Japan have already banned Huawei products from sensitive networks.
Although the published parliamentary questions did not name Huawei, Mr Lawless confirmed he was referring to the Chinese company.
He asked Mr Flanagan about his contacts with Garda Commissioner Drew Harris on the use of Huawei technology and if it would be removed “from all equipment used by An Garda Síochána in the interests of national security”.
However, a Garda spokeswoman said the changes are being made for reasons of convenience.
Mr Flanagan replied that Mr Harris is “responsible for managing and controlling the administration and business of An Garda Síochána”, including in relation to IT.
“I am informed by the Garda authorities that in general and for operational reasons, An Garda Síochána does not comment on the specifics of particular equipment in use in the organisation,” Mr Flanagan said.
“However in relation to the matter raised by the deputy, the Garda authorities have indicated that An Garda Síochána purchases the majority of its ICT equipment through Office of Government Procurement frameworks.
“The Garda authorities have further advised me that the only equipment in use in An Garda Síochána which has been manufactured by the company referred by the deputy are branded modems supplied by mobile network operators. I am further informed that these external modems are being phased out, as they are being replaced by laptops with an internal modem.”
A spokeswoman for An Garda Síochána, when asked if the changes are being made for security reasons, said: “The laptop devices with external modems are being replaced by laptops with internal modems for the convenience of having a single device.”
Nevertheless, Mr Lawless, a Kildare North TD, said it is a “significant move”.
“Various countries around the world have moved to stop the installation of Huawei technology, while closer to home the chief of UK’s intelligence service MI6 has made a significant intervention urging caution on the technology,” he said.
“I have been contacted privately by senior sources in the telecoms and IT industry. They have warned me that companies in their sector are becoming increasingly concerned about Huawei and that they will refuse to work on networks which may potentially be compromised.”