Subscriber OnlyIreland

Recording of conversations in cabs sees Wicklow firefighters consider data protection complaint

Firefighters ‘shocked’ to learn dashcams had audio-recording capability

Up to 100 firefighters working for Wicklow County County are considering making complaints about their employer under data protection legislation after it emerged the council was recording conversations in the cabs of appliances without the knowledge of the staff concerned.

The existence of recordings became known to firefighters after they were used as part of an investigation into an unrelated internal matter. They are understood to have been made by the dashcam equipment in the cab of one of the appliances.

Their existence is said to have shocked members of Wicklow’s retained fire service, comprised of just over 100 part-time staff based at 10 stations in the county, who are said not to have previously realised the dashcams had an audio-recording capability.

The firefighters’ union, Siptu, says it has received a large volume of complaints from firefighters who believe they may have been recorded. Brendan O’Brien, a sector organiser with the union, says he has written to the council about the issue but has yet to receive clarification on what has happened or how many of the appliances and firefighters were involved.


“I’ve written to Wicklow County Council and I’m awaiting their formal response,” he said. “I’ve also written to every council chief executive in the country asking if this is the case in their county’s service and, if so, what they have done in relation to it.

“So far, there has only been a handful of responses but those have all indicated that it is not done in those counties.”

In relation to Wicklow, Mr O’Brien acknowledged that a large number of the union’s members in the Wicklow fire service had been in touch to voice concerns about the situation.

The council has confirmed it is in contact with the union about the issue.

In the GDPR statement on its website, Wicklow County Council says that where it holds data about individuals it is committed to ensuring it is “obtained lawfully, fairly and in a transparent manner”, its is “obtained for only specified, identified and legitimate purposes” and it is “processed for purposes which we have identified or purposes compatible with the purposes that we have identified”.

“The Council has developed a transparency programme to endeavour to ensure that at the earliest practical point in the collecting or processing of personal data that the individual is provided with written details, or made aware of how to access a written statement of their privacy rights,” the statement continues.

“This is in the form of a Privacy Statements [sic] that are available on our website, at our public counters and with our application forms. Means to access information on your privacy rights should also be notified to you when you communicate with our employees by email or over the phone, where personal data is involved.”

“In the event that they are not happy with how the council has obtained or handled their data, individuals can make a complaint to the data protection commissioner.”

In response to questions regarding the existence of the recordings and how widespread the practice of recording firefighters without their knowledge was, Wicklow County Council told The Irish Times “Wicklow County Council is in discussions with Siptu in relation to issues raised by firefighters with regard to the installation and operation of dashcams in a number of fire appliances”.

Emmet Malone

Emmet Malone

Emmet Malone is Work Correspondent at The Irish Times