Is the introduction of cameras to survey traffic in Cork an innovation for public good or a way to spy on citizens?

Cameras on the streets of Cork hope to put an end to the city's notorious traffic problems. But is this a step towards a Big Brother scenario in 1984.

The people of Cork are being watched and many of them don't know it.

Cameras have been placed on buildings all over the city and are watching the people of Cork.

Has Big Brother arrived in 1984?

The cameras are the start of a £150,000 scheme to monitor the city's traffic and make improvements based on what is observed. While similar camera systems exist in other European cities, these are the first in the Republic of Ireland on this scale.

Along with the new cameras comes computerised control of all the city's traffic lights. It's all controlled from Cork City's Garda Headquarters at Union Quay. Gardaí can now monitor traffic patterns throughout the city. The scheme includes a total of sixteen cameras watching traffic throughout the city centre. With the touch of a button, Gardaí can stop the traffic dead if they wish. While there are security advantages, it means that everyone who passes the eye of the camera is being monitored. 

The cameras can be made to tilt, pan and zoom from the control room.

The question remains, however, if the cameras have been supplied by Cork Corporation, why are they being controlled by the Gardaí? 

Michael Lombard, Chairman of Cork Corporation, explains that the Gardaí are the traffic authority while the corporation controls the roads. He also refutes any claims of a Big Brother scenario saying that the cameras are intended only for traffic control.

An RTÉ News report broadcast on 23 January 1984. The reporter is Tom MacSweeney.