Watchdog to write to Government over public services card

Irish Council for Civil Liberties getting a large number of queries from public

The Irish Council for Civil Liberties said it is getting a large number of queries about the public services card

The Irish Council for Civil Liberties said it is getting a large number of queries about the public services card

 

The Irish Council for Civil Liberties is to write to the Government expressing concerns about the roll-out of the public services card.

The scheme came in for renewed criticism this week after it emerged that a woman in her 70s had her State pension cut off because she refused to register for a card.

She has not been paid her pension for 18 months because she refused to go through the registration and identity-verification process as requested by the Department of Social Protection. As a result she is owed about €13,000.

The woman said she felt “bullied” following several letters from the department inviting her to register. No one had been able to demonstrate that the card was “mandatory”, she added.

The department cut off the weekly €166 noncontributory pension when she refused to register for the card. She was unsuccessful in an independent appeals process in efforts to restore the payment.

She received a letter last week to say the appeals body was examining her file again.

Executive director of the independent human rights watchdog, Liam Herrick, said on Wednesday the organisation had been in touch with the Data Protection Commissioner and also planned to write to the Minister for Social Protection.

On Twitter Mr Herrick said the organisation was getting a “large number of queries” on the public services card “all the time”.

National identity card

Government Ministers have insisted the card is not compulsory. However, it has increasingly been made a requirement for State services and the Department of Social Protection says it is not possible to claim a benefit without going through the registration process for a card.

It was recently made a requirement for those wishing to sit the driver theory test and will also soon be required for anyone applying for a passport or a driving licence, including renewals.

Civil liberties groups, including the Irish Council for Civil Liberties and Digital Rights Ireland, continue to express concerns that the public services card is a national identity card, introduced without any public debate or scrutiny.

Minister for Rural and Community Development Michael Ring said on Wednesday that while he did not like to speak about individual cases, he hoped the Department of Social Protection would pay the woman who had had her pension cut off.

“I know Social Protection have the public services card, and they’re doing that for a very good reason. They’re doing that to protect taxpayers’ money and to put safety checks in place,” he said on Newstalk.

“We have seen in the last number of years the amount of fraud that they have discovered in the Department of Social Protection – and they’re doing that in the best interests of the country, the best interests of the department and the best interest of the taxpayer,” Mr Ring added.

“The question mark is open whether [the cards] are or they aren’t [compulsory].”