Criticism for public services card project after pension cut off

Woman in her 70s owed about €13,000 after refusal to register for State services card

Specimen  public services card: Limerick-based solicitor Rossa McMahon says the way the project had been rolled out was “underhand and quite dishonest”. Photograph: Bryan O’Brien

Specimen public services card: Limerick-based solicitor Rossa McMahon says the way the project had been rolled out was “underhand and quite dishonest”. Photograph: Bryan O’Brien

 

The Government’s public services card project is “a deliberate, premeditated attempt on the part of the State to introduce a national ID card scheme without openly naming it as such”, an expert in privacy law has said.

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

Limerick-based solicitor Rossa McMahon said the way the public services card project had been rolled out was “underhand and quite dishonest”.

The Government says the card, first introduced for social welfare recipients, is not compulsory. However, having one is to become a requirement for people seeking to obtain or renew a driving licence or passport.

Speaking to The Irish Times, the woman said she had 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.

‘Bullied’

She said she felt “bullied” following several letters from the department inviting her to register and she said no one had been able to demonstrate that the card was “mandatory”.

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

Mr McMahon, who specialises in data protection law, said the project would “inevitably lead to a central database of citizens and one which will have a staggering amount of personal data linked to it”.

“The record of State agencies in operating such databases, both in terms of keeping their contents accurate and protecting them from abuse or breach, is not good,” Mr McMahon added.