Donohoe denies public lack confidence in public services card

Róisín Shortall says there is lack of trust in system to maintain people’s data safely

Minister for Public Expenditure and Reform Paschal Donohoe has rejected a claim there is a lack of confidence in the public services card.

He said 2.3 million people had the card and its roll-out had to be compliant with current data protection law.

“It would be a gravely serious matter – and has been a serious matter – if any public servant uses the information on a public services card for any purpose other than that for which it is intended,’’ he added.

Mr Donohoe was replying in the Dáil to Social Democrats TD Róisín Shortall who claimed there was significant public apprehension and a lack of trust regarding the card’s use.


She said she was not questioning the card itself.

“I am questioning the lack of public confidence and trust in the system to maintain people’s data safely and to ensure there are proper penalties in place,’’ Ms Shortall added.

She said the card had been first discussed 20 years ago and its function had steadily expanded since then.


It was required for a driver theory test, as well as renewing a passport, despite the identity having already been established through holding an initial passport.

“For the Government’s strategy to succeed, the public needs to know exactly what their data is being used for, who can access it and what are the penalties for those who abuse that access,’’ Ms Shortall added.

Mr Donohoe said legislation covering data sharing and governance was currently being considered by the Oireachtas.

“This legislation looks to make very clear the different kinds of datasets that can be held in organisations and how they can be shared with other organisations in a way that is further supported by law,’’ he added.

Mr Donohoe said he believed many of those with a card understood at the very least it would allow citizens to get to a point where they only had to share information once to allow them to access multiple services, which would be a big step forward.

Ms Shortall said serious concerns had been raised by the Data Protection Commissioner who was waiting for responses from the Government.

“The public has still not seen those responses,’’ she added. “If the system is secure, and if it is properly based, then why is there such a delay in providing those responses ?’’

She asked whether the Government was “putting the cart before the horse” by not having the legislation passed to reassure people.

Michael O'Regan

Michael O'Regan

Michael O’Regan is a former parliamentary correspondent of The Irish Times