‘It Would Be In The Circuit Court So It Probably Wouldn’t Be Very Expensive’


From top: The PSC card; Minister for Employment and Social Protect Regina Doherty

This morning.

Minister for Employment and Social Protect Regina Doherty spoke to Bryan Dobson on RTÉ’s Morning Ireland.

It followed the release of her joint statement with the Minister for Public Expenditure and Reform Paschal Donohoe last night – stating that it would be “inappropriate, and potentially unlawful, to withdraw or modify the use of the Public Services Card or the data processes that underpin it”.

This is despite the Data Protection Commissioner Helen Dixon’s findings on the card following a two-year investigation.

Contrary to the DPC’s report, the Government also said “the processing of personal data related to the PSC does in fact have a strong legal basis, the retention of data is lawful and that the information provided to users does satisfy the requirements of transparency”.

They said they came to this conclusion on foot of advice from the Attorney General’s Office.

Ms Doherty also said the PSC “has not seen any mission creep”.

In this morning’s interview, asked how much a legal challenge to Ms Dixon’s report would cost the State, Ms Doherty said “it would be in the Circuit Court so it probably wouldn’t be very expensive”.

At the outset of the interview, Mr Dobson asked Ms Doherty for her reaction to the DPC report.

Regina Doherty: “So Bryan, first of all, at the outset, I’d like to say that we, in the department and Government, have the highest respect for the office of the Data Protection Commission and the important work that they do.

“But, however, as a minister, I have to take my own responsibilities for Government policy with equal measure of respect and we have taken an awfully long time in the last two and a half weeks to really carefully and methodically consider and reflect on the final report from the commission and we’ve taken both our own legal advice from the Attorney General’s office and external counsel advice.

“And unfortunately, we don’t accept the findings in the report and will challenge them.

“And, to that affect, we wrote to the commission yesterday, seeking at the earliest opportunity, an opportunity to meet with the commission to discuss the findings and to outline exactly what it is that we find is the legal basis and it’s a very strong legal basis, as far back as 1998 when the conception of the idea of cross Government services, across any Government platform was conceived by that Government. But successive Governments since then have changed the legislation to allow and to anticipate the sharing of the data.

“So that Irish citizens can do their business and identify themselves just once and then be able to access services in an efficient manner.”

Bryan Dobson: “But just on a couple of specifics here. Her requirement that you stop processing data in those areas where she [Helen Dixon] says there’s no legal basis for the card, are you going to do that or are you going to continue processing data?”

Doherty: “What we’re going to do is to continue acting on the basis of the legislation as it would have passed in 2005….”

Dobson: “In defiance of her finding?”

Doherty: “In our basis, gives a very clear and legal underpinning of what it is that we’re doing and so at the very early…”

Dobson: “She says you don’t have that legal basis, it’s not there.”

Doherty: “Well, to be respectful, where we have a difference here is in the interpretation of the Social Welfare and Consolidation Act of 2005. My legal advice is incredibly strong, that we have a clear and unambiguous legal basis to do exactly what we intended to do from 2005 and what successive governments have done since and…”

Dobson: “Minister, she spent two years investigating this and her conclusion is that you don’t have the legal basis. She’s the person who’s charged. It’s her responsibility to protect the public interest, to protect all of our privacy and our data. And she says you don’t have the legal right to do this.”

Doherty: “And again, not to labour the point, Bryan, we believe that we do have the legal rights and the legislation to underpin exactly what we’ve anticipated from 2005 and the legislation and that’s why we’d like to sit down with the commission and discuss her concerns and to see if there’s any way we can overcome her concerns that she has with regard to the findings that she’s issued.”

Dobson: “Will you publish your legal advice so we can see what it is?”

Doherty: “I certainly won’t publish the legal advice but what I absolutely intend to publish is the commission’s report and our response to it. But, again, what I would rather do, rather than prejudice a meeting that I would really like to have with the commission, I would wait until the commissioner responds to me at some stage today or tomorrow before publishing. But I have absolutely intentions to publish the report and our response to it.”

Dobson: “Is it likely this will end up in court? Are you prepared to take it to court?”

Doherty: “Depending on where we go from here. At the moment, I don’t have a legal basis to take it because the report wasn’t issued under the legislation, the Data Protection Act…”

Dobson: “But if she takes enforcement proceedings – you’ll fight that? Will you?”

Doherty: “In my letter yesterday, I have given notice that, yes, we would intend to challenge within the courts, yeah.”

Dobson: “So you’re prepared to use public money to confront somebody who’s responsible for defending the public interest?”

Doherty: “I think the way the Oireachtas established the Data Protection Commission was exactly allowing for differences of views and differences of opinion and this certainly is not the first time that a regulator has been challenged by a Government body and I’m probably quite sure it won’t be the last.

“But what I absolutely have a responsibility to do is to make sure that I deliver public services to the people that we serve, that I serve, in the most efficient manner…”


Doherty: “…we really believe that we have a very, very strong legal basis to do exactly what we have done and it would actually be illegal for us to change…”

Dobson: “And you’ll defend that all the way? In terms of legal action, you’d go all the way in defending that?”

Doherty: “I think that’s my role and responsibility…”

Dobson: “What would that cost Minister in legal fees?”

Doherty: “I don’t know but again it would be in the Circuit Court so it probably wouldn’t be very expensive. But what would be absolutely enormously expensive, Bryan, is that if we decided to act illegally and change Government policy and services delivery without having a serious conversation around the difference of opinion of the interoperation of the law.”

Listen back in full here


Yesterday: Put It On The Card

Identity Crisis


Elizabeth Farries, Information Rights Programme Manager for the Irish Council for Civil Liberties, also spoke with Mr Dobson this morning.

During her interview, they had this exchange:

Bryan Dobson: “I’m wondering what’s your problem here? Do you have an objection in principle to this kind of card which can be applied across a whole range of Government services, it seems, on the face of it, something that might be very, might be welcomed, improve efficiency and productivity, in the provision of public services. Do you have an objection in principle or is it the way it’s being done?”

Elizabeth Farries: “ICCL and other experts have been opposed to the card from the start. We are opposed to it in principle and we’re opposed to it for good reasons. It’s illegal, the Data Protection Commissioner has said that and we’ve been saying that for years.

“It doesn’t respect privacy rights which are fundamental rights which we should all take extra care of in our technological age.

“And it targets the poor.

“And so crucially now the DPC is saying these same things. There are significant data security risks attached to the card and we have a group of privacy experts from all over the world right now with the international network of civil liberties organisations and they’re dealing with very similar problems in their countries.

“And they’ve seen devastating consequences of cards like this. In India, we have someone from the Human Rights Law Network talking about the Aadhaar card and the massive breach that happened there – they’re exposing important information of a billion people. You’ve got…”

Dobson: “I’m just wondering if the legal safeguards, if the legal foundation was put in place, if the safeguards were put in place, if the transparency, which the data commissioner says isn’t there, if that was put in place. If those safeguards were put in place and people had assurances that their data would be treated properly and be protected, should the card have a future?”

Farries: “There are no legal safeguards, as it stands, to protect from the security risks attached to the card in its current form. It’s absolutely unnecessary to collect very sensitive data, including biometric data used through facial recognition.”

Dobson: “That wasn’t a finding of the data commissioner, I think.”

Farries: “This is certainly our position.”

Dobson: “Yes.”

Farries: “It has been a finding of the data commissioner that it’s unnecessary to collect the huge amount of information without adequately …”

Dobson: “But, biometric data, she didn’t rule on that question.”

Farries: “We understand that she’s going to follow up on that question. Because it’s such an individually important question that it requires and investigation of its own.”

Dobson: “Very good.”

Listen back in full here

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37 thoughts on “‘It Would Be In The Circuit Court So It Probably Wouldn’t Be Very Expensive’

  1. GiggidyGoo

    ‘I certainly won’t publish the legal advice …..’
    Because…why? Cowardice? Or just grandstanding?

      1. GiggidyGoo

        I’ve news for you Cian – this isn’t a game. I know a game is probably the level that most FGers ever reach, but are you really that overcome by their fumes to believe what you’ve just written?
        It’s not as though they wouldn’t have to show their hand if it went to court, and the DCC would be aware of their advise at that stage. Get a grip.

  2. millie vanilly strikes again


    I honestly didn’t think it was possible to dislike a politician as much as, say, Alan Kelly but Regina makes it very easy.

    1. GiggidyGoo

      Somehow, Millie, I think your wish will come through come next election. She won’t be in government or opposition.

      1. class wario

        I thought a particular good bit was when Dobbo was saying that in Ireland the system works so as to give the Courts the final say on things like this and that the challenge was actually good as it would produce a definitive, final answer. Farries, correctly, replied that this wasn’t the case as such rulings were always subject to appeals and European considerations as well as the potential for judicial opinions to be given alongside judgments. Just very strange poorly informed devil’s advocate-ing for the sake of it.

    1. eoin

      Awful interview by the €199,000 a year Bryan Dobson at loss-making RTE. This was just a platform for Regina to appear responsible about Brexit and there was junior infants-level questioning about the PSC, the draft findings a year ago and the day-by-day sneaky introduction of a national ID card by the back door without consultation.

      And the Circuit Court is just the beginning. Fees will mount up after further appeals.

      1. Alex

        This will go to supreme court and you and me get to pay the legal fees for both sides.
        This country is a joke

      2. Cian

        No. The first step, which the Minister has requested, is for the two sides to sit down and try to work out a solution.
        If that fails, the DPC will have to make a formal notice that the Minister will appeal, which will then go to court.

  3. Liam Deliverance

    Is there a function to ask the DSP to cancel a card, and delete all data attached to it, if a person so wished, anybody know? (I thought it was a part of GDPR that a person could request all data on them be deleted)

    1. TheQ47

      According to the PSC website (https://psc.gov.ie/questions/)
      If I leave Ireland and emigrate permanently, can I request my SAFE registration be cancelled and deleted (i.e. exercise a Right to be Forgotten)?

      A SAFE registration is verification of a person’s identity and of their Public Service Identity dataset. Such details are relevant for potential future claims or entitlements (as are details of social insurance contributions made etc.) and for the continued security of the person’s identity (to prevent it being used fraudulently). Consequently, these details cannot be deleted. This is consistent with current data protection legislation and will, from May 2018, be compliant with Article 17 3(b) of the General Data Protection Regulation.

      That looks like a “No”.

    2. Cian

      You can request all data be deleted, but they don’t have to delete anything that they need to keep (you can’t, for example, expect all your penalty points be deleted “under GRDP”).

      The legislation **is** there to cover the PCS for Social Welfare purposes – so they can ignore you (see TheQ47).

      If, however, you only got the card because you wanted a driver’s licence – then you might be able to have that deleted (depending on the outcome of the DPC legal wrangle).

    3. Liam Deliverance

      Cheers for replies The Q47, Cian.

      My question was to see if there was a mechanism in place to undo the issuing of a PSC to a person and the associated records. If people were able to decide for themselves to stay in or opt out then this issue could be put to bed much quicker and without expensive court cases. Despite the recommendations of the data protection commissioner the government wants to ignore and push on with the card, do we trust them or is Regina Doherty just trying to save her own skin. The DPC report should be published sooner rather than later.

    1. millie vanilly strikes again


      Can’t believe no one has ever thought of that before. And I’m sure that’s why they were insisting on having a PSC for driving licences and passport applications, when both are a perfectly acceptable form of State provided ID.

      1. Cian

        So the State needs to be 100% sure that the person applying for the Passport/Driving Licence is who they say they are…

        If you think about a Passport. For a first application you fill in a form, send a birth-cert, and get a Garda to sign the photo to say it is you! But the Garda doen’t know you from Adam. And Bingo! you have State ID,

        1. Batty Brennan

          And the evidence of identity required for a PSC is…


          Current Irish passport or current Irish or UK driving licence or Irish learner driver permit.
          Birth certificate and current driving licence*
          Certificate of Naturalisation or Foreign Birth Registration Certificate and Irish or UK driving licence or Irish learner driver permit.
          Current passport or national identity card
          Current passport or 1951 travel document

          Depending on whether you are an Irish citizen by birth, by naturalisation, an EU citizen, or a non EU national.

          1. Cian

            *If you are an Irish citizen and do not have a passport or driving licence as identification, you may still be issued with a Public Services Card. Additional information which can be verified to confirm your identity may be gathered at your appointment interview.

            Catch 22

    2. Amanda Donegan

      You can use a driving license or passport. No need for a targeted at the poor id card. You have to bring picture id to get a ps card, so you already HAVE verifiable id..
      its ludicrous, dangerously invasive, economically directed and unsafe in the data world. Maybe us poor should wear a badge to define us????

  4. Ian-O

    She’s FG’s version of Mary Coughlan only dumber.

    But she does make for hilarious radio listening, she actually thinks she knows what she is talking about, part of me hopes she hangs around public life for a little bit longer, if only to make the schadenfreude that much more satisfying.

  5. Alex

    So minister reckons 2005 legislation trumps 2018 legislation and dobby is such a fcuking goon he didn’t think to raise this?
    Really sick of rte, more annoying than the gombeen regina

    1. Cian

      No. Dobson just understands what this topic is about.

      Data Protection/GDPR says (and I’m paraphrasing) “you can’t just collect random information about people for any old reason, keep in indefinitely, nor share that data with other random parties without consent.”

      The 2005 legislation laid down the foundation for the PSC – what information would be stored, for what reasons, and with whom is could be shared.

  6. eoin

    Did Regina reveal how many PSCs have been issued so far? It was 3.2m when the DPC started her investigation. It was “nearly 4m” three weeks ago. There are only 4.9m people in the country.

  7. eoin

    It’s now three weeks and five days since the data protection commissioner sent her final report to Regina


    Any sign of Regina going to the Circuit Court to overturn the findings of illegal mass surveillance and the order to delete data? The Commissioner correctly rebuked the invitation by Regina to talks last week [“correctly” because Regina has had the main conclusions in the report for over a year].

    What’s happening?

Comments are closed.

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