“Mark My Words”

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Taoiseach Leo Varadkar in the Dáil during Leaders’ Questions this afternoon

This afternoon.

In the Dáil…

In response to questions about the Public Services Card from Sinn Féin, the Taoiseach spoke glowingly about the PSC – telling the Dáil he himself has a PSC.

It follows the eventual publication of a damning Data Protection Commission report about the card by Minister for Employment Affairs and Social Protection Regina Doherty last night and her department’s refusal to comply with the DPC’s orders in relation to the card.

Mr Varadkar told the Dáil that “like the majority of people in this House”, he’s a “big supporter” of the PSC and he thinks it’s worked “extremely well”.

He added:

“Over three million people in Ireland now have a Public Services Card, including me, and when people are asked what they think about the Public Services Card that they have, over 80 per cent of people are satisfied with it and prefer it to what they would have had before which would have been a number of different books and passes – pension books, children’s allowance books, free travel passes, social welfare services cards – it’s replaced all of those and given people one simple card which enables them to access public services.”

“And that’s exactly what the Public Services Card is. It does exactly what it says on the tin. It’s what it was intended to be in 1998 and in 2005 when it was introduced in legislation. It’s there to assist people to access public services  and to make public services more efficient to deliver.

“It is not primarily about fraud but it does have benefits in terms of deterrence, reducing fraud aswell but it’s primary purpose is to make it easier for people to access the public services and benefits that they’re entitled too and also makes it possible to be more efficient for Government departments and agencies and to provide those public services.”

“…in terms of legal advice, it’s not our practice to publish legal advice, either from the AG [Attorney General] or outside counsel, we won’t be doing that. But obviously, if this case goes to the court, goes to the circuit court or the High Court thereafter then of course that legal advice will be made public at that point and that is normal procedure when it comes to litigation.”

He later added:

“…In relation to the National Childcare Scheme, as you know, that’s coming into effect later this year to provide increased subsidies for childcare for tens of thousands of families across the State and for the first time about 10,000 middle income families will qualify for childcare subsidies for the first time. The vast majority of these families, about 80 per cent, have the Public Services Card already and will be able to apply for those subsidies and increased subsidies online.

“And I think the vast majority of them will do that because they will see the convenience of just being able to take out your Public Services Card, apply for those childcare subsidies online and get those subsidies without going through the rigmarole of filling in forms, getting in photographs, producing banks statements and all of that. However, for those who want to, that option will be available.

“So, there will be an option for those who don’t want to get a Public Services Card. But mark my words – people will vote with their feet and their keyboards and the vast majority of those parents will use the Public Services Card to apply for that subsidy because it makes sense.

“Moving online, digitisation is the future, providing public services to people in this country but the alternative will be there.”

Mr Varadkar went on to say that the department has yet to receive an enforcement order from the DPC and that the DPC has declined an invitation to meet with Ms Doherty’s department.

He also said “this is a democracy” and “the right of appeal is part of a democracy”.

Watch live here

Earlier: The Regina Monologues

19 thoughts on ““Mark My Words”

  1. paul

    Mr Varadkar told the Dáil that “like the majority of people in this House”, he’s a “big supporter” of the PSC and he thinks it’s worked “extremely well”.

    Jaysus, he’s like Trump.

      1. paul

        It was more the language used.

        ‘I like this thing, it’s great, everyone else likes it, it’s the best, if you don’t like it then you are wrong.’

  2. eoin

    Interesting, the Commissioner says “March 2018, the total number of
    PSCs issued by that point was 2.65 million.35 According to further statements made in Dáil
    debates in February 2019,36 by then 3.2 million PSCs had been issued.”

    Five weeks ago when the Commissioner’s final report was provided to the government, Leo said “nearly 4 million” PSC cards were in issue.

    Yet, in the past 24 hours, he’s rowing back to “over three million”.

    How many is it?

    The answer will reveal the depths of this pernicious incursion into citizens’ privacy.

    1. Cian

      There is a difference between “cards issued” and “cards in issue” and the count of people have a card.

      One person may have been issued a card, then re-issued (one or more) cards..

  3. Termagant

    Why have a data commissioner if you’re just going to ignore them when you don’t like what they have to say

    1. eoin

      “ignore them”, insult them, threaten them with legal action when your stalling with responses isn’t met with acceptance; after receiving the draft conclusions 13 months ago, accelerate the issuing of PSC, ignore the Commissioner’s call to publish the report within seven days, refuse countless freedom of information requests on the grounds the report isn’t in the public interest, and then a day or two later, publish it.

      FG is just undermining confidence in public administration and, by its actions, encouraging others to ignore the rulings of independent expert state agencies. So much for the “party of law and order”

      1. Cian

        “ignore them”, – the department has tried to meet with the Commission, and the department have been ignored.
        insult them, when?
        threaten them with legal action when your stalling with responses isn’t met with acceptance; there has been no threat of legal action. The ball is in the Commissioner’s court – to issue an Action. The Dept has said they will appeal it.

        after receiving the draft conclusions 13 months ago, accelerate the issuing of PSC, citation needed
        ignore the Commissioner’s call to publish the report within seven days, it isn’t within the Commissioner’s remit to put a time limit on the publication
        refuse countless freedom of information requests on the grounds the report isn’t in the public interest, and then a day or two later, publish it. just because it isn’t FOI-able doesn’t mean you wont publish.

        The department have provided a comprehensive (120 page) document explaining why they believe the commissioner is incorrect, they have included details of the draft they received 13 months ago, and correspondence between the two bodies. That takes time to prepare.

        1. Portroegirl

          27/10/17:DPU Investigation began with 50 queries to DEASP
          6/12/17 :DEASP submitted response to questions.
          8/1/18 :Further response to more detailed questions.
          30/1/18:DPC notified DEASP of intention to split Investigation into 2 Modules:Module 1 PSC & Module 2 SCV,MyGov I’d&PSI database.
          28/7/18 DPC confidential Report to DEASP on Module 1 matters with 13 provisional findings with 17 further requests for information.
          3/9/18 DEASP wrote to DPC agreeing no objections to Module 2 matters being investigatedby reference to GDPR’.DEASP wanted a 2 month extension to Nov’18
          DEASP wanted to share confidential draft Report to DPER.
          7/9/18 DPC gave DEASP a shorter extension to 31/10/18.DPC didn’t object to DEASP sharing the confidential draft Report to DPER but ‘sought further information on why DEASP considered this necessary.
          10/9/18DEASP said it would do it’s best to meet deadline of 31/10/18.It gave reason why DPER had to see confidential draft Report.
          18/10/18 DEASP wrote to DPC saying they couldn’t meet the deadline.They would send it by 30/11/18 instead.Letter’ stated time was necessary to afford DEASP fair procedures &if DPC proceeded to finalize the Draft Report prior to that date,DEASP would consider other options including the possibility of legal proceedings.
          26/10/18 DPC agreed to the further extension and stated that ‘the threat of legal proceedings was unwarranted in circumstances where the DPC had already provided an extension of a month.’
          30/11/18 DEASP sent DPC response to Draft Report which consisted of 470 scanned pages (unpaginated) including 28 appendices.
          ‘Following request from DPC ,the DEASP subsequently sent a searchable version of its response.
          The DPC Investigation began 27/10/17 almost 2 years ago,there’s still Module 2 to be reported on!

          1. eoin

            So Regina did threaten legal proceedings to delay the completion of the report

            18 October 2018 “if DPC proceeded to finalize the Draft Report prior to that date,DEASP would consider other options including the possibility of legal proceedings.”

            Yes, that’s in line with what was said in the Dail today “We see a total lack of regard for taxpayers’ money, which we have seen time and time again from this Government, in fact the Department threatened the Data Commissioner with legal proceedings back in October last year, when they weren’t getting their way with an extended deadline for reply. “

  4. Cian

    I would have thought that anyone that is eligible for the “National Childcare Scheme” is already in receipt of children’s allowance, so has a (perfectly legal) PSC. So that is a non-issue.

    1. Batty Brennan

      Cian, my curiosity is getting the better of me. What exactly is your role at DEASP? You clearly have a dog in this fight. No mere FG fanboy could possibly be this tenacious in their defence of the PSC debacle.

      1. Cian

        Neither.

        It’s funny that many commenters rail against the main-stream media for not exposing the truth. But if a mere BS poster points out inconvenient truths or corrects untruths they are berated as shills.

      2. Batty Brennan

        I have no issue with evidence being brought to the discussion, provided it’s open to scrutiny. Pointing out what you call inconvenient truths and “correcting” untruths, without substantiation is very much the behaviour to be expected from a shill, wouldn’t you agree?

        1. Cian

          I agree. I try to substantiate my posts.

          If there are any that require additional clarity – I’m happy to oblige.

          Now, one for you. Why do you comment on my posts that try to illuminate the subject – I try to be factual and non-emotive. You don’t comment on the posters that make wild claims, are hugely personal, or are inflammatory?

          1. Batty Brennan

            My free time is very limited. I’d love to have nothing better to do than comb Broadsheet all day looking for windmills to tilt at.

            Today, you’re it.

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