‘Iarnród Éireann Used The Public Services Card To Collect The Information’


Public Services Card; Heuston Station in Dublin

This afternoon.

During the Public Accounts Committee meeting, during which the Data Protection Commissioner Helen Dixon fielded questions about the controversial Public Services Card…

The committee’s chairman Fianna Fáil TD Seán Fleming spoke about the experience of one of his constituents with their PSC.

He said:

“As TDs, I’m sure we all run into different constituents with different problems but a particular person I met had the travel pass as part of their social welfare card, they could present it and go on Iarnród Éireann and present it as the case may be because they were a carer.

“But a point came when they were no longer a carer.

“But they kept using the card and they weren’t carers. They weren’t entitled to use the card, but the card was still working.

“So about four or five months later they got a bill from Iarnród Éireann for about €1,048 and it listed all the dates that they’d used the card since, in their opinion, they were no longer deemed to be a carer.

“So they used that information, Iarnród Éireann used the Public Services Card to collect the information in relation to the number of trips the person made on the train.

“And one day they arrived in Heuston Station and they couldn’t get through the gate because Iarnród Éireann had obviously been in touch with Social Protection.”

Comptroller and Auditor General Seamus McCarthy suggested Iarnród Éireann presumably sought reimbursement from the Department of Social Protection for the trips taken and were subsequently paid for some trips and not for others.

Mr McCarthy said:

“Social protection would have no way of knowing what journeys were being taken.”

Mr Fleming again suggested Iarnród Éireann sought and obtained information from the Department of Social Protection.

Ms Dixon responded:

“We’d be very interested in looking at that in the context of the findings we’re about to issue…We’d be very happy to receive details on that in the context of what we’re looking at.”

Mr Fleming added that he doesn’t believe the case he referred to was an isolated case.


Earlier: The Irish Taxpayer May Have To Pay ‘By Virtue Of These Companies Being Headquartered Here’

Meanwhile, At The Public Accounts Committee

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25 thoughts on “‘Iarnród Éireann Used The Public Services Card To Collect The Information’

  1. SB

    Surely if a card is allowed for free travel then the travel provider is allowed verify the validity of said card?

    1. some old queen

      It was up to social welfare, in a timely manner, to notify Iarnród Éireann that the individual was no longer entitled to free travel. It was then Iarnród Éireann’s responsibility to cancel said travel pass.

      This does not mean Iarnród Éireann had access to the social welfare records- it was just a failure of communication between the two bodies- they have no chance of recouping that money.

      Either Iarnród Éireann received the notification and did not act or they did not receive the notification in which it is social welfare’s responsibility to pay the bill.

      They are most definitely two separate systems.

      1. Martin Mcmahon

        Actually, they are not. When the PSC travel pass is scanned on public transport, the #psc number is recorded on the scanning device. Scanning devices are operated under licence from the National Transport Agency. The data ie. journey and psc number are sent to the NTA who in turn, send that data onto the DEASP. The DEASP can then match each individual journey to an individual person.

        This story is close but no cigar. What happened, is that there is a delay in the processing and transfer of data from scanning devices to the NTA and ultimately onto DEASP. It was DEASP who rejected payment for the journeys upon receiving the data from the NTA.

        How do I know about the transfer of data? The NTA told me in writing.

        So here’s the true factual position, the DEASP is tracking the journeys of all persons holding a PSC travel pass. Not only are they matching each individual journey to an identifiable person, they are passing that data onto a third party, in this case IE, to effect payment.

        Considering that nowhere in any social welfare consolidation act, nor in any GDPR legislation, is this remotely allowed, it is correct to say that DEASP is engaging in mass surveillance for no other reason that to spy on members of the public.

        1. some old queen

          I think we are talking about two different things here- I was commenting on the actual systems.

          There is no live r/w link between the Iarnród Éireann scanning devices and DEASP. It is Iarnród Éireann’s databases which hold the details of the pass which remains live until instructed otherwise- and record the actual journeys- hence my point as to who is liable for the cost.

          That the travel details are then forwarded to DEASP is I expect for billing purposes. Any monies due would have to be itemised like say, a mobile phone bill. That it is an automatic transfer rather than an invoice is just speeding up that process.

          So in summary- Iarnród Éireann must somehow bill DEASP for the journeys because they are separate systems. The GDPR breach may be if DEASP use that information for any other purpose other than the one stated- which is to pay the bill.

          1. some old queen

            And one other point- the data transferred from Iarnród Éireann to DEASP would not include any personal information which could identify an individual- it is only when it is received by DEASP will it be matched up to the other details.

            As I said, unless the data is being used by DEASP for other purposes, I don’t see a privacy problem with that transfer system at all. I expect it is SFTP, encrypted etc which is all fairly standard these days.

          2. Eamonn

            Why was the card being used by someone who was not entitled to use it? Is this fraud? The card is a great invention. It catches people like this.

  2. Daisy Chainsaw

    The issue here isn’t with the PSC as it was being used for Social Welfare purposes. The issue is someone scamming a grand’s worth of taxpayer’s money that they knew they weren’t entitled to.

  3. Cian

    I was under the impression that the carer didn’t get their own card – but were allowed to accompany the person that had the free travel.

    this is supported by:
    Using your PSC FT on Iarnród Éireann services (including DART)
    2.If you have a companion or spouse with you, you will need to visit the ticket desk and request a ticket for that person, who should have the ticket ready for inspection at all stages of the journey. If the station is unmanned, you may board the train providing you have your PSC FT in your possession.



    1. Maria

      You are correct,carers are not entitled to a free travel pass.There are three types of card .1 Free travel .2 Free travel plus spouse .3 free travel plus companion. Why I personally have no problem with public services card. My point would be the person travelling would have a card that they would need to present to collect the ticket. Why did the staff not challenge the person as It was the person that they were caring for that had the entitlement to the free travel not the carer! Something is not adding up in this story . This person was using someone else’s card fraudulently.

  4. kellyma

    The neck of these people. As opposed to being ashamed of his fraudulent use of taxpayers funds, he went whinging about his data to the local TD. FFS…..

  5. Michael

    Let’s say they did use the data incorrectly under the law. Should we change the law so they can use it this way? I’d say yes.

  6. Just Sayin

    IE may not have need to get any info from the DSP, as far as they were concerned the holder presented a card and when scanned it reported it’s card number and that it was valid for free travel.

    For each journey IE’s systems would have logged the card number and the fare that would have been due.

    At some point (e.g. the end of the month / quarter) IE sends a bill to DSP for all the fares used on the free travel system.

    Then they either get paid, or get a list of transactions rejected as the card holder is no longer entitled.

    At that point they look at the list and send out bills if they have addresses for the card holders.

    The only question is “How does IE know the Card Holders address?”
    A: cos they got the holder to register to use the scheme
    B: very naughty, they asked the DSP

    The real problem is that the DSP have obviously stored the free travel status on the card (and have no way to update it without the user surrendering the card)

    Ideally the ‘free travel status’ would be in a database that the DSP could update, and IE could check the status of the holder in realtime (but not be able to access any other info on the card holder)

    Clearly you have to return paper pass, but it’s unclear what to do with PSC if status changes

  7. Jake38

    Well done to DSP and Iarnroad Eireann for clawing money back scammed from the taxpayer.

    The more these cards are used to catch these scammers, the better, as far as I’m concerned.

  8. eoin

    Did someone on here try to argue or correct me a little while ago when I referred to Regina Doherty’s scandal as “the illegal mass surveillance of citizens”?
    (1) illegal (the regulator whose job it is to determine if data collection and retention is legal or not, says it’s illegal)
    (2) mass (a very large number, 3.2 million according to some, though Leo did refer to “nearly 4m”, all in a country of just 4.9m)
    (3) surveillance (“The systematic observation of aerospace, surface, or subsurface areas, places, persons, or things, by visual, aural, electronic, photographic, or other means”, US military definition).

    If our brave media weren’t so impoverished and cowed and dependent on the government for funding and/or tidbits to fill their media space, this would be front page news every day until the culprits were fired, prosecuted and/or jailed.

    1. eoin

      Also, isn’t our brave media going to report the fact, as revealed at the public accounts committee today that Charlie Flanagan has become the latest minister to put a halt to the requirement of the PSC for accessing non-welfare services, in Charlie’s case, citizenship applications? 3-1 to Helen (Zappone is forging ahead with requiring the PSC for childcare though she says she’ll accept other means of id from next year).


    It would be too bad that this cheat would get away with scamming the system .If people have nothing to hide what is their problem with the PSC card .

    1. Eamonn

      Why was the card being used by someone who was not entitled to use it? Is this fraud? The card is a great invention. It catches people like this.

  10. Truth in the News

    IR have for some time took the PSC PPN number and printed it on the ticket
    they issued, recently they have abandoned this and now print DSP on the ticket
    however there are issues, have IR on their server platform details of the PPN
    of the passengers that availed of the free travel concession, this would include
    travel dates and the frequency of travel
    Also in relation to BE their system verifies the card expiration date, however since
    it scans the card does it record either with Bus Eireann or on the card other details
    on the passengers travel profile……all this raises issues of privacy, we have
    reached a stage of intrusive surveillance

    1. some old queen

      IR should not have PSC PPN numbers- correct.

      As above- travel details are required for billing. The user may receive free travel but DEASP still has to pay for it.

      1. some old queen

        Just thinking about the PSC PPN issue- it is definitely stored on the IR Tax Saver system for revenue purposes so it’s probable that there is a legitimate reason for it being recorded here too.

    2. Cian

      According to the DPC’s report anyone using free travel uses a chip is separate to the PSC and this is part of the NTA’s specification.
      Exceptionally, a special variant of the card with its own separate chip has been created for those who avail of free travel. However, even that chip – and what is read from it – forms part of the National Transport Authority’s integrated ticketing specification rather than the PSC itself.

      1. some old queen

        But it still goes first into Iarnród Éireann’s system first, it has to, because they need to know how many trips are to be paid by DEASP. When you have high levels of transactions like this, nobody bothers with invoices anymore.

        Whether it is then transferred directly to DEASP or to a third party is irrelevant- DEASP need to confirm that Iarnród Éireann’s bills are correct.

        If you are claiming expenses from your employer or whoever is paying the bill for travelling by train then you must produce the ticket- this is no different.

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