Tag Archives: Public Services Card

Then Minister for Public Expenditure and Reform, Paschal Donohoe, at the Public Services Card Centre, D’Olier House in Dublin after he registered for a Public Services Card in October 2016

The new National Childcare Scheme will take effect on October 29.

It will see parents applying for subsidies in person rather than through their childcare provider.

The only way parents can apply for the subsidies will be through MyGovID – for which you need a Public Services Card.

Further to this, Cianan Brennan, in The Irish Examiner, reports:

From the scheme’s inception, as previously reported by the Irish Examiner, the only way to apply for those subsidies will be via MyGovID, the online face of the PSC, which requires the individual verification of each cardholder.

A postal application option is slated to go live in late January 2020 —however, subsidies will not be backdated.

It can now be revealed that the Department of Public Expenditure and Reform (DPER), the lead body behind the expansion of the card to services such as passport applications, ordered the Department of Children and Youth Affairs (DCYA) to drop a secondary online authentication method so that MyGovID would be the only application portal available.

Alternative to PSC for childcare shut off in 2018 (Cianan Brennan, The Irish Examiner)

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

Rollingnews

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.

Anyone?

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

Meanwhile, At The Public Accounts Committee

Public Services Card; Data Protection Commissioner Helen Dixon at a meeting of the Public Accounts Committee this morning; the Public Accounts Committee

This morning.

The Data Protection Commissioner Helen Dixon is appearing before the Public Accounts Committee.

It follows Ms Dixon finding that there is no legal basis for the State demanding the use of the Public Services Card in order to access a range of public services beyond social welfare payments.

Ms Dixon ordered that Minister for Employment Affairs and Social Protection Regina Doherty’s department stop issuing new PSCs, with immediate effect, to people seeking a service outside of her department, and that it delete the supporting documentation – such as utility bills, etc – that the department has retained on the 3.2million card holders.

Ms Doherty is categorical her department will not be complying with these orders and has said the State will challenge the findings of Ms Dixon – in court, if needs be.

Meanwhile…

Irish Times journalist Jack Horgan-Jones has obtained documents [above], under the Freedom of Information Act, outlining radio ads that the Road Safety Authority planned to use but scrapped.

It’s understood they were scrapped after Minister for Transport Shane Ross announced in May 2018 that applicants for the driver theory test would not have to produce a PSC to satisfy identification requirements, reportedly after the Attorney General told the minister such a mandatory requirement was not legal.

This is despite Minister Doherty saying over the past few weeks that the State will challenge the findings of the DPC based on “incredibly strong” advice from the Attorney General.

Asked about Mr Ross’s announcement, Ms Doherty told the Dáil last night:

“I cannot say why the Minister for Transport, Tourism and Sport, Deputy Ross, said what he said other than to say I am not responsible for the delivery of policy…

“I cannot say why he said what he said. I am only responsible for delivery of policy in my Department. I do not know if he got legal advice and to answer the same question, I do not know if the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade got legal advice on its policy formation.”

Watch the Public Accounts Committee proceedings live here

Public Services Card; Minister for Employment Affairs and Social Protection Regina Doherty

Further to the Department of Employment Affairs and Social Protection and Minister Regina Doherty publishing the Report of the Data Protection Commission on the Public Services Card last week…

And her department’s intention to challenge the DPC’s findings on the card based on “incredibly strong legal” advice

Dr Eoin O’Dell, a Fellow and Associate Professor at the School of Law, Trinity College Dublin, wrote in yesterday’s Sunday Business Post:

The government’s misguided approach has the capacity to do great damage to Ireland’s reputation as a good location for international tech companies to establish their European headquarters.

A government in such open conflict with the DPC [Data Protection Commission] can have no credibility in seeking to ensure that such companies comply with the commission’s decisions.

Worse, it risks fostering the view that a company unhappy with an unfavourable DPC decision could seek government help to resist that decision.

…This is not the first time that government departments have run afoul of data protection laws.

In 2011, the commission found that blood samples from babies’ heel-prick tests were being unlawfully retained, but in 2013 the Minister for Health ordered the HSE not to comply with the commission’s determination.

The Department of Education has continued with its controversial plans, unveiled in 2014, to collect extensive profiles of all children in education and store that data until they turn 30, notwithstanding the commission’s misgivings.

Dealing from bottom of the deck on the Public Services Card (Eoin O’Dell, The Sunday Business Post)

Previously: The Regina Monologues

Rollingnews

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

RTÉ’s Mary Wilson; Minister for Employment Affairs and Social Protection Regina Doherty and Minister for Finance Paschal Donohoe; Public Services Card

Last night.

On RTÉ’s Drive Time.

Minister for Employment Affairs and Social Protection Regina Doherty was interviewed by Mary Wilson following the publication, by her department, of the Data Protection Commission’s report into the Public Services Card.

Before their interview began, listeners heard a clip of an interview the Data Protection Commissioner Helen Dixon had with RTÉ’s Miriam O’Callaghan last month – during which Ms Dixon spoke about what the DPC had ordered Ms Doherty’s department to do.

These orders included that Ms Doherty’s department had to stop issuing new cards, with immediate effect, to people seeking a service that’s outside of her department – and Ms Dixon asked that the department write to her within 21 days to outline how the department carried out that order.

The DPC also ordered that the department delete the supporting documentation – such as utility bills, etc – that the department had retained on the 3.2million card holders. Ms Doherty was to write to Ms Dixon about that within six weeks.

But last night, Ms Doherty was categorical that her department will not be complying with these orders.

From last night’s interview:

Mary Wilson: “You heard what the Data Protection Commissioner said there. She said that on the 16th of August. Have you complied with all of those directions?”

Regina Doherty: “Well, I think, as is on the record, we took a number of weeks to consider the votes, the letter that the commission sent us and the report with all of its eight findings. And the simple and short answer to your question is ‘no’. Because we don’t agree with any of the eight findings and we have written to the commission to outline that.”

Wilson: “So, where to now?”

Doherty: “Well I suppose the position is that we’ve made, we’ve reacted to the instructions that the Data Protection Commission gave us in the letter of the 15th. We’ve requested a meeting, on a number of occasions, to see if we could establish. There are some inconsistencies with regard to the findings and the instructions in the letter and some of…”

Wilson: “Like what?”

Doherty: “It’s kind of technical, it’s…”

Wilson: “Well, we need to get technical, minister then because this is a damning report on your department and the operation of the Public Services Card and your response is that you’ve got problems with some complicated issues or fair procedures.”

Doherty: “No, well, actually, that’s not what I said. And our response I think is very clear and unambiguous, in so far as that we disagree and the legal advice that we’ve obtained, from the Attorney General, is that we have an incredibly strong legal basis to do exactly what was set out in the 1998 legislation, established in the 2005 legislation and amended thereafter in 2007, 2009, 2011 and 2013.

“And so we’re not trying to be ambiguous in any way, shape or form. Which is why we’ve been as transparent as we have been today – not only to publish the findings and the report from the Data Protection Commission but to publish the correspondence that’s gone on between ourselves and the commission since then.

“I’ll give you a small example of the difference between the findings in the report and the instructions in the letter.

“One of the findings in the report is that we, should not, under Data Protection law, retain data indefinitely. I’m not sure what the legal definition of indefinitely means but the instructions in the Data Protection Commission’s letter is that we have to immediately delete all of the data that we hold on people, even for people who’ve only got a PSC card last week.”

Wilson: “Supporting documentation, minister.”

Doherty: “That’s correct, yeah.”

Wilson: “Not the name, and so on, it’s the supporting documentation…”

Doherty: “So to be clear, Mary, that data set…”

Wilson: “…the data sent to get the card.”

Doherty: “The data set is entirely different to the supporting documentation and the discrepancy or the inconsistency is with regard to the supporting documentation. And that’s only one example. But unfortunately, we haven’t been able to meet with the Data Protection Commission staff and that’s why we are where we are today which is why we’re publishing the report…”

Wilson: “So, just to be clear before you move on. Just to be clear before you move on. You will not be getting rid of or eliminating or destroying the supporting documentation that you retain on 3.2million people who’ve received the card?”

Doherty: “No, Mary, because our advice is that it would be illegal and so if I acted as the directions in the Data Protection Commission’s letter has suggested, I would actually be contravening the legislation that underpins the practice and the policy as far as 1998 and that would be illegal.

“And that’s the advice that I have. And with respect to my role and my job, which is defending the delivery of services, in an efficient manner, to the public which we serve, we regard the legal basis underpinning this service to be incredibly strong.”

Wilson: “Will you stop any demand for the Public Service Card for the delivery of services other than welfare services?”

Doherty: “So, to say again, Mary. The eight findings, in its entirety, are not accepted by ourselves in Government and so we won’t be complying with any of the instructions with regard to the findings or the instructions in the letter.”

Wilson: “Spell that out for the public. When I go to apply for a passport now, are you going to ask for a Public Services Card?”

Doherty: “So, to spell it out for the public, in so far as 3.2million people in Ireland already have data, or PCS [sic] cards. Anybody that doesn’t have one is usually invited to come in and be registered under the SAFE 2 process and that allows them access. All of the public services across Government departments, on a once and done basis, and so what you would be suggesting that we do, is to go back and asking people to fill out forms in triplicate, across a number of departments…”

Wilson: “No, no, no. I asked a simple question: what are people to do now if they’re applying for a passport and they’re asked for a Public Services Card?”

Doherty: “Exactly as they always have done.”

Wilson: “What are people to do if they’re applying for their [driving] theory test? For their driver’s, their learner permit? And they’re asked for a Public Services Card? Are you saying it’s mandatory of compulsory or which? That they produce it?”

Doherty: “In most cases, in most cases, Mary, across all of Government departments, with maybe the exception of my own, there are different ways that you can apply for services and so there is a long-form way. And so, for argument’s sake, you can go and you can get your forms filled out in triplicate and bring your passport or driving licence…”

Wilson: “So you’re fudging it?”

Doherty: “No, I’m not. That’s a way that you can go and access services. The efficient way for people to access services is those who have a PSC card can do most of their conversing with the State online. And that still is true.

“So for people who don’t have a PSC card, nobody is absolutely going to make them get one but for those people who do have and want to deal with the State efficiently then, you know, 3.2million people tell us nine out of ten people, we conducted a survey…which tells us that it does actually make the transactional engagement much more efficient…”

Wilson: “What you’re saying is ‘we’ll make it so difficult for people to interact with the services that it’s going to be the only way forward’.”

Doherty: “No, no…no, no…”

Wilson: “That is what you’ll be doing.”

Doherty: “No, Mary, it’s not making it any more difficult. It’s just maintaining the way it always was….which was cumbersome.”

Wilson: “Meanwhile…meanwhile we have a report that you’re rejecting in full – all of the findings. And where are you going now? What is the next step?”

Doherty: “Well the next step is that we have to wait for the Data Protection Commission to enforce the findings, if they so wish. And because at the moment we don’t have anything that we can legally appeal. So I suppose we await for the Data Protection Commission to send us an enforcement notice.”

Wilson: “So you say ‘the ball is in your court, Helen Dixon’.”

Doherty: “Well, that’s just the reality, Mary so…”

Wilson: “The ball has been in your court since, was it August 2017 you got the draft report?”

Doherty: “No, I think it was that, that was the year the commission started their investigation and so…”

Wilson: “OK, you knew about the concerns since 2017. When did you first receive the draft findings of the Data Commissioner?”

Doherty: “So, in August of 2018, we received a draft report from the commission which we responded to comprehensively in November of 2018.”

Wilson: “The réponses – did they run to hundreds of pages?”

Doherty: “They did, yeah, they did.”

Wilson: “And at that point, did you inform your Cabinet colleagues of the content of that report?”

Doherty: “Well the first instruction from the Data Protection Commission was that the report was to be treated as private and confidential and wasn’t to be shared with anybody. We sought permission from the commission to share it with the Department of Public Expenditure, given that they are joint responsible for the roll-out of national services on an e-Government basis. That permission was granted and both myself, my department, and DPER compiled a very comprehensive response to the initial findings in the draft report and that did run to some 170 pages. And that was returned to the commission in November 2018.”

Wilson: “And where do you see this going though? You say you’re waiting for an enforcement order to come from the data commissioner. Do you then take it to the courts? What is the protocol? I don’t know what the process is here? What is the Attorney General advising you to do?”

Doherty: “So again it very much depends what’s in the enforcement notice and, given that we haven’t seen it yet, it’s difficult for me to be precise.”

Wilson: “But what are the options?”

Doherty: “In normal circumstances, if an enforcement notice was issued to a department that it didn’t agree with, it would take an appeal of that enforcement notice. In this particular case, it would probably start in the Circuit Court. The other possibility is to conduct a judicial review but, again, without seeing what’s in the enforcement notice, it’s a bit difficult to be precise.”

Wilson: “Would you want to expedite this quickly?”

Doherty: “Well look I’m very comfortable with the fact that the legal advice that I have given, gives me confidence that we are doing exactly what was established and set out as far back as 1998 and, as I said, it’s been reinforced in various different pieces of legislation by various different ministers for social protection and employment affairs.”

Wilson: “But it’s starting down the road now of legal challenges. You could be accused of kicking the can down the road and avoiding doing what you ultimately  you may have to do anyway.”

Doherty: “But how could I kick the can down the road of doing something I have no intentions of doing because I have no, because I don’t agree with it? And so where I have legal basis is, is that the legislation that was established in 1998, reformed in 2005, 2007, 2009 and 2011 and 2013 gives me robust legal basis to conduct the Government policy across any Government platform as was envisaged…”

Talk over each other

Wilson: “And you know as well that lawyers will differ and judge will ultimately in a court will have to decide and then ultimately you may have to accept an outcome contrary to what you believe yourself.”

“In any event, there is also another process now where the [Irish] Examiner is reporting today about the second generation of the Public Service Card. A further two million or so cards that are going to be processed. Is that continuing? Is that tender, is that contract signed? Is that tender done and those cards being prepared?”

Doherty: “There’s no iteration of a new version of card, I’m not sure where the Examiner is getting its information from. The Public Services Card is being renewed, the contract has just been renewed with a new agency to do what will be our second generation but it’s just the lifespan of a Public Service Card is seven years. We’ve come to the end of that and are starting a new card. I’m not sure, I haven’t seen the article in the Examiner so…”

Wilson: “I presume the new card will have more and varied capacity or ability…”

Doherty: “Well, there’s no plan in the legislation to have…”

Wilson: “You can tap it?”

Doherty: “No.”

Wilson: “That’s not going to be on the card?”

Doherty: “Well, it’s not in the current legislation so I can’t see why we would…”

Wilson: “And how much  are you spending now on the, the additional 2.6million cards?”

Doherty: “Again, it’s not additional spending. The project that was envisaged in as to roll out in 2005, sought to actually ensure that everybody was identified and registered under the Safe 2 process. The PCS process is a by-product of that, it’s only a token that’s given at the end of the identification and authentication process.”

Wilson: “And what’s it costing?”

Doherty: “Well, at the moment, I think we’ve just spent over €60million. I think that’s a very good and strong investment in the delivery of public services.”

Wilson: “We don’t know that yet. You actually don’t know that yet. You’re going to challenge the Data Commissioner’s findings so, ultimately, this will go through the courts. And, ultimately, that €60million, plus additional funding that you may continue to spend, could be money down the drain.”

Doherty: “I tell you what I do know, Mary, is that 3.2million people have taken the time to come in and get themselves identified and registered until the Safe Two process because they want and value to be able to do they business online, in an efficient and quick manner…”

Wilson: “Perhaps because they were told that it was compulsory and mandatory to get it by you.”

Doherty: “Well, they’re not,  they were invited in. And actually I think if you look at the finding of the one, of the first finding in the Data Protection [Commission’s] eight findings is that she has entirely deemed it legal for the Department of Social Welfare and Employment Affairs…”

Wilson: “She has…the only department that it is legal to use..”

Doherty: “…And..that’s the department that we were talking…”

Wilson: “And do you accept, you accept that finding?”

Doherty: “To go back to what I was saying to you a second ago is that we have 3.2million people who have registered extremely high satisfaction rates with the usage of the card. They value it and…it’s my job to make sure that I continue to provide those services in an efficient manner for the people that we serve.”

Wilson: “Minister Regina Doherty, thank you for joining us.”

Listen back in full here

Meanwhile..

Co-leaders of the Social Democrats Róisín Shortall and Catherine Murphy

This afternoon.

Politicians are returning to the Dáil after the summer break with Leaders’ Questions set to begin at 2pm.

Meanwhile, on the plinth…

Meanwhile…

Watch Dáil proceedings live from 2pm here

Pic: Gavan Reilly

Public Services Card; Minister for Employment Affairs and Social Protection Regina Doherty; Data Protection Commissioner Helen Dixon

This morning.

The Irish Times is reporting that the the Department of Employment Affairs and Social Protection will publish the report by the State’s data protection watchdog – the Data Protection Commission – into the public services card.

Jack Horgan-Jones reports:

Relations between the department and the data watchdog have soured arising from the report, with secretary general John McKeon last week writing to Ms [Data Protection Commissioner Helen] Dixon to outline a series of alleged inconsistencies, as well as criticising the manner in which the investigation and its report were completed and publicised.

The letter, which has been seen by The Irish Times, was delivered by hand to Ms Dixon last week.

…The manner in which the commission handled the submission of the report also comes in for criticism. The watchdog has no powers to publish the report, but the department alleges that it “nevertheless published the core elements of the report” via a press release, media briefings and interviews.

“The department considers that these actions by the DPC are prejudicial to its interests and requests that the DPC now identify its vires [powers] for having so published its findings.”

It follows the Irish Examiner reporting yesterday that the Department of Employment Affairs and Social Protection said it would “not be in the public interest” to publish the report.

Solicitor Simon McGarr has tweeted his thoughts…

Meanwhile…

Associate Professor of Law at University College Dublin and chair of Digital Rights Ireland TJ McIntyre has also shared his thoughts…

Meanwhile…

Ciannan Brennan, of The Irish Examiner, has also tweeted his thoughts…

Watchdog accused of procedures breach on Public Services Card (Jack Horgan-Jones, The Irish Times)

Public services card: watchdog’s full report to be published today (Jack Horgan-Jones, The Irish Times)

Previously: “Not In The Public Interest”

House of Card



Ministers Paschal Donohoe and Regina Doherty; Public Services Card; Section 263, sub section 3 of the Social Welfare and Consolidation Act of 2005

Yesterday, Minister for Employment and Social Protection Regina Doherty went on RTÉ’s Morning Ireland to defend the Government’s position on the Public Services Card, despite findings about the card made by the Data Protection Commissioner Helen Dixon.

During the interview, Ms Doherty repeatedly said the Social Welfare and Consolidation Act of 2005 has allowed the Government to do what it has done in respect of the card and she said that that is the legal advice she’s received from the Attorney General’s Office – advice she will not publish

Ms Doherty  said:

“Where we [the Government and the DPC] 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…”

She also said:

In the 2005 legislation in sub section 3 of that legislation, it very, very clearly sets out exactly what the anticipated use was for, what the legal right and the responsibility of the data controller is and that’s exactly what we’ve done and so we really believe that we have a very, very strong legal basis to do exactly what we have done…”

However.

This morning.

Ciannan Brennan, in The Irish Examiner, writes:

The minister referred to subsection three of that Act, and 23 words that the department and the DPC disagreed over.

Loose talk aside, there is only one section she could mean — subsection three of section 263 regarding a prospective Public Service Card.

Those words are: “A person shall produce his or her Public Service Card at the request of a specified body for the purposes of a transaction.”

That’s it. You’ll note that nowhere in that sentence are the words “mandatory” or “compulsory” to be found.

Put simply, there is no basis there for the blanket issuance of cards to citizens looking to access State services.”

Much more at stake than a little plastic card (Ciannan Brennan, The Irish Examiner)

Meanwhile…

Solicitor Simon McGarr has also tweeted his thoughts on the matter…

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

Rollingnews

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…”

Later

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

Rollingnews

Yesterday: Put It On The Card

Identity Crisis

UPDATE:

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