Tag Archives: Regina Doherty

Yesterday.

A fact-check carried out by the Business Post in relation to comments made by the Minister for Employment Affairs and Social Protection Regina Doherty on RTÉ Radio One about the number of GPs in Ireland now compared to five years ago shows her information has been contradicted by the HSE and the Medical Council.

There you go now.

Election Factcheck (Business Post)

H/T: Susan Mitchell

Previously: Regina’s Gratuity

The Regina Monologues

A letter the Minister for Employment Affairs and Social Protection Regina Doherty sent to her constituents earlier this month

The Minister for Employment Affairs and Social Protection Regina Doherty recently wrote a letter to her constituents in which she stated:

I ensured that tips in our hospitality sector are paid to employees and not withheld.”

However, last June…

The Irish Times reported:

A Bill to prevent employers deducting or withholding tips from employees has been passed by the Seanad despite Government opposition.

Senators voted by 25 to 14 on an amendment to the Sinn Féin National Minimum Wage (Protection of Employee Tips) Bill and then passed the Bill without a vote.

Sinn Féin Senator Paul Gavan, who introduced the legislation, rejected as “completely wrong” claims by Minister for Employment Affairs Regina Doherty that the legislation would result in tips being taxed under the PAYE system and would have knock-on negative effects on workers’ entitlements to social welfare supports.

…Independent Senator Michael McDowell sharply criticised Ms Doherty for putting a “money message” on the legislation, required for Bills that will have an impact on the exchequer.

He said it was an “absolutely threadbare and totally unacceptable suggestion” that it involves appropriating the public revenue.

Mr McDowell said that “in a society transforming itself to a cashless society it is wholly wrong that that entirely positive development is used as a licence to plunder workers’ pockets”.

There you go now.

Meanwhile…

Last Monday, before the election date was called, Ms Doherty was interviewed by Seán O’Rourke on RTÉ’s Today with Seán O’Rourke, during which she told Mr O’Rourke:

“Nobody ever reads manifestos during the election. Seán, you know that.”

Listen back to the interview in full here

Pic: One Galway

UPDATE:

From top: Public Services Card, Data Protection Commission, panel on last night’s The Tonight Show, Minister for Employment Affairs and Social Protection Regina Doherty; Matt Cooper and Ivan Yates; Executive Director of Irish Council for Civil Liberties Liam Herrick

This morning…

Further to the Department of Social Protection lodging an appeal against an enforcement notice handed down by the Data Protection Commissioner in relation to the controversial Public Services Card…

Minister for Employment Affairs and Social Protection Regina Doherty told journalists that the department hopes the court case will be “done and dusted by March”.

The appeal challenges the findings of a two-year investigation into the card by the Data Protection Commissioner.

The commissioner Helen Dixon found there is no legal basis for anyone to have to present a Public Services Card in respect of any transaction between a person and a public body outside Ms Doherty’s department – such as obtaining a drivers’ licence, passport, education grants, etc.

She also found that the supporting information that 3.2 million card holders had to hand over in order to get their card – such as utility bills, proof of ID, etc – must be destroyed.

Last night, Ms Doherty was on the panel of Virgin Media One’s The Tonight Show with Matt Cooper and Ivan Yates.

Also on the panel was Executive Director of Irish Council for Civil Liberties Liam Herrick, Solidarity–People Before Profit TD Bríd Smyth and Fianna Fáil TD Jack Chambers.

From their discussion about the card which has cost the State €68million-plus to date…

Matt Cooper: “Regina Doherty, why are you doing this? The Data Protection Commission is an independent office, set up to do an important job and you have undermined it by appealing against an important decision it has made.”

Regina Doherty: “Yeah, I don’t think we’ve undermined the office and it isn’t the first time that we’ve appealed a decision and it certainly isn’t the first time other decisions from the commission’s office have been appealed.

“And the reason we have to appeal it is we don’t agree with the findings of the report in August. We don’t agree with the recommendations in the enforcement notice that was issued to us in December…”

Cooper:Which is to destroy all of the information that you have assembled?

Doherty: “Ehm. No. Because there is a difference between the report in August, the enforcement notice in December and a number of letters that happened between August and September.

“And so on the basis that we firmly believe that the route we’ve taken, and successive previous governments have been taken, with regard to the introduction of the legislation that supports the card. We’re gonna challenge the findings and see what a court has to say, so…”

Ivan Yates: “Couldn’t you have avoided all of this if you took the policy decision some time ago and said, upfront to the nation, we’re going  to have a national ID card. We’re going to provide a comprehensive legal basis for it, instead of trying to do it by creep, through the Department of Social Protection…”

Doherty: “But you see the problem with that…”

Yates: “And adding on these other things?”

Doherty: “But no, the problem with that, Ivan, is that it isn’t a national identity card. And so I agree with you. I think if there was any government that wanted to introduce a national identity card – for the record, I don’t agree with them and I don’t support one – but if I was of a mind, or a government was of a mind that they wanted to do that, yeah, they should have a public consultation and they should bring forward legislation and have, you know, a proper conversation about it.

“But this isn’t a national identity card. You can’t even use it as a national identity card…

Talk over each other

Cooper: “But hang on, haven’t you got it by stealth?”

Doherty: “…in any other form, you know, other than you access in government services.”

Cooper: “But hold on, your idea was, not just for claiming your social welfare entitlements…”

Doherty: “No it wasn’t…”

Cooper: “That was the initial idea…and then you were asked…”

Doherty: “Actually it wasn’t…”

Cooper: “…if you’re going for your driver’s licence or renewing your passport. And if you didn’t have it…I mean you had this line that ‘It wasn’t compulsory but it was mandatory’.”

Doherty: “Yeah, and actually…”

Cooper: “Explain the difference to me between mandatory and compulsory.”

Doherty: “Well actually, of the original findings that the Data Protection Commission offered us in August, she upheld the fact  that it isn’t compulsory but it is mandatory for certain social welfare services and that’s what I had said a number of years ago.”

Later – after Ms Doherty said 3.2million people are using the cards “on a very regular basis” and that they have a choice not to use them because “there’s a route for all of the services in a paper-based route”…

Liam Herrick: “I disagree that what we have now [the PSC] doesn’t have all of the attributes of a national identity system. And I’m very surprised with the minister again repeating again what she said in the Oireachtas  recently – that there’s always been alternative routes to getting these public services, other than the Public Services Card.

“That’s simply just not the case. The Passport Office required the Public Services Card until a couple of months ago where they changed their policy. The Road Safety Authority  required the Public Service Card until a year ago when the Road Safety Authority changed its policy of requiring it for the driver theory test.

Doherty: “But that’s not true, Liam.”

Herrick: “Well. It’s not just me that’s saying it.”

Doherty: “The Road Safety Authority did change their mind but they never had a policy and changed the policy. They changed their mind from introducing it in the first instance which is entirely different.”

Later – after Fianna Fáil TD Jack Chambers said Ms Doherty’s department has “shown total contempt” for the office of the DPC and asked Ms Doherty why her department won’t publish the legal advice that it received in light of the DPC’s report…

Doherty: “We spent two years engaging with the public, or the Data Protection Commission, so to say that we didn’t engage is not true. Two full years we spent engaging with the commission. Since the report was issued to   us in August, on the 15th of August, we have written to the  commission probably four, maybe five, times, looking to engage further and those engagement requests have been refused.

“And so I’m not sure what else you would have me do, to try and get clarification and seek…”

Cooper: “Sorry, didn’t you have the report for long before last August?”

Doherty:No, I’m sorry, we didn’t. We got the report  on the 15th of August. It’s actually, it’s quite difficult to have a conversation with people when they don’t even know the facts. But the simple fact of the matter is that we have a different view and our understanding of the legislation differs from the view of the Data Protection Commissioner.

Two people have different  views of a piece of legislation, we’re quite happy to defend our view in the Circuit Court.

“It certainly won’t be millions and millions and millions of euro…It certainly won’t be millions of euro.”

Later

Herrick:This is a question about law. It’s not about having opinions about a piece of legislation. The Data Protection Commission is the statutory  body which is mandated by law, by primary statute to adjudicate on questions of data protection. And it’s made a binding finding.

“And the Government hasn’t liked that finding. And now starts to refer to is as if it’s some type of discretionary opinion. This is of enormous significance because…”

Yates:Bríd. You’re a common sense woman. Can I put it to you? What’s on this, your PPS number, your date of birth and a photograph of ya? Like where is this Big Brother fear? If it accesses a more efficient way of getting public services and as we become more computerised and more software [inaudible] … surely it’s a kind of common sense provision?”

Smith: “Well you’re making the argument that the minister makes quite frequently in the Dáil when this issue is raised…”

Later

Smith: “I think the Government want to send out a message to big data, globally, that this state is a safe pair of hands for the big operators like Google and Amazon and all the rest of it to do their data business in. They don’t want heavy regulation on data, they want light-touch regulation…”

Later

Herrick: “I think the Public Services Card is fundamentally flawed and it’s not just the reports we’ve had up to now. There’s ongoing investigations  into the biometric nature of the card. Bizarrely, the Government is saying the card isn’t a biometric card…”

Cooper: “Sorry, explain, what does that mean?”

Herrick: “It means that it’s processing  biological information – in this case, a high-resolution photograph which can be processed and, using facial recognition technology, match against a database…”

Yates: “Ah here.” [puts head in right hand].

Cooper: “You love that type of stuff, don’t you?” [to Yates].

Yates:Give us a break, Liam. The fact of the matter is if I produce my driver’s licence, it has my photograph on it. My passport, like don’t make it sound like Big Brother, oh my god, my privacy has been breached because of a photograph.”

Herrick:I’m actually telling you what’s, the scientific description that was on the Government’s tender document that went out in the first place. And the company that makes the cards was originally called Biometric Card Services. And now the Government is denying it’s a biometric system. There’s another investigation…”

Yates: “It’s a photograph. Let’s call it what it is.”

Later

Doherty:It is a simple photograph. It’s exactly the same photograph  that’s on your driving licence, it’s on your passport, it’s no different…”

Herrick: “It’s part of a database that’s shared across all Government departments.”

Later

Herrick: “In the lead up to the election, whoever that’s going to be, we’ll be calling on all political parties to make a commitment not to dig ourselves into this any deeper and to step back.

“If we’re concerned about identity systems. Let’s start by reviewing what we already have. The passport and the driver’s licence work perfectly effectively in proving people’s identity. This is a project that’s just got out of control.

Doherty:Oh. My. God.”

Herrick: “And it’s a real shame that the Government is compounding, you know, mistakes, misrepresentations on top of each other at this stage and compounding it with legal fees on top of the money that’s been wasted.”

Watch back in full here

Previously: House of Card

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

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

UPDATE:

Lawyer and Information Rights Programme Manager for the Irish Council for Civil Liberties Elizabeth Farries

This evening.

Lawyer and Information Rights Programme Manager for the Irish Council for Civil Liberties Elizabeth Farries tweeted in response to Ms Doherty’s comments on The Tonight Show last night.

Ms Farries tweeted:

“The Irish Council for Civil Liberties joined The Tonight Show yesterday to discuss the Public Services Card.

The minister [Regina Doherty] also appeared and said it’s “difficult to have a conversation with people when they don’t even know the facts.” Respectfully, we know the facts.

The minister said “Of course they have a choice” about the PSC.

Fact: Our right “to access an ever-increasing range of public services has, in effect, been made conditional upon production of a PSC” (DPC, at p21) What kind of “choice” is that?

Many have reported their lack of choice regarding the PSC.

Remember: The person denied a pension.

The teacher denied benefits after breaking her ankle.

The firefighter denied a passport.

The minister said the card involves a simple photograph.

Fact. It’s not simple. The photo is processed using facial recognition technology software for comparison against a database. See the department’s own report.

Not worried about facial recognition technology? You should be. It’s inaccurate, insecure, and destroys our privacy. This is why other governments are banning it.

The minister said this is simply a case that “two people have different views”.

Fact. This is untrue. The minister is not arguing with a political view.

The Data Protection Commissioner is the independent regulator, with the authority to make binding decisions on Government.

The problems with the Public Services Card don’t disappear simply because they are misrepresented.

The PSC is a facial recognition project that significantly violates our data protection and privacy rights.

Join us in fighting this illegal scheme today!”

Via Elizabeth Farries

Minister for Social protection Regina Dopherty and her media advisor Alex Connolly

This morning.

Via Independent.ie:

Social Protection Minister Regina Doherty was able to land a pay deal for her spin doctor that breaches the Government’s own cap on salaries for special advisers.

Ms Doherty’s media adviser Alex Connolly was appointed last October on a salary of €107,109 – which is €6,000 more than the salary restriction that is in place for Cabinet ministers’ special advisers…

…Mr Connolly earns over €20,000 more than the average salary of press and media advisers for other ministers – which stands at around €86,000….

Meanwhile…

Mr Connolly has been replaced at Fáilte Ireland by Suzanne Coogan, who advised Denis Naughten when he was communications minister…

Good times.

Minister won pay deal for spin doctor €6,000 above salary cap Hugh O’Connell, Independent.ie)

Pics: Rollingnews, Alex Connolly

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..


From top: Public Service Card; Minister for Employment Affairs and Social Protection Regina Doherty TD

This morning.

Via Irish Examiner:

In refusing the request, the department cited five reasons, each of which has been disputed by [lawyer] Mr [TJ] McIntyre:

The report is exempt from Freedom of Information;

releasing it would have a significant adverse effect on the department’s management of operational matters;

the report’s findings are exempted under legal professional privilege;

releasing it would “impair” compliance with the Social Welfare Consolidation Act 2005;

and doing so would have a serious adverse effect on the ability of the Government to manage the financial interests of the State.

The Irish Examiner asked the department why it appeared to be contradicting Ms Doherty in refusing to release the report. The department “has outlined its reasoning for the decision”, said a spokesperson, adding the decision is open to appeal.

In her findings in the contentious report, Ms Dixon mandated that the department of Social Protection must delete 3.2m historical records held on cardholders, and stated that the processing of data using the PSC for state services other than welfare is unlawful.

Department: Not in public interest to release PSC report (Irish Examiner)

Rollingnews



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

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

A week on from the Data Protection Commissioner Helen Dixon announcing that there is no legal basis for anyone to have to present a Public Services Card in respect of any transaction between a person and a public body outside the Department of Employment and Social Protection…

And that the supporting information that millions of card holders had to hand over in order to get their card – such as utility bills, proof of ID, etc – must now be deleted…

And that the Minister for Public Expenditure Paschal Donohoe was informed of Ms Dixon’s report’s findings a year ago

A press release released this lunchtime by the Department for Employment Affairs and Social Protection includes the following comment from Minister Regina Doherty:

“Both myself and my department take very seriously the findings of the Data Protection Commission and the good work it does.

“For that reason it is important that bodies that are subject to findings by the commission give very careful consideration to those findings.

“Such careful consideration is also necessary in order to be fair to the commission and to ensure that when we do speak that the public hears a properly prepared response.

As soon as our consideration of this final report is complete, the department will publish its response along with the report and any other relevant information on its website and I will speak then at greater length on the matter.”

Meanwhile, in the same press release from the department, a spokesperson said:

“The Department is currently reviewing the report together with the Attorney General’s Office and the Department of Public Expenditure and Reform. This process is not yet complete and is expected to take another week or so.

“While the Department understands that some may wish for us to respond sooner, it should be noted that this is a comprehensive report and requires significant attention.

It is not true, as has been reported in some quarters, that the Department has had this report for a year.”

“The Data Protection Commission (DPC) provided a draft investigation report in August of last year at the mid-point of a two year investigation. It came with instructions that it was provided on a strictly confidential basis and was not to be shared with any third parties.

“This draft report contained what it described as preliminary findings and the DPC asked the department to make submissions on these findings. The report also posed a number of additional questions in the form of requests for information.

“These submissions and response to requests for information were sought to assist the DPC in the ongoing investigation and to inform the content of the final report.

“The department together with Department of Public Expenditure and Reform considered the interim report very carefully and sought and received the advice of the Attorney General’s Office.

Based on this consideration, and the advice received, the Department submitted a very detailed response setting out how it believed the SAFE process/PSC was administered in full compliance with all relevant law.

“In this context, in the absence of any determination by the DPC and pending the receipt of the final report, the Department and other specified bodies continued to rely on the PSC and SAFE process.

“The revised and final version of the report was received last Thursday. It contains a significant volume of additional analysis, a number of the findings have been changed and some have been removed.”

Previously: House Of Card

Rollingnews

Meanwhile…

Meath TD and Minister for Employment Affairs and Social Protection Regina Doherty

The resignation of Minister for Social Protection Regina Doherty, on foot of the very expensive Public Services Card debacle, is not “compulsory”, but it is “mandatory” if we are serious about the creation of accountable governance.

Jim O’Sullivan,
Rathedmond,
Sligo.

Public Services Card debacle (The Irish Times letters page)

Previously: House Of Card

Rollingnews