Tag Archives: Simon McGarr

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…”


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)


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’


Then Minister for Public Expenditure and Reform Paschal Donohoe with a Public Services Card in 2006; Solicitor Simon McCarr

Solicitor Simon McGarr, of Dublin firm McGarr Solicitors, was very vocal about his concerns in respect of the Public Services Card for years.

This was long before the Data Protection Commissioner Helen Dixon last week found that there is no legal basis for anyone to have to present a PSC in respect of any transaction between a person and a public body outside the Department of Employment and Social Protection.

At the weekend, Mr McGarr tweeted redacted documents that he obtained which show how closely the Department of Social Welfare was following his media utterances on the matter – including his tweets…

Related: The Facial Images on the PSC are Biometric Data (Simon McGarr)

Previously: House of Card

Your Card Has Been Declined


Gavan Reilly, political correspondent at Virgin Media One and presenter of Newstalk’s On The Record interviewed Mr McGarr yesterday.

Towards the end of the interview, they had this exchange…

Gavan Reilly: “If there is an internal note on the Department of Social Protection about your appearance on this show here today, what do you imagine they’re saying about you?”

Simon McGarr: “I can’t imagine it’s complimentary based on the previous notes that I got. But what I will say is this: One of the talking points which have emerged since the report [from the Data Protection Commissioner] is the argument is that ‘well, look, surely everyone acknowledges, our intentions were good while we illegally collected a database on three million people.

“And, at some point, the intentions were good, absolutely. In the sense that nobody intended to break the law, at some point when this was being designed.

“The question is at what point did they become aware that the law was being broken and being carried on anyway.

“And I do know that the Journal.ie received documents between the Department of Transport and the Road Safety Authority which said that Shane Ross had received a verbal briefing from the Attorney General in March 2018.”

Reilly: “So the Attorney General was giving advice, nearly 18 months ago, that there already some legal concern or ambiguity about this?”

McGarr: “Well, on foot of the conversation, having cited the conversation as the reason for doing it, the Department of Transport instructed the Road Safety Authority  to stop requiring the public to use the Public Services Card in their online application.

“And the Road Safety Authority complained that they’d spent millions building that. So, in March 2018, Shane Ross took the right decision on the Attorney General’s advice and he said ‘no, we won’t do that’.

“Now, the question is: at what point did everybody else in the public service become aware of the Attorney General’s opinion and why did they take no action from March 2018 to now?”

Listen back in full here


Broadcasting Authority of Ireland, from its proposal to regulate social media across Europe; solicitor Simon McGarr


Samantha McCaughren, in the Sunday Independent, reported that the Government is considering proposals from the Broadcasting Authority of Ireland that it be given the power to regulate content on social media platforms such as Facebook, Twitter and YouTube in Ireland and across Europe.

Solicitor and director at Data Compliance Europe Simon McGarr spoke to RTÉ’s Morning Ireland about the proposal this morning and said he didn’t think BAI should be given those powers.

He said:

“I think that the proposal that they’ve [BAI] made today, and they’re publishing later this morning, is basically 98 pages intended to make that argument that they are [right group for the job] but demonstrating throughout exactly why they should not be the body to do that.”

“I think perhaps the best example would be to think of whether or not we thought that the 1950 Censorship Board of Ireland would be the correct body to be put in charge of a modern censorship organisation or a classification organisation.

“The argument that would be made is: ‘well, we have the most experience censoring things and therefore we should be put in charge of all these other censoring activities’.

“It’s precisely because of its institutional history, not because of the people on the board but because of the legislation that was created by the Broadcasting Act of 2009.

“While the institution of the BAI doesn’t have the right instincts, institutional instincts and experience for regulating a completely different form of communication because what has happened here in this body’s proposal is that they have taken the concept of regulating broadcast and applied it in certain areas to regulating areas between individuals.

“So we are now looking at a proposal for example in this, that they would be able to take down private messages, including encrypted messages, sent by things such as WhatsApp or IM message between individuals and they’d be able to censor those messages.”

He added:

“For example, we don’t open all the envelopes in An Post to check whether or not we think that the content is acceptable and deliver on the basis of somebody censoring that information.”

The interview can be listened to in full in the Soundcloud link above or here

Mr McGarr has also written a blog post about the matter here

Why the BAI is not the body to regulate the internet (Simon McGarr, Tuppenceworth.ie)

Paschal Donohoe, the then Minister for Public Expenditure and Reform, launching the Public Services Card (PSC) in 2016

This afternoon.

Solicitor Simon McGarr has again claimed the Department of Social Welfare collects and processes biometric facial recognition data, contrary to the department’s assertion that it doesn’t.

Mr McGarr supports his claim with the following…


90319957On Wednesday Labour Minister Brendan Howlin suddenly withdrew changes to the Freedom of Information Bill that would have substantially increased the cost of obtaining information from public bodies.

Dublin solicitor and FOI activist Simon McGarr attended the Select Sub-Committee on Public Expenditure and Reform committee meeting on the same day, where Mr Howlin attempted to explain his FOI strategy.

On his blog, Mr McGarr writes:

Maybe it was the lateness of the hour or maybe it was just the effect of a couple of days of unexpected trouble but minister Brendan Howlin on Wednesday told us why he wants to charge €15 in respect of FOI requests.

The Minister was on his second day in Committee. The session had started with him announcing that he wanted to withdraw his controversial amendment to Section 12, multiplying Ireland’s FOI Fees.

He wasn’t abandoning his plans, he had just lost confidence overnight in his amendment’s wording. He confirmed his plan to bring back the fee hike later.

Despite this temporary retreat, he still faced questions. [Independent TD] Stephen Donnelly asked him how much money the Government expected it was going to cost to collect those fees – and whether the Government had estimated how much money they would raise.

Like the Hatter flanked by the Dormouse and the March Hare, the minister sat between his civil servants, who murmured words in his ear.

The Minister explained that his department couldn’t actually manage to make any estimate.

Donnelly pointed out that, without estimates, the Minister had no idea if the fees he was intending to levy would actually contribute anything to the state.

The Minister couldn’t deny it, having already said his department – which is involved in preparing the national budget – couldn’t give any estimate

In fact, it is quite possible that the fees might cost us extra. That we would actually spend money to collect less money.

It was then that the Minister told us that what mattered wasn’t whether the fee made money. It was that he didn’t want people getting something without paying for it. “In the current climate. ”

The State couldn’t have a situation where people could just get access to their information for nothing- as if it was a right!

Citizens had to make a contribution. Not a contribution to the costs, because who knows if the admin will eat it all.

Asked again about those fees, the Minister was worn out. Rubbing his eyes, perhaps wishing that-like [Lewis] Carroll’s Dormouse- he could just curl up and doze, he tried to make it clear to the rest of us:

He mostly needed to charge a fee to pay for the expense of charging a fee.

As an observer to the committee, this was a revelation.

I don’t know what the European Court of Justice would think of this.

I don’t know what the European Court of Human Rights would think of this.

I don’t know what the United Nations would think of this.

But I know what I thought of it.

I thought it was a polished, softly spoken outburst of irrationality.

I thought it was mad.

Lewis Carroll’s Freedom of Information Bill 2013 (Simon McGarr, McGarr Solicitors)

Previously: FOI It’s Worth

(Sam Boal/Photocall Ireland)

At today’s Irish Digital Forum at The Science Gallery were from top: Sean Sherlock (junior minister for jobs and innovation), Simon McGarr (solicitor, Stop Sopa Ireland Campaign), Tom Murphy (Boards.ie) and Paul Durrant (Internet Service Providers’ Association of Ireland).

Sean Sherlock: “If you look at question 86 of the Copyright Review Committee, it says ‘have we missed anything?’, is the question. ‘What have we missed?’ That opens up a space for anybody to make a submission on anything relating to issues not covered by the questions. It doesn’t matter that you don’t have a technical knowledge around the questions because not everybody does, including myself if I’m honest about it. People may laugh but I, you know, not everyone is going to have a complete deep knowledge about the 86 questions that apply here.”

Simon McGarr: “But that’s exactly what you’ve suggested people do if they want to express their opinion. That they plough through those 86 questions. You haven’t done them yourself?

Sherlock: “No, I, I, I have.

McGarr: “Have you answered them?

Sherlock: “No, no, I have looked at the questions..

McGarr: “Can we see? Can we correct them?

Sherlock: “You see, I think, I don’t mind people being facetious, you know, you can be facetious if you want to be Simon, OK?”

McGarr: “I’m always facetious.”

Sherlock: “Well it doesn’t become you, right? And let’s…”

McGarr: “No that is a real question because minister that’s the question that you responded to people with when you, when after you signed this SI [Statutory Instrument]. You said that people should go now and participate…”

Sherlock: “I think you should tone it down. I think you should tone it down.”

McGarr: “People should participate…”

Sherlock: “I think you should tone it down.”

McGarr [to Tom Murphy]: “Do you? Do you think I should tone it down?”

Murphy: “Yes I think you should tone it down.”

McGarr: “OK, right, I’m too loud. Apologies.”

Continue reading