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RSA says Public Services Card will help crack down on fraudulent driving licences

The card has been under the spotlight recently after a number of stories of people losing out on public services.

Image: Mark Stedman/Photocall Ireland

THE HEAD OF the Road Safety Authority (RSA) has said the controversial Public Services Card, which is the only ID accepted for the driver theory test, will help reduce the number of fraudulent licence applications.

The card has been under the spotlight recently after a number of stories of people losing out on public services because they do not have one. There is no legal requirement for Irish citizens to hold the card, but in order to access welfare benefits, the Department of Social Protection requires applicants to have one.

Yesterday, Minister for Social Protection Regina Doherty said the card is not compulsory – but it is mandatory for her department.

 I know some people might say I’m splitting hairs. But actually because of the high value of the public services that the Department of Social Protection gives, we give out over €20 billion every year.

“We believe that it’s not too much to ask people to authenticate who you are, so that we can give you fast and efficient public service so that we get what you’re entitled, to and that’s all this safe process is,” she told Newstalk Breakfast.

Speaking to TheJournal.ie, RSA chief executive Moyagh Murdock said it was now government policy that the authority use the Public Service Card. Currently, it is required for anyone applying for the driver theory test, but this is expected to be extended to the full driving licence.

“It’s important to remember that a driving licence is not a right, it is actually a permit to drive, you’re given a permit so having the correct identity and issuing someone with a licence, there are significant road safety issues associated with that,” Murdock said. “It’s very important in enforcement of road traffic legislation that you have the right licence and you are the right person on that licence so we are following government policy.”

I know there are some concerns out there, but we are starting at the theory tests and people can apply and there’s a great turnaround with the public services card in the DSP (Department of Social Protection) offices so we hopefully see it running smoothly.

Murdock said that since the new plastic licence card was introduced in 2013, the number of fraudulent licence applications has “dropped significantly”. In order to get this licence, drivers have to present themselves in person to a National Driver Licence Service centre.

“We have filtered out quite a number of people trying to apply for a licence when they’re not entitled to one. That’s just through the actual face-to-face identity mechanism that we have in place,” Murdock explained.

“It certainly is helping, because if someone is out there driving with a licence that they’re not entitled to there are road safety issues with that. Too many people are impacted and injured and killed by people who are driving when they shouldn’t have been driving. If they are fraudulently getting a licence then we have to do something about that,” she added.

The Department of Social Protection also issued a detailed statement yesterday evening, outlining the services which require the Public Services Card:

  • Access to social welfare services (including Child Benefit and treatment benefits)
  • First time adult passport applicants in the state
  • Replacement of lost, stolen or damaged passports issued prior to January 2005, where the person is resident in the State.
  • Citizenship applications
  • Driver theory test applicants
  • Access to high value or personal online public services.

“The Public Services Card (PSC) is precisely that, a card for accessing public services. It helps customers access a range of public services easily,” the department said.

The user’s identity is fully authenticated when it is issued so they do not have to give the same information to multiple organisations. It was first introduced in 2011 and was initially rolled out to people getting social welfare payments. It is now being rolled out to other public services.

Yesterday the Green Party accused the government of “bringing in mandatory identity cards for Irish citizens,” the party’s technology spokesperson councillor Ossian Smyth said.

“Five years ago, this scheme was passed off as a handy replacement for the free travel pass and the social welfare card. Now Fine Gael says that anyone without a National ID card will be denied the right to renew a passport, denied the right to renew a drivers licence and denied any welfare payments.”

“It is ludicrous for Minister Regina Doherty to say that these cards are not ‘compulsory’ – but that they are ‘mandatory’ for anyone who wants a passport, a driver’s licence or to receive child benefit.”

Fianna Fáil Senator Catherine Ardagh also called for a debate in the Houses of the Oireachtas on the issue.

“The use of biometric data being incorporated into the public services card in order to seemingly eliminate the possibility of fraud and to improve the efficiency of public services will bring personal rights into sharper focus,” she said in a statement.

“It is therefore essential that both houses of the Oireachtas are provided with an opportunity to debate and consider the possible human rights and/or data protection implications of introducing such a system of national ID cards.

“There are a number of plausible arguments for and against and many will wish to vigorously challenge the possible infringements on one’s privacy. We must determine if the concept of mandatory identity cards challenges the inalienable right to individual privacy which is protected by the Constitution.”

“This is a huge step to take without asking the public first – and the first way they are being used is to deny rights to citizens.”

Read: Minister says Public Services Card is ‘not compulsory but is mandatory for services’>

More: Pretty soon you’re going to need this card to do a whole load of important things in Ireland – but why?>

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