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Last-minute rubberstamping of Public Service Cards scheme "a costly political stunt"

Irish civil rights group criticises Eamon O Cuiv issuing of ‘ID cards’ on last day in office.

Eamon O Cuiv issued press release on the last day of 30th Dail
Eamon O Cuiv issued press release on the last day of 30th Dail
Image: PA Images/Niall Carson

A CIVIL LIBERTIES watchdog has branded the introduction of Public Service Cards to three million Irish people a “political stunt”.

The outgoing Minister for Social Protection Eamon O Cuiv posted a press release on the department’s website yesterday, announcing that the controversial Public Service Cards will begin to be issued in the coming months to all Irish citizens over 16 years of age who can access public services. The cards will replace cards such as the Social Services card and the Free Travel card. They will instead include a contact chip, a “laser engraving personalisation”, a signature and a photograph of the user.

As the press release was posted on the busy last day of the 30th Dail, it appeared to go under the radar. The Irish Council for Civil Liberties, which has previously voiced concern that the cards might compromise privacy and could be seen as ‘ID cards’, said it had not been made aware that the issuing of the cards was to begin until contacted by TheJournal.ie.

ICCL Director Mark Kelly said:

We can only assume that this is a political stunt by Eamon O Cuiv TD, although it remains a mystery how spending €24 million of taxpayers’ money on an unproven scheme would bolster anyone’s electoral credibility. The first act of the new coalition government in the UK was to scrap the costly farce of the UK’s ID card scheme.

That Eamon O Cuiv should suggest that it is acceptable for him to press ahead with such an unproven scheme in Ireland after the Dail has risen is nothing short of profligate.

The Department of Social Protection has said that the new card scheme should help them clamp down on social welfare fraud because they cannot be falsified or tampered with. Eamon O Cuiv has previously assured the ICCL that the personal data on the cards is such that is already available to the State.

He said yesterday that the cards were “highly secure” and that he was “committed to having the cards issued as soon as possible”.

O Cuiv also stressed that there would be cost savings attached to the cards in terms of the potential for fraudulent claims being reduced.

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