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Government will 'very seriously' consider commissioner's report into Public Services Card

The Data Protection Commissioner reject Government claims that making the card a requirement for services was lawful.

Image: Leah Farrell

FINANCE MINISTER PASCHAL Donohoe said the Government will adhere to the timelines for a response laid out by the Data Protection Commissioner following the publication of a report into the Public Services Card. 

The report outlines how there is no lawful basis for any department, except for the Department of Social Protection, for insisting a client obtain a PSC to use or access a public service.

The Government has repeatedly stated that including the PSC as a requirement to access state services was not a breach of any data protection laws. 

Speaking on RTÉ Radio 1′s Drivetime programme this afternoon, Donohoe said that the report from the commissioner would have to be considered “very seriously” and that the Government would respond within the requested three-week period. 

“Well the report that has been made by the Data Protection Commissioner is something we’re going to have to very seriously consider,” he said. 

“[The commissioner] has laid down timelines that she expects the Government to adhere to and respond to and we will.

“Minister Doherty and I need to reflect on the report because while I would disagree with [...] describing it as a mess, it is clearly a serious issue that we need to respond to.”

The report also stated that all data collected on citizens as part of the PSC process must now be deleted.

Asked if he would destroy the data currently being held on citizens, he said:

“All of those things in turn involve very significant cost and policy consequences, which in turn you will expect me to be able to answer questions about.

“What is important at this stage is that we consider the report. I think as the Data Protection Commissioner herself did today, it is important to acknowledge the motivation that is behind the roll out.

“You have so many citizens that ask the question ‘why is it that we have to provide the same information again and again to access services from the State’.

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“They ask the question ‘if I give my information once to the State should that not provide the foundation for being able to access the services?’

Donohoe also said that the Government, in rolling out the PSC in 2011, had acted “under the assurance that what we are doing is legal”. 

He added: “We have offices like the DPC to hold Governments to account and make their views known in an independent manner. That’s happened and it’s serious and we will respond back.”

The minister said that as far as he was aware the cost of rolling out the PSC initiative came in at around €60 million. 

The Public Services Card was first introduced back in 2011 – when 4,000 cards were issued in a pilot project. By 2019, over 3 million of them had been created. 

The government said the card would increase efficiency in delivering public services, and help to tackle social welfare fraud. 

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