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Public Services Card no longer needed to apply for a passport

The Taoiseach says the Data Commissioner has declined to meet with Minister Doherty.

Passport Services will still accept the PSC as a form of identification.
Passport Services will still accept the PSC as a form of identification.
Image: Sam Boal/RollingNews.ie

Updated Sep 18th 2019, 4:42 PM

THE PASSPORT OFFICE will no longer require applicants to have a Public Services Card (PSC), the Department of Foreign Affairs has confirmed. 

Previously, a public services card was needed to get a passport if your last passport was issued before 1 January 2005 and had been reported as lost, stolen or damaged.

You also needed a PSC if your last passport expired more than five years ago.

The Department previously said it was reviewing the commission’s findings, first revealed last month, which included a ruling that there is no legal basis for a person to be required to get a PSC for anything other than social welfare payments and benefits.

Data Protection Commissioner Helen Dixon also ordered the government to immediately stop processing the data of citizens for services outside of the department’s remit.

The long-awaited report about the PSC was made public yesterday

In a statement this evening, a spokesperson for the Department of Foreign Affairs said the Passport Service will no longer require applicants to have a PSC but it will still accept them as a form of identification. 

Upholding the integrity of the Irish Passport is a key commitment of the Passport Service and the Passport Service believes that the presentation of the PSC is an important means of identity verification for applicants, particularly adult applicants making first time applications.

“The Tánaiste directed the Passport Service to undertake a review of documents required for first-time adult passport applicants with specific reference to the requirement to submit a copy of their PSC as part of their application.  Following this review the Passport Service will continue to accept a copy of an applicant’s PSC as valid identification for first time adult applications and other applicable categories of application.

“Where the applicant does not present their PSC, an application can proceed if an applicant either presents original Government-issued photographic identification, such as a driver’s licence or a passport from another country, or attends for interview in person at the Passport Offices in Cork or Dublin,” the spokesperson said. 

Childcare supports

Earlier today, Taoiseach Leo Varadkar confirmed that parents who do not have a Public Services Card will still be able to apply for childcare supports under the National Childcare Scheme.

The scheme, which opens for applications next month, aims to provide universal and income-linked subsidies for childcare.

Concerns had been raised about childcare payments would be withheld from parents unless they submit their PSC.

When asked about the matter during Leader’s Questions today, the Taoiseach said he is a big supporter of the card. 

On the issue of childcare payments, Varadkar says 80% of parents that can avail of the scheme have a PSC.

However, he told the Dáil that there will be an alternative option for people who wish to access the supports and who do not have a card.

It is understood the Department of Children is working to put an alternative in place.

Varadkar said the alternative will be more cumbersome for parents, stating that it could involve parents getting forms signed, and photographs taken and verified. 

The Taoiseach said he wanted to be clear, that he believes people will “vote with their feet” and get a card in order to avail of the child supports.

He said it “makes sense” for parents to do so, adding that digitalisation is the future for providing public services.

Enforcement action 

In yesterday’s report from the Data Commissioner, it was suggested that it will issue an enforcement order against the government if it continues to process data in relation to the controversial card.

In a statement to TheJournal.ie, a spokesman for the commission also said it was preparing to issue a so-called enforcement notice to the department, which would order it to comply with data protection laws and to protect the rights of citizens.

During Leader’s Questions, Varadkar confirmed that the government has yet to receive an enforcement action from the commissioner’s office. 

Varadkar added that Social Protection Minister Regina Doherty has offered to meet with the Data Commissioner, however, the Taoiseach said the commissioner has declined.

Last night the minister said she was satisfied that the government’s processing of data for services aside from social welfare payments is legal, citing advice from Attorney General Séamus Woulfe.

Sinn Fein’s John Brady called on the Taoiseach to publish the Attorney General’s advice, however, Varadkar said it was not commonplace to do so, and would not be doing so on this occasion. 

If the matter goes to court, the Taoiseach said the legal advice would be laid before the court. 

With reporting from Adam Daly 

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