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Minister to publish Commission's PSC report 'in the next week or so'

The government is in a showdown with the Data Protection Commissioner over a report on the legality of the PSC.

Social Protection minister at the Fine Gael think-in in Cork today.
Social Protection minister at the Fine Gael think-in in Cork today.
Image: Niall Carson

SOCIAL PROTECTION MINISTER Regina Doherty has said she plans to publish the Data Protection Commission’s report on the Public Services Card (PSC) within the “next week or so”. 

The government is in a showdown with the Data Protection Commissioner Helen Dixon over her report on the legality of the PSC. 

A summary of the report – which the government has so far refused to publish in full – outlined how there is no legal basis for making a PSC mandatory for services other than social welfare and benefits.

After the final report was finalised, Doherty said the government would be challenging the findings of the landmark inquiry into the legality of the card in court.

The Data Protection Commission said it would be seeking enforcement action against the government for its refusal to act on the findings.

Furthermore, the minister also signalled the government would be defying the direction from the Data Protection Commissioner and continue to retain the data of people who apply for the PSC.

Since the conclusion of the inquiry into the card, there have been calls for the government to publish the full findings. 

When asked by TheJournal.ie when the report would be published, the minister said:

“I will be publishing all documentation, so not just the report, but also our response to the report, when my engagement with the Data Protection Office is complete, which I would expect probably within the next week or so.”

Prior to the government confirming that it was to challenge the commissioner’s report, Transport Minister Shane Ross told this publication that the civil servants in his department were “vindicated” over their concerns around the PSC, following the findings of the Data Protection Commissioner’s report into its legality. 

Documents released to TheJournal.ie under the freedom of information act showed that the Road Safety Authority (RSA), the body responsible for driving tests, had grave concerns about the legality of the card.

Senior RSA officials repeatedly questioned the Department of Transport, the authority’s parent body and the main driver behind the project, as to whether or not using the card as the only means to obtain a licence would in fact be legal, and were reassured that was indeed the case by the most senior civil servant in the department.

However, over a period of months into early 2018, that position changed.

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When asked about Ross’ comments, Doherty said she had not read the minister’s comments. She added that she stood over her legal advice, stating that it is “exceptionally strong”. 

The spotlight was put firmly on the Public Services Card back in August 2017, when the Irish Times reported that a woman had her pension cut because she refused to get a card.

Over the past three years, TheJournal.ie has also highlighted other cases such as when a woman was asked for an adoption cert when applying for a PSC; another where a woman was asked how long she’d been living with her partner when applying for one; and people even being denied one because they were adopted.

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