Minister accused of 'mangling language' with comments on Public Services Card

Concerns have been raised over the 'creeping expansion' in services requiring the controversial card

Minister accused of 'mangling language' with comments on Public Services Card

Regina Doherty. Photo: Sam Boal/

The Social Protection Minister is being accused of 'mangling language' when it comes to the controversial Public Services Card.

Regina Doherty last week said the new card is not mandatory - but added that it is compulsory if you want to claim benefits from her department.

Privacy campaigners have claimed the increasing amount of services requiring the card amounts to an effort to introduce a "national identity card by stealth" without any public debate or scrutiny.

Roisín Shortall, the co-leader of the Social Democrats, argues: "Many people are rightly worried about the security of their private information in terms of how it is stored, shared and accessed.

“We are seeing on an almost daily basis a creeping expansion of the requirement by public bodies for people to produce Public Services Cards before they can access public services." 

In a statement, Minister Doherty's department says the card - of which around 2.75 million have been issued - is covered under legislation.

A spokesperson said: "The legislation governing the validation of identity for access to these is contained in the Social Welfare Consolidation Act 2005.

"This legislation requires a person to satisfy the Minister as to their identity and allows disqualification from receipt of a benefit in the event that it is not done."

However, Dr Eoin O'Dell from Trinity says Minister Doherty has failed to provide clarity on the matter - and compared her statements to the use of language by a former US president.

Speaking on High Noon this afternoon, Dr O'Dell argued: "What the Minister said was that it wasn't mandatory but it was compulsory, or perhaps the other way - which I think is an extraordinary piece of Kafkaesque, almost George W Bush-esque mangling of language.

"We don't know whether it's compulsory, we don't know whether it's mandatory - it demonstrates that we haven't had a proper discussion."

He added: "I think that if we'd had a proper debate about it, if we had proper, clear legislative basis about it... then we could answer the questions straightforwardly."