Ministers defend decision to challenge Public Services Card findings


Stephen McNeice
Stephen McNeice

13.43 4 Sep 2019


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Ministers have defended the Government's decision to challenge the findings of the Data Protection Commission's report on the Public Services Card.

The watchdog said it had no issue with the Department of Social Protection (DEASP) processing personal data on the card so that it can be used to claim social welfare.

However, it strongly objected to the information being processed by other state agencies - a situation which the commission said was in breach of data protection laws.

It also ordered the Government to delete data on 3.2 million citizens who had one issued to them.

It was confirmed yesterday that the Government will challenge the findings.

The DEASP suggested ministers are satisfied that the "processing of personal data related to the PSC does in fact have a strong legal basis, the retention of data is lawful and that the information provided to users does satisfy the requirements of transparency".

The Government's challenge has been met with criticism, with the Irish Council for Civil Liberties suggesting it was a "worrying and possibly unprecedented scenario".

Legal advice

Speaking today, Minister Regina Doherty insisted they have the authority to process the cards.

Speaking on Newstalk Breakfast today, Minister Doherty argued: "We are challenging and do reject all eight of the findings in the Commission's report - simply because we do not agree with them.

"We do take the authority of the Data Protection Commission's office extremely seriously - but the ramifications of the findings are something that we absolutely do not accept, because they are contrary to the social protection legislation that was laid down as far back as 1998."

She added: "My legal advice, which is incredibly strong, tells me that we absolutely have the authority - both from a legal and a regulatory perspective - to do as exactly as we have been doing since the idea was conceived."

Meanwhile, the Finance and Public Expenditure Minister said he believes there is a strong case for gaining clarification over the data watchdog's findings.

Paschal Donohoe said: "I have reviewed a number of different pieces of legal advice that have been made available to me now, through the office of the Attorney General.

"We do all this in the context of the greatest respect for the office of the Data Protection Commissioner - but we believe there is a strong case for gaining clarification regarding the views that the Commissioner has issued."

Main image: Minister Paschal Donohoe at the Public Services Card Centre on D'Olier House in Dublin in 2017 | Image: RollingNews.ie

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