Fianna Fáil Seanad Group Leader and Seanad Spokesperson for Social Protection, Senator Catherine Ardagh has said that it is essential that both Houses of the Oireachtas are provided with an opportunity to debate and consider the legitimate concerns regarding a mandatory public services card.

Responding to recent reports that the card is now mandatory to access services provided by the Department of Social Protection, Senator Ardagh said, “It is important to note that this card has been in operation for those who require Social Protection services since 2011.

“This is not the first time a national ID card system has been mooted. Back in 2009, a report on social welfare fraud published by the Oireachtas Joint Committee on Social & Family Affairs, recommended the introduction of a national identity card to coincide with the development of a public services card.

“The use of biometric data being incorporated into the public services card in order to seemingly eliminate the possibility of fraud and to improve the efficiency of public services will bring personal rights into sharper focus.

“It is therefore essential that both houses of the Oireachtas are provided with an opportunity to debate and consider the possible human rights and/or data protection implications of introducing such a system of national ID cards.

“There are a number of plausible arguments for and against and many will wish to vigorously challenge the possible infringements on one’s privacy. We must determine if the concept of mandatory identity cards challenges the inalienable right to individual privacy which is protected by the constitution.

“Any measure or initiative designed to effectively establish a State database of citizens’ information requires a comprehensive debate, and the fact that a public services card will soon be required for all passport applications, driving licences and driver theory tests means that this debate needs to happen once the Oireachtas returns,” concluded Senator Ardagh.