Are ID cards being sneakily introduced?
Is that a national ID card in your pocket, or is Big Brother just glad to be watching you? Privacy campaigners are threatening to take the Government off their Christmas card list after news that Irish citizens applying for a passport or driving licence will have to be in possession of a public service card (PSC).
They’re saying this is a sneaky way to introduce a national ID card, and that it’s the slippery slope to a 1984-style scenario – as George Orwell might say, it’s doubleplus ungood for civil liberties.
“It appears to be a policy of introducing a national ID card by stealth, in a way which appears to be illegal,” said UCD law lecturer TJ McIntyre, chairman of the civil liberties group, Digital Rights Ireland.
The Government has denied it is trying to slip a national ID card into everybody’s pocket, saying it is not compulsory for Irish citizens to carry the PSC.
However, if you don’t have a PSC by this autumn, you won’t be able to apply for a new passport. And if you don’t have one by early next year, you won’t be able to apply for a driver’s licence. But sure, with all the wonderful tourist attractions here, why would you want to leave the country? And anyway, won’t every car be driverless by next spring?
The Government has been trying to get the PSC off the ground for more than 10 years, with the stated goal of making the delivery of public services more efficient. It has already issued cards to 2.3 million citizens since 2011, mostly to people in receipt of welfare benefits. Public-service officials believe the card has already reduced instances of fraud and identity theft.
Paschal Donohoe, the Minister for Public Expenditure, said it made sense to use the card to process passport applications, given the rise in terrorism. Governments have an obligation to “deploy the most robust means of authenticated travel across borders”, said the Minister.
So, does this amount to a national ID card by stealth?
“It is not, and will not be, compulsory to have a PSC,” insisted Donohoe. That should reassure everyone as they set off on their bicycles to book their staycation.