Are ID cards be­ing sneak­ily in­tro­duced?

The Irish Times - Weekend Review - - NEWS REVIEW -

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.

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