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Government Departments may still be acting outside the law with PSC Card - David Cullinane TD

26 September, 2019 - by David Cullinane TD

Sinn Féin member of the Public Accounts Committee David Cullinane TD has said he is still not satisfied with the response of certain government departments to the Data Commissioner’s report into the Public Service Card, saying that as it stands today they may still be acting outside the law.

Speaking after his questioning of the Data Commissioner today, Deputy Cullinane said:

“It is clear to me after today’s hearing that as things currently stands, the Department of Social Protection may currently be acting outside the law by ignoring the findings of the Data Commissioner.

“The Commissioner has statutory powers to make rulings in relation to the Public Services Card, and it is somewhat shocking the way that Minister Doherty has approached this reality.

“Instead of engaging with the Commissioner, the Minister has undertook a policy of spin, treating the Commissioner as a toothless NGO instead of as an office with powers of investigation, judgement, and enforcement.

“Minister Doherty still does not fully understand the independence of the office of the Data Commissioner – that it cannot be 'brought around' over coffee after it has made its rulings.

“This attitude of the Minister and her officials, that legal rulings can be 'ironed out' over a cosy fireside chat is in stark contrast to the reality of an independent office with enforcement powers that intends to use them.

“It is also worrying that Minister Zappone and the Department of Children and Youth Affairs has decided to plough ahead and continue to treat the PSC card as a de facto mandatory form of identification for service access.

“This is in contrast to the decisions of the Departments of Transport, Foreign Affairs, and Justice, who have quietly dropped the mandatory nature of the card from their service provisions.

“It is clear to me that some government departments are still not used to being held genuinely accountable for their decisions.

“This attitude is a callus within our public service, particularly in the Department of Social Protection, which refuses to be held accountable regardless of the final cost.”

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