There are passports in Ireland and most people have one, but for some strange reason some people in Ireland are totally and passionately against any type of ID Card system and currently there is a huge amount of panic amongst that group of people. I really can’t understand why that is! But then I read something that worried even me!
It all started with a report in the newspapers about a woman who’s pension was withheld because she didn’t agree to getting a Social Services Card. We are told that there are currently close to 3mio Social Services Cards issued to people in Ireland and with all children excluded and a population of around 4.7mio, that seems like a huge amount. The card was initially used to combat Social Welfare fraud, but it seems it is now unnecessarily also used for lots of other things and that seems to panic people.
The unnecessary uses of the card are in areas where it seemingly is used as an ID Card, for example if you want to do a driver theory test or if you want to apply for or renews a drivers license or a passport. There is NO need to use a “Public Services Card” in these cases. Instead it should be absolutely find to bring your passport as ID. (The worldwide joke of having to bring some other forms of identity to renew a passport is something I will write about another time. ;-) )
There is no obligation to have a passport AND there is no obligation to have a Public Services Card, but it seems without the Public Services Card you can’t get any services so there is a form of obligation.
But let me pick the pieces apart first:
1) Is an form of ID Card justified for people that receive Social Welfare? I absolutely think so. It helps fighting against fraud.
2) Should a Public Services Card be used for all the other services I have mentioned above? Absolutely not if the person has a passport instead. Sure it can be an option to ID yourself, but only ONE option.
3) Is the Public Services Card a National ID card? No! It isn’t and it doesn’t look like one BUT it is used like an ID card and therefore the principle of “If it walks like a duck and quacks like a duck it most likely is a duck” will apply.
Now SHOULD there be a National ID Card? I definitely think so! It does make sense to have a form of ID (instead of having to bring two household bills!!) but the use of the information “behind” the ID Card has to regulated and should be limited and that is where even I have concerns about the ability of the Irish government and state to protect its citizens.
As you know, I am German. In Germany we have National ID Cards (called Personalausweis) since 1951!! And the requirement to always have an ID card with you was introduced in 1939 and nobody has a problem with this law. I never experienced any problem due to the fact that I had an ID Card or that I had to carry it with me all the time and even today in Ireland, I always have my ID Card with me.
So what is the panic? It seems that the panic is caused by the fear of how the authorities could do bad things to you if they know who you are. BUT they can arrest you anyway if you do something bad with or without ID Card and if you don’t do anything bad then they should not be interested in you, right?
Well, in Germany (and other countries) the system seems to work and you wonder if this panic is just a storm in a tea cup!? A panic about some imaginary risk that will never happen?
But then I read the article in the Irish Times about the person that found her car registration details in the records of the Department of Social Protection. Information that they should have NO access to because every department should only have access to the information they need for their own business.
And when you realise that most likely the Irish government WILL screw this up again and will share information across all departments even if they shouldn’t. Then suddenly you wonder if the worries of the panicking privacy defenders and ID Card opponents are maybe a lot more plausible than it should be?