26 September 2023

IRELAND: Ministry pushes back in card row

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Ireland’s Ministry for Employment Affairs and Social Protection has begun a legal challenge to a ruling by the Data Protection Commission that extensions to the use of the Ministry’s Public Services Card (PSC) were invalid.

Appearing for the Ministry in the Circuit Civil Court, Conor Power told Judge Jacqueline Linnane that the Ministry did not accept the decision of Data Protection Commissioner, Helen Dixon, who claimed there was no legal basis for a citizen to be required to get a PSC.

Mr Power said the appeal was being launched following Ms Dixon’s enforcement notice requiring the Ministry to immediately stop processing data for services outside of the Department’s remit.

He told the court the appeal was grounded on the contention that the commissioner had made significant errors of law in her conclusions and in misinterpreting sections of the Social Welfare Consolidation Act of 2005.

The appeal claims the commissioner also acted in breach of fair procedures and that she lacked the powers to direct the steps contained in the enforcement notice which were, in the Ministry’s view, unlawful.

Ms Dixon in her report of August last year found there was no legal basis for a person to be required to get a PSC for anything other than obtaining social welfare payments and benefits.

It directed the Ministry to delete 3.2 million historical records it held on cardholders.

Catherine Donnelly, who appeared for the Data Protection Commission, asked the court to allow Ms Dixon more time to put in papers in reply to the appeal, the grounds of which, she said, were very wide ranging.

Judge Linnane said there were clearly very complex issues to be raised and she would adjourn the matter until late April.

Dublin, 3 March 2020

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