The Passport Office has refused to clarify whether or not a decorated firefighter, who has declined to get a Public Services Card, is entitled to a renewal of his travel documents.
Declan Kenny, a fireman based in Leixlip, Co Kildare, applied for a renewal of his passport via the State’s online portal, in February of this year. His previous passport expired in 2012.
The Passport Office informed him at the time, and over the subsequent months, that unless he was willing to sign up for a PSC he would not be able to renew his passport.
While PSCs are only supposed to be mandatory for first-time passport applications, the same rule has been applied to documents which expired more than five years ago.
Mr Kenny, who also holds a valid British passport and Irish driver’s licence, told the Irish Examiner: “I didn’t have a PSC, and I don’t intend to get one. I have objections to the card. I never needed one before.”
Last month the Data Protection Commissioner ruled that requiring citizens to get a PSC in order to access State services other than welfare was unlawful.
The Irish Examiner queried with the Passport Office if it would be allowing Mr Kenny to renew his passport in the light of the DPC’s decision. In response, the agency said that it “does not comment on individual applications”.
While the State has been told that processing data using the PSC for services such as passport applications is unlawful, the Department of Social Protection - the body with chief responsibility for the PSC project - has since declared that it will be challenging that ruling on the back of “incredibly strong legal advice” which it has received.
The Department has declined to publish that legal advice and has also refused, to date, to publish the DPC’s report into the PSC, despite making repeated commitments to do so over the past month.
While Mr Kenny was denied a passport renewal, other people have been allowed to renew their document after taking legal advice.
In late July another man, who had been refused his passport application due to an unwillingness to get a PSC, eventually had it approved after engaging a solicitor who wrote to the Passport Office on his behalf.
“The whole process appears to be done very much on an ad hoc basis,” said chair of Digital Rights Ireland TJ McIntyre.
“I don’t believe there is any such legal basis for refusing a passport in this circumstance. When lawyers become involved the State backs down to avoid a legal precedent.”