The Passport Office will no longer require a person to have a Public Services Card to acquire a passport, the Irish Examiner can reveal.
The office has been considering the report of the Data Protection Commissioner into the PSC for the past month.
That report, which was officially published yesterday, asserted that the card can no longer be used for State services other than welfare.
The Passport Office has been repeatedly queried over the past month as to whether or not it would be acceding to the DPC’s ruling.
In that time the office had been replying with a generic statement, which said it was “currently reviewing our documentary requirements for first-time applicants”.
A PSC had heretofore been mandatory for all first-time applicants, or those whose passport had been expired for longer than five years.
The office’s action in removing the PSC as a requirement will stand as a blow to the stance taken by the Department of Employment Affairs and Social Protection, the main custodian of the PSC project, which has elected to challenge the DPC’s rulings and has insisted that it would not be complying with them.
The Passport Office has now confirmed that applicants without a PSC can proceed to acquire a passport provided they have another form of Government-issued documentation, such as a driver’s licence or a passport from another country.
While this has only now become officially known, the Irish Examiner now understands that Passport Office staff had been instructed in the wake of the DPC judgement to no longer reject such applications, but rather to refer them to their superior “for further review”.
It has also emerged that the body consulted with the Attorney General in August of 2018 and had been instructed that its requirement for first-time applicants to hold a PSC had a “valid legal basis” and was “reasonable and proportionate”.
“Upholding the integrity of the Irish Passport is a key commitment of the Passport Service and the Passport Service believes that the presentation of the PSC is an important means of identity verification for applicants, particularly adult applicants making first time applications,” a spokesperson for the Department of Foreign Affairs told the Irish Examiner.
"During the current review other forms of identification can be accepted although applicants are then required to attend the passport offices in either Dublin or Cork in order to complete their application," they added.
The news serves to put paid to confusion as to whether or not a PSC remained a valid requirement for passport applicants in the wake of the DPC’s findings.
Previously, a deal of inconsistency had been noted by data protection activists as to whether or not a PSC was mandatory in order to acquire the document.
In one case a Kildare firefighter, Declan Kenny, was refused access to a renewed passport as he was unwilling to get a PSC.
However, other people in the same timeframe had been allowed to renew their document after taking legal advice.
In late July 2019 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, leading to the accusation from TJ McIntyre, chair of Digital Rights Ireland, that applications were being decided on an “ad hoc” basis.