The Department of Employment Affairs and Social Protection has ordered gardaí to remove the Public Services Card as a means of identification on its vetting forms.
The Department, which has primary responsibility for the PSC project, said that it had made contact with the Garda National Vetting Bureau (GNVB) after the Irish Examiner revealed that the card had been included as an option for the identification process involved in Garda vetting.
“It has come to the attention of the Department that material on the GNVB website states that the Public Services Card is one of a number of documents that can be used by relevant organisations as a means of verifying the identity of a person,” a spokesperson for the Department said.
“This is correct only in respect of relevant organisations which are specified bodies in Schedule 5 of the Social Welfare Consolidation Act 2005, as amended.
"The Department has today contacted the GNVB and requested them to update the material on their website in this regard,” they added.
The Irish Examiner contacted An Garda Síochána for a response to the Department’s request.
However, previously a Garda spokesperson said regarding the vetting identification process that it is “entirely at the discretion of the applicant what documents they produce to the relevant organisation in order to establish their identity”.
“The National Vetting Bureau Acts 2012 and 2016 (the legislation which gave rise to Garda vetting for people working with children or vulnerable older citizens for the first time) are silent on how identity should be established,” they added.
However, under the 2005 Social Protection Act, the legislation most frequently cited by the State as forming a legal basis for the controversial PSC, any enterprise seeking to request the card as a form of identification which is not on a list of specified bodies is committing an offence, with a penalty upon indictment of €13,000 or three years in prison, or both.
The Garda spokesperson expanded on the inclusion of the PSC on its vetting form, which remains in place on the Garda website, as having been “modelled on the Australian 100 point check”.
The system, which is used by national organisations such as the Football Association of Ireland, sees hopeful applicants first required to verify their identity to the satisfaction of the gardaí.
This is carried out via a points system, with 100 points required to reach the relevant threshold, which in practice comprises a single form of identification and an acceptable verification of address.
The PSC represents the joint most valuable variety of identification per the live vetting forms, at 80 points, together with an Irish driving licence.
The Department of Social Protection is the body with responsibility for the application of penalties in cases where its own legislation has been breached.
However it is unclear how often those penalties have been applied as a deterrent.
Last week the country’s newest mobile phone carrier GoMo, a division of the Eir telecommunications group, pulled the PSC as an identification option on its website after concerns were raised with the Department of Social Protection.
Minister for Social Protection Regina Doherty last week confirmed to the Dáil that “if an organisation is not a specified body, it is an offence for them to request a person to produce their PSC or to accept it if offered voluntarily”.
“It is important that the Department be made aware of any requests being made by a non-specified body for a person to produce or provide details of their PSC, so that the body can be contacted and advised of the legislative provisions in this area,” Ms Doherty added.