Sunday 26 January 2020

Dawn of the police state or just another screw-up? Either way, we're in the dark

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Stock picture

John Downing`

I'm getting auld, a state that has many manifest disadvantages. But occasionally, when confronted by rows like this slow-burner about the Public Services Card, I can rely upon two things from that "well of auldness" which I not only know, but really know I know them.

The first is that the Irish Government apparatus in its many forms does not always tell us citizens the plain and complete truth. Second, is that staff within that Government apparatus are more usually far too unco-ordinated, and sometimes simply far too useless, to cook up and deliver a successful conspiracy to spy comprehensively upon us all.

So, let's contemplate that Public Services Card. Is it a 'big brother conspiracy' to create national identity cards by stealth as a major milestone in moves to a police state? Or is it a genuine effort by our administration and Government to embrace the inevitabilities of the digital era and deliver better services more swiftly to citizens?

Well, it's a little early to deliver a definitive judgment. But we can look at the world around us. It is becoming increasingly hard, if not borderline impossible, to go into the bank, find a human being who will speak plain English to you, lodge a few euro, pay a few bills, and stick a few notes in your pocket for your upcoming few days' necessaries.

Read More: Pressure mounts on Creed over ID cards for farmers

The phone companies, gas and electricity providers, are making it increasingly clear that the bill dropping on the hall floor is a thing of the past. Among the sweeteners in the energy price war is an admonishment to accept on-line billing. Move into the realms of multi-channel television and things become even trickier. After that, well you are increasingly a non-person if you do not have a computer and some ability to find your way about cyberspace - or whatever they are calling it this week.

The rantings of a grumpy old man? Yes. But the sentiments above are mainly driven by anger about the utterly lamentable and avoidable lapses in human courtesy which are a negation of our human dignity. Auld gits, this one included, can make their way in the computerised digital world to a great degree.

But we are entitled to be told what we are dealing with. So, are farmers not going to get their EU payments unless they have this Public Services Card?

We expect the Irish passport to be accepted by the most besieged national security regimes across the globe. Why would it not do to get farm payments and social and health entitlements? Right enough, not everyone has a passport. But for those who do, why would they need a Public Services Card to supplement it? I have no difficulty with the principle of this card. But it is very annoying to find such shilly-shallying in official replies. It looks likely to be a screw-up, but let's hear more.

Irish Independent

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