Row as minister says public services card 'mandatory but not compulsory'
The opposition and advocacy groups have expressed concern after a minister claimed that the new public services card is now mandatory for those who wish to receive social welfare payments.
Social Protection Minister Regina Doherty was accused of causing confusion last night after she claimed that the card is "mandatory" but "not compulsory".
She was speaking after a report emerged of welfare recipients being turned down for public services because they do not hold the card in their possession.
"Let's be very clear. Nobody is required by law to have a card. So therefore it isn't compulsory," Ms Doherty told Newstalk.
"But for my department it's mandatory and I know people might say I'm splitting hairs, but actually because of the high value of the public services that the department [provides], we give out over €20bn every year, and actually it wasn't brought in by this Government, the legislation was brought in in 2005 - so 12 years this has been in the process," she added.
In one case highlighted in the media, a pensioner is reported to be owed thousands of euro but has refused to register for the card.
Age Action Ireland yesterday expressed concern about the Government's approach.
"We would be very concerned if this new requirement for the card leads to more older people losing their entitlements and we would urge the department to ensure no one is penalised because they do not have a public services card."
Fianna Fáil's Social Protection spokesperson Willie O'Dea accused the Government of trying to introduce a mandatory card "through the back door".