Friday 22 June 2018

Varadkar says there is no plan to link the controversial Public Services Card to social media accounts

Stock Image: Getty Images
Stock Image: Getty Images
Laura Larkin

Laura Larkin

Taoiseach Leo Varadkar has poured cold water on a proposal to link the controversial Public Services Card (PSC) to social media accounts.

Minister of State Jim Daly suggested that the PSC could be linked to verification for social media accounts in order to clamp down on nefarious or anonymous accounts.

Speaking on the Claire Byrne Live show on Monday Mr Daly, who is the minister with responsibility for mental health, said "child protection trumps data protection".

He has asked the European Commission to examine this area and has suggested the Department of Social Protection may be able to issue a ‘verification code’ to companies such as Facebook and Twitter to verify users.

However, speaking in the Dail this afternoon Mr Varadkar said that while Mr Daly’s proposals were “well-intentioned” there is no plan to link the controversial ID card to internet usage.

To do so would be a “restriction on privacy and people's freedom” he said.

“I have no doubt the Minister of State, Deputy Daly's thoughts and proposals were well-intentioned but it is certainly not something the Government is proposing to do,” he said.

There is increased focus on the safety of children online this week following disturbing details which emerged during a hearing in Dublin Circuit Criminal Court.

A Dublin man who sexually exploited girls as young as nine through social media pleaded guilty to a number of charges.

Matthew Horan (26)  from St John's Crescent in Clondalkin, used Snapchat, Instagram, musical.ly and Kik to ask young girls to send him sexually explicit videos and pictures.

He was found found to be  in possession of thousands of images of child sexual abuse involving babies, children and teens and pleaded guilty to 11 sample charges from a total of 46.

Earlier Minister for Social Protection Regina Doherty said that any changes to the use of the PSC would need to be brought through legislation.

Ms O'Doherty said that a court conversation about children's safety online does need to happen both in the Oireachtas and among parents.

“I’m not sure at the totality of Minister Daly’s requests the only thing I know is that if there is any extension on the demands on the PSC card over and above what was already introduced in the legislation in 2012 it would require further legislation," she said.

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