Doherty's ambiguity is about as clear as mud
When a Government minister begins a sentence with the words "Let's be very clear …" - prepare to be confused.
Social Protection Minister Regina Doherty gave us a classic example of such linguistic fog yesterday when she tried to use verbal acrobatics to vault her way out of trouble over the fact that a 70-year-old was deprived of her pension because she did not have a public service card.
"Let's be very clear. Nobody is required by law to have a card. So therefore it isn't compulsory," she said.
That would have been fine had she not also insisted that the card was now "mandatory" to access services from the Department of Social Protection, and that other Government departments would also make it obligatory.
So according to the minister, the card is compulsory but not mandatory. This is like saying one is soaking but not wet. Age Action is understandably angry, as are civil liberty groups about the discourteous and heavy-handed way people are being treated.
Insistence that people validate their identity in order to receive a service from the State with a card, before it has been nationally rolled out, is Big Brother-like.
There may well be merit in such a card being issued, but it should not be done by the back door.
If there is to be one, then let it be formally teased out and approved, with all relevant parties consulted.
Age Action's Justin Moran said: "We would be very concerned if this new requirement for the card leads to more older people losing their entitlements."
Ms Doherty showed further insensitivity by insisting the card was essential because: "We give out €20bn a year ..."
No, Ms Doherty, you do not. The money is not given out by you, but by the State, and is generated by money from taxpayers. Ambiguity about when one can use a card, and the withdrawal of services for not having one, is completely unacceptable.