It looks as if the Irish Government is resigned to introducing identity cards in the wake of the London bombings, although Justice Minister Michael McDowell says he is against the idea in principle.
The Sunday Business Post understands that government officials are involved in “ongoing discussions’‘ with their counterparts in London about British plans for ID cards.
“We are watching events closely in Britain, and our understanding is that the ID cards will now go ahead over there,” said one informed political source.
“This will have huge implications for Ireland. We have a common travel area and a land border between the two jurisdictions, so we will have no alternative but to follow suit." (Sunday Business Post)
The main reason Ireland is considering introducing identity cards, is to maintain the common travel area with Britain, but is not clear that introducing an Irish scheme will achieve this.
As I noted last month, the LSE’s report on identity cards claims that Ireland will not need its own cards to maintain the common travel area, but will need access to the UK database.
During the First Reading of the Bill the Home Secretary promised the DUP that foreign governments would not have access to identity card data. A report in the Irish Times yesterday suggests it is sticking to that pledge.
Talks on the ID card system have already taken place between Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform Michael McDowell and British home secretary Charles Clarke.
Though the Government does not want to introduce a national identity card system at all, it acknowledges the need for one could become inevitable if the British go ahead.
At present, the British insist they would have access to Irish records, though they are not prepared to let Irish authorities have similar information on UK citizens.
Mr McDowell, who has emphasised his personal opposition to ID cards, has made it clear to Mr Clarke that the Government would require full access to the UK database at "the very minimum", sources have told the Irish Times.