Irish Republican News · December 29, 2004
[Irish Republican News]

[Irish Republican News]
British ID cards opposed

Tens of thousands of people in the North are expected to reject British government identification cards when they are introduced in the six counties in 2008.

It is widely expected that the cards will become compulsory following the passing of the initial bill in the House of Commons last week.

The cards will include biometric data, including fingerprints, facial dimensions and iris scans, which are unique to every individual and difficult to forge.

A British identity register will be set up to store the biometric information.

Many nationalists fear that not holding the cards will lead to their effective criminalisation under the new scheme.

Sinn Fein has warned that the scheme will undermine civil liberties and the right of people in the North to identify themselves as Irish.

The party has queried whether there is any legal basis for the British government to hold information on Irish citizens.

The rival nationalist SDLP also plans to campaign against their introduction in the New Year, but said it would consider identity cards if such a scheme were developed within an “all-Ireland context.”

Dublin’s Justice minister Michael McDowell said last week that, while he did not agree entirely with the British plans, the 26 Counties might be forced to introduce a similar scheme.

Sinn Fein is fundamentally opposed to the introduction of any British identity card, according to party MP Michelle Gildernew. She said that under the Good Friday Agreement people in the north have the right to Irish or British identity, or both.

Ms Gildernew said: “Far from being an effective tool for anything, these cards would undermine not just civil liberties but also fundamentally the right of people living in the north to their Irish identity.”

She questioned whether Irish citizens in the north should have to carry such ID or if there was any basis for the British government to have the right to hold biometric and other information on Irish citizens.

“The costs would also be considerable, individually and possibly to our overstretched local budget.

“The track record of the British government on delivering any similar computerised scheme, for example such as the tax credits system, has already proven to be deeply flawed,” she said.

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© 2004 Irish Republican News