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Friday, July 31, 2009

A question of identity

Frankly, the row over the fact that ID cards will not feature the Union Jack leaves me cold. We are told that the decision has been taken because of fears that it may upset members of the nationalist community in Northern Ireland. The cards will instead carry the Royal coat of arms along with images of a shamrock, a thistle, a rose and a daffodil to represent the four countries that make up the UK.

In many ways it is an irrelevant storm in a teacup. What is most worrying about these ID cards is not what symbols will be on them but that the Government are wasting hundreds of millions of pounds of public money introducing them in the first place and that they are setting up a massive identity database to accompany them.

These cards will not protect us against terrorism, crime or identity fraud. Indeed they may make identity fraud more likely due to the false sense of security they engender. They can be stolen and cloned like any other card. Equally as disturbing is the danger that these cards can be used to exacerbate social divisions.

In a speech I gave in December 2004 (more details here) I set out my objections to the measure:

The Government has claimed that entitlement cards will help to combat terrorism, fraud and crime. The 9/11 terrorists carried valid ID cards; most benefit fraud involves people who misrepresent their circumstances rather than their identity; and the difficulty in clearing up crime is almost always that the criminals are not caught, rather than not identified.

It is also likely that members of ethnic minority groups will be stopped and asked for their ID cards much more often than white people are. This could lead to a serious deterioration in relations between ethnic minorities and the police and other sections of the community.

To add to this injustice by requiring the ID card to be used to access public services will rapidly lead to a situation whereby the card is voluntary for most of the articulate middle classes and compulsory for those who use public services and/or can’t argue and resist the need for the card. This is one injustice the Welsh Assembly Government can resist and I urge it to do so.

It is a scenario that we appear to be drifting into without any acknowledgement of or concession to the dangers by the Government. In the circumstances I think that how the cards look is the least of our worries.


The government shoudl ignore the nationalists who happen to live in Ulster and should not really live there but be a few miles over the border in eire.
Its a real pity that a handful of fringe groups can stop the union flag being put on the UK passport. The government should reconsider and consider the 60 million pro-brits rather than anti-british plaid cymru or Ira sympathisers
Senncartoonist you really are scraping the barrel with your ill-informed opinions. I'm a Plaid voter, I'm not anti-British,I'm pro-Wales.
Anonymous 11:48

Now your taking the piss! How can you be a PLAID voter and not be anti-British? Explain that one to me because i've obviously mis-read the section in the PLAID manifesto that would tear us away from Britain resulting in us becoming a third world nation surviving only on DFID and UN handouts.
I suspect if Labour wins the next election god forgive, ID cards will be back on the agenda, with Brown shouting it's needed.
Robert >> Cameron will be PM, and calling for ID cards, with crys of Foul from the Labour Front Bench and the infringement of Civil Liberties!!!!!!!!!!!
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