The office of the Data Protection Commissioner has confirmed it will proceed with enforcement action against the State over its decision to defy a report that found the retention of information on 3.2m citizens who hold a Public Services Card was unlawful.

Minister for Social Protection Regina Doherty said yesterday the Government did not agree with the findings made by the commissioner last month.

The minister said she had strong legal advice in favour of continued use of the card for a wide range of public services.

Ms Doherty said that her department was prepared to legally challenge any enforcement action by the Commissioner.

Helen Dixon wrote to Ms Doherty this evening confirming she will now proceed with enforcement action.

She also declined a request to meet the minister to discuss the report and urged the Government to publish her report "immediately in the public interest".

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The commission found last month that the department's processing of personal data during the issuing of  the cards for use in transactions between a person and a public body other than the department itself to be illegal.

It also found that the blanket and indefinite retention of documents and information provided by people applying for a Public Services Card contravenes data protection law.