Minister for Social Protection Regina Doherty has said the Government will "go as far it takes" in defending its position over the use of the Public Services Card (PSC).

In September, the Data Protection Commissioner Helen Dixon told the Public Accounts Committee that an enforcement against the Government's use of the Public Services Card "will be issued in the next number of weeks".

Ms Doherty was before the Committee on Employment Affairs and Social Protection after a report from the Data Protection Commissioner ruled it was illegal to force the public to apply for the card to access services, other than social welfare benefits.

She reiterated the legal advice from the Attorney General's office to her department over the use of the PSC was "as robust as it could have been".

Minister Doherty clashed with Sinn Féin TD John Brady about challenging the Office of the Data Protection Commission saying the Government would "go so far as it takes" to vindicate its position.

She said "we believe that we have both the legal right and the authority to do exactly what we have been doing since the first card was issued in 2011."

During the sometimes heated debate Ms Doherty repeated the case for using the PSC and asserted it had never been the case the card was mandatory for accessing certain public services, such as a driving licence or passport, something that was levelled at her by committee members.

At one point, committee chairperson John Curran of Fianna Fáil told the minister it was important to put on the record that the use of the PSC was at one point mandatory.

He referred to how, in February 2018, the Road Safety Authority specifically said the PSC would be mandatory but that it subsequently changed its policy.

Deputy Curran said that although he acknowledged people are happy to use the card, he wanted to put this point on the record.

The retention of people's data was queried by Independent Senator Alice Mary Higgins who asked Ms Doherty whether the reasons for holding on to users' information satisfied proportionality and necessity.

The minister said the department did not "indefinitely" retain data, that it did so only for the length of a period of time a person is doing business with the department which, in some cases, could be a long number of years.

She said it was important in order to be able to identify and authenticate somebody if they tried to apply for a second card and that it was important in cases of challenges to decisions by the department.

Ms Doherty referred to the Ombusdman overruling decisions due to the department not having supporting documents.

Senator Higgins said the movement of over one million older people was being tracked by their use of the travel pass and she asked whether having that information accessible was proportionate or neccessary.

The minister said it was important in order to pay providers of transport and that whole journeys were not tracked, just that a user boarded a mode of transport at a certain time.

Willie O'Dea, Fianna Fáil's spokesperson on social protection, argued that the current issue with the Data Protection Commission investigation was creating a bad impression.

He said that if large companies such as Google and Facebook disagreed with any findings of the DPC they could "go to the Irish Government and they will see you right".

The minister rejected the comments and added she respected the Data Protection Commissioner.

She argued it was the government that Mr O'Dea was a member of in 1998 and in 2005 which brought forward the vast majority of the legislation that underpins what the Government is now doing in terms of the PSC.

Ms Doherty added that Mr O'Dea's party voted for the legislation which allowed anybody to take objection to a semi-judicial body without reputational damage.