I have just received a reply from the Home Office to the following query I sent them last month:
I wonder if you could help me clarify the situation with regards to the implications of the UK identity cards scheme for Ireland.
The recent report on identity cards by the London School of Economics concluded that the Irish Government would require access to detailed electronic data stored on British identity cards in order to operate the Common Travel Area.
Can you tell me if the British Government concurs with this assessment and whether there have been any discussions with the Irish Government about such access?
The reply from the Identity Cards programme team was as follows:
As you may be aware the Government's decision to establish a national Identity Cards Scheme was announced in the Queen's Speech on 17 May and the Identity Cards Bill was reintroduced to Parliament.
The principle of the Common Travel Area, within which people of any nationality may travel without routine immigration checks, will remain unchanged. It is for the Irish government to decide whether or not it wishes to introduce identity cards. However, identity documents are not routinely required for travel within the area, and the level of checks would be a matter for the authority concerned.
With regards to your specific queries, the LSE report in fact disagreed with JUSTICE’s assessment to which you refer in your email and concluded that the introduction of an Identity Cards Scheme in the UK would affect the Irish Government. In addition, there have been discussions at both official and ministerial level with the Irish Government about access to electronic data that may be stored on the National Identity Register.
Furthermore, the Government has produced a response to the London School of Economics 'ID Cards Costs Estimates and Alternative Blueprint', Home Office Response to LSE Alternative Blueprint, which can be found on http://www.identitycards.gov.uk
It would be interesting to know how much progress those British-Irish discussions have made. The Irish Times suggested last month they were not going well.
Incidentally, I have now added an identity cards category to the Green Ribbon. It includes this post with links and relevant extracts from the LSE and Justice reports on the implications of identity cards for Ireland.