The Irish Minister of State for Mental Health Jim Daly has said that the Irish government should introduce wide-ranging age verification laws to prevent children from accessing adult content online, echoing a similar regulation due to come into effect in the UK in July.

Under his plan, Irish citizens would have to input a verification code linked to their Personal Public Services number into adult websites in order to access pornography and other adult content. These numbers are currently used in order to access social welfare benefits and public services.

The aim of this proposed law is to prevent children from accessing online pornography on the grounds that “viewing or purchasing highly inappropriate products […] could damage their mental wellbeing irreversibly.” The suggested blocks would not be limited to just pornography and would extend to a range of adult content and products like alcohol and tobacco. “I would ascertain this new law should not be restricted to pornography only – all inappropriate access should be captured,” Daly said.

Similar laws have come under fire in the UK, with particular scrutiny coming on the fact that the world’s largest pornography company MindGeek also supplies the leading age-verification gateway service AgeID. AgeID offers users a choice of third party services through which they can verify that they are over 18.

MindGeek has experienced five large-scale data breaches, the earliest dating back to 2012, prompting fears that future data breaches could include intimate details about millions of British users.

A further criticism has been that such blocks would only affect users who are based in the country in which they apply. Any block introduced in Ireland could be easily circumvented with a VPN, as these allow their users to mask their true location and appear as though they are accessing the internet from a different country.

This is not the first time that Mr Daly has expressed concerns about children accessing online pornography. In 2017, he said: “as a parent it would be hugely helpful if there was guidance, regulation and indeed laws in the state that will allow me, as a parent, to say to my child ‘it is illegal to have a device at your age.’”