Ceisteanna—Questions. Oral Answers. - Transfer of Departmental Records.

John Bruton

Question:

4 Mr. J. Bruton asked the Taoiseach if all Departments of State will meet the deadline of 31 December 1990 for the transfer of all departmental records that are more than 30 years old to the National Archives, other than those records that are covered by certificates made under section 8 (2) or section 8 (4) of the National Archives Act, 1986; and if any Department fails to meet this deadline, if he will give details of the Department that is likely to so fail.

The following Departments will meet the deadline of 31 December 1990: the Taoiseach, the Gaeltacht, Energy, Foreign Affairs — excluding missions abroad — and Health.

Most other Departments have made good progress in transferring the greater part of their pre-1961 records but will not meet the deadline in full. I have, therefore, decided to accept a recommendation by the director of the National Archives to extend the deadline to 30 June 1991. I will, however, be asking the director to ensure that Departments comply with the revised deadline.

Has the Taoiseach raised this matter at Cabinet with a view to inviting each member of the Cabinet to give instructions within their Departments that the new deadline will be complied with? Would he agree that it is not desirable in any matter however esoteric, that Departments should be seen not to comply with their obligations under the law in view of the fact that these Departments are responsible for enforcing the law on others?

All Departments are continuously reminded of their obligations in this regard. I want to make it clear that they are not in wilful neglect; it is just a question of trying to deal with a very major and, sometimes, complex operation. I will make a very special effort to make sure that the deadline of 30 June is complied with.

I have no wish to criticise the Taoiseach in this matter because his Department have behaved in an exemplary fashion, but would he agree that this concept of people not being "in wilful neglect" being a sufficient excuse could well be extremely useful to other people who fail to comply with legal requirements and it is not a concept which should be introduced in considering this matter? Departments of State should obey the law.

Best endeavours, I think, is a very good excuse in this matter.