Under the National Archives Act 1986, the general rule is that all Departmental records which are more than 30 years old must be transferred to the National Archives and made available for inspection by the public. Particular records may be retained by Departments and/or be withheld from public inspection only if they are covered by certificates stating either that they are in regular use in a Department or are required in connection with its administration or that making them available for inspection by the public would or might be contrary to the public interest, constitute a breach of statutory duty, or a breach of good faith on the ground that they contain information supplied in confidence, or cause distress or danger to living persons on the grounds that they contain information about individuals, or would or might be likely to lead to an action for damages for defamation.
At present, only the Department of the Taoiseach, the Department of Foreign Affairs, the Office of the Secretary to the President and the Office of the Attorney General have transferred all records that are more than 30 years old and are not covered by retention certificates. Most other Departments have transferred all records predating 1960 and have transferred significant quantities of more recent records, but retain records of varying size. The position at the end of each calendar year is summarised in an appendix to the report of the director of the National Archives for that year. The director's reports up to 2006 are available on the National Archives website and in the Oireachtas Library. His report for 2007 is under consideration by my Department, and his report for 2008 will be submitted to me next month (May). Departments are responsible for ensuring that all records that are more 30 years old are identified prior to transfer. In the case of the Department of the Taoiseach, the reference numbers of all files relating to matters considered by Government are specified in the relevant minutes of Government meetings and care is taken to ensure that all such files are included in each annual transfer.