Thursday, 12 December 2019

Questions (20)

Niamh Smyth


20. Deputy Niamh Smyth asked the Minister for Culture, Heritage and the Gaeltacht when she plans to commence the National Archives (Amendment) Act 2018; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [52151/19]

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Written answers (Question to Culture)

The National Archives Act 1986 provides for the transfer and release to the public of the records of Government Departments to the National Archives when they are 30 years old. Following a Cabinet decision in October 2015, my Department introduced legislation to amend the National Archives Act, 1986 to give the Minister power, by order, to reduce the 30 year period to 20 years on a phased basis , subject to the agreement of the Taoiseach, the Minister for Public Expenditure and Reform and the relevant Minister in each case. The National Archives (Amendment) Act was signed into law in July 2018.

The new Act introduced a provision that allows records to be transferred when they are over 20 years old in certain circumstances. It is anticipated that the 2018 Act will be commenced next year which will allow for a partial move to a 20-year rule. This partial move will allow for the gradual build-up of the necessary resources to operate a full 20-year rule over the coming years. The approach taken in the National Archives (Amendment) Act 2018 is to release classes of records which have historical significance or to allow for the balance of reporting. This approach is different to that adopted by the UK.

Officials from my Department in conjunction with other Departments are examining the classes of records that are more than 20 years old but less than 30 years which might be released as the first tranche under the "20-year" rule. An order will be required for the release of records showing the clear delineation of the records intended for release so that there is absolute clarity around which records can be released under the order.

The commencement of the National Archives (Amendment) Act 2018 and its implementation will require additional resources within the departments affected and these are being put in place. The appropriate staffing for the implementation of the new legislation will be provided in advance of the commencement of the Act. It is also expected that some of the initial records to be released under the new legislation will be of considerable interest to historians, requiring their retention onsite at Bishop Street rather than offsite storage.