Léim ar aghaidh chuig an bpríomhábhar
Gnáthamharc

National Archives.

Dáil Éireann Debate, Wednesday - 22 April 2009

Wednesday, 22 April 2009

Ceisteanna (454, 455)

Mary Upton

Ceist:

509 Deputy Mary Upton asked the Minister for Arts, Sport and Tourism his views on the reduction from 30 years to 15 years of the quarantine period for public records before they are placed in the National Archives; the reason he would not support this decision which would provide for closer public scrutiny of public records; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [15265/09]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Minister for Arts, Sport and Tourism)

I presume the Deputy is referring to the report of an official review of the operation of the 30-year rule in the United Kingdom, which recently recommended that the relevant timeframe be reduced to 15 years. The UK recommendation is that this be done two years at a time over a period of 15 years starting in 2010 and running until 2024. The British Government is considering this recommendation. The report of the official review has been published at www.30yearrulereview.org.uk/default.htm. The British report is based partly on research showing that some countries release records to public inspection after periods significantly shorter than 30 years. The report concludes that the maintenance of the present 30-year rule is anachronistic and unsustainable, as freedom of information legislation has decisively and irreversibly enhanced the right of the public to greater access to much more recent official information. In Ireland, however, most Departments hold significant quantities of records that are more than 30 years old. The principal reason for this is the adequacy of the storage available in the National Archives.

Mary Upton

Ceist:

510 Deputy Mary Upton asked the Minister for Arts, Sport and Tourism if he is satisfied with the process of transferring public records to the National Archives, under the 30 year rule; if there is an audit procedure in place to ensure that all relevant documents are lodged within the required timeframe; if there is consistency across all relevant Departments in the lodging of the documents; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [15267/09]

Amharc ar fhreagra

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.

Barr
Roinn