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Ceisteanna – Questions. - National Archives.

Wednesday, 18 December 2002

Dáil Éireann Debate
Vol. 559 No. 6

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 2. Aengus Ó Snodaigh Information on Aengus O Snodaigh Zoom on Aengus O Snodaigh  asked the Taoiseach Information on Bertie Ahern Zoom on Bertie Ahern  if there are files held in the State papers relating to events prior to 1952 which have not yet been opened for public view; and when such unreleased papers will be released to the public. [25661/02]

The Taoiseach: Information on Bertie Ahern Zoom on Bertie Ahern In so far as my Department is concerned, the evaluating of files for release to the National Archives is carried out by designated officials in my Department in accordance with the provisions of the National Archives Act, 1986. I have no role in that process.

Records which become 30 years old are released to the National Archives where they are made available for public inspection in accordance with the provisions of the National Archives Act, 1986. It is normal, as files are processed for release each year, that some are certified by the [1361]appropriate official for retention on the grounds set forth in the Act.

Aengus Ó Snodaigh: Information on Aengus O Snodaigh Zoom on Aengus O Snodaigh An fáth gur cuireadh an cheist ná go bhfuil sé deacair ar dhaoine atá ag iarraidh stair na tíre a scríobh nuair nach bhfuil fáil ar na doiciméid atá riachtanach. Is trua go bhfuil aon cheilt á dhéanamh ar doiciméid. Ba chóir go ndéanfaí athrú ar an riail agus go mbeadh teacht ar doiciméid i bhfad níos tapúla ná 30 bliain nó 50 bliain. Ba chóir go mbeadh siad ar fáil don phobal comh gasta agus is féidir, ionas gur féidir stair reatha na tíre, nó stair an leath chéad bliain atá thart, a cur le chéile.

The Taoiseach: Information on Bertie Ahern Zoom on Bertie Ahern There is a question in regard to FOI about files being made available within a shorter period. There is some debate about that and the higher level group of civil servants has been looking at amendments to change the FOI legislation. There is a substantive difference between the FOI legislation and the National Archives legislation in that in the shorter term, it is not possible to release information for historical purposes. There is no compatibility between FOI legislation and the National Archives legislation. In most instances, there is little withholding of records under the National Archives legislation unless it is set out in section 8 and it is very tight. Even the security requirements have moved on and records are made available. It works well for historians.

Perhaps under the FOI legislation and whenever the discussion is completed, a shorter period will, ultimately, be allowed. The intention was that it would be five years. I have said in the House on numerous occasions that is far too short and would create all kinds of difficulties. I have answered questions on this issue many times and I do not think it would be possible to release full records within five years, although perhaps it would be possible to release them within a shorter period than 30 years. Those who deal with the FOI and the National Archives legislation agree that there should be an examination of both Acts to make them more compatible so that if there is a shorter period under FOI legislation for Government files and other records, perhaps the criteria should be made more simple than it is at present and that one should not have to wait for 30 years for everything. Historians state that 30 years is a fair period.

Ms Burton: Information on Joan Burton Zoom on Joan Burton I wish to take the opportunity of this question to request the Taoiseach to ask his officials and those in the Department of Justice, Equality and Law Reform if it is possible to release the files on the late Jim Gralton. A number of attempts have been made over the years to have the official papers on the late Jim Gralton, a labour activist from County Leitrim, released but that has not happened. I am not sure if the Department of Justice, Equality and Law Reform has even been able to find files. Would it be poss[1362]ible to find them because his relatives and other people are interested?

An Ceann Comhairle: Information on Séamus Pattison Zoom on Séamus Pattison Deputy, you are well outside the scope of this question.

The Taoiseach: Information on Bertie Ahern Zoom on Bertie Ahern I will pass on the Deputy's request. I am not familiar with the detail.


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