20/10/15

Minister Humphreys announces intention to introduce 20 year rule for release of State papers on phased basis

Minister Humphreys announces intention to introduce 20 year rule for release of State papers on phased basis

The Minister for Arts, Heritage and the Gaeltacht, Heather Humphreys TD, has today (Tuesday) announced she intends to amend the National Archives Act 1986 to reduce the 30 year rule for the release of State papers to 20 years. The change will be implemented on a phased, Department by Department basis.

The Minister’s decision takes account of the fact that the UK began to move from a 30 year rule to a 20 year rule in 2013. This process will be complete in the UK by 2023. It is expected that Departments most closely associated with Anglo Irish matters (the Department of the Taoiseach, Foreign Affairs and Trade, Justice and Equality, and the Attorney General’s Office) will be the first to have the change implemented.

Speaking today Minister Humphreys said:

“It is my concern that unless action is taken, an incomplete view of our shared history with the UK will develop over the coming years. Over the last two years, the UK has been moving towards a 20 year system. In 2013, the UK National Archives and the Public Record Office of Northern Ireland released records for 1983, after 29 years.

“If we allow this situation to continue, the gap in the narrative will only become greater. Moving to a 20 year system is a considerable task and I am conscious that it will require extra resources in the National Archives. That is why I am advocating a phased, Department by Department approach. The release of addition records will happen in tandem with the redevelopment of the National Archives’ Headquarters building, which will begin in early 2016.

“My Department will also begin writing to all Government Departments to determine how many files they are storing which are more than 30 years old. A number of Departments are not currently meeting their obligations in relation to the transfer of files to the National Archives; a co-ordinated centralised plan will need to be developed to achieve compliance across all departments.

“I have also asked the National Archives to undertake a pilot study with the Department of Education and Skills to ascertain the cost to Departments of storing records over 30 years old which should have been transferred to the National Archives.

“Action is needed on a number of fronts to improve the archiving of records across Government and to address the gap which is emerging between Ireland and the UK. This is a large body of work, which will involve all Government Departments. By taking a phased approach, conscious of the resources available, I hope we will be able to improve the archiving of records, make Government more transparent and ensure our shared history with the UK is presented in a balanced fashion.”

ENDS

Department of Arts, Heritage, Regional, Rural and Gaeltacht Affairs, 23 Kildare Street, Dublin , D02 TD30. Tel: 01 631 3800 / LoCall: 1890 383 000

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