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Government archive release Bill may hide the full story – Tóibín

19 October, 2017

Sinn Féin spokesperson on Heritage, Peadar Tóibín TD has welcomed a government Bill which will reduce the release time of state records from 30 to 20 years. However, Deputy Tóibín has aired his misgivings over new powers given to the Minister regarding which documents will meet the criteria for early release, as well as the added burden the Bill will have on Departments already struggling to meet the 30 year deadline.

Speaking in the Dáil today, Deputy Tóibín said

“I welcome the move to reduce their release from 30 to 20 years. While I have a few misgivings, this is a progressive action which will see the eventual alignment of the release of Irish state papers with those of Britain.

“Currently, the difference between the two countries is problematic, particularly when Anglo-Irish relations are involved. With the earlier release of the British state papers, we are only getting one side of the story. Naturally, Sinn Féin is supportive of a speeded up release of documents from the Irish government to offer a fuller and more balanced account of events.

“Could the Minister elaborate on who deems a record to be ‘relevant’? There seems to be a lot of additional power given to the Minister in this Bill as to determine what is of significant historical or public interest. Can this ever be ascertained in an objective manner? I would fear that political motives could obscure the truth in this regard – that items of huge historical importance could be simply locked away in order to spare blushes or worse.

“I am also hugely concerned that capacity issues could be of a huge hindrance to the effective implementation of the bills objectives. Currently, many Departments are struggling to meet even the 30 year release deadline. Without additional resources, the execution of this Bill will be impossible.

“Remember that under Fine Gael, we saw devastating cuts to the Arts and Heritage Budget. There was no additional provision given to resourcing of the National Archives last year. In this year’s budget, increases in to the National Archives budget was not mentioned in the Ministers’ press statements of measures given increased funding.   

 “We support the passing of legislation to make these archives open, but we entreat the government to provide the necessary funding for people to access them. An archive can only function as an archive if what is stored therein can be accessed easily. If these files can’t be easily obtained due to lack of resources, then this is the worst type of gesture politics.”

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