Irish Roots

November 22nd, 2010

John Grenham

Irish life thrives on feuding, committee politics and infighting, and Irish genealogy is no different. There are dozens of societies and associations and heritage centres North and South, each concerned first of all with its own self-preservation, as every organisation inevitably is. Most organisations then have their own sub-groups at odds with each other, and inside each of these in turn are factions and cliques wrestling for power. The complexity and passion of these struggles regularly astonish outsiders; family history is not the most aggressive of pursuits. Again as in many other areas of Irish life, the degree of passion is inversely proportionate to the real importance of the issues. The smaller the teacup, the bigger the storm.

Given this state of affairs - you should note, however, that not a single group is actually named - how has genealogy managed to speak to officialdom with a voice that is taken seriously? One body that can take much of the credit for fostering genealogical common sense is the Council of Irish Genealogical Organisations. As its very sensible name says, CIGO acts as an umbrella for others, comprising 14 constituent organisations in Ireland and 12 overseas.

The groupís main role is to lobby for improved access to research material. It has had some spectacular successes, including the amendment of the Civil Registration Act of 2004 to require the inclusion of detailed family information in death records. At the moment, it is campaigning to have the 1926 census opened for research, since the officially-scheduled date for its release is in far-distant 2027. Senator Labhrás Ó Murchú has recently introduced a bill in the Seanad proposing an early release, but much more political pressure is needed. CIGO have an online petition at their website, www.cigo.ie. As many people as possible should sign it.


Comments and suggestions are welcome, to irishrootsatirishtimes.com.

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