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  • irishtimes.com - Posted: June 17, 2013 @ 1:08 pm

    Not the 1926 news

    John Grenham

    After 1911, the next census in Ireland was not until 1926. Those fifteen years were the most tumultuous decade-and-a-half in Irish history – with upheavals in industry and labour, the Easter Rising, a world war, the war of independence, the civil war, Partition … The Ireland recorded in 1926 had been utterly transformed. For that reason the 1926 census occupies a very special position for historians and genealogists of every stripe.

    Or rather it should occupy a special position. The Programme for Government promised “to enable publication of the 1926 census” and as recently as last month, the Minister for Arts, Arts, Heritage and the Gaeltacht, Jimmy Deenihan confirmed that a working group, comprising officials from his department, the National Archives and the Central Statistics Office, was meeting to consider “how best to enable the publication”.

    The minister and the Archives would dearly love to publish. The CSO has a very different position. Its public relations website, census.ie, states unequivocally, “The 1926 Census Returns will be released to public inspection, under the 100 year rule, in January 2027″. The junior minister in charge, the Government Chief Whip Paul Kehoe, put it a little more emolliently recently: “the confidentiality of all statistical returns from individuals, households and business is guaranteed by law […] I am satisfied, therefore, that the 100 years period […] strikes the right balance”.

    That’s that, then. The working group can consider till the cows come home, but the cows will not come home until January 1st 2027. It is hard to know the correct response. On the one hand, more intense lobbying would provide ammunition for this bureaucratic trench war. On the other, the CSO really seems to be battening down the hatches.

    Loath though I am to step away from a good fight, perhaps we need something more winnable. If the Minister wants to unveil something in 2016, there are other, less contested battlefields. The Registry of Deeds? The Valuation Office revision books? The Archives’ collection of 1920s voters’ lists?

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