Archives body can not collect all records because of space shortage


THE NATIONAL Archives is unable to take in all of the records it should be collecting under its statutory obligations as it has run out of space, a conference has heard.

The head of special projects at the National Archives, Caitríona Crowe, told a conference at Trinity College Dublin that the institution can only accept the transfer of archives from a small range of government departments each year as there isn’t enough space to take any more.

“The National Archives has now been full for many years . . . we are actually being forced to break the law by not carrying out our statutory duty to preserve and make available Government records which are more than 30 years old,” Ms Crowe said, addressing a conference on Saturday at the university

“The building we occupy is inadequate and lacking in basic educational facilities,” said Ms Crowe who called for the provision of a custom-built facility.

Located on Bishop Street, in Dublin city centre, the National Archives has statutory responsibility for the records of the modern Irish State. Substantial backlogs of records eligible for transfer to the archives, including 19th and early 20th century records, remain in a number of government departments, the conference heard.

And while some records have been accepted, they remain unprocessed in boxes and stored on warehouse racking, while some of the institution’s most valuable records have had to be put into offsite storage. Staff shortages are also an issue.

More than 200 people, including representatives from the Irish Society for Archivists, attended the Robert Emmet Lecture at Trinity College Dublin to voice their opposition to a Government proposal to merge the National Archives into the National Library.

Chaired by the professor of modern Irish history at UCD, Diarmaid Ferriter, keynote speakers included Ms Crowe, who was speaking in her capacity as chairwoman of the archivists’ branch of the trade union Impact; the professor of contemporary Irish history at TCD, Eunan O’Halpin, and The Irish Timescolumnist Fintan O’Toole.

Mr O’Toole said the proposal was “idiotic” and was a “primary example of why the country is in the hole it is in”. This is “exactly the kind of practice and non thinking” that led to the economic catastrophe in the State, he said.