New rule will allow for early release of cabinet papers

Papers from Government departments to be made public after 20 years instead of 30

Cabinet papers from the departments of the Taoiseach, Foreign Affairs and Justice are to be made public after 20 years instead of the current 30, when changes in archives legislation are implemented.

Papers from the Office of the Attorney General will also be among the documents released earlier as part of a phased change to eventually include all Government departments.

The new rule will come into force after the passage of the National Archives (Amendment) Bill which Minister for Culture Heather Humphreys expects to introduce in the Dáil in October. The Bill amends the 1986 National Archives Act.

Ms Humphreys has received Government approval for the change which will echo that of the UK which in 2013 began to move from a 30-year embargo on release of documents to a 20-year embargo. The UK will complete the process by 2023.

‘Incomplete view’

Ms Humphreys said “it was a concern of mine that, if our Government did not take action, an incomplete view of our shared history could develop over the coming years.

“Moving to a 20-year system is a considerable task, and I am conscious that it will require extra resources in both the National Archives and Government departments, which is why I am advocating a phased approach.

“This legislation is a positive step which will allow for the early release of records which are of historical importance or public interest while ensuring our shared history with the UK is presented in a balanced fashion.”

The Minister also said her department was working with the National Archives and the OPW on a multimillion-euro redevelopment of the archives storage building to provide “appropriate long-term storage conditions for these and other records”.

Marie O'Halloran

Marie O'Halloran

Marie O'Halloran is a parliamentary reporter with The Irish Times