Publication of 1926 census to require legal shift

 

THE GOVERNMENT intends to press ahead with the publication of the 1926 census although it would be in breach of the 100-year rule which governs all such information, Minister for Heritage Jimmy Deenihan has said.

He said publishing the census would need a change of legislation but he had received “widespread approval” for this.

The 1926 census could contain information about people who are still alive which might be embarrassing to them, which could include information about children “born out of wedlock”, the extent of their literacy or mental capacity or any diseases they might have had.

The Minister acknowledged this but said sensitive information about those still alive could be redacted.

“It should be possible to protect or to ensure that some information that is sensitive may be withheld,” he said.

The 100-year rule was included in the Statistics Act 1993. The publication of the 1901 and 1911 censuses online has been a huge success with millions of hits on both websites. The Government is keen to include the 1926 census as part of a programme it hopes will draw tourists to Ireland looking for their roots.

Mr Deenihan said he was keen to publish the information this year in advance of “the gathering”, a planned event which is seeking to attract thousands of people with Irish connections to come “home” next year.

Speaking at the 75th anniversary of the Irish Genealogical Research Society, Mr Deenihan said Ireland’s archives were “almost our most important resource” as it showed where the country had come from and who we are.

The research society archives were set up in 1936 in response to the “loss of national memory” which occurred during the shelling of the Four Courts in the Civil War which wiped out all the censuses from the first half of the 19th century.

Based in London, it has the largest collection of Irish genealogical books and manuscripts in private hands.

The society is hopeful it can digitise its archives and make them available to the public.