There are no immediate plans to make the 8m or so records of the former Irish Land Commission generally available to the public for research or other purposes, as they are still classified as working documents and have not been handed over to the National Archives.
Minister for Agriculture Michael Creed outlined the position in a written reply to a Dáil question from Richard Boyd Barrett.
The Solidarity-BPB TD had asked the minister if historians and genealogists can have access to Land Commission records held by his department in a warehouse in Portlaoise, Co Laois.
Mr Creed said that his officials regularly access these records to service queries from the public relating to current and past transactions and for the full completion of the work of the former Irish Land Commission.
“Wider access will be a matter for consideration when the completion of the work of the former Irish Land Commission is at a more advanced stage,” said Mr Creed, who added that the records, which are available in paper format only, are fragile, some dating back as far as the late 1800s.
“They are an irreplaceable resource should they get damaged. In order to maintain them it is essential that they are handled and stored appropriately,” he said.
Mr Creed said opening up access to the files cannot be considered until measures are undertaken to minimise potential damage from routine handling.
“While limited access is granted to persons on application, the office does not provide a research facility as the provision of such a service would require much greater resources than those currently available,” he said.
Land Commission documents are the largest single collection of Irish records covering the late 19th and early 20th centuries outside of the National Archives.
The commission was set up in 1881 under the Land Acts to facilitate and eventually subsidise transfers of land ownership from large landlords to small tenants.
It continued to exist in the Republic until 1999 when it was dissolved.
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