Ireland playing catch-up when it comes to releasing official records

IN an environment where opposing traditions sustain their animosity by clinging to very different versions of the past, access to historical documents assumes a particular importance. 

That importance, and the potential for hijacking a shared past for political advantage, suggests that all relevant records should be released simultaneously, if at all possible.

To that end, the Minister for Arts, Heritage and the Gaeltacht, Heather Humphreys, decided, two years ago, to publish State archives after 20 years, rather than conform to the heretofore norm of 30 years. This was done to match the practice in Britain. The long, and often fraught, interaction between the two jurisdictions suggests this is at least desireable.

However, the usual stumbling blocks have appeared. The National Archives Advisory Council has warned that the National Archives would not be able to deliver change from the 30-year limit to 20 years, with current resources. More resources may be needed, but it is hard to understand why archivists would need different levels of resources to publish one set of records over another, even in a digital age.


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