The National Archives annually receives thousands of documents relating to the business of Government. Part of our mandate is to preserve the records of Government Departments, the courts and other State agencies which are listed in the Schedule to the National Archives Act, 1986 and to make these records of permanent value available in our Reading Room to members of the public.
We also facilitate the disposal of those records no longer required for administrative purposes or archival preservation and provide advice and guidelines to public service bodies on a range of matters relating to the management of records under their control.
The main provisions of the Act regarding Departmental records are summarised as follows:
- All Departmental records must be preserved, unless their destruction is authorised in writing by the Director or another officer of the National Archives designated by the Director for the purpose (Section 6 of the Regulations, 1988)
- In general, all Departmental records which are more than 30 years old must be transferred to the National Archives and made available for inspection by the public. Particular records may be retained by Departments and/or be withheld from public inspection only if they are covered by certificates stating either:
- That they are in regular use in a Department or are required in connection with its administration or;
- That making them available for inspection by the public would/might;
- Be contrary to the public interest, or
- Constitute a breach of statutory duty, or a breach of good faith on the ground that they contain information supplied in confidence, or
- Cause distress or danger to living persons on the grounds that they contain information about individuals, or would or might be likely to lead to an action for damages for defamation.
The Act enables us to give advice to State-sponsored bodies, local authorities and other public service organisations on records under their control, and to acquire records from them. It also provides that the Minister for Arts, Heritage and the Gaeltacht may, at the request of a public service organisation, declare its records to be Departmental records.
(The latter provision does not now apply in the case of local authorities, or harbour companies and authorities, as the Local Government Act of 1994 and the Harbours Act of 1996 have made it a function of each local authority and each harbour company to make arrangements for the management, custody, care, conservation and public inspection of its own records).