Services to government

Disposal of departmental records

Destruction of departmental records is prohibited under section 7 of the National Archives Act, 1986 unless permission is first granted by the Director of the National Archives, and a Certificate for the Disposal of Departmental Records issued.

Certifying Officers are responsible for applications for Certificates for the Disposal of Departmental Records in accordance with the National Archives Act, 1986 7(4), Regulations, 1988 6 for records that do not warrant permanent preservation by the National Archives.

The disposal of any records without a Certificate for the Disposal of Departmental Records signed by the Director of the National Archives is a breach of the National Archives Act, 1986.

This applies to the destruction of both paper records and electronic records, including files that were originally paper records but scanned for access or to reduce storage space and costs.

Permission is not required to destroy duplicate records or printed material. Duplicate records are classed as those that do not contain any annotations or information that differs in any way to the final document.

Any annotations or drafting notes listed on a document renders it an original and it cannot be destroyed without obtaining a Certificate for the Disposal of Departmental Records.

Requests for disposal must be sent to the Head of Current Records, Archives and Government Services, National Archives, Bishop Street, Dublin D08 DF85.

Requests for disposal must be made at a file series level on the official Disposal Request Form. Any requests that are not received on the official form, or which fail to identify file series, will not be considered and will be returned to the requesting body.

Following the receipt of a request, the National Archives will arrange for a follow-up survey of records, where required. Due to current staffing levels, delays in the processing of applications is inevitable. We will endeavour to respond to your request as quickly as possible. In order to ensure as efficient a process as possible, please ensure the following steps have been completed:

  • The appraisal request form has been completed in full, including details of a relevant contact person who can coordinate access with Officers of the National Archives.
  • Requests should be coordinated within Departments of State to ensure a consistent and standardised approach across all divisions.
  • The location of records is known and access can be given to Officers of the National Archives.
Completing a Certificate for the Disposal of Departmental Records issued by the National Archives under Section 7 of the National Archives Act, 1986
  • Before records can be destroyed by a Department of State, a Certificate for the Disposal of Departmental Records must be completed. Department of State is defined in the National Archives Act, 1986 1(2), and is interpreted to mean not only the head office of a Department and its sub-offices, but also the courts and the bodies listed in the schedule to the Act. The term, therefore, refers to almost all bodies staffed by civil servants, including the Defence Forces and An Garda Síochána.
  • The Certificate for the Disposal of Departmental Records must be printed on departmental headed paper, completed and signed by the Certifying Officer.
  • The Certificate for the Disposal of Departmental Records should be accompanied by a schedule of the files, or file series, to be destroyed.
  • In accordance with the National Archives Act, 1986, Regulations, 1988 6, the Certificate for the Disposal of Departmental Records, and the schedule, must be sent to the Director of the National Archives. In the case of records of the Supreme Court or the High Court, the consent of the Chief Justice or the President of the High Court must also be obtained.
  • If the Director agrees to the disposal of the files, he/she will countersign the Certificate for the Disposal of Departmental Records and return it to the requesting Department of State.
  • National Archives staff may need to undertake an assessment and appraisal before a Certificate for the Disposal of Departmental Records can be issued. Departments of State are required under the National Archives Act, 1986, 7(7) to facilitate this assessment.
  • The records must be kept in the Department of State until the necessary permission for destruction has been obtained.
  • A copy of the Certificate for the Disposal of Departmental Records will be retained in the National Archives. The original will be given to the requesting department, court office or public body and should be retained permanently.
  • Once a Certificate for the Disposal of Departmental Records is obtained, the requesting Department of State may destroy records in accordance with the terms of the National Archives Act, 1986 8(3).
  • The National Archives Act, 1986 7(5) requires Departments of State to arrange for the confidential disposal of such records.

A sample certificate to dispose of records under section 7, regulation 6 is available at Appendix 1, National Archives Act, 1986, Regulations, 1988.

No destruction of records should take place without first contacting the Head of Current Records, Archives and Government Services, National Archives, Bishop Street, Dublin D08 DF85 (tel: +353-(0)1-4072300, email: query@nationalarchives.ie).

For further information relating to the destruction and retention of records see Records Management Guidelines.

The disposal of any records without a certificate signed by the Director of the National Archives is a breach of the National Archives Act, 1986. This applies to the destruction of both paper records and electronic records.