The National Archives Act, 1986 and Regulations, 1988 are the principle statutes applicable to the management of records of Departments of State, including their disposal or retention as archives.
The Act operates within a legal framework for the management of government records that may also include other statutes relating to areas such as Data Protection, Freedom of Information, and legislation relating to specific areas of work such as cultural heritage, social protection and tax collection, among others.
No legislation takes precedence over the National Archives Act, 1986 with regard to the management of public records, including the destruction, retention or withholding of records. Before destruction, retention or withholding of records can take place, the provisions as set out in the National Archives Act, 1986 must be adhered to.
A transferring body is the government department, court office or public body named in the schedule to the National Archives Act, 1986 that is legally obliged to transfer records more than 30 years old to the National Archives to facilitate long-term preservation and public access.
In the National Archives Act, 1986 1(2) the term ‘Department of State’ 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 term departmental record is defined in the National Archives Act, 1986 2(2) as any record in any form made or received, and held in the course of its business, by a Department of State, or any body which is a committee, commission or tribunal of enquiry appointed by the Government. It does not include:
Instruments of title relating to property for the time being vested in the state, and any part of the permanent collection of a library, museum or gallery.
No. Destruction of records is a breach of the National Archives Act, 1986 unless authorisation for disposal is granted by the Director of the National Archives.
This applies to the destruction of both paper and electronic records, including files that were originally paper records but scanned for access or to reduce storage space and costs.
National Archives staff may need to undertake an assessment/appraisal of records before a Certificate for the Destruction of Departmental Records can be issued. Departments of State are required under the National Archives Act, 1986, 7(7) to facilitate this assessment.
No destruction of records must take place without first contacting the National Archives at [email protected].
No. Permission is not required to destroy duplicate records or printed material. Duplicate records are defined as exact copies without any alteration. Any annotations or changes to a document render it an original, even where substantially it corresponds to other records.
Applications for disposal on an ongoing basis must be received for the destruction of Parliamentary Questions and Freedom of Information requests.
Each department, or section within in a department, must apply to the National Archives, prior to the transfer of any records, for a unique number for each series of records. This number will correspond to the year in which the transfer was requested and the next available number within that year. This unique identifier is used by the National Archives to process the records once they have been transferred for public inspection, and forms the basis of the unique reference code that will apply to that series of records or files.
Training is provided to staff of Departments of State, including Courts, who wish to transfer records to the National Archives for permanent preservation as archives. This training generally takes place over a half day and can be provided onsite in the requesting Department or the National Archives as appropriate. For further information or to arrange training please contact Archive and Government Services by email to [email protected].