Wednesday, 11 October 1978
Dáil Eireann Debate
Mr. Horgan: asked the Minister for the Public Service the progress which has been made in the review of Government policy on access to State Papers announced by him in reply to a Parliamentary Question of 15 December 1977.
Minister of State at the Department of the Public Service (Mr. MacSharry): The review referred to by the Minister involved consideration of the access arrangements and wider changes regarding national archives and public records generally. This review is well advanced and I would hope to be able to announce the results fairly soon. The introduction of a National Archives Bill has been included in the programme for the current Dáil Session.
Mr. Horgan: Is the Minister aware, pending the completion of this review, that there seems to be a different policy operating in different Departments? For example, the Department of Finance is prepared to allow access to fairly recent State papers while other Departments, such as the Department of Foreign Affairs, are effectively operating a 60-year rule. Does the Minister accept that this disparity in practice as between different Departments is a healthy one?
Mr. MacSharry: When Departments were asked they facilitated individuals who were writing histories of Departments or State bodies but those individuals were governed by the Official Secrets Acts and were not allowed to publish anything without clearance by the Department concerned.
Mr. Horgan: Does the Minister accept it is highly unsatisfactory that any historical record of our international relationships since we achieved independence has still to be compiled exclusively from non-Irish sources because of the reluctance of the Department of Foreign Affairs, in particular, to allow access to papers?
Mr. Kelly: I do not in any way mean to be offensive towards the Minister of State, but is the House to take it that, because the Minister of State answered the first of the five questions addressed to the Minister for the Public Service, all these questions for that Department from now on will be answered by the Minister of State rather than by the Minister for the Department?
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