Historic security papers to be released (Ireland)

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An expert advisory group has recommended the release of the Department of Justice's historic material covering a 30-year period from the foundation of the State. This means that records relating to national security and Northern Ireland up to the 1950s are to be made available for historians, researchers and the general public.

In its interim report released yesterday, the Justice Archives Advisory Group concluded that the documents should be transferred over the next 12 months to the National Archives, where they can be made available for unrestricted access. The group, which includes a number of eminent historians, was appointed by Minister for Justice Michael McDowell last February to advise the department on the historical value of its archive of national security records. This comprises records in its possession or under its control and which are more than 30 years old.

It was also asked to advise the department on the arrangements it could put in place to make these records available for research purposes.

The eight-member group was chaired by Prof Mary Daly of the College of Arts and Celtic Studies at UCD.

Its principal recommendation is for the transfer of these records to the National Archives, in stages over the next 12 months.

Mr McDowell yesterday congratulated the group on its work, noting that the interim report dealt with records held by the department relating to security and Northern Ireland matters from the foundation of the State up to 1956.

"By any standards this archive represents a veritable treasure trove of material from the perspective of Irish historians," Mr McDowell said.

"The Department of Justice has long been stereotyped as a secretive and closed institution. In fact my initiative to open up the records to public access has been strongly supported by the senior officials in the department and it is gratifying that the group's conclusions have vindicated and confirmed my own view, and that of my officials, as to the historical value and significance of this archive," he said.

As a result of the initiative, "several new chapters of Ireland's 'secret history' in the twentieth century will now be put before the Irish people", Mr McDowell added.

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