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Monday, 13 May 2013

1926 Irish census moves closer to release?

This is a revised posting (proving that less haste saves time and doesn't get hopes up unnecessarily):

After appearing to stall, the release of the 1926 Irish census (for the 26 counties of the Republic only) may have moved forward a notch or two. Or (more likely) it may not.

A private member's bill has been published to amend the wording of the Statistics Act. It calls for special 'heritage status' treatment for the 1926 census as it was the first population census of the new Irish state, and to allow it to be released 'to the public for genealogical, historical and other research'.

As a private member's bill, this has little chance of being enacted. Very few private member's bills get past a second reading (only a handful have succeeded since 1937).

Last week, the Minister for Arts, Heritage and the Gaeltacht, TD Jimmy Deenihan, made a written response to a query about how the Government's plans to publish the census were progressing. He replied as follows:

"... the Programme for Government contains a commitment to enabling the publication of the 1926 Census records. A 1926 Census Working Group has been formed comprising officials from my Department, the National Archives and the Central Statistics Office. The group has met to consider how best to enable the publication of the 1926 Census records. Under current legislation, (the Statistics Act, 1993), census data must be withheld for 100 years. If the records were to be released before the expiry of 100 years a change in legislation would be required to allow for the early release. Following discussions with the CSO, the Minister is of the opinion that the extensive preparatory work required to facilitate the release of the data into the public domain can commence in advance of the legal restriction being adressed. The CSO and the National Archives have agreed to facilitate the preparatory work on the Census records."

We have, of course, heard very similar comments before. They suggest that administrative work is being carried out to prepare for the release once the legislation is in place. Other than this private member's bill, there are not, unfortunately, any steps being made to get the legislation in place.

Sorry to sound negative. I'd love this bill to get through and deliver the 1926 census. But best to be realistic, I think.