Monday 7 March 2011

1926 census release gets amber light

A Programme for Government agreed between the new coalition partners (Fine Gael and the Labour Party) includes a commitment to release the Irish 1926 census.

Given the destruction of Ireland's 19th-century census returns in 1922, access to the 1926 census returns has been an objective long pursued by the Council of Irish Genealogical Organisations (CIGO).

Although lobbied by both CIGO and the Genealogical Society of Ireland, the outgoing Fianna Fáil-led government never really grasped the compelling arguments in favour of allowing access to these census records. By contrast CIGO found Fine Gael's spokesman on Tourism, Culture and Sport, Jimmy Deenihan TD, very receptive to the arguments, which he explained reinforced the party's own policy development in relation to the stimulation of roots tourism.

And he went on to say that this fitted well with their plan to develop in Dublin "a national archives and genealogy quarter, providing easy access to archives and tapping into an area of cultural tourism which is of huge interest to the vast Irish Diaspora".

Of course researchers shouldn't hold their breath on this issue as it will take time to prepare the necessary legislation to amend the Statistics Act 1993 and, in line with Fine Gael policy, to formulate wording to allow for the redaction of so-called “sensitive” data (basically, information relating to persons who, by virtue of their age in 1926, might still be living).

Despite these issues, today's announcement is excellent news for everyone interested in genealogy research.