Wednesday 5 February 2020

Fórsa calls for more investment in the National Archives

Fórsa, the largest union voice in the Irish civil and public service, has called for more recruitment to the National Archives of Ireland (NAI), where the number of staff is now 25% below the recommended level.

In the union's Civil Service News Bulletin published today, Assistant General Secretary Seán Carabini said that when a new government is formed (after this weekend's election), the union will press it to properly fund the National Archive service and review the legislation governing the maintenance and publication of State records.

“A properly resourced national archive is an important part of any democracy as it allows us to examine and learn from the records of state," he said. "As we commemorate the events that led to the establishment of our state 100 years ago, it’s imperative that we put resources into building an archive able to house, maintain and display the next hundred years of our story.”

His comments follow the publication last December of a report by the union’s Archivists’ Branch, which described a service creaking under the pressure of staff and skills shortages, expanded responsibilities, new technologies, space constraints, and legislative shortcomings.

The repository lags behind comparable state archive bodies in Denmark, Scotland and Northern Ireland in terms of the employment of qualified archivists and other relevant specialists.

Fórsa, which represents more than 80,000 members, believes a properly-resourced National Archive would bring about cost savings as well as service improvements, including making more records available. These include some 70 pallets of currently-uncatalogued 19th-century material on land transfers following the disestablishment of the Church of Ireland.

Mr Carabini called on the next government to also give priority to an overhaul of archive and record-management legislation to require public service bodies established since 1986 to maintain and transfer records to the NAI.

It also wants better physical infrastructure to store electronic records, and improved staffing and procedures across Government departments and offices to ensure that records are properly managed.