Lack of access to Land Commission records ‘unacceptable’, says historian

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A leading historian has said the Irish Land Commission records are “unnecessarily being kept locked away” by the State, preventing vital research.

rofessor Terence Dooley of Maynooth University says the full, complex story of Ireland’s revolutionary period can only be told when the Land Commission records are made accessible to researchers.

The records, now housed in Portlaoise, remain closed to the research public on, Mr Dooley says, the pretext that they are working records and do not come under Freedom of Information legislation.  

“For 70 years, questions have been asked in the Dáil as to why they have remained closed, and the answer is the same in 2021 as it was back then,” he said.

“For decades, I have been arguing that the history of Ireland, from the Land Commission’s establishment in 1881 – and, indeed, well before, because of the records the Commission inherited – is being unnecessarily kept locked away. So, therefore, is the history of how the Irish revolution eventually played out after 1923. I believe this is now unacceptable.”

Mr Dooley said that the information stored in the records ‘illuminated’ this period.

“The personal family information is no more sensitive than [what] is contained in the IRA pension claims, which required people to bare their souls for a few, but important, pounds per month.”

In a statement, a spokesperson for the Department of Agriculture, which has responsibility for the records, said there are no immediate plans to make the eight million or so records generally available to the public.

“The records are stored at a Department of Agriculture facility in Portlaoise, are available in paper format only and are fragile, some dating back as far as the late 1800s,” the spokesperson said. “In order to maintain them, it is essential that they are handled and stored appropriately.

“Wider access and digitisation will be a matter for consideration when the completion of the work of the former Commission is at a more advanced stage.”

Online Editors

Source: Irish News