Fórsa official Sean Carabini says that, when a new government is formed, the union intends to press it to properly fund the National Archive service and review the legislation governing the maintenance and publication of State records.
This follows 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.
Fórsa says the next government should 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 National Archives.
As things stand, high-profile organisations like NAMA, the National Treasury Management Agency, the Garda Ombudsman, and Tusla, have no legal obligation to maintain and archive records for eventual release to the public.
The union 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.
Sean also called for more recruitment to the National Archive, where the staff complement is currently 25% below the number identified as necessary in a recent workforce plan. The organisation lags behind comparable state archive bodies in Denmark, Scotland and Northern Ireland in terms of the employment of qualified archivists and other relevant specialists.
“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. 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,” he said.
The union says a properly-resourced National Archive would bring about cost savings as well as service improvements, including making more records available. These include over 70 palates of currently-uncatalogued nineteenth century material on land transfers following the disestablishment of the Church of Ireland.