The following announcement was written by the Association of Professional Genealogists in Ireland (http://www.apgi.ie):
National Library allows public access to Roman Catholic parish registers for Cashel & Emly, Cloyne and Kerry.
The Association of Professional Genealogists in Ireland (APGI) welcomes the announcement from the National Library of Ireland that they are once again to allow public access to their microfilm copies of Roman Catholic parish registers from the dioceses of Cashel & Emly, Cloyne and Kerry.
At APGI’s annual general meeting last December the matter of restricted access and, in the case of Cashel & Emly, total closure of these historical records was raised. A resolution was passed calling on the National Library to immediately lift all such restrictions in accordance with a legal opinion given as long ago as 1994, when the matter was the subject of an article in Irish Roots magazine (1994, Number 2, pp.23-24).
The National Library’s collection of microfilms covers the surviving pre-1881 baptismal and marriage records of almost all Roman Catholic parishes throughout Ireland. These records are fundamental to genealogical research for most people of Irish descent. The registers were microfilmed in the 1950s and 1960s. As they then included records of living people, they were made available only with the written permission of the relevant parish priest. In the 1980s, through the intervention of the then Chief Herald of Ireland, Mr. Donal Begley, this requirement was lifted by the relevant bishops for most dioceses, including Cashel & Emly. Having unrestricted access to these records revolutionised research for the thousands of tourists who visited Ireland each year but who had had limited time for family history research.
In 1991 the new Archbishop of Cashel & Emly, Dr. Dermot Clifford, claimed copyright in the manuscript parish registers and stated that he was giving the Tipperary Heritage Unit (now known as Tipperary Family History Research, and based in Tipperary town) exclusive rights to provide and market information from them. The holders of microfilm copies of the registers, primarily the National Library and the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints (Mormon Church), were informed to withdraw the films from public access. In 1992 the National Library did so. For the past sixteen years no one has been allowed to view the microfilms from Cashel & Emly.
In 1994 the National Library was supplied with a legal opinion by Muireann O Briain, S.C., which dismissed the notion of copyright in a manuscript which were created for the purpose of maintaining records and which was not ‘the work of one person or of joint authorship’. Ms. O Briain further stated that even if copyright were upheld anyone using microfilm copies of the registers for research purposes would not be infringing any such copyright. It is believed that the National Library subsequently commissioned further legal opinions which did not differ materially from Ms. O Briain’s, but it is only now that the microfilms are being reopened.
The reopening of Cashel & Emly records is of major importance to those trying to trace their ancestry in an area covering almost half of Co. Tipperary as well as a large part of East Limerick. No longer will those seeking their heritage have to be denied access to church registers at Ireland’s National Library.