The following announcement was written by the Council of Irish Genealogical Organisations (CIGO):
The Irish Ombudsman, Emily O'Reilly, has published a report entitled Hidden History? The Law, the Archives and the General Register Office. Taking two years to complete, the report arose out of a complaint by a member of the public, a person well known to some members of the Association of Professional Genealogists in Ireland (APGI).
As was highlighted by CIGO during the Bill stages of the Civil Registration Act 2004, the complainant found that research in the actual original civil registers (dating back to 1845) was denied to him after the passing of the new Act. In giving the background to the case, and the issues which it highlighted, the Ombudsman's office sifted through all the available material, quoting only that which it saw as relevant. The Ombudsman's findings confirmed that the public has a right of access to all GRO records under the Civil Registration Act 2004 through searching the centralised indexes held at the GRO's Dublin-based research facility. However, in addition the Ombudsman found that under the National Archives Act 1986 the public also has a right of access to the original registers held at local registration offices around the country. The only caveat was that to fall under the provisions of the National Archives Act the registers must have been compiled thirty or more years ago.
As Ireland's leading representative genealogy organisations, both the Association of Professional Genealogists in Ireland (APGI) and CIGO were heavily consulted in the compiling of the report, providing both written and oral submissions. Most of the quotes in section 6 are attributable to Helen Kelly, President of APGI, or Steven Smyrl, one CIGO's two executive liaison officers. In particular Ms Kelly is quoted as saying “It is imperative that not only should APGI members have access to the actual registers (or copies of them) but that all genealogists and historians should have the same access. Microfilm copies of 'historic' national registers could easily be made available through such institutions as the National Archives and/or the National Library”.
In welcoming the report on behalf of APGI Ms Kelly said: "The Ombudsman's findings are a victory for common sense. Until 2004, under the former Victorian legislation, the public's right of access to locally held civil registers was enshrined in law. Arbitrarily, this right was stripped away under the 2004 Act and all locally held register books placed beyond reach." You can read more on APGI's response to the report here.
CIGO joins with APGI in calling "upon the GRO to make available to the Department of Arts, Culture & the Gaeltacht a copy of its database of scanned images of the civil registers so that those records can swiftly be added to the Department's website www.irishgenealogy.ie, where many other genealogy sources are already made publicly available for free". In addition, CIGO again reminds the GRO and the government department under which it operates (Department of Social Protection) of the calls made by it a decade ago in the report which issued from the massively attended public meeting organised by CIGO in Dublin on Saturday, 7th August 1999.
The report noted that the meeting has passed a unanimous resolution "to request the Minister for Health & Children to deposit microfilm copies of the important national archive that are the civil registers of birth, death and marriage, with the accompanying indexes, at National Library of Ireland. During 2000 the National Library will open its new 'genealogy wing' in which will be housed microfilm copies of many of Ireland's genealogical records. Presenting a copy of the registers up to at least 1900 would not only reward the National Library's initiative, but would have far reaching effects upon relieving the congestion in the GRO's Public Search Room." Details about the public meeting and the resolutions passed at it were subsequently published in The Irish Independent on the 19th January 2000.
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