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These things are, officially, secret

I’ve written before about the Irish state’s love of all things secret. When I went rummaging in the legislation that governs how the state keeps things from becoming known I spotted one little moment in the chain when we could- at least obliquely- get a peep at what was being hidden from us.

Every year, the state’s agencies and ministries are meant to send their files that are 30 years old to the National Archives, where they are free for the public to examine.

Obviously, the state is frequently not really happy about this. So, every year, its agencies and ministries invoke the exceptions provided for in the National Archives Act so they can keep things they don’t want the public to see hidden from view.

But, to do this in line with the Act, they have to get a Certificate exempting each file from being released. And the Certificates have to, however briefly, describe those files.

So, just for starters, I FOI’d some of those certificates. Specifically, those issued between 2011 and the end of 2014. It took a few months of back and forth with the Department of the Taoiseach but I think, after a slight hiccup that delayed release for four months, the outcome was pretty good.

Here then, compiled into a single package, are all the Certificates exempting Irish state files from public scrutiny that were “signed by the Consenting Officer in the Department of the Taoiseach, in relation to the withholding of files by government departments/public bodies under section 8(34) of the National Archives Act 1986, between 1st January 2011 and 1st January 2015.”

Over the next week, I’ll be picking out some of my favourite gems from the pile of hundreds and hundreds listed across just those few years. And, though I might be busy with the arrival of a new baby at some point, do @ me on twitter @Tupp_ed if you see anything fun too.

You can also read the Irish Time’s reports on these files;

Shergar and phone tapping files withheld from public
Certificates reveal what files Government wants kept hidden

Full FOI on National Archive exemption Certificates

Direct download link: Full FOI on Certificates 2011-2015