HC Deb 05 July 1923 vol 166 cc614-5
63. Sir W. SUGDEN

asked the Under-Secretary of State for the Colonies when the Irish records and documents will be deposited in the Public Records Office in London; when he hopes to have the same available to industrial, historical, and political students; and to what date and period of documents will the public have access?

The UNDER-SECRETARY of STATE for the COLONIES (Mr. Ormsby-Gore)

It is not intended to transfer any records from Ireland to this country, but it has been agreed between the two Governments that the Record Office in Dublin and public records should be placed in the control and custody of a judicial authority occupying a position analogous to that of the Master of the Rolls and that the right of access of accredited' representatives of the British Government or of the Government of Northern Ireland to records not open to public inspection should be fully assured. Unfortunately, as the hon. Member is no doubt aware, the greater part of the contents of the Record Office in Ireland were lost in the destruction of the Four Courts in which the Irish Record Office was situated.


Will the hon. Gentleman take note of the fact that a large number of these priceless records were wilfully destroyed in Ireland some time ago; and in view of the fact that it is necessary that these records should be carefully preserved, will he have them brought over to this country for safety?


The answer is in the negative.


Have the Irish Free State Government any property in these records? Do they not, in fact, belong to the British Government, and will not the British Government protect them?


Was it not arranged that these documents should be brought over to this country for safety?


I have nothing to add to my answer that it was arranged between the two Governments that the Record Office should remain in Dublin. After all, these documents are largely required by persons still resident in Ireland. I agree that a very large number of the most valuable of them have been destroyed, but to transfer the remainder to this country would cause great inconvenience to the members of the legal profession practising in Dublin.


Do not these documents, in fact, belong to the British Government and, therefore, ought we not to protect them?


I am not aware of that. I do not know that they do belong to the British Government, but that is a question which, I am afraid, I am not in a position to answer.


Is it not a fact that, from an historical standpoint, there will be such a gap if these documents do not come to London as has not obtained in the history of any civilised country for 300 years?


Will the Northern Government of Ireland be compelled to send their documents over here?