First of all, I would like to say that as somebody who is interested in our history, and particularly our social history, I welcome Senator O Murchu’s proposed amendment to the Statistics Act which would ensure the provisions of the 1993 Statistics Act to no longer apply to the 1926 Census. This would, in turn, mean that the 1926 Census results could be released immediately, which would mean that the first Census undertaken by the Irish Free State would be available in time for the centenary commemorations.
I gather that the Minister believes that extensive preparatory work required to facilitate the release of the data into the public domain can commence in advance of the legal restriction being resolved. The CSO and the National Archive have agreed to facilitate the preparatory work on the Census records. As a reference point, the 1901-1911 Census project cost approximately €5 million.
An enabling strategy for this has been accepted by Cabinet which would, hopefully, keep costs down: as the present National Archives staff is insufficient in size for the demands imposed by this work, Minister Howlin’s department, it is envisaged, will identify resources through redeployment of existing clerical staff and use of the Jobsbridge programme.
Similarly, the Department has been working with the OPW with regard to fitting out accommodation for the project to be carried out, as the National Archives premises in Bishop Street would not have the facilities.
I can see the merits of this project and the motivations behind it, and I know that Irish people have a wonderful association with history and geneaology and that census information is the best way to imbue family history with life and illuminate these connections. In this, the year of the Gathering, as people whose families long ago emigrated seek to keep in touch with their heritage, I believe that publishing data such as this is now more important than ever.