Public access to the Irish Land Commission records would be in the public interest, secretary general at the Department of Agriculture Brendan Gleeson has said.
In a letter to the Oireachtas Committee on Public Accounts (PAC) recently, he said that the Department is considering how best to ensure that the records will be made available to the public in the future.
“How this might be achieved has yet to be finalised and will involve consultations with a number of stakeholders.
“For now, the Department will remain focused on finding the best way to digitise the search/finding aids for the [Land Commission] records with a view to preserving the integrity of the collection and making the search aids electronically available to the public as a first step,” he said.
Primary role to assist purchasers
Former Land Commission records located in this State are currently held and managed by the records branch of the Department.
“The primary role of records branch is to assist purchasers of property and their successors clarify issues on title by searching for and retrieving documents contained within the former [Land Commission] records.
“The records branch has been developed and structured over the years with these specific operational functions in mind and is not currently set up to appropriately cater for public access to these records,” he said.
Gleeson said that making the records available to the public would therefore give rise to structural and operational challenges for his Department.
These challenges will first need to be resolved before a policy decision to make the records available to the public can be made and implemented, he said.
Last year, Minister for Agriculture Charlie McConalogue said that the Department had no immediate plans to digitise the vast archive of records.
The records of the former Land Commission are stored in a modern facility in Portlaoise, the Minister said, adding that the warehouse is climate controlled to ensure that conditions are optimal for the storage of paper records.
In 2019, a major project to upgrade the map storage and filing system was completed.