Declassified files: British files being released much faster than those in Dublin

Hundreds of files have been declassified in Belfast
Hundreds of files have been declassified in Belfast

Most of the files on which the News Letter today reports have been declassified at the Public Records Office in Belfast under the new 20-year-rule.

The new regime in which records are released after two decades rather than three is being phased in, with two years’ worth of files being released each year – one set in the summer and one set at the end of the year.

From today, any member of the public can visit the Public Records Office of Northern Ireland (PRONI) in Titanic Quarter and view the original files for themselves.

The files are released based on the year in which they were closed. That means that files which were closed in 1988 may contain documents which go back several years, or in some cases decades.

The National Archives at Kew in London are releasing files relating to 1987 and 1988, but also some files from 1986.

However, the Republic of Ireland still operates to a 30-year-rule, meaning that today’s releases relate to 1985.

That has led to concerns among some historians that the official story of the Troubles era is increasingly being told through British records, because they are the first to be released.

Under the current regimes in the UK and Ireland, files relating to the period of the 1998 Belfast Agreement will be released by Britain in 2021, but Dublin’s files will not be declassified for another eight years, in 2029.