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NAI Records on CAIN
About the National Archives, Ireland

The National Archives, Ireland is the official holder of the records of the modern Irish state and as such documents its historical evolution and the creation of its national identity. In keeping with its mission statement the National Archives, Ireland secures the preservation of any records within the state which warrant preservation as archives and seeks to make arrangements to allow public access to the archives. These records therefore provide researchers with a range of primary source material that allow them to study the political, social and economic forces that have shaped the modern Irish state. Furthermore such material also allows for the study of Government policy and encourages greater use of archival heritage by the general public.

photo of signs on building On 1 June 1988 the National Archives, Ireland assumed responsibility for functions previously carried out by two separate bodies. The first of these was the State Paper Office which had been created in 1702 as the repository for records relating to the administrations of the various Lord Lieutenants (the English monarch’s representative in Ireland) who up until that date had taken all of their records with them on leaving office. The State Paper Office remained situated in Dublin Castle until 1990. The second body was the Public Record Office of Ireland which was located in the Four Courts complex in Dublin. The Public Record Office of Ireland was established by way of the Public Records (Ireland) Act 1867 and was given the task of acquiring all administrative, court and probate records over the twenty years old. Unfortunately at the beginning of the Irish Civil War in June 1922 the repository building in the Four Courts complex was destroyed by fire and explosion resulting in the loss of most of the records it held.

After the establishment of the modern Irish state in 1922 the State Paper Office and the Public Record Office continued to exist and function for over sixty years. Then in 1986 the National Archives Act abolished both bodies with their functions and holdings being transferred over to a new National Archives, which was also given responsibility for the preservation of the records of Departments of State and a range of central government bodies listed in a schedule to the Act. A few years later in 1989 premises in Bishop Street in Dublin were assigned to the National Archives, Ireland. The premises of the former State Paper Office in the Record Tower at Dublin Castle were vacated in August 1991 and the headquarters of the National Archives, Ireland moved from the Four Courts to Bishop Street in September 1992.

Initially the National Archives Act 1986 gave ministerial responsibility for the National Archives, Ireland to the Taoiseach (the Irish Prime Minister). Then in 1993 this was transferred to the newly established Department of Arts, Culture and the Gaeltacht which in 1997 was re-named Department of Arts, Heritage, Gaeltacht and the Islands. In 2002, the National Archives was transferred to the Department of Arts, Sport and Tourism and then in 2010, to the Department of Tourism, Culture and Sport. As of 2011 the National Archives, Ireland operates under the Department of Arts, Heritage and the Gaeltacht.

Documents Held
Currently the National Archives, Ireland holds millions of records and these are divided into a number of different holdings. The main ones are as follows:

  • Archives of Government Departments relating mainly to the period 1922–1980;
    Archives of the Chief Secretary's Office and its associated offices for the period 1790–1922;
  • Archives of other governmental agencies operating mainly in the 19th and 20th centuries, but including some archives from the 17th and 18th centuries;
  • Archives of the courts and probate registries dating mainly from the late 19th and 20th centuries, but including some items dating from the 14th century;
  • Archives acquired from other sources, including Church of Ireland parishes, harbour boards, health boards, hospitals, schools, charities, trade unions, business firms, solicitors' offices, estate offices and private individuals, relating especially to the 19th and 20th centuries, but including material for the 17th and 18th centuries;
  • Transcripts, calendars, abstracts and indexes relating to original records dating from the 13th to the 19th century which were destroyed in 1922.

Further information about the National Archives can be found on its Website:


last update 23 May 2023


CAIN contains information and source material on the conflict and politics in Northern Ireland.
CAIN is based within Ulster University.

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