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Annual releases

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What is the PRONI Annual Release?

The annual release of selected official files continues against a background of greater public access through the Freedom of Information Act (2000), balanced against the need to protect personal information.  The FOI Act (2000) created a new access to information regime and all records were reviewed in accordance with both that Act and the Data Protection Act (1998).
The files are being released under the 30/20 Year Rule.
Annually since 1976, official records held by PRONI which were 30 years old have been reviewed with a view to making them publicly available (“the 30 year rule).  In September 2011, the Assembly accepted a Legislative Consent Motion to reduce the time limit for release from 30 years to 20 years (“the 20 year Rule”). This is underpinned by the Freedom of Information Act 2000 and the amendments made to it by the Protection of Freedoms Act 2012.
The 20 year rule is being phased in over 10 years, with two years worth of records being reviewed and released each year.  This is the first year of the phasing-in period; records of the NI Departments and the NIO with terminal dates of 1983 and 1984 have been brought forward for review and release in December 2013.
This involves the referral of the files to the responsible authority for sensitivity review. This entails a page by page examination to ensure that a record contains nothing sensitive as defined by the FOI Act and DP Act.
Records Released
1,047 files being deemed as suitable for release as “fully open”.  A further 366 files are open but subject to redaction or partial closure of some content.
The main file series being released includes Central Secretariat and Northern Ireland Office files.
Some of the main issues covered by the 1983-84 release include:
  • The 1983 Maze escape
  • Political developments
  • Work of the NI Assembly
  • Cold War era nuclear attack (‘emergency survival’) planning
  • Child abuse allegations, the 1984 Committee of Inquiry into Children’s Homes and Hostels (including Kincora, Rubane, and the repercussions from the Hughes and Sheridan Reports)
  • Fluoridation of the water supply
  • Issues concerning Travellers Camps
  • Development schemes for areas of urgent need, such as Poleglass, Belfast
  • Vietnamese refugees
  • Security and policing
  • Research into poverty and social deprivation
  • Work to support victims of domestic abuse
  • Alcohol / solvent abuse and attempts to reduce the problem
  • Anglo-Irish economic cooperation (including cross border industrial and tourism initiatives)
  • Possible merger between the University of Ulster and Ulster Polytechnic
  • Religious education in Secondary schools
  • Irish speaking schools
  • Approaches by Sinn Fein to UK Government, to gain access to prisoners
  • Repercussions following the Special Category Status Hunger Strikes
  • International Red Cross meetings regarding prisoners conditions
  • Use of Irish Language / literature in NI Prisons
  • ‘Converted’ prisoners (Supergrass)
Records may be closed either fully or in part only. Partial closure involves the removal of a limited number of papers from the file that have been deemed as exempt from the right to know under FOI. To facilitate the release of as much information as possible, redaction can be used to blank out sensitive data within individual documents that would otherwise prevent release. All information which is withheld in the manner outlined above, however, must be retained in accordance with the exemptions contained within the FOI Act. In the majority of cases, the reason for extended closure was the application of section 40 – the personal information exemption – of the FOI Act. This means that personal information is exempt from the right to know if it would breach the Data Protection principles.
Please note that any file reference which ends with an ‘A’ denotes an open part of a file which has had certain information partially removed or blanked out under a specified FOI Exemption.
More recently, PRONI publishes:
A full list of all 30 year old files brought forward for release in a given year, containing:
  • Access decision
  • PRONI reference number
  • File covering dates
  • Short description (usually no more than one line)
  • Department file number
A highlights list of ‘opened’ 30 year old files which may be of particular historical significance, containing:
  • PRONI reference number
  • File covering dates
  • Longer description (usually a paragraph)
  • Department file number
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What was released this year?

2013 Annual releases (end December, 2013)

What was released in previous years?

Files released in previous years are listed in the Annual Releases archive.
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PRONI records on CAIN

A selection of digital versions of documents released under the annual release scheme are available at the University of Ulster’s CAIN (Conflict Archive on the INternet) website Opens a new browser window. .
The records selected by CAIN are ones which relate to the politics and conflict in the region. The records mainly cover the period 1968 to 1982. There are over 830 PRONI public records on the CAIN site comprising approximately 3400 pages.
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Further Information