PRONI Annual Releases

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.

What is the PRONI Annual Release?

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 year, the records of NI Departments and the NIO with terminal dates of 1993 were brought forward for release during August 2018 and the records of 1994 were brought forward for release during December 2018. This process 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, GDPR and the DP Act.

Records released - August 2018

There are 527 files being deemed as suitable for release as “fully open”.  A further 227 files are open but subject to blanking out of some content.  35 files remain closed in full, the bulk of which are individual prisoner files.

The main file series being released includes Central Secretariat files.

Issues covered

Some of the main issues covered by the 1993 release include:

  • Political developments and talks between the Northern Ireland parties and the Secretary of State
  • SECRASP papers (Social, Economic and Community Relations Aspects of Security Policy)
  • Cross border economic cooperation
  • US / Northern Ireland relations, specifically fair employment (the MacBride principles)
  • Anglo Irish Intergovernmental Conference
  • British/Irish Inter-Parliamentary Body
  • Political Development Group papers
  • Secretary of State’s briefings on various NI issues
  • Child abuse
  • Fisheries
  • Historic Monuments
  • Industrial development
  • Rural tourism
  • Youth training
  • Paramilitary racketeering
  • Rural development
  • Forensic science laboratory explosion
  • Police matters
  • Civil emergencies


Full and partial closure

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.

What is usually published?

More recently, PRONI publishes:

A full list of all 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’ files which may be of particular historical significance, containing:

  • PRONI reference number
  • file covering dates
  • longer description (usually a paragraph)
  • department file number

What was released this year?

2018 Annual releases (end August, 2018)


To access the Annual Releases Archive visit the following page:

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