PRONI Annual Releases

The PRONI 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.

'PRONI Annual Release' explained

Every year since 1976, official records held by PRONI which are 30 years old have been reviewed and some made publicly available.

In September 2011 the time limit for the release changed from 30 years to 20 years. This change is being phased in over 10 years, with two years’ worth of records being reviewed and released each year.

In 2018, the records of Northern Ireland (NI) departments and the Northern Ireland Office (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 make sure that a record contains nothing sensitive as defined by the Freedom of Information Act (FOI), General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) and the Data Protection Act (DP).

Records released in December 2018

  • 517 files being deemed as suitable for release as “fully open”
  • a further 158 files are open but subject to blanking out of some content
  • 26 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 significant issues covered by the 1994 release include:

  • Peace Envoy (U.S.) for Northern Ireland
  • Talks and political developments between the Northern Ireland parties and the Secretary of State for Northern Ireland
  • Prime Minister’s visit to Belfast
  • Ceasefires
  • SECRASP papers (Social, Economic and Community Relations Aspects of Security Policy)
  • Cross border economic cooperation
  • Security legislation (including ministerial consideration of Emergency Provisions and Special Category)
  • US / Northern Ireland relations, specifically fair employment (the MacBride principles)
  • Anglo Irish Intergovernmental Conference
  • Police Matters
  • Secretary of State’s briefings on various NI issues
  • Child abuse
  • Fisheries
  • Industrial development
  • Rural tourism
  • Youth training
  • Paramilitary activity
  • Rural development
  • 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 files to make them suitable for release under FOI.

For the release of as much information as possible, redaction can be used to blank out sensitive data within individual documents to make them suitable for release.

All information which is withheld, must be kept as per the exemptions contained within the FOI Act. In most cases, the reason for extended closure was the application of section 40 which is the personal information exemption of the FOI Act. This means that personal information can't be published as this would break the Data Protection principles.

Note that any file reference which ends with an ‘A’ means that an open part of a file has had certain information partly removed or blanked out due to a FOI Exemption.

What's 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

List of records released in 2018

2018 PRONI Annual Releases (end December, 2018):

Archive

To access the Annual Releases Archive visit the following page:

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