Release of files from the Department of Justice, Equality and Law Reform 1934-1939

The Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform, Mr Dermot Ahern, T.D. today announced that his Department has transferred a total of 1000 files covering the period 1934 -1939 to the National Archives. These files consist of records relating to National Security and Northern Ireland matters.

Speaking at their release today at the national Archives, Minister Ahern said: "The release of these records underlines my continuing commitment and that of my Department to repay the debt to history by providing greater access for historians and academic researchers to documents and records of the Department that are likely to be of particular interest to them. By placing these records in the National Archives now it will be possible for the general public to have access to them too."

The release of this material is a result of the work of the Archives Advisory Group, chaired by Professor Mary Daly, UCD, and established in 2006 to advise the Department on the historical value of the archive records which it holds, or are under its control, which are over 30 years old. The Group was also given the task of advising the Department on the arrangements it could put in place to make these records available for the purpose of advancing academic research, including any guidelines and conditions that could be applied by the Department in granting access to the records for that purpose.

Minister Ahern continued: "There are many matters of interest to historians and researchers contained in these files which will throw more light on this period of our history. They will undoubtedly contribute to a more complete understanding of the development of the State during its early years. They show clearly the challenges which the State faced in the period leading up to the declaration of the Emergency in 1939."

The Minister also thanked the Archives Advisory Group for its work, which is continuing.

4 February 2009


Note to Editors

The Archives Advisory Group was appointed in February 2006 by the then Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform with the following terms of reference.

'To advise the Department on the historical value of the archive records which it holds, or are under its control, which are over 30 years old.

To advise the Department on the arrangements it could put in place to make records available for the purpose of advancing academic research, including any guidelines and conditions that could be applied by the Department in granting access to the records for that purpose.'

The membership of the Group consists of:

Professor Mary Daly, Principal, College of Arts and Celtic Studies, UCD, (Chairperson)
Professor Ronan Fanning, Emeritus Professor of Modern History, UCD
Professor Dermot Keogh, Professor of History, UCC
Professor Eunan O'Halpin, Professor of Contemporary Irish History, TCD
Dr. Gerard Hogan, SC.
Dr. Margaret O'Callaghan, Senior Lecturer in Politics, Queens University, Belfast
Mr. Thomas Quinlan, Senior Archivist, National Archives
Mr. Val O'Donnell, Department of Justice, Equality and Law Reform
Mr. John Cronin, Department of Justice, Equality and Law Reform
Mr. Gerry Shannon, Department of Justice, Equality and Law Reform,
Secretary to the Group.


Description of files released

A range of matters of general policy and administration are dealt with on these files. The main historic developments include:

  • Incidents arising from the resistance in many areas of the country to the Government policy of collecting and enforcing rates and agricultural annuities in the 1930s ( the ‘ no rents - no rates’ campaign), including major incidents such as the shooting at Marsh’s Yard, Cork in August 1934;
  • Developments related to communism, communist activities and membership of communist - related organisations;
  • Tensions within the Republican movement, including the formation of Republican Congress in 1934;
  • Monitoring the activities, armaments, strength and threats posed by various illegal organisations, including the IRA;
  • Rise of the Blueshirt/League of Youth movement; conflict between it and the IRA; splits within Blueshirt/LOY movement;
  • Intimidation and attacks on members of the national Volunteer Reserve, introduced in 1934;
  • Incidents connected with the German Consulate in Dublin;
  • Many cases dealt with the special Military Tribunal established under Article 2A of the (former) Constitution, between 1931 and 1937;
  • Incidents involving armed attacks on members of the Garda Siochana;
  • Special protection measures for politicians at various times;
  • Incidents related to the Coronation of King George VI in May 1937.


The files also include certain high profile cases such as from the period:

  • Murder of Richard More O’Ferrall in Co. Longford (in 1935) ,
  • Murder of Vice Admiral Henry Boyle Sommerville in Co. Cork (in 1936);
  • Murder of John Egan in Co. Waterford (in 1936);
  • The Cobh Outrage (involving the shooting of British soldiers in 1923);
  • The suicide of Sean Glynn in Mountjoy Prison (in 1936);
  • Protection of Protestants and Protestant property in the State (in the aftermath of anti-Catholic riots in Belfast in July 1935);
  • Proposed disposal of Kevin Barry Hall in Dublin (in 1936);
  • Various incidents arising from the ongoing Lough Foyle Fisheries Dispute (1929 – 1939);
  • Explosion at Castlefin, Co. Donegal (in 1938) in which three individuals/IRA members were killed;
  • Leakage of Matriculation Papers at U.C.C. (in 1937).


This is the second tranche of files to be released as a result of the work of the Group.

The first tranche, covering the period from 1922 to 1933, was released in June 2007.