Thursday, 17 February 2005
Irish Genealogical Project.
Question 6: To ask the Minister for Arts, Sport and Tourism when he expects the Irish genealogical project to be completed; the reason for the delay in completion, in view of the fact that 1994 was the target year of completion; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [5311/05]
The Department of Arts, Heritage, Gaeltacht and the Islands acquired responsibility for the Irish genealogical project from the Department of the Taoiseach in October 1997. The Irish genealogical project is building a very valuable genealogical resource which documents the key life events of all our ancestors. The Internet presents us with an opportunity to make an index of genealogical data available to all those who seek to trace their ancestry. I launched the Irish Genealogy Limited website in October 2002. A key feature of this website is the central signposting index, which is a database of 2.8 million records now available to search on the Internet.
Irish Genealogy Limited was incorporated in 1993 to function as the central co-ordinating and marketing agency for the Irish genealogical project. The project's primary aim is to include all church and civil records up to 1900. The number of records involved is in excess of 20 million. The updating of parish or church records is a central platform in the creation of a genealogical database because they predate civil registration. To date, more that three quarters of the target church records have been indexed by the 35 county based genealogy centres. The business plan for Irish Genealogy Limited for the years 2005-07 aims to have completed 90% of church records by the end of 2007. This year, I am allocating €395,000 to Irish Genealogy Limited, which is up 4% on spending last year, to enable the company press ahead with the delivery of its business plan.
When this project was set up, 1994 was given as the date of completion. Yet ten years later, we have a considerable way to go. As a result, many people living in countries such as the US, where 40 million people claim Irish ancestry, and in other places, such as the UK, Australia and Argentina, are very disappointed that they cannot trace their roots. There is a growing interest in genealogy and it is a very important element of our tourist industry. When foreigners make the genealogical connection, they come to Ireland to find their roots. In view of the importance of this project, will the Minister consider allocating additional financial resources? This year's increase is only €15,000 more than last year. Will he consider additional recruitment so that more people can go through the records?
It is a matter of financial resources and personnel. The records are there to be recorded, but the resources are not there to record them. Will the Minister prioritise this area of responsibility? It is very important for the reasons outlined.
As I said, we have substantially increased funding for Irish Genealogy Limited. It is desirable that we increase it further, but unfortunately I do not have the resources required. It is encouraging that the project will be 97% complete by the end of 2007. Substantial progress has been made and I agree with Deputy Deenihan that it is of immense importance from the perspectives of Irish emigrants and their descendents who are seeking to ascertain their roots. The project has been extremely successful and while it would be desirable to conclude it even more expeditiously, the fact that it will be completed in the not-too-distant future is worthy of note.