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Documents damaged in 1922 Four Courts fire to be restored and made public

A virtual record of documents from Ireland’s past will be launched online for the public.

THOUSANDS OF PAGES of documents which were damaged during Civil War fighting at Dublin’s Four Courts will be restored by an international research programme hosted at Trinity College.

The Beyond 2022 project is a partnership with the National Archives and Trinity College funded by the Department of Tourism, Culture, Arts, Gaeltacht, Sport and Media, aiming to restore the public records lost one hundred years ago.

Dublin Port Company has offered support to the state’s Beyond 2022 restoration efforts by funding the conservation of 200-year-old records concerning Dublin Port. 

Of the five surviving parcels of documents pertaining to the port, they chronicle salaries, pensions, custom taxes on wine, beef, pork, silk and linen.

They also contain fishing records from the summer of 1817 which include information on each ship, listing crew members and detailing the size and type of catch. 

Anti-treaty forces seized the Four Courts in April of 1922 and held it until June when fighting began with the pro-Treaty National Army.

The Battle of the Four Courts is regarded as the beginning of the Civil War, and anti-Treaty forces surrendered after a large explosion took place inside the building which then started a fire.

Census records dating back to the first census in 1821, were incinerated, as well as parish and court records, land deeds, and documents on British rule in Ireland from the 14th century onwards.

25,000 sheets of paper and parchment were retrieved from the rubble of the Four Courts and stored unopened in the National Archives until recent restoration work.

A spokesperson for the National Archives issued this statement to The Journal:

“The value of conservation is that documents can be cleaned to reveal text and handwriting, and damage can be repaired to make the pages stable so that they can be handled and used again. Conservation work is about ensuring that nothing gets lost and that access is provided.”

Restored documents will be launched on the National Archives’ website this June, one hundred years after the Four Courts blaze.

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The Director of the National Archives, Orlaith McBride, spoke on the historical importance of the restoration.

“The conservation of these records represents a significant contribution to the State’s key legacy project from the Decade of Centenaries.  The National Archives as successor institution to Public Record Office has held these records, salvaged from the fire in 1922, in its care for almost 100 years and has now begun the process of conservation,” she said.

Through a 3D experience online visitors will be able to re-enter the beautiful reading room of the Public Records Office of Ireland – the pre-cursor of the National Archives, as it appeared before its destruction.

Dr Peter Crooks, Trinity College Dublin and Academic Director of the Beyond 2022 project, said today:

“As each page of these fascinating archives is restored, another page of Irish history is returned to the public record. These documents provide a fascinating insight into everyday life 200 years ago – not only in Dublin, with its extensive trading network, but also across Ireland at large.”

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