Dáil Éireann - Volume 508 - 06 October, 1999
Written Answers. - Secret Documentation.
Mr. J. Bruton Mr. J. Bruton
39. Mr. J. Bruton asked the Taoiseach the individual or individuals in his office responsible for the confidentiality and security of documentation he receives which are classified as secret, and if he will make a statement on the matter. [18907/99]
The Taoiseach Bertie Ahern
The Taoiseach: Following approval by the Government of the report of the interdepartmental committee on the protection of classified official information, the Department of Finance issued guidelines for Departments in October 1998. In accordance with those guidelines, it is a matter for each Department to adopt procedures to preserve the confidentiality of its classified documents. The procedures to be adopted would vary from Department to Department and from division to division within Departments, depending upon the nature of individual records, the reason for classification, the number of people who must have access, the frequency of access, etc.
The guidelines were brought to the attention of heads of divisions in my Department in November 1998. In accordance with the requirements of the Finance circular, a review at assistant secretary level of the amount of, and necessity for, material classified as “top secret” will be undertaken shortly.
 Overall, and having regard to modern developments in this area such as the Freedom of Information Act, the intent of the Finance circular was to keep the number of documents to be designated “top secret” to an absolute minimum, to restrict their circulation and to ensure appropriate arrangements for their safekeeping. Documents to be classified in this way would be of a type whose release would: put at risk the life or safety of any individual, pose a serious threat to security, defence or international relations, undermine the police or judicial processes involved in dealing with serious crime, adversely affect developments in relation to Northern Ireland, and pose a serious risk to the economic interests of the State.
Access to “secret” documents in my office is very restricted. My private secretary retains all documents of this nature in a locked safe if they are not in my personal possession. Certain senior staff in my Department and certain of my senior advisers see some documents but only on a need to know basis. They are individually responsible for such documents while they are in their possession.
In the case of the report of the authorised officer in the Ansbacher affair the report was sent to my private secretary and marked strictly private and confidential. The last paragraph of the covering letter indicated that the material enclosed was to be retained in strict conditions of secrecy under the Companies Act. In the circumstances I instructed my private secretary to place it in the safe in my office and it remained there ever since under my direct control. I did not, in this instance, circulate it or give a copy of it to any of my officials or advisers.
Dáil Éireann 508 Written Answers. Secret Documentation.