About the project

Welcome to the online edition of Documents on Irish Foreign Policy (DIFP). DIFP is a public history programme for the study of modern Irish history through diplomacy. It aims to make the history of Irish foreign policy accessible to all and promotes public engagement with the history of Ireland’s international relations.

DIFP was established as a partnership between the Department of Foreign Affairs,[1] the Royal Irish Academy and the National Archives. The concept of a multi-volume series of documents on Irish foreign policy was put forward in 1994 by the then Department of Foreign Affairs. Mr Ted Barrington, then the Political Director of the Department, brought the proposal to a meeting of the Royal Irish Academy’s National Committee for the Study of International Affairs of which he was then a member. The then Tánaiste and Minister for Foreign Affairs, Mr Dick Spring, sanctioned the proposal, which was also welcomed by the then Director of the National Archives of Ireland, Dr David Craig, whose permission was necessary for the publication of material in his care. The Royal Irish Academy agreed to become a partner in the project when Council approved its foundation document on 3 April 1995.

The main provisions of that document are:

  • that the project’s ‘basic aim is to make available, in an organised and accessible way, to people who may not be in a position easily to consult the National Archives, documents from the files of the Department which are considered important or useful for an understanding of Irish foreign policy’;
  • that an Editorial Advisory Board, comprising representatives of the Department, of the Academy and of the National Archives, in addition to senior Irish academics working in the fields of modern history and international relations, would oversee decisions on publication;
  • that the series would ‘begin at the foundation of the State and publish volumes in chronological order’ and that the basic criterion for the selection of documents would be their ‘use or importance in understanding the evolution of policies and decisions’.

These arrangements found public expression in the 1996 White Paper on foreign policy, Challenges and Opportunities Abroad (16.48), which provided that ‘As part of the Government’s desire to encourage a greater interest in Irish foreign policy, it has been agreed that the Department of Foreign Affairs, in association with the Royal Irish Academy, will publish a series of foreign policy documents of historic interest. It is hoped that this initiative will encourage and assist greater academic interest in the study of Irish foreign policy’.

Document Sample

Provision for the project was first included in the Department’s Estimates for 1997 and a preliminary meeting of what became the Editorial Advisory Board, in Iveagh House on 10 April 1997, agreed that an assistant editor should be appointed in addition to the editors nominated by the National Committee for the Study of International Affairs: Professors Ronan Fanning MRIA, Dermot Keogh MRIA and Eunan O’Halpin MRIA. Dr Michael Kennedy was appointed in June 1997 when work began on the selection of documents. Dr Kennedy was in January 1998 designated as executive editor and is responsible for the direction and day-to-day running of DIFP.

The published documents are primarily selected from the records of the Department of Foreign Affairs and the Department of the Taoiseach, all of which are available for inspection at the National Archives at Bishop Street in Dublin. The National Archives Act (1986) provides for the transfer of departmental records more than thirty years old to the National Archives of Ireland for inspection by the public, unless they are certified to be in regular use by a Department for administrative purposes, or unless they are certified as withheld from public inspection on one of the grounds specified in the Act. Other material comes from the holdings of other repositories; the personal papers of many of the key figures who appear in the DIFP series are retained in UCD Archives. The Department of Foreign Affairs  documents in the National Archives have been made available to researchers since January 1991.

Historical Image

The first DIFP volume was published in November 1998. Subsequent volumes have been published at two-yearly intervals covering discrete periods from 1919 onwards, with volume XIII (1965-9) published in December 2022. Following an interval, the documents are subsequently made freely available online as the series progresses.

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[1] The Department of Foreign Affairs was known as the Department of External Affairs from December 1922 to 1971. From January 1919 to December 1922 the Department was known as the Department of Foreign Affairs or the Ministry of Foreign Affairs.

All images reproduced by permission of the Director of the National Archives. Full details of the images reproduced on this site can be found in John Gibney, Michael Kennedy, Kate O’Malley, Ireland: A voice among the nations (RIA, 2019).