In Ireland, local government functions are mostly exercised by thirty-one local authorities, termed County, City, or City and County Councils. The principal decision-making body in each of the thirty-one local authorities is composed of the members of the council, elected by universal franchise in local elections every five years. Irish Local Authorities are the closest and most accessible form of Government to people in their local community. Many of the authorities' statutory functions are, however, the responsibility of ministerially appointed career officials termed Chief executives. The competencies of the city and county councils include planning, transport infrastructure, sanitary services, public safety (notably fire services) and the provision of public libraries.
Local government in the state is governed by Local Government Acts 1925 to 2019, the principal act of which is the Local Government Act 2001. The Local Government (Ireland) Act 1898 is the founding document of the present system. The Twentieth Amendment of the Constitution of Ireland (1999) provided for constitutional recognition of local government for the first time in Ireland in a new Article 28A. The Local Government Reform Act 2014 changed the structure by the abolition of all town councils and the merger of certain county councils. The reforms came into effect in 2014, to coincide with that year's local elections.
in the Republic of Ireland
|Number||26 County Councils|
3 City Councils
2 City and County Councils
|Populations||43,229 (County Leitrim) – 527,612 (Dublin city)|
|Areas||54 km² (Galway city) – 7,468 km² (County Cork)|
Local electoral area
The county was a unit of judicial and administrative government introduced to Ireland following the Norman invasion. The country was shired in a number of phases with County Wicklow being the last to be shired in 1625. The traditional county of Tipperary was split into two judicial counties (or ridings) following the establishment of assize courts in 1838. Sixty years later, a more radical reorganisation of local government took place with the passage of the Local Government (Ireland) Act (1898). This Act established a county council for each of the thirty-three Irish counties and ridings. The geographic remit of the Irish Free State, which was established pursuant to the Anglo-Irish Treaty of 1921, was confined to twenty-six of the traditional counties of Ireland and thus included 27 administrative counties. To this number may be added the county boroughs. In 1994 Dublin County Council and the Corporation of Dún Laoghaire were abolished with their administrative areas being divided among three new counties: Dún Laoghaire–Rathdown, Fingal and South Dublin.
The 2001 Act simplified the local government structure, in which the principal tier of local government (county and city councils) cover the entire territory of the state and have general responsibility for all functions of local government except in 80 towns within the territory of county councils, where the lower tier (town councils) exists with more limited functions. The five county boroughs of Dublin, Cork, Galway, Waterford, and Limerick were re-styled as city councils under the Act, with the same status in law as county councils. The remaining county boroughs in place at the foundation of the state were downgraded by the 2001 Act to town council status.
In introducing a second tier of local government, the Act had the effect of:
From 1 January 2002 the existing Urban District Councils and boards of Town Commissioners were renamed as Town Councils. Additionally, the city of Kilkenny, along with the four towns of (Sligo, Drogheda, Clonmel, and Wexford) were reduced in status to the level of Town Council. In recognition of the previous history, the towns were permitted to use the title of "Borough Council" instead of "Town Council". There were 75 other town councils in addition to these five borough councils.
This structure was a modified version of the system introduced in 1898, with some county boroughs renamed as cities, urban districts and municipal boroughs renamed as town councils (or, as noted, boroughs), and rural districts abolished (everywhere except County Dublin in 1925, and in County Dublin in 1930). The distinction between urban district and "towns with town commissioners" had been abolished.
At various times in the past, other entities at a level below that of the county or county borough have been employed in Ireland for various judicial, administrative and revenue collecting purposes. Some of these, such as the barony and Grand jury, no longer fulfil their original purpose while retaining only vestigial legal relevance in the modern state. Others, such as the Poor Law Unions, have been transformed into entities still in use by the modern state, but again, their original functions have been substantially altered.
On 28 June 2011, the then-Minister for the Environment, Community and Local Government Phil Hogan announced that Limerick City Council and Limerick County Council would be merged into a single local council. The merger came into effect following the 2014 local elections. The new entity would be headed by a directly elected Mayor, with a five-year term. The Minister also said that he would not rule out other local council mergers and that the proposal for a directly elected Mayor for Dublin was being re-examined.
On 16 October 2012, the Department of the Environment, Community and Local Government published Putting People First, an "action plan for effective local government". The changes for the 2014 local elections were:
The civic and ceremonial status of existing cities, boroughs and larger towns was retained after being merged with counties. Those municipal districts that included existing cities or boroughs merged became either "metropolitan districts" or "borough districts". They continue to have mayors as do those districts containing county towns. In all other councils the equivalent office is known as Chair/Cathaoirleach or Leader. Each municipal district was issued with a new statutory charter setting out its powers alongside any historic charters that already existed.
On 6 June 2018, the government announced that Galway City Council and Galway County Council will merge into a single local authority by 2021 at the latest. Under the Local Government Act 2019, a plebiscite was held in Cork City, Limerick City and County, and Waterford City and County on whether to have a directly-elected mayor. It was only passed in Limerick, being rejected in Cork and Waterford.
|County or City Council||Historical
|Head Office||Title of Chair||Number||Per resident||Code|
|Carlow County Council||Leinster||56,875||897.9||63.3||Carlow||Cathaoirleach||18||3160||CW|
|Dublin City Council||Leinster||553,165||117.6||4,703.4||Dublin||Lord Mayor||63||8780||D|
|Dún Laoghaire–Rathdown County Council||Leinster||217,274||126.9||1,711.5||Dún Laoghaire||Cathaoirleach||40||5432||D|
|Fingal County Council||Leinster||296,214||453.1||653.8||Swords||Mayor||40||7405||D|
|South Dublin County Council||Leinster||278,749||223.0||1,249.9||Tallaght||Mayor||40||6969||D|
|Kildare County Council||Leinster||222,130||1,694.2||131.1||Naas||Mayor||40||5553||KE|
|Kilkenny County Council||Leinster||99,118||2,071.7||47.8||Kilkenny||Cathaoirleach||24||4130||KK|
|Laois County Council||Leinster||84,732||1,719.5||49.3||Port Laoise||Cathaoirleach||19||4460||LS|
|Longford County Council||Leinster||40,810||1,091.3||37.4||Longford||Cathaoirleach||18||2267||LD|
|Louth County Council||Leinster||128,375||831.9||154.3||Dundalk||Cathaoirleach||29||4427||LH|
|Meath County Council||Leinster||194,942||2,334.5||83.5||Navan||Cathaoirleach||40||4874||MH|
|Offaly County Council||Leinster||78,003||1,989.8||39.2||Tullamore||Cathaoirleach||19||4105||OY|
|Westmeath County Council||Leinster||88,396||1,824.9||48.4||Mullingar||Cathaoirleach||20||4420||WH|
|Wexford County Council||Leinster||149,605||2,365.3||63.3||Wexford||Cathaoirleach||34||4400||WX|
|Wicklow County Council||Leinster||142,332||2,032.6||70.0||Wicklow||Cathaoirleach||32||4448||WW|
|Clare County Council||Munster||118,627||3,442.3||34.5||Ennis||Cathaoirleach||28||4237||CE|
|Cork City Council||Munster||210,000 (est.)||187||1,122.9 (est.)||Cork||Lord Mayor||31||6774 (est.)||C|
|Cork County Council||Munster||331,574 (est.)||7,280.9||45.4 (est.)||Cork||Mayor||55||6028||C|
|Kerry County Council||Munster||147,554||4,734.6||31.2||Tralee||Cathaoirleach||33||4471||KY|
|Limerick City and County Council||Munster||195,175||2,760.0||70.7||Limerick||Mayor||40||4879||L|
|Tipperary County Council||Munster||160,441||4,304.2||37.3||Clonmel & Nenagh||Cathaoirleach||40||4011||T|
|Waterford City and County Council||Munster||116,401||1,858.7||62.6||Waterford||Mayor||32||3638||W|
|Galway City Council||Connacht||79,504||50.6||1,572.2||Galway||Mayor||18||4417||G|
|Galway County Council||Connacht||179,048||6,099.9||29.4||Galway||Cathaoirleach||39||4591||G|
|Leitrim County Council||Connacht||31,972||1,588.9||20.1||Carrick-on-Shannon||Cathaoirleach||18||1776||LM|
|Mayo County Council||Connacht||130,425||5,588.3||23.3||Castlebar||Cathaoirleach||30||4348||MO|
|Roscommon County Council||Connacht||64,436||2,548.0||25.3||Roscommon||Cathaoirleach||18||3580||RN|
|Sligo County Council||Connacht||65,357||1,837.5||35.6||Sligo||Cathaoirleach||18||3631||SO|
|Cavan County Council||Ulster||76,092||1,931.9||39.4||Cavan||Cathaoirleach||18||4227||CN|
|Donegal County Council||Ulster||158,755||4,859.5||32.6||Lifford||Cathaoirleach||37||4291||DL|
|Monaghan County Council||Ulster||61,273||1,295.9||47.3||Monaghan||Cathaoirleach||18||3404||MN|
[*] Six other Ulster counties are in Northern Ireland
Eurostat, the statistical Directorate-General of the European Union, uses a geographical hierarchy system called the Nomenclature of Territorial Units for Statistics (NUTS) for various statistical and financial disbursement purposes. The entirety of Ireland is a First-level NUTS of the European Union. The Second level (NUTS 2) divides the state into three broad areas. The Third level (NUTS 3) splits the Second level into a total of 8 regions. Below this are local administrative units (LAU) which are the basic statistical components for the regions, and in Ireland these are the electoral division (EDs). Electoral divisions have no local government functions, and are used solely for statistical purposes and for defining electoral boundaries.
Following the abolition of domestic property rates in the late 1970s, local councils have found it extremely difficult to raise money. The shortfall from the abolition of property rates led to the introduction of service charges for water and refuse, but these were highly unpopular in certain areas and led in certain cases to large-scale non-payment. Arising from a decision made by the Rainbow Government domestic water charges were abolished on 1 January 1997 placing further pressure on local government funding.
The Department of Finance is a significant source of funding at present, and additional sources are rates on commercial and industrial property, housing rents, service charges and borrowing. The dependence on Exchequer has led to charges that Ireland has an overly centralised system of local government.
It is worth noting that over the past three decades numerous studies carried out by consultants on behalf of the Government have recommended the reintroduction of some form of local taxation/charging regime, but these were generally seen as politically unacceptable. However, in 2012 the Local Government Management Agency was established to provide a central data management service to enable the collection of the Home Charge, the Non Principle Private Residence (NPPR) charge and the proposed Water charge.
The most recent report on local government funding, carried out by the Indecon Consortium, is due to be published in the near future.
Since 1999, Motor Tax is paid into the Local Government Fund, established by the Local Government Act 1998 and is distributed on a "Needs and Resources" basis.
In 2013, a local property tax was introduced to provide funding for local authorities.
Local government has progressively lost control over services to national and regional bodies, particularly since the foundation of the state in 1922. For instance, local control of education has largely been passed to Education and Training Boards, whilst other bodies such as the Department of Education and Skills still hold significant powers. In 1970 local government lost its health remit, which had been already eroded by the creation of the Department of Health in 1947, to the Health Board system. In the 1990s the National Roads Authority took overall authority for national roads projects, supported by local authorities who maintain the non-national roads system. The whole area of waste management has been transformed since the 1990s, with a greater emphasis on environmental protection, recycling infrastructure and higher environmental standards. In 1993 the Environmental Protection Agency was established to underpin a more pro-active and co-ordinated national and local approach to protecting the environment. An Bord Pleanála was seen as another inroad into local government responsibilities. Additionally, the trend has been to remove decision-making from elected councillors to full-time professionals and officials. In particular, every city and county has a manager, who is the chief executive but is also a public servant appointed by the Public Appointments Service (formerly the Civil Service and Local Appointments Commission), and is thus answerable to the national government as well as the local council. Therefore, local policy decisions are sometimes heavily influenced by the TDs who represent the local constituency in Dáil Éireann (the main chamber of parliament), and may be dictated by national politics rather than local needs.
Local government bodies now have responsibility for such matters as planning, local roads, sanitation, and libraries. The Minister for Housing, Planning and Local Government has responsibility for local authorities and related services. Fingal County Manager David O'Connor: "Local Authorities perform both a representational and an operational role because the Irish system of Local Government encompasses both democratic representation and public administration."
Administrative counties were a unit of local government created by an Act of the Parliament of the United Kingdom for use in Ireland in 1899. Following the separation of the Irish Free State from the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Ireland, administrative counties continued in use in the two parts of the island of Ireland under their respective sovereign jurisdictions. They continued in use until 1973 in Northern Ireland and until 2002 in the Republic of Ireland.Chief executive (Irish local government)
In local government in the Republic of Ireland, the chief executive of a city or county is the senior permanent official of its local authority. Whereas the county council and city council are elected officials who formulate policy, the chief executive is an appointed official who manages the implementation of policy. The position was introduced in 1929–42 based on the American council–manager government model, and until 2014 the chief executive was styled the county manager or city manager. Their salaries range from €132,511 to €189,301 per annum. The County and City Management Association (formerly the County and City Managers' Association) is the professional association for chief executives, and it is affiliated to the International City/County Management Association (ICMA).Council–manager government
The council–manager government form is one of two predominant forms of local government in the United States and Ireland, the other being the mayor–council government form. Council–manager government form also is used in both county and city governments in the United States. The council–manager form is also used for municipal government in Canada and many other countries, both for city councils and county councils.County borough
County borough is a term introduced in 1889 in the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Ireland (excluding Scotland), to refer to a borough or a city independent of county council control. They were abolished by the Local Government Act 1972 in England and Wales, but continue in use for lieutenancy and shrievalty in Northern Ireland. In the Republic of Ireland they remain in existence but have been renamed cities under the provisions of the Local Government Act 2001. The Local Government (Wales) Act 1994 re-introduced the term for certain "principal areas" in Wales. Scotland did not have county boroughs but instead counties of cities. These were abolished on 16 May 1975. All four Scottish cities of the time—Aberdeen, Dundee, Edinburgh, and Glasgow—were included in this category. There was an additional category of large burgh in the Scottish system, which were responsible for all services apart from police, education and fire.Institute of Public Administration (Ireland)
The Institute of Public Administration (IPA) is a recognised college of University College Dublin. It was founded in 1957 at a meeting in Newman House where Tom Barrington became the first director. It was established to be the main provider for of education, training and development services for the public service in Ireland, as well as research services. Until 2011 it was a recognized college of the National University of Ireland.The Whitaker School of Government and Management brings the IPA’s education and research activities together, and offers more than 30 qualifications accredited by University College Dublin. Named after the public servant and economist T. K. Whitaker, one of Ireland’s most eminent public servants, the School provides a wide range of part-time third-level programmes in, among other areas, public management, local government, healthcare management, HRM, finance, and business studies. These programmes have flexible delivery methods and are of different duration. They have long proved popular with those who want to obtain a high-level qualification while attending to their work and domestic obligations.List of cities, boroughs and towns in the Republic of Ireland
The following table and map show the areas in Ireland, previously designated as Cities, Boroughs, or Towns in the Local Government Act 2001.
Under the Local Government Reform Act 2014, only Dublin, Cork and Galway retain separate city councils. Limerick and Waterford were merged into the corresponding county councils and all borough and town councils were abolished. Municipal districts were created from local electoral areas, with councillors being those elected to the county councils. In the case of Limerick and Waterford, these are called Metropolitan Districts, while in the case of Drogheda, Wexford, Sligo and Clonmel, these are called Borough Districts.Local Government (Dublin) Act 1993
The Local Government (Dublin) Act, 1993 was an Act passed by the Oireachtas. It abolished the County Dublin and awarded county status to:
Dún Laoghaire–Rathdown and established Dún Laoghaire–Rathdown County Council,
South Dublin and established South Dublin County Council and
Fingal and established Fingal County Council.These new administrative counties have all the powers and institutions of the traditional counties.
Section 9 Part 1(a) states that on the establishment day (1 January 1994) the previous county of Dublin "shall cease to exist."
Section 15 Part 2 dissolved the former Dún Laoghaire Corporation.
The Act was enacted by the then Minister for the Environment, Michael Smith.Local Government Act 1925
The Local Government Act, 1925 (No. 5 of 1925) was enacted by the Oireachtas of the Irish Free State on 26 March 1925. Most of the provisions of the Act came into operation on 1 October 1925.
The Act abolished rural district councils (except in County Dublin), passing their powers to the county councils. The Irish Free State had inherited the local authorities created by United Kingdom legislation including the Local Government (Ireland) Act 1898 and Local Government (Ireland) Act 1919. The Act was the first Irish legislation with relation to the Local government. Elections were held on 23 June 1925.Local Government Act 2001
The Local Government Act, 2001 (No. 37 of 2001) was enacted by the Oireachtas of Ireland on 21 July 2001. Most of the provisions of the Act came into operation on 1 January 2002. The act was a restatement and amendment of previous legislation, which was centred on the Local Government (Ireland) Act 1898. The 2001 act remains in force, although significantly amended by the Local Government Reform Act 2014.
According to the explanatory memorandum issued before the passing of the Act, its purposes were to:
enhance the role of the elected member,
support community involvement with local authorities in a more participative local democracy,
modernise local government legislation, and provide the framework for new financial management systems and other procedures to promote efficiency and effectiveness,
underpin generally the programme of local government renewal.Local Government Act 2019
The Local Government Act 2019 (Act No.1 of 2019; previously the Local Government Bill 2018, Bill No. 91 of 2018) is an Act of the Oireachtas (Irish parliament) which provided for the following:
The transfer of territory to Cork City Council area from Cork County Council area, with effect from the 2019 local elections, thereby implementing the Cork Local Government Implementation Oversight Group's recommendations
The provision of plebiscites, which were held alongside the May 2019 local elections, to approve the principle of directly elected mayors for Cork City Council, Limerick City and County Council, and Waterford City and County Council, rejected in Cork and Waterford and only passed in Limerick. The proposed directly elected mayor for the Dublin metropolitan area was excluded from the act because of the greater complexity of the debate across four local government areas, with Fingal County Council having opposed previous proposals. Galway was also excluded because of the ongoing plans to merge Galway City Council and Galway County Council. On 2 April 2019 the government published more detailed proposals, agreed at the 20 March 2019 cabinet meeting, for the plebiscites and, for those passed, holding mayoral elections and granting powers to mayors. On 11 April 2019 the Dáil approved draft regulations for the plebiscites to take place. The Referendum Commission was not responsible for the plebiscites.Local Government Reform Act 2014
The Local Government Reform Act 2014 is an act of the Oireachtas providing for a major restructuring of local government in the Republic of Ireland with effect from the 2014 local elections. It merged some first-tier county and city councils, abolished all second-tier town and borough councils, and created a new second tier of municipal districts covering rural as well as urban areas. It also provided for a plebiscite on whether to create a directly elected executive Mayor of the Dublin Region (distinct from the existing ceremonial office of Lord Mayor of Dublin city) although this provision was not activated. The act was introduced as a bill on 15 October 2013 by Phil Hogan, the Minister for the Environment, Community and Local Government, and signed into law on 27 January 2014 by President Michael D. Higgins. Most of its provisions came into force on 1 June 2014.Local electoral area
A local electoral area (LEA) is an electoral area for elections to local authorities in Ireland. All elections use the single transferable vote. The boundaries of LEAs are defined by statutory instrument in terms of lower-level units called electoral divisions (EDs).Lord Mayor of Cork
The Lord Mayor of Cork (Irish: Ard-Mhéara Chathair Chorcaí) is the honorific title of the Chairman (Irish: Cathaoirleach) of Cork City Council which is the local government body for the city of Cork in Ireland. The office holder is elected annually by the members of the Council. The incumbent is John Sheehan (FF).Rural district
Rural districts were a type of local government area – now superseded – established at the end of the 19th century in England, Wales, and Ireland for the administration of predominantly rural areas at a level lower than that of the administrative counties.Town commissioners
Town commissioners were elected local government bodies established in urban areas in Ireland in the 19th century. Larger towns with commissioners were converted to urban districts by the Local Government (Ireland) Act 1898, with the smaller commissions continuing to exist beyond partition in 1922. The idea was a standardisation of the improvement commissioners established in an ad-hoc manner for particular towns in Britain and Ireland in the eighteenth century. The last town commissioners in Northern Ireland were abolished in 1962, while in the Republic of Ireland the remaining commissions were renamed as town councils in 2002. They were finally abolished and replaced with local electoral areas following the enactment of the Local Government Reform Act 2014 on 1 June 2014.Town council
A town council, village council, shire council or shire (mainly in the United Kingdom, Canada, Australia, New Zealand, Malaysia, South Africa and other Commonwealth Nations) or rural council is a form of local government for small municipalities.
Usage of the term varies under different jurisdictions.Town councils in the Republic of Ireland
In Ireland, a town council was part of the second (or lower) tier of local government. Operating in smaller towns and cities, they exercised limited functions which were subsidiary to those of their relevant county council. The term was introduced into local government in Ireland by the Local Government Act 2001. From 1 January 2002 the existing urban district councils and boards of town commissioners were renamed as town councils. Additionally, the city of Kilkenny, along with the four towns of (Sligo, Drogheda, Clonmel, and Wexford) were reduced in status to the level of town council. In recognition of the previous history, the towns were permitted to use the title of "borough council" instead of "town council". There were 75 other town councils in addition to these five borough councils. Outside the towns, the county councils were solely responsible for local services.
On 16 October 2012, the Department of the Environment, Community and Local Government published Putting People First, an "action plan for effective local government". The Town Councils were abolished in June 2014 when the Local Government Reform Act 2014 was implemented.Twentieth Amendment of the Constitution of Ireland
The Twentieth Amendment of the Constitution Act 2001 is an amendment to the Constitution of Ireland which provided constitutional recognition of local government and required that local government elections occur at least once in every five years. It was approved by referendum on 11 June 1999 and signed into law on 23 June of the same year. The referendum was held the same day as the local and European Parliament elections.Urban district (Great Britain and Ireland)
In England and Wales, Northern Ireland, and the Republic of Ireland, an urban district was a type of local government district that covered an urbanised area. Urban districts had an elected urban district council (UDC), which shared local government responsibilities with a county council.
Local government in Europe
|States with limited|
Local government in the Republic of Ireland
|City and County councils|