Local government in the Republic of Ireland

Local government in the Republic of Ireland

Local government in the Republic of Ireland is governed by the "Local Government Acts", the most recent of which (Local Government Act 2001) established a two-tier structure of local government. The Local Government (Ireland) Act 1898 is the founding document of the present system of local government. The Twentieth Amendment of the Constitution of Ireland (1999) provided for constitutional recognition of local government for the first time in Ireland.


The top tier of the structure consists of 29 county councils and five city councils. Twenty-four of the 26 traditional counties have had county councils since 1898; Tipperary has had two, for North Tipperary and South Tipperary), also since 1898; and since 1994 the traditional County Dublin has had three, for the administrative counties of Dun Laoghaire-Rathdown, Fingal, and South Dublin). The five cities of Dublin, Cork, Limerick, Waterford, and Galway have city councils, which have the same status as county councils.

The second tier of local government consists of town councils. The city of Kilkenny and four towns which had borough corporation status before 2001 (Sligo, Drogheda, Clonmel, and Wexford), are allowed to use the title of "Borough Council" instead of "Town Council", but they have no additional responsibilities. There are 75 other town councils in addition to these five borough councils. Outside the towns the county councils are solely responsible for local services.

This structure is a modified version of the system introduced in 1898, with county boroughs renamed as cities, urban districts and municipal boroughs renamed as towns (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" has been abolished.


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 January 1 1997 placing further pressure on local government funding.

The Irish Exchequer 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 the Republic 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 are generally seen as politically unacceptable. 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 [http://www.irishstatutebook.ie/1998_16.html] and is distributed on a "Needs and Resources" basis.


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 Vocational Education Committees, whilst other bodies such as the Department of Education and Science 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 Pleanala 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 [http://www.publicjobs.ie 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.

Local government bodies now have responsibility for such matters as planning, local roads, sanitation, and libraries. The Minister for the Environment, Heritage and Local Government has responsibility for local authorities and related services.


* Desmond Roche, "Local Government in Ireland" (1982)
* Mark Callanan and Justin F. Keogan, "Local Government in Ireland Inside Out" (2003)
* Matthew Potter, "The Government and the People of Limerick. The History of Limerick Corporation/City Council 1197-2006" (2006)

External links

* [http://www.environ.ie/en/LocalGovernment/LocalGovernmentAdministration/ Department of the Environment and Local Government - Local Gov't Overview]
* [http://www.citymayors.com/government/ireland_government.html CityMayors article]

See also


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