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Local government in the Republic of Ireland

Local government
in the Republic of Ireland
CategoryUnitary state
LocationIreland
Number
  • 26 County Councils
  • 3 City Councils
  • 2 City and County Councils
Populations31,972 (County Leitrim) – 592,713 (Dublin city)
Areas54 km² (Galway city) – 7,468 km² (County Cork)
Government
  • Council government
Subdivisions

The functions of local government in the Republic of Ireland are mostly exercised by thirty-one local authorities, termed County, City, or City and County Councils.[1][2][3] 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 from multi-seat local electoral areas using the single transferable vote. Many of the authorities' statutory functions are, however, the responsibility of ministerially appointed career officials termed Chief executives.[4] 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.[2] Each local authority sends representatives to one of three Regional Assemblies.[5]

Local government in the state is governed by Local Government Acts 1925 to 2024, the principal act of which is the Local Government Act 2001.[6] The Local Government (Ireland) Act 1898 is the founding document of the present system.[7] 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.[8][9][10]

Historical development

Pre-independence

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. County Tipperary was divided into two judicial counties (or ridings) following the establishment of assize courts in 1838. 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.

Sixty years later, a more radical reorganisation of local government took place with the Local Government (Ireland) Act 1898. This Act established a county council for each of thirty-three Irish administrative counties (County Tipperary was divided with North Riding and South Riding) and a county borough corporation in six cities that were separate from their respective counties. Each county was divided into urban and rural districts. Urban districts in the area of five municipal boroughs retained the style and title of a borough with a corporation. In all other places, a district council was established. Smaller towns retained town commissioners within rural districts.

Development since 1922

The geographic remit of the Irish Free State, established in December 1922 pursuant to the Anglo-Irish Treaty of 1921, was confined to 26 of the traditional counties of Ireland, which included 27 administrative counties and four county boroughs.

Rural districts were abolished everywhere except County Dublin in 1925, and in County Dublin in 1930.

In 1994 County Dublin and the borough of Dún Laoghaire were abolished with their administrative areas being divided among three new counties: Dún Laoghaire–Rathdown, Fingal and South Dublin. The state was divided into eight Regional Authorities.

The Local Government Act 2001 simplified the local government structure, with the principal tier of local government (county and city councils) covering the entire territory of the state and having general responsibility for all functions of local government except in 80 towns within the territory of county councils, where the lower tier (town councils) existed with more limited functions. The five county boroughs of Dublin, Cork, Galway, Waterford, and Limerick were re-styled city councils, with the same status in law as county councils. The lower-level tiers of borough corporations, urban district councils and town commissioners were reduced to a single tier of town council, with five permitted to retain the title of borough council: the city of Kilkenny and the four towns of Sligo, Drogheda, Clonmel, and Wexford.

The Local Government Reform Act 2014 enacted changes which took effect after the 2014 local elections:

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 or Cathaoirleach. Each municipal district was issued with a new statutory charter setting out its powers alongside any historic charters that already existed.[11]

At the 2019 Limerick City and County Council election, voters approved a proposal in a plebiscite on the establishment of a directly elected mayor for Limerick City and County by a vote of 52.4%.[12] The 2024 Limerick mayoral election will take place in June 2024, the first directly elected mayor in Ireland.

County and city councils

Region Local authority Population
(2022)[13]
Area
(km2)
Population density Head office Title of Chair Number[14] Resident per member Regional Assembly members Code[a]
Eastern and Midland Eastern and Midland 2,529,358
Dublin City Council 588,233 118 5,002 Dublin Lord Mayor 63 9,337 7 D
Dún Laoghaire–Rathdown County Council 233,457 127 1,840 Dún Laoghaire Cathaoirleach 40 5,836 3 D
Fingal County Council 329,218 453 727 Swords Mayor 40 8,230 3 D
Kildare County Council 246,977 1,694 146 Naas Cathaoirleach 40 6,174 3 KE
Laois County Council 91,657 1,720 53 Portlaoise Cathaoirleach 19 4,824 2 LS
Longford County Council 46,634 1,091 43 Longford Cathaoirleach 18 2,591 2 LD
Louth County Council 139,100 832 167 Dundalk Cathaoirleach 29 4,797 2 LH
Meath County Council 220,296 2,335 94 Navan Cathaoirleach 40 5,507 3 MH
Offaly County Council 82,668 1,990 42 Tullamore Cathaoirleach 19 4,351 2 OY
South Dublin County Council 299,793 223 1,344 Tallaght Mayor 40 7,495 3 D
Westmeath County Council 95,840 1,825 53 Mullingar Cathaoirleach 20 4,792 2 WH
Wicklow County Council 155,485 2,033 76 Wicklow Cathaoirleach 32 4,859 3 WW
Northern and Western Northern and Western 900,937
Cavan County Council 81,201 1,932 42 Cavan Cathaoirleach 18 4,511 2 CN
Donegal County Council 166,321 4,860 34 Lifford Cathaoirleach 37 4,495 3 DL
Galway City Council 83,456 53 1,575 Galway Mayor 18 4,636 2 G
Galway County Council 192,995 6,100 32 Galway Cathaoirleach 39 4,949 3 G
Leitrim County Council 35,087 1,589 22 Carrick-on-Shannon Cathaoirleach 18 1,949 2 LM
Mayo County Council 137,231 5,588 25 Castlebar Cathaoirleach 30 4,574 3 MO
Monaghan County Council 64,832 1,296 50 Monaghan Cathaoirleach 18 3,602 2 MN
Roscommon County Council 69,995 2,548 27 Roscommon Cathaoirleach 18 3,889 2 RN
Sligo County Council 69,819 1,838 38 Sligo Cathaoirleach 18 3,879 2 SO
Southern Southern 1,693,241
Carlow County Council 61,931 898 69 Carlow Cathaoirleach 18 3,441 2 CW
Clare County Council 127,419 3,442 37 Ennis Cathaoirleach 28 4,551 2 CE
Cork City Council 222,333 198 1,123 Cork Lord Mayor 31 7,172 2 C
Cork County Council 358,898 7,281 49 Cork Mayor 55 6,525 5 C
Kerry County Council 155,258 4,735 33 Tralee Cathaoirleach 33 4,705 3 KY
Kilkenny County Council 103,685 2,072 50 Kilkenny Cathaoirleach 24 4,320 2 KK
Limerick City and County Council 205,444 2,760 74 Limerick Mayor 40 5,136 3 L
Tipperary County Council 167,661 4,304 39 Clonmel & Nenagh Cathaoirleach 40 4,192 3 T
Waterford City and County Council 127,085 1,859 68 Waterford Mayor 32 3,971 2 W
Wexford County Council 163,527 2,365 69 Wexford Cathaoirleach 34 4,810 3 WX
Ireland 5,123,536 70,182 73 949 5,399
  1. ^ Vehicle registration plate code. The code may cover the area of multiple local government areas, as in the case of the 4 areas of Dublin.

European Union territorial divisions

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 Ireland into three regions which have a Regional Assembly. The Third level (NUTS 3) divides these regions into 8, each of which is a strategic planning area.[15] Below this are local administrative units (LAUs) which are the basic statistical components for the regions; in Ireland these are the local electoral areas (LEAs).[16]

Funding

Following the abolition of domestic property rates in the late 1970s, local councils 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.[17] The dependence on Exchequer has led to charges that Ireland has an overly centralised system of local government.

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.[18][19][20]

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.[21]

In 2013, a local property tax was introduced to provide funding for local authorities.

Responsibilities

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, while other bodies such as the Department of Education 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."[22]

See also

References

  1. ^ "Local Government Administration". Department of Housing, Planning and Local Government. Archived from the original on 13 November 2018. Retrieved 2 March 2019.
  2. ^ a b "Irish Local Government Management Agency". Archived from the original on 2 August 2021. Retrieved 2 March 2019.
  3. ^ "Local Government Administration". Department of Housing, Planning and Local Government. Archived from the original on 6 March 2019. Retrieved 2 March 2019.
  4. ^ "Irish Local Government Management Agency 2012 Board Membership". Archived from the original on 9 June 2018. Retrieved 28 April 2013.
  5. ^ Local Government Act 1991 (Regional Assemblies) (Establishment) Order 2014 (S.I. No. 573 of 2014), "5. (1) A regional assembly specified in column (3) of Schedule 1 shall consist of the number of members specified in column (4) of that Schedule opposite the mention in the said column (3) of that regional assembly.". Signed on 16 December 2014. Statutory Instrument of the Government of Ireland. Retrieved from Irish Statute Book on 5 March 2022.
  6. ^ Local Government (Mayor of Limerick) and Miscellaneous Provisions Act 2024, s. 1 (No. 7 of 2024, s. 1). Enacted on 6 March 2024. Act of the Oireachtas. Retrieved from Irish Statute Book on 9 May 2024.
  7. ^ Local Government (Ireland) Act 1898 (c. 37 of 1898). Enacted on 12 August 1898. Act of the UK Parliament. Retrieved from Irish Statute Book on 4 March 2021.
  8. ^ Telford, Lynsey (16 October 2012). "'Long overdue' reform of local Government to save €420m". Irish Independent. Archived from the original on 18 November 2012. Retrieved 16 October 2012.
  9. ^ "Phil Hogan says local government reform will save €420m". RTÉ News. 16 October 2012. Archived from the original on 19 December 2012. Retrieved 16 October 2012.
  10. ^ Carroll, Steven (16 October 2012). "Local authority plan 'to save €420m'". The Irish Times. Archived from the original on 7 November 2012. Retrieved 16 October 2012.
  11. ^ "Putting People First" (PDF). Department of the Environment, Community and Local Government. October 2012. Archived from the original (PDF) on 5 June 2014. Retrieved 16 October 2012.
  12. ^ "Result of the Direct Election of Mayor Plebiscite for Limerick City and County". Limerick City and County Council. 27 May 2019. Archived from the original on 8 June 2021. Retrieved 6 March 2021.
  13. ^ "FP003 Preliminary Population 2022 & FP005 Components of Population Change 2016 to 2022". 23 June 2022. Archived from the original on 25 August 2021. Retrieved 29 June 2022.
  14. ^ Local Government Reform Act 2014, s. 15: Number of members of local authorities (No. 1 of 2014, s. 15). Enacted on 27 January 2014. Act of the Oireachtas. Retrieved from Irish Statute Book.
  15. ^ "Information Note for Data Users: revision to the Irish NUTS 2 and NUTS 3 Regions". Central Statistics Office. Archived from the original on 13 November 2018. Retrieved 2 March 2019.
  16. ^ "LOCAL ADMINISTRATIVE UNITS (LAU)". Eurostat. Archived from the original on 14 January 2020. Retrieved 5 March 2022.
  17. ^ "Local Government Finance". Archived from the original on 14 June 2013. Retrieved 28 April 2013.
  18. ^ Local Government Management Agency (Establishment) Order 2012 (S.I. No. 290 of 2012). Signed on 26 July 2012. Statutory Instrument of the Government of Ireland. Retrieved from Irish Statute Book on 4 March 2021.
  19. ^ "What we do". Local Government Management Agency. Archived from the original on 28 February 2021. Retrieved 4 March 2021.
  20. ^ Water Services Act 2013, s. 26 (No. 6 of 2013, s. 26). Enacted on 20 March 2013. Act of the Oireachtas. Retrieved from Irish Statute Book on 4 March 2021.
  21. ^ Local Government Act 1998 (No. 16 of 1998). Enacted on 29 May 1998. Act of the Oireachtas. Retrieved from Irish Statute Book on 4 March 2021.
  22. ^ "County Manager David O'Connor's quotation – Fingal County Council". Archived from the original on 26 February 2012. Retrieved 24 February 2012.

Bibliography

  • 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)
  • Desmond Roche, Local Government in Ireland (1982)
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Local government in the Republic of Ireland
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