The Department of Local Government and Public Health was established in 1924.  Health and welfare functions were transferred to  the new Department of Health in 1947.  The Department of Local Government continued from 1947 to 1977 when it was renamed the Department of the Environment.

It became the Department of Environment and Local Government in 1997 changing to the Department of the Environment Heritage and Local Government in 2003.


The functions of the Department of Environment are carried out through six divisions

  • Environment,
  • Water
  • Community and Rural Development,
  • Local Government,
  • Planning and Housing,
  • Finance and Central Services.

Met Éireann and the Local Government Audit Service is part of the Department.  The Department is responsible for a number of important national strategies including

  • National Sustainable Development Strategy,
  • National Climate Change Strategy,
  • National Spatial Strategy,
  • Rural Development Program,
  • Local Development Program,
  • Water Services Investment Program,
  • Housing Policy Statement.


The Environment Division is made of six sections.  It is responsible for the Department’s permanent representatives at EU level. Its objective is to promote the protection of the environment and human health while contributing to the development of a green economy and the global effort against climate change.

The Environment Policy and Awareness Section is concerned with environmental, waste matters and with The Environmental Protection Agency.  It provides a range of services to the public including promotion of the producer responsibility initiative through repacking, recycling etc., It runs a number of schemes in the area of environmental policy and awareness.  It has issued a significant to move publications in the area of environmental information and awareness.

The Environmental International Sustainable Development Section coordinates and prepares participation by the Department at EU Council level including the submission of proposals for legislation and matters concerning North-South cooperation.

The Environmental Compliance and Air Quality Section coordinates compliance with EU obligations as well as monitoring and reporting on transposition of European Union law and infringement of EU legislation in the environmental area. The section manages the EU and national air and noise plans.

The Waste Policy Division supports government policy and commitments in the area of waste.  It administers the Environmental Fund and receipts from various recycling levies.  It is focused primarily on policy development.

The Climate Change Policy Section seeks to ensure the implementation of the National Climate Change Strategy.  This includes steps to decrease greenhouse gas emissions and bring climate change adaptation into decision making at national and local level.

The Environmental Inspectorate Section provides technical and scientific analysis and advice in support of the Department’s Strategy.  It seeks to support the achievement of the objectives of the various business units in the Environment Division.  It provides technical support to the EPA and local authorities in implementing and enforcing environmental legislation.


The Water and Information Communication Technology Division is made up of a number of sections dealing with water. The  ICT Unit  seeks to protect and improve water resources, water dependent ecosystems,  provide water services infrastructure to support sustainable growth,  introduce new governance and pricing arrangements in the delivery and management of water and to ensure the appropriate regulation of the water sector.  The ICT Unit provides the information and communication system for the Department.

The Water Services Policy Section establishes and reviews water services delivery generally primarily through comprehensive water services legislation and the implementation of the government’s water services pricing policy framework.

The Water Services Investment Program Section seeks to manage capital provision for water and sewage services. The provision of water and sewage services itself was the responsibility of the Councils and is now the responsibility of Irish Water.  The Water Sector Reform Management Section seeks to drive the own program of water sector reform, developing program plans and managing and the achievement of critical milestones on delivery.

The Water Quality Section is responsible for policy and legislation on water quality issues.  It is responsible for transposition of EU and international water quality obligations with the EPA, local authorities and public bodies.

The Marine Planning and Foreshore Section is responsible for the management and enforcement of foreshore leases and licenses.  The section acts as landlords’ agents on behalf of the Department of Public Expenditure Reform/Finance. It deals with Foreshore Act consents.

The Water Inspectorate Section is responsible for advice and technical support for Water Services Investment Programs including the Rural Water Program,  water conservation, provision of professional advice and technical support in relation to the establishment of Irish Water and water quality issues arising from EU legislation.  It gives advice and support in relation to the delivery of infrastructure by way of design, build and operate construction, procurement and health and safety matters.

Community & Rural Division

The Community and Rural Development Division facilitates integrated development at local level and seeks to foster sustainable and inclusive communities and support the Voluntary and Community Sector in its contribution to an active, democratic and pluralist society. The Division is responsible for a range of program to support communities including the LEADER elements of the Rural Development Program, local and community development programs and a range of schemes in the Community and Voluntary Sector.

The EU Rural Development Section implements Axes 3 & 4 Rural Development Program using the LEADER approach.  Axes 1 & 2 is implemented by the Department of the Agriculture.  Axes 3 & 4 programs are administered by local development companies LEADER groups to the country.

The Rural Recreation Section oversees the National Countryside Recreational Strategy and Walks Scheme.  It convenes and supports Comhairle na Tuaithe, the Countryside Council, which consists of representatives from farming and recreational uses of the countryside and State bodies.

The Community and Voluntary Supports and Program Section supports voluntary activities and develops relationships between the State and Voluntary Sector.  It administers a number of schemes including the TidyTowns Scheme; co-ordinates and implements the Revitalising Areas by Planning Investment and Development Program.

The North/South EU Funding Programs and Local Government Services Section manages a number of cross-border programs, co-funded by the EU.   It also covers legislation on dog control, fairground equipment and burial grounds and has oversight of Irish water safety.

The Local and Community Development Program Section oversee the Local and Community Development Program.  It has oversight in relation to Pobal.  It oversees and supports the Social Inclusion Unit.

Pobal manages the program on behalf of the Department, which is delivered at a local level by 51 Local Development Companies.  The program aims to tackle poverty and social exclusion through partnership and constructive engagement between government, its agencies and persons in disadvantaged communities.

The Inspection Services Section is responsible for financial and administrative verification of program and measure-based projects carried out by a range of local actions, community groups and private promoters. It provides quality assurance on expenditure of public funds in a national and EU context.

Local Government

The Local Government Division seeks to shape, develop and support local government and represent and serve communities effectively.  It is made up of four sections.

The Local Government Personnel Section administers personnel and human resources on behalf of the Department, in respect of local authorities and state bodies under the aegis of the Department.  This includes sanctioning of posts, staffing and pay returns, overtime policy, superannuation, City and County Manager’s tenure, employment control framework and work force planning.  The section deals with the Reform Agenda in respect of local authorities and state bodies under the aegis of the Department.  It administers the local government superannuation legislation.

The Local Government Development Section undertakes specific projects relating to local and central government issues, in accordance with emerging priorities.  It provides input into the political and administrative system.   It implements government programs on local government reform; boundary extension applications and development of policy. It oversees the legislation relating to local and place names; and joint burial boards and drainage committees.

Local Government Policy and Motor Taxation Section works with local government to promote and support the local government in the delivery of efficiencies and  quality  services  under the program  of government commitments. It facilitates communications between the Minister and local authorities.  It maintains the legislative framework for the local government system.  It develops national policy on motor tax and oversees the motor tax system in co-operation with the Department of Transport, Tourism and Sport.

The Local Government Finance Section seeks to maintain a modern, flexible and relevant policy, and framework for local authority finance function; ensure  central  funding  to  local  authorities  via  the  Local Government Fund; promote efficiency and value for money in local authorities; develop best practice in financial management for local authorities; manage  the Local Government Fund,  including  investment of balances; monitor financial positions of local authorities; ensure due account is taken of government policies on local government finances.

The Local Property Tax Section provides policy and administrative support to the Government in the development of the local Property Tax.  It also deals with policy and administration in relation to the Household charge and Non-Principal Private Residence tax.

Housing and Planning Division.

The Housing and Planning Division is made up of six sections.   It seeks to enable all households to access good quality housing appropriate to their circumstances in their community of choice and provide an enhanced  planning  policy  and  legislative  framework  to promote  sustainable  economic  growth  and  balanced  regional development, in compliance with a strong planning code.

The Planning and Housing (Finance and Policy Development) Section develops and keeps the legislative policy and legislative framework for planning system up to date and for housing.  It is responsible for implementing priorities of  the National  Spatial Strategy  to  achieve  a  better  balance  of  social,  economic  and  physical development across Ireland and create more sustainable communities; support the operation of an efficient and transparent planning system;  and implement the Government’s housing policy statement; coordinate, manage and report on government expenditure in the Housing Sector.

It administers the following scheme: The Unfinished Housing Development Public Safety Initiative, The Home Choice Loan which operates through by authorised brokers.  This group issue mortgage arrears guidance manuals.

The Forward Planning Unit and Development Management/Legislation Units.  The Forward Planning Unit is responsible for the implementation of the National Spatial Strategy.  It seeks to achieve a better balance of social, economic and physical development across Ireland supported by more effective planning.  It seeks to spread employment opportunities and quality of life through the country.  It seeks to promote balanced regional development,

The Development Management/Legislation Units provides essential legislative framework and policy guidance to local planning authorities and A Bord Pleanála.  It seeks to minimise regulatory burdens and the cost of planning system.

It seeks to add value, by maintaining an up-to-date legislative and policy framework.  It seeks to ensure an effective development permission  system to facilitate the timely provision of infrastructure; provide and support mechanisms of better policy coordination and  cohesion  across  the  planning  system,  and  Government Departments; and develop the  capacity  to  identify emerging  trends and  issues  in  the planning policy area.

The Urban Policy and Enforcement Unit is responsible for urban development, planning enforcement and compulsory land acquisition.  It also has input into the EU/international work program on the urban environment.  It is responsible for developing a Development Contributions policy framework to support economic recovery and jobs and for interaction with An Bord Pleanála to support its efficient and effective operation.  The section also deals with the Derelict Sites legislation.

The Planning Inspectorate Section.

The Planning Inspectorate provides advice and support to the Department and to the Planning and Housing Division in relation to maintenance of an up-to-date regulatory and policy framework for planning.  It gives technical input to the key spatial policy documents like the National Spatial Strategy and Regional Planning Guidelines.  It provides technical analysis of the statutory development plans and local area plans in support of the Minister’s functions as one of the consultant parties.

It prepares statutory and non-statutory guidance for planning authorities and Bord Pleanála.  It is responsible for the ongoing development of the Department’s spatial planning information mapping system –; provides professional advice and support in relation to EU Directives in various expert contexts.  It provides technical and practical advice to local authorities on planning matters.  It provides wider technical and advisory services to other parts of the Department.

Social Housing Section

The Social Housing Section has primary role of managing an efficient and effective system for social housing.  It implements the Social Housing Reform Agenda as provided under the Housing (Miscellaneous Provisions) Act 2009, the transfer of rent supplement from the Department of Social Welfare to the housing  authorities, incremental  purchase  of  local  authority  dwellings,  land  aggregation  scheme.  The land aggregation scheme assists housing authorities in managing land loans and land banks held by them as housing authorities.

The Social Inclusion Section develops and implements policies to address the specific housing needs of persons with a disability.  This includes inter agency response, where there is a care and social dimension to the housing supports required.

The Homeless Unit oversees the development and implementation of policy, programs and actions to address homelessness and accommodation needs related to them.  It has devolved funding to nine regional Joint Homeless Consultative Forums. The Unit provides funding to local authorities to provide accommodation and services to the homeless.

The Social Housing Investment Program (Operational) Section manages the national maintenance and improvement program for the local authority housing stock.  This includes provision of limited new supply under the construction and acquisition programs.  It manages programs of regeneration for run-down local authority estates and city flat complexes.  It implements private housing grants and supports with a focus on older persons and persons with a disability.

The National Regeneration Program targets the most disadvantaged communities in the country.  These are defined by extreme social exclusion, unemployment and anti-social behavior.

The Traveller Accommodation Unit, within the Section seeks to maintain effective policy and framework for the implementation of an effective traveller accommodation program.  It provides funding and supports for traveller accommodation and supports the statutory National Traveller Accommodation Consultative Committee.  It engages in Cross-Departmental collaboration to    address Traveller accommodation issues.

The Local Authority Housing Capital Development Program is administered by the section. Under the program local authorities construct or provide housing to those on local authority waiting lists and with special needs through purchase or Part V agreements.

The Capital Assistance Scheme administers funding for the provision of accommodation, by Approved Housing Bodies and local authorities. The following are administered by local authorities; the The Energy Efficient Retrofitting Scheme and The Remedial Works Scheme

Housing Adaptation Grants Scheme for Older Persons and Persons with Disability. The Mortgage Allowance Scheme assist householders who are tenants to become owner-occupier.  Shared Ownership/Affordable Housing Subsidies.

The Social Housing Investment Program (Operational) section certified costs, reasonable cost for the purpose of urban renewal schemes.

The Housing Regeneration and Statistics Section is responsible for the development  and  regulation  of  the rented  residential  sector including: setting minimum standards;  supporting  local  authority  performance of  their  functions  and  enforcement of minimum standards; development  of  the Residential Tenancies Act and legislative  framework; supporting and overseeing the PRTB;  developing  a  regulatory  structure  within  which  voluntary  and cooperative  housing  sectors can  meet  social needs; Reviewing Part V of the Planning and Development Acts; collecting statistical data.

Cross Departmental

The Architecture/Building Standards section aims to: provide technical and professional advice on these matters to the Planning and Housing Division, across departmental structures, to local authorities, voluntary bodies and regeneration agencies.  It seeks to provide and evolve the building code in support of quality construction, sustainable development in compliance with EU requirements.

The Section assesses and advises on capital works projects in accordance with National Capital Appraisal framework, guidelines and Departmental policy.  It provides advice and guidance to the public under Building Control and Energy Performance regulations as well as Recognition of Professional Qualifications Directive in relation to the construction.

The Finance and Central Services Division is made up of a number of sections including:

Departmental Finance/Accounts; Personnel and Accommodation; Environmental Radiation Policy; Departmental Strategy Unit; National Directorate for Fire and Emergency Management; and  Franchise section.

The Departmental Finance and Account Section deal with financial accounts and management for the Department as a whole including the necessary participation in the annual vote, estimates and the budget.  It provides the accounting function for the Environment Fund and Local Government Fund.  The Value for Money Unit plays a coordinating role across a range of areas including Capital Appraisal, Private Partnership agenda and acts in EU Funding matters.  The Unit manages the Fixed Asset Register of the Department and is responsible for asset policies and procedures.

The Personnel and Accommodation Section deals with Human Resources matters for the Department.  It assists staff learning and development.  It delivers and manages accommodation and other facilities within the Department’s office portfolio.

The Environmental Radiation Policy group is responsible for promoting and progressing all aspects of Government policy in relation to nuclear safety and radiological protection in consultation with the Radiological Protection Institute of Ireland.  It regulates and controls man-made nuclear sources and the measurement and assessment of both natural and man-made radioactivity in the environment.  It represents the Irish Government in relation to nuclear matters at EU level and in other international fora.

The Departmental  Strategy Unit  deals with  strategic  planning  and  reporting including  Statements of Strategy,  Annual Reports and  Business Planning; statutory functions under the Official Language Act; freedom of information  requests  and  complaints from the Office of the Ombudsman.

The National Directorate for Fire and Emergency Action together with its Management Board and Consultative Committee develops national policies and strategies, implemented through the fire authorities, for fire safety and other emergencies.   It undertakes the lead government department role for 10 significant emergency scenarios, and co-ordinates across a range of departments, agencies, and entities.

The Franchise Section is responsible for developing legislation and systems in the context of electoral law and reform.  It is responsible for overseeing a modern accessible and fair electoral system.


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