The Constitution requires that local government elections are held every five years.  This provision was inserted in the Constitution in 1999.  It had followed periods when local government elections were postponed by law pending local government reforms.

Local government elections take place on broadly the same principles as Dail elections.  The legislation is set out in  the Local Government Act, 2001 and regulations made thereunder.

The local government electors are persons entered on the register of electors.  They must be aged 18 years and upwards and ordinary resident in the area concerned.  Councils maintain the registers of electors which they update periodically.

The Local Government Act (No. 2) 2003 made arrangements in connection with abolition of the so-called dual mandate.  It repealed the provisions regarding direct elections of Cathaoirleach.

An Irish citizen whether or not resident, and others ordinarily resident in the State who are at least 18 years are eligible to be elected as members of local authority.  Local elections are generally held in May or June in the fourth and ninth year of each decade.

Each local authority area is divided into electoral areas by statutory instrument.  It fixes the number of members for the area concerned.  Each local area is a multi-seat constituency.

Most town authorities comprised a single electoral area.  Where there are two local government entities within the area such as a town council and a county council, town residents voted in both.  The functions carried out are distinct and that the town council will undertake some of the functions within its area that the county council will undertake for the entire county.

The Minister is to determine electoral revisions and may alter them.  A boundary committee makes recommendations to the Minister in relation to local electoral areas.  The Minister may or may not accept the recommendations of the committee.  The Local Government Act, 2001 provided for an independent local government commission to make recommendations in relation to local electoral areas.

The number of councillors for each local authority is fixed by the Local Government Act, 2001.  It can be varied by the minister on application made by the local authority.

Certain persons are disqualified from being members of local authorities. Included in persons disqualified are

  • Government Ministers and Ministers for state,
  • members of the Garda Siochana or permanent defence forces.
  • Civil servants unless specifically exempted by their contract.
  • Local authority employees unless exempted prisoners and persons who have been surcharged by local government auditor.
  • Persons who have failed to pay monies due to local authorities.
  • Persons convicted of offences of dishonesty.
  • Members of the Dail and Seanad (since 2003)

A person may be a candidate in local elections either on his own nomination or with the consent of a person on the register in the local authority area. A candidate other than a recognised political party nominated candidate requires 15 local authority electors from the area concerned. Political parties may appear on the ballot paper along with the names of their candidates.

Voting takes place on the one day.  Postal voting is allowed in the same manner as national elections.  Special voting arrangements may be made for persons who cannot attend polling stations.

The single transferable vote is used.  The quota is the (total valid poll / (the number of seats +1)) +1.

Electors vote in accordance with preference in the same manner as Dail elections.  The rules for counting and transferring votes are broadly similar.  Candidates who reach the quota are elected.When other candidates are eliminated, the remaining candidates may be elected without reaching the quota.

Under the Local Election (Disclosure of Donations and Expenditure) Act, local election candidates must provide a statement of election expenses and donations over a specified limit.  The limit is €625.

Candidates must maintain an account at financial institution if he receives donations for political purpose more than €127.  There is a maximum donation of €2,540 from any one source annually.  Foreign donations and anonymous donations over €127  may not be accepted.

Casual vacancies in local authorities are filled by co-option.  The person must be a member of the same party, if the person was a party member.

Prior to 1994, local authority councillors were unpaid save for minimal travel expenses.  Since 1994, councillors qualify for expenses and allowances intended to cover mileage, subsistence. attendance at council and various other expenses.  Levels vary from council to council.  Lesser rates were paid in respect of town councils.

Since 2002, councillors have been entitled to representational payments.  This is based on one-quarter of the salary of a member of the Seanad. A smaller amount was paid to town councillors depending on the size of the council.

The chairman, mayor, vice chairman and chairpersons of strategic authority may also receive payments. There are also payments in relation to roles on other local authority bodies.

Local government legislation allows for a scheme for compensation for councillors on retirement incapacity or loss of office.  It is based on a proportion of representational payment; amount being 15 percent per year of service being and not less than three-and-a-half more than twenty


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