There had been significant reforms in local government in the 20 years prior to the Dail declaration of independence. The Local Government (Ireland) Act 1898 had effectively removed local government from the Irish autocracy and placed it into the hands of elected councillors. The franchise was based on adults, male ratepayers which was substantially representative of nationalist Ireland.
The cost of rates was shifted from landlords to tenants many of whom were in the course of acquiring their lands through the Land Commission. Local government board subventions supplemented rates.
Local government had competence in a wide of areas including poor law, hospital dispensaries, local hospitals, roads and sanitary services.
A certain level of corruption had grown up in local government. There was a degree of inefficiency in the killing Home Rule y kindness policy e.
There were local government elections for rural and urban areas in mid and later in 1920. Nationalist councils declare their loyalty to the Dail local department of local government whereas Unionist councils declared loyalty to the Local Government Board.
Local government had used opportunities to bring in-house expenditure on roads instead of contracting outward. This afforded opportunities for patronage.
In many respect the political structures were make believe and flimsy. Much of the population adoption neutrality pending the outcome of hostilities. The collection of rates was a source of conflict. There was general resistance to paying rates, at the best of times. Many groups vehemently opposed collection of rates whether those loyal to the Dail or the Local Government Board.
The cost of malicious damage claims and injuries claims rested with the local authority. This had the effect of charging the cost of damage on to the local area including damage caused by IRA, rebels, British army and Black and Tans
Following the 1920, Sinn Fein and Labour victory in local elections, the Local Government Board suspended grants to councils who did not accept the authority of the government and the Local Government Board.
The Dail government established its Department of Local Government under William T Cosgrave. He had served as a council member of Dublin Corporation.
The County Councils and most Borough Councils in the 26 counties of Southern Ireland recognised the Dail Department of Local Government as early as 1920. Northern Councils retained allegiants to the Local Government Board and ultimately to the newly established Northern Ireland Parliament in 1921.
The Dail sought to maintain its local government system, through a secret postal system through which letters were sent to the double address and rerouted to Dail ministers or transported by carrier from a dummy address.
A certain amount of inefficiency and over staffing had grown up in local government partly because of the killing Home Rule with kindness policy. With financial constraints, there was significant cutbacks. Local college, hospitals which were uneconomical were closed down.
The policy of placing war damage on rates effectively assisted the Dail government.
Many members of the public maintained studied neutrality pending the outcome of hostilities.
There was a general resistance in some quarters to payment of rate. In some quarters, in other Dail courts and volunteers enforced payment of right. In other court, the places they opposed it.
Many sections of the IRA were involved in anti-rate agitation.
The roads in Ireland deteriorated and the position was aggravated by the lack of expenditure and also by damage.