Regional authorities do not play a significant role in Irish local government.  Local authorities may and do form common bodies and committees to provide services on a joint basis.  This occurs in relation to various functions, for example, library functions and formerly water and sanitary services functions.

Formerly, local authorities played a much more significant role in the areas of agriculture, health, education and welfare.  To the course of the 20th century, most of these functions have been transferred to state bodies, departments and agencies.  Local authorities play a vestigial role in these areas.

Between 1970 and 2005, the former functions of the local authorities as health authorities were merged into a number of regional Health Boards which included representatives of each authority.  Ultimately these were replaced by the Health Services Executive.

In the 1960s and 1970s, regional  development organisations were established in nine regions to administer development programmes.  Their representatives comprised members of local authority, central government, and state-sponsored bodies.

Local authorities may appoint committees as they see fit in relation to their functions.  This may relate to part or the whole of the council area.  The committee may include councillors and non-councillors.  Formerly some  functions of local authorities were undertaken by local committees. Some committees are required to be established whereas others are discretionary.

Regional Authorities

Regional Authorities were established in 1994 comprising eight regions namely Border, Dublin, Mid-East, Mid-West, Midland, South-West, South-East, and West.  The members of the authority are elected members of the councils in that area.  The number of councillors from each council area is designated by law.

In order to qualify for EU objective 1 status for the so-called Border, Midland, and Western area (BMW), two regional assemblies were established in 1999.  These assemblies have functions in relation to the management of EU programme and certain other roles.  Membership is drawn from the elected representatives of the existing eight regional authorities.  Each has a CEO.

The function of the regional authority is to coordinate public services in the region.  The functions relate to  cooperation, joint arrangements, consultations and joint actions.The authorities are designed to assess the needs and development requirements of each region from time to time.  They are involved in the preparation of the development strategies of the two regional assemblies mentioned above.


The regional authorities review the development plans of local authorities in their region and adjoining regions where necessary.  Their function is to seek to achieve consistency in the plans in relation to the overall requirements of the region.  A regional report is required every five years.  An annual report is required.

Planning legislation allows the regional authorities to provide for regional planning guidelines.  These are designed to provide a long-termstrategic planning framework for the development of the region.  They are published following consultation with the local authorities.  Certain notices are published and public participation is sought.

The councils in the exercise of their planning functions must have regard to regional planning guidelines when they adopt their development plans.  The regional authorities review their plan every six years and may #revise guidelines.

EU Programmes

The regional authority must at the request of the Department of Finance provide information and recommendations in connection with the preparation of any plan or program for EU structural funds.  The authorities are obliged to establish EU operational committees consisting of the managers of the authorities, representatives of the elected members, representatives of the FAS/Enterprise Ireland and representatives of certain other bodies.

A separate operational committee exists for non-EU matters with a slightly different composition including representatives of a wider category of bodies including central, state bodies with a local element including harbour authorities and other bodies.

Each regional authority has a director and a semi-permanent staff.  They are funded by their local authority.  Other funding is derived from EU aid.

The Borders, Midland and Western regional authorities, were established to qualify for objective 1 treatment under the EU structural funds programme commencing at the start of the last decade.  The Border, Midland, and Western regional authority is based in Ballaghaderreen.  The Southern and Eastern assembly is based in Waterford.  Its members consist of members of the underlying authority.

The regional assemblies coordinate the provision of public services in the region concerned.  They promote cooperation between local authorities, regional authorities and other public authorities.

The principal functions of the regional assemblies  are in relation to the national plans for the purpose of implementation of EU programmes.Regional authorities may establish committees and joint subcommittees.


Vocational education committees managed the second and third level vocational education colleges.  A  vocational education committee was a separate legal body.  Its members consist of councillors, staff and parent representatives of certain other bodies.  A VEC has its own executive.The Department of Education regulated the governing procedures of VEC.

The VECs provide a system of education for their areas.  They established second-level schools, institutes of technology, community colleges, vocational training opportunity schemes, adult education centres, post leaving cert programs. Their functions have been transferred to the Education and Training Boards

Formerly local authorities establish committees of agriculture.  They were abolished and their functions ultimately transferred to Teagasc.

Formerly local authorities established school attendance committees.  These functions were transferred to the National Educational and Welfare Board.

The local authorities formerly administered higher education grants in their area.  Schemes were drawn up regarding qualification including means testing, and residence.  This function has been transferred to a State authority.


Certain harbours have harbour authorities consisting of representatives of local authorities, commercial and local interest and certain other members nominated by the Department for Communications, Marine and Natural Resources.  Separate to this certain harbour authorities are managed directly by the state and certain other such authorities are constituted as private companies.

Harbour authorities are responsible for the maintenance and operation of harbours subject to the general control of the Department.  The Department fixes harbour rates and charges.

The commercial harbours established as companies under the Harbours Act 1996 are Dublin, Dundalk, Dun Laoghaire, Galway, New Ross, Shannon, Waterford, Wicklow, Cork, Arklow and Drogheda.The former harbour authority’s role is displaced in respect of harbours with harbour companies.

Fishery harbours are operated by the Department under the Fishery Harbour Centres Act.  They include Killybegs, Castletownbere, Rossaveal, Dunmore East and Howth.

Formerly there are a number of regional fishery boards which were merged into Inland Fisheries Ireland.


City and County Enterprise boards were constituted in 1993 for the purpose of promotion of enterprise and employment in relation to smaller enterprises. They were designed to compliment Enterprise Ireland and other national agencies.

The County Enterprise Boards have been reconstituted as Local Enterprise Offices. They provide  support for employment  in small enterprises..  They develop enterprise plans covering their area.  They may provide focussed grants and other supports, subject to state aid de minimis rules.

Local Area partnerships were established under government programs negotiated in conjunction with the social partners.  They comprise state agencies social partners, local councillors, the community and voluntary sector.  Many of the group are  target socially excluded persons, long-term unemployed, disabled persons, travellers, homeless and young persons at risk.


The local authorities maintain a peripheral role in relation to agriculture.  They employ veterinary inspectors for certain functions including in relation to certain disease control functions.

Some local area partnerships act under the LEADER program. They promote rural development  The program is based on EU  support for the development of rural regions across the European Union.

Leader groups operate under the rural development programmes.  They provide a variety of supports in relation to matters such as tourism, farm enterprise, local services, marketing and improvement of the environment.  .

Local authorities are responsible for abattoir, slaughterhouses and certain functions in relation to milk and dairy legislation.


Formerly the health boards administered food safety in Ireland.  On the establishment of Food Safety Authority of Ireland, local authorities entered the service contracts to provide inspection, licensing and other service in relation to manufacture, processing, transport, and storage of food.

Local authorities have functions under the Control of Dogs legislation and the Control of Horses Act.  They employ dog wardens and impound stray dogs.  They may make byelaws regarding licensing and controlling of horses.  Stray horses may be impounded.

Local authorities appoint coroners for their districts.  There may be one or more districts within the larger counties.


Important Notice! This website is provided for informational purposes only! It is a fundamental condition of the use of this website that no liability is accepted for any loss or damage caused by reason of any error, omission, or misstatement in its contents. 

Draft Articles; The articles on this website are in draft form and are subject to further review for typographical errors and, in some cases, updating and correction. It is intended to include references to the sources of materials and acknowledgements in the final version. The content of articles with [EU] in the title and some of the articles in the section on Agriculture are a reproduction of or are based on European or Irish public sector information.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *