Local elections are held every five years on a single date nominated by the Minister for Environment and Local Government. The requirement to hold local elections is now specified in the Constitution, after a 1999 amendment.
The Minister for Environment divides councils into electoral areas. The smaller local authorities are single constituencies. Anybody ordinarily resident in the local area over 18 years is eligible to register for vote. Citizens of Ireland or persons ordinarily resident over 18 and not disqualified are eligible to be candidates.
Much the same list of persons who are excluded or disqualified from being members of the Dail may not be elected as members of the local authority. Persons who are not qualified include:
- Members of an Garda Siochana and the Defence Forces.
- Civil servants whose employment terms do not expressly allow them to be members of local authorities.
- Persons serving prison sentences more than six months.
- Persons surcharged by a local authority audit within five years.
- Persons who have failed to comply with judgments for money due to the local authority. Within five years.
- Persons convicted of offences of fraudulent or dishonest dealings affecting local authority corrupt practices (disqualification- five years).
There is no prohibition on standing for more than one Council or in more than one local authority area. However, he may choose to nominate one area per local authority.
The Clerk or Secretary of the local authority is deemed returning officer and is responsible for the organisation of the election and count. The procedures are broadly similar to those in respect of Dail elections.
The returning officer gives notice of the election. Nominations are open for a period of seven days during which candidates may nominate themselves or may be nominated with the consent of an elector in that local electoral area. Candidates pay a deposit on standing.
In the event of vacancies in the course of a local authority term, a new member is co-opted onto the local authority. The co-opting may take place by vote, although in practice, most local authorities allow the party of the person concerned to nominate the candidate. This is not always the case. The co-option is made by a meeting of the elected members.