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Local Government Administration

The Department oversees the operation of the local government system and implements policy in relation to local government structures, functions, human resources and financing.  Local government in Ireland consists of a number of local and regional authorities at three levels.

There are

  • at county/city level: 29 County Councils, 5 City Councils, 5 Borough Councils and 75 Town Councils
  • at regional level: eight Regional Authorities co-ordinate some of the county/city and sub-county activities; they play a monitoring role in relation to the use of EU structural funds;
  • two regional authorities, known as Regional assemblies were established in July 1999 under new structures for regionalisation. They promote co-ordination of the provision of public services in their areas, manage new regional operational programmes in the next Community Support Framework and monitoring the general impact of all EU programmes of assistance under the CSF.

Because of the role local authorities play, the range of matters for which they are responsible and their closeness to local communities, local government has a more immediate effect on the day-to-day lives of the people than most other sectors of public administration. But local government is different from other public sector agencies. It is democratically elected. Apart from Dáil Éireann and the Presidency, it is the only other institution whose members are directly elected by all of the people. Local government has therefore both a representational and an operational role, with responsibility for a range of services.

The elected council is the policy-making arm of the local authority, who act by what are termed ‘reserved functions’. Reserved functions are defined by law and specified across a whole range of enactments. These comprise mainly decisions on important matters of policy and finance (e.g. adoption of annual budget, development plan, bye-laws). The day-to-day management of the local authority, including staffing matters, is vested in a full time chief executive – known as the county or city manager. The manager and/or staff to whom functions are delegated discharge what are termed ‘executive functions’ – in effect these involve the day-to-day running of the authority within the policy parameters as determined by the council. Any function of a local authority that is not specified in law as a reserved function is deemed to be an executive function. The legal character of a local authority thus comprises two elements, the elected council of the authority and the manager, with responsibility for performing local authority functions shared between them. However, legally all functions, whether performed by the elected council or by the county/city manager, are exercised on behalf of the local authority. 


The Barrington Report on Local Government Reorganisation and Reform (1991) (doc, 6,472 kb) 13/03/2012