Global, Ireland Democracy, devolution and governance

May you live in exciting times: Looking at Irish Local Government


Photo by Markus Voetter on Unsplash

Welcome to our focus on Ireland in this week’s Global Local.

In this week’s Global Local, we’re casting a spotlight on all things Irish local government!

The vital work of local authority employees in Ireland and the role they are playing in our social and economic life is being highlighted for this year’s ‘Your Council Day’, which takes place on Friday 23rd June. 

Across social media, #YourCouncilDay /#DoLásaChomhairle will showcase the work of our committed and passionate local authority employees who are working to make a difference to the lives of the people in their community. 


The Irish local government system is one of the smallest, in every sense of the word, in the OECD reflecting the relative size of a wider public service that is considerably less than the OECD average in terms of spending, numbers of employees and councillors. Not to mention the actual number of local authorities – 31 in total, ranging in size from Leitrim to Dublin City.

Notwithstanding the small scale of local government, and its restricted range of responsibilities (which includes no less, it has to be acknowledged, than 1,100 separate tasks) relatively little in terms of public management can happen in Ireland unless the local authority is at the heart. Councils in Ireland  do not directly provide services such as education and social care for example, but they are critical in creating the conditions in which such services can be provided. The Irish Local Authority is responsible for planning and sustainable development, for managing much of the local environment, of delivering economic development including micro enterprise and entrepreneurship, housing and cultural and arts, among other critical place making mandates central to the very high quality of life now enjoyed in the Republic.

And, in many respects, they do so at an exceptional level of efficiency and quality, using shared service platforms, cooperation with local communities and volunteers, as well as critical sectoral leaders across the range of services they support and sustain. That this is the case is increasingly realised at national policy level which is resulting in considerable devolution of responsibilities to local government albeit often on an ad hoc and disaggregated basis.

Nonetheless, as local government in Ireland moves towards the ending of the current councils within the next 12 months along with marking 125 years of County Government, the system might see exciting reform efforts with the likely introduction of directly elected mayors as well as greater representation of Ireland’s increasingly diverse population. The system will certainly see an on-going innovative approach to local socio-economic development, one set firmly within the context of climate change which is now very much being embedded into all aspects of the local authority system.

Living in interesting times can be either a curse or a positive opportunity but one thing is for sure and that is that the local government system will see considerable transition of the coming years and LGIU and Global Local will be there to tell this exciting story as it unfolds.

Read more about the great work of Irish local government


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