120 years of local government in Ireland
On 06 April 1899, Ireland held the first elections to newly formed councils, many of which met for the first time on 22 April 1899. The new local government system, provided for through the Local Government Act 1898, was preceded by Boards of Poor Law Guardians. 163 Poor Law Unions, based around market towns throughout Ireland, had been responsible for operating a system that included workhouses and other relief work. Some guardians were elected by rate-payers, making the system partly democratic. Significantly, women could serve as guardians from 1896.
Since 1899, Ireland has enjoyed 120 years of democratic local government, enhancing our citizens’ quality of life in many ways.
On 18 April 2019, the Minister of State for Local Government and Electoral Reform, John Paul Phelan, T.D., welcomed representatives of local government to the Custom House to celebrate the 120th anniversary of Ireland’s first local elections. At the event, Minister Phelan and keynote speaker at the event, Professor Mary E. Daly, Emeritus Professor of History at UCD, spoke about the rich 120-year history of local government in Ireland. This video captures some of the event.