Local Government (Ireland) Act 1898

Local Government (Ireland) Act 1898

The Local Government (Ireland) Act 1898 (61 & 62 Vict. c. 37) is a piece of legislation passed as an Act of Parliament by the Parliament of the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Ireland in 1898 to establish a system of local government in Ireland similar to that recently created in Great Britain.

The Act brought in a mixed system of government, with county boroughs independent of county administration, and elsewhere a two tier system with county councils, along with borough, urban district and rural district councils. Urban districts were created from the larger of the town commissioners towns, while the smaller towns retained their town commissioners, but remained in a rural district for sanitary purposes.

County level services had been administered by Grand Juries, dominated by large landowners, farmers and businessmen since the seventeenth century. The Act broke the remaining power of the aristocratic ascendancy in the poorer parts of Ireland and passed these services to new, directly elected, county councils. The electoral franchise was greatly widened, to include all male householders and occupiers, a remarkable concession to popular rights, larger than the parliamentary franchise at the time.

The reform was effected by the Conservative Party Prime MInister Lord Salisbury, and can be seen as a part of his attempts to "kill Home Rule by kindness". His other Irish reforms, such as extending tenant farmers' rights to buy their land with government funds and building over 10,000 labourers' cottages, were partly administered or pushed along by the new Council members, which then reaped the long-term political benefit.

The creation of the new councils had a significant effect on Ireland as it allowed local people to take decisions affecting themselves. The County and the sub-county District Councils created a political platform for proponents of Irish Home Rule, displacing Unionist influence in many areas. The enfranchisement of local electors allowed the development of a new political class, creating a significant body of experienced politicians who would enter national politics in Ireland in the 1920s, and increase the stability of the transitions to the parliaments of the Irish Free State and Northern Ireland. The Rural District Councils, designed to allow the closest local control of some administrative functions, were abolished in the Irish Free State after 1923 to save money, but the Urban District Councils were retained.

In Northern Ireland, the provisions of the act were replaced in the 1970s with a pattern of unitary authorities. In the Republic of Ireland, the act was amended by several Acts of the Oireachtas principally by the abolition of Rural District councils 1925 - 1930 and the inception of a system of council-manager government1929-1940 and the act as so amended has been replaced by the Local Government Act 2001

Changes in county boundaries as a result of the Act

The Act also caused a number of county boundaries to be modified, with the result that a number of baronies, civil parishes and townlands now cross county boundaries:

* The Ballaghaderreen area (the civil parishes of Castlemore and Kilcolman), traditionally part of the County Mayo barony of Costello, was moved from Mayo to County Roscommon.
* The County Sligo portion of the civil parish of Kilmoremoy along with part of the neighbouring parish of Castleconnor (part of the Sligo barony of Tireragh), were transferred to County Mayo. This area is to the east of Ballina town.
* The parts of the civil parishes of Ballinchalla and Ballinrobe on the western shore of Lough Mask, in the County Galway barony of Ross, were transferred to County Mayo.
* The part of the civil parish of Inishcaltra in County Galway and the neighbouring parish of Clonrush, part of the County Galway barony of Leitrim, were transferred to County Clare. This area contains the village of Mountshannon on the north-western shore of Lough Derg.

In all the above cases, the areas transferred officially remained part of their original baronies.

* Most of the civil parish of Kilculliheen (the area on the north bank of the river Suir opposite Waterford city), which had originally part of the old "County of the City of Waterford" and had then formed part of the County Waterford barony of Gaultiere, was transferred to County Kilkenny, but became a new barony of Kilculliheen in its own right. The village of Ferrybank remained part of Waterford County Borough.
* The island of Inishbofin was transferred from the County Mayo barony of Murrisk to the County Galway barony of Ballynahinch.

A number of county boroughs and other towns which lay on county boundaries had their boundaries redefined to include suburbs which were traditionally in other counties. Again, this resulted in baronies, civil parishes and sometimes townlands being split between counties. These towns (each run by an "Urban District Council", or UDC, created under the Act,) include:

* Athlone (included areas from County Roscommon)
* Ballinasloe (included areas from County Roscommon)
* Belfast (included areas from County Down)
* Bray (included areas from County Dublin)
* Carlow (included areas from Queen's County)
* Carrick-on-Suir (included areas from County Waterford)
* Clonmel (included areas from County Waterford)
* Drogheda (boundary redefined so that areas were exchanged between Counties Louth and Meath)
* Lisburn (included areas from County Down)
* Naas was formed in central County Kildare
* New Ross (included areas from County Kilkenny)
* Newry (included areas from County Armagh)

These changes may sometimes cause confusion to those researching family histories from the 19th century, as sources prior to the 1898 Act will list these areas as being in different counties to the ones they are currently in. For example, the Townland Index to the 1851 Census of Ireland [http://www.seanruad.com] lists townlands under their pre-1898 counties.

ee also

*List of Irish Local Government Areas 1900 - 1921
*Local government in the Republic of Ireland
*List of rural and urban districts in Northern Ireland

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