120 Years of Local Democracy

Celebrating the History of Irish Local Government

In 2019 we are celebrating the 120th anniversary of the first local elections which were held in January 1899 for urban districts and in April 1899 for county areas. Louth County Archives Service has created an online exhibition to mark this election anniversary.

The passing into law of the Local Government Act of 1898 altered local government dramatically. Prior to 1899, local government lay in the hands of Grand Juries and Boards of Guardians who were mostly controlled by local landlords. The 1898 Act abolished the Grand Jury system and established County Councils, Rural District Councils and Urban Councils and granted many Irish people the right to vote for the first time. This right gave people a say in local government which meant that they were able to influence the development of their localities. Before the elections of April 1899, Unionists held 704 local election seats and Nationalists held 47. After the elections, it was changed to 774 seats for the Nationalists and 265 seats for Unionists.

On 22nd April 1899 many of the new Councils met for the first time and passed resolutions calling for Home Rule. This quiet revolution paved the way for the future. The support of local councils was vital to the acceptance of government by Dáil Éireann in 1920.

The online exhibition features the minutes of the first Council meetings in 1899 and copies of some surviving archives from 1899 and those early years of Irish local government.

Reference No and Links

Description of Item

Number & Size of Images

LCC/MB/001/001Minutes of first meeting of Louth Co Council, 22 Apr 1899 (transcript included in next item)17 images (scanned as a pdf document), 13 MB

Centenary Memoir of Louth County Council 1899 – 1999 including:

- Introduction on the Local Government Act 1898

- Notes on the town councils elections of January 1899 and the county elections of April 1899

- Note on proceedings of the first meeting of Louth County Council including notes on Peter Hughes, the first Chairman; Townley Fane Filgate, the first county secretary; and Patrick J Lynam, the first county surveyor.

- Transcript of minutes of first meeting of Louth County Council on 22nd April 1899

- Lists of the Chairmen of Louth Local Authorities and of the Mayors of Drogheda Corporation, 1899 – 1999

- Lists of the county managers, county secretaries, town clerks, surveyors/engineers, 1899 – 1999

29 images (scanned as a pdf document), 4 MB
P439/BLetter to Joseph H McArdle, Rampark, elected county councillor for Rathcor electoral division, from JJ Russell, returning officer requesting his attendance at first meeting of County Council on 22 April 18991 image, 474 KB
LCC.ADM.024.001_1Photograph of Louth County Council and guests at Powerscourt, 17 Jul 1906 (earliest surviving photograph of Louth County Council members)1 image, 285 KB
LCC.ADM.024.002_2Photograph of Louth County Council and guests at Powerscourt, 17 Jul 1906 with names, kindly provided by Don Johnston1 image, 717 KB
LCC/MB/016The first notices of motion considered by Louth County Council, May 18991 image, 610 KB
LCC/MB/017/001Standing orders of Louth Co Council adopted on 30 Nov 1899 and adopted as revised on 11 Nov 192010 images (scanned as a pdf document), 2.35 MB

DTC/MB/001/009 No 81, p1

DTC/MB/001/009 No 81, p2

Results of election (p153) in returning officer’s notice of elected urban district councillors with number of votes won; and signed statutory declaration by all newly elected councillors, 26 Jan 1899 (p154)2 images, 989 KB, 919 KB

DTC/MB/001/009 No 82, p1

DTC/MB/001/009 No 82, p2

Minutes of first meeting of Dundalk Urban District Council, 23 Jan 18992 images, 901 KB, 628 KB
DUDC/MB/004/005Notice providing membership of several committees of Dundalk UDC for the year 19001 image, 601 KB
DUDC/ADM/024/001Copy photograph of councillors and staff of Dundalk Urban District Council, 19071 image, 927 KB
DBC/MB/001/011Minutes of first meeting of newly elected Drogheda Corporation, 23 Jan 18995 images (scanned as a pdf document), 4.7 MB
DBC/ADM/024/003Photograph of Drogheda Corporation, c1900s1 image, 694 KB