Restoring Town Councils will be a local election issue

27 March 2019

Speaking in advance of the committee scrutiny of Labour’s Bill to restore Town Councils, leader of the Labour Party Brendan Howlin TD called on people in towns across Ireland to support the restoration of Town Councils as an issue in the upcoming local elections.

Deputy Howlin said:

“Town Councils are good for local economies and more balanced regional development. And they are essential to strengthen democracy in Ireland.

“Our democracy is 100 years old but we cannot take it for granted. All over the world, we are seeing bitter political divides and the rise of negative populism that offers no real solutions. Town Councils represent responsive and accountable democracy that can efficiently address many of people’s essential needs.

“I was a member of the Government that carries collective responsibility for the decision to abolish Town Councils, but having seen the effect of that decision, I am not afraid to admit that it was a mistake and that Town Councils should now be restored.

“The new Municipal Districts that were meant to replace Town Councils have not worked as well for towns. They are sub-committees of the County Council, with certain delegated function, but they do not have the dedicated focus on town development and they often have much larger areas under their responsibility. This change has meant a loss of staff in towns to carry out maintenance and repairs, for example, which slows down the response time to local needs.

“Citizens, trade unions, local businesses and business associations have been calling for the restoration of Town Councils. Towns are important economic hubs that serve the wider rural economy and they are essential for regional economic development.

“The lack of an elected town mayor has led to a loss of leadership for the development of towns and a loss of a known, local figurehead to preside at ceremonies and to promote tourism and cultural events.

“Town Councils of old were not perfect. But the real solution should have been to reform and rebuild local democracy at town level, not to sweep everything away.

“A Town Council has a singular focus on the development, prosperity and wellbeing of its town. Labour’s goal is to restore Town Councils in order to give a much needed boost to at least 80 of Ireland’s towns.

“I would call on everyone to support Labour’s call for the restoration of Town Councils at the upcoming local elections.”



Labour’s Local Government (Restoration Of Town Councils) Bill 2018 is private members legislation (coming from opposition). Details here:

The core proposals in the Bill are:

  • to provide for the restoration of the smallest tier of local government, the town councils, which were abolished by the Local Government (Reform) Act 2014
  • to define a town (a ‘qualifying built-up area’) as having 1,000 or more dwellings occupied by at least 5,000 residents, and having a clearly defined urban centre
  • to repeal sections 23 to 34 of the Local Government (Reform) Act 2014, which abolished town councils
  • to make each town council the local authority of its town, and a rating authority
  • to allow for elections of nine councillors to towns with a population between 5,000 and 25,000, and for 15 councillors to towns where the population of the town exceeds 25,000

Every enactment that previously applied to the old town councils before their dissolution shall apply to the town councils established under this Bill.

The implications of the Bill are that over 80 towns would have a town council established in them (see list below), including some towns that never had a town council before but excluding very small towns that had a town council historically but no longer meet the population requirements.

A number of other towns have populations close to 5,000, and some areas that were not traditionally designated as towns could become towns under this legislation (e.g. Blanchardstown).

The full explanatory memorandum is here:


List of Towns with a Population over 5,000 (Census 2016)

TOWN                                              2016 Pop

Arklow, Wicklow                              13,163

Ashbourne, Meath                          12,679

Athlone, Westmeath                       21,349

Athy, Kildare                                    9,677

Balbriggan, Fingal                           21,722

Ballina, Mayo                                   10,171

Ballinasloe, Galway                       6,662

Bandon, Cork                                  6,957

Blessington, Kildare and Wicklow          5,520

Bray, Wicklow                                  32,600

Buncrana, Donegal                         6,785

Carlow, Carlow                                24,272

Carrickmacross, Monaghan                    5,032

Carrick-on-Suir, Tipperary              5,771

Carrigaline, Cork                             15,770

Carrigtwohill, Cork                           5,080

Castlebar, Mayo                             12,068

Cavan, Cavan                                 10,914

Ceanannas Mór (Kells), Meath     6,135

Celbridge, Kildare                           20,288

Clane, Kildare                                  7,280

Clonmel, Tipperary                         17,140

Cobh, Cork                                      12,800

Donabate, Fingal                             7,443

Drogheda, Louth                            40,956

Droichead Nua/Newbridge, Kildare 22,742

Dunboyne, Meath                           7,272

Dundalk, Louth                                39,004

Dungarvan, Waterford                             9,227

Edenderry, Offaly                           7,359

Ennis, Clare                                     25,276

Enniscorthy, Wexford                     11,381

Fermoy, Cork                                   6,585

Gorey, Wexford                              9,822

Greystones-Delgany, Wicklow      18,140

Kilcock, Kildare                                6,093

Kildare, Kildare                                8,634

Kilkenny, Kilkenny                           26,512

Killarney, Kerry                                14,504

Kinsale, Cork                                   5,281

Kinsealy-Drinan, Fingal                  6,643

Laytown-Bettystown-Mornington-Donacarney, Meath     11,872

Leixlip, Kildare                                 15,504

Letterkenny, Donegal                     19,274

Longford, Longford                         10,008

Loughrea, Galway                          5,556

Lusk, Fingal                                     7,786

Malahide, Fingal                                       16,550

Mallow, Cork                                    12,459

Maynooth, Kildare                          14,585

Midleton, Cork                                 12,496

Monaghan, Monaghan                            7,678

Mullingar, Westmeath                              20,928

Naas, Kildare                                   21,393

Navan (An Uaimh), Meath             30,173

Nenagh, Tipperary                         8,968

New Ross, Wexford                       8,040

Newcastle West, Limerick              6,619

Passage West, Cork                      5,843

Portarlington, Laois and Offaly     8,368

Portlaoise (Maryborough), Laois   22,050

Portmarnock, Fingal                       9,466

Ratoath, Meath                              9,533

Roscommon, Roscommon           5,876

Roscrea, North Tipperary               5,446

Rush, Fingal                                    9,943

Sallins, Kildare                                5,849

Shannon, Clare                              9,729

Skerries, Fingal                              10,043

Sligo, Sligo                                       19,199

Swords, Fingal                                39,248

Thurles, Tipperary                          7,940

Tralee, Kerry                                    23,691

Tramore, Waterford                        10,381

Trim, Meath                                     9,194

Tuam, Galway                                 8,767

Tullamore, Offaly                            14,607

Westport, Mayo                              6,198

Wexford, Wexford                           20,188

Wicklow, Wicklow                            10,584

Youghal, Cork                                 7,963

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