Membership of local authorities
The members of each local authority are all called 'councillors'. (For example, county councillor, city councillor as appropriate). The number of members of each local authority is fixed by law. This means that Schedule 7 of the Local Government Act, 2001, as amended by Section 15 of the Local Government Reform Act 2014, has set down the number of members of every county council, city council and city and county council throughout the country.
Councillors are directly elected in local elections by members of the local community. The number of councillors elected to each local authority depends on the population of the local authority area.
Term of office
Elected members come into office seven days after polling day. Each member holds office for five years, that is until seven days after the polling day at the next local elections – which are by law held in the month of May or June on a day fixed by the Minister for Housing, Planning, Community and Local Government. Each elected member is expected to regularly attend meetings of the full council and the local authority committees of which they are members, although it may occasionally be the case that members may not be able to fulfil their obligations, for example, due to ill-health.
A councillor may resign by delivering a notice in writing. They are deemed to have resigned if he or she does not attend a council meeting for 6 consecutive months (unless he or she was ill or there was some other good reason).
However, before the expiry of this period a local authority may by resolution grant an extension for a further six months where the absence is due to illness or occurs in good faith due to other reasons. Only one further subsequent such extension may be granted, subject to a maximum period of eighteen months continuous absence.
If a councillor dies, resigns or becomes disqualified from being a member of the council, the vacancy is filled by co-option. The political party who originally nominated the member who caused the vacancy nominates a new member and the council then passes a resolution to appoint the new member.
Councillors may not be members of more than one local authority.
Ethics and codes of conduct
In January 2003 an ethics framework came into operation governing the ethics and codes of conduct of local authority members. As a general rule, this framework provides that it is the duty of every local authority member and employee to maintain proper standards of integrity, conduct and concern for the public interest. In addition, it established for each member a system of annual declaration of interests, disclosure of interest in a matter which comes before the authority and a public register of interests.
The interests which have to be declared annually are set out in Section 175 of the 2001 Act and associated regulations. (As a general guide, they include such as holdings of land or other property, shareholdings, directorships, contracts with a local authority. Each member must complete and return each year a form setting out his or her interests).
There is a financial support framework for councillors which involves:
- Representational payment (i.e., a salary-type payment)
- Fixed annual allowance (towards meetings and other expenses)
- Ad-hoc expenses (i.e., conferences and other events)
- Retirement gratuity (i.e., lump sum on retirement)
The cathaoirleach of the council and the chairperson of one of the local authority committees (the special policy committee) also get an additional allowance.
How to apply
In order to become a member of a local authority, you must be elected by the people in your local area. Before you are elected, you must be nominated for election. You can find out more in our document on nomination of candidates for local elections.
Further information regarding membership of, and contact information for members of your local authority is available directly from your local authority.