Local elections in Ireland

Introduction

Local elections are held in Ireland every 5 years, in the month of May or June. The elections allow people to elect councillors to represent them in their local authorities.

There are 31 local authorities in Ireland, including County Councils, City Councils, and City and County Councils. Each county, city, and city and county council is divided into local electoral areas. Each local electoral area has a certain number of members of the local authority to elect.

The polling date is set by the Minister for Housing, Local Government and Heritage. The polling period must last at least 12 hours between 7.00am and 10.30pm and be same day in all of the local authority areas. The next local elections are due to be held in May or June 2024.

The returning officer in each local authority is responsible for managing their local election. Each local authority pays the cost of running their own election.

If a candidate is elected to more than one local authority area, they must declare in writing which area they want to represent within 3 days of the public notice of the results of the election.

Nomination process

If you wish to stand for election to a local authority in Ireland you must be nominated during the week that takes place 4 weeks before the polling day.

You may nominate yourself or be nominated by a person who is registered to vote in the local authority area. You may be nominated to stand in more than one area.

Nomination forms (LE1) are available from the local authority returning officer. After you have completed your nomination form, return the form to the returning officer.

If you are affiliated with a political party you must submit a Certificate of Party Affiliation with your nomination form.

If you have no party affiliation, you may describe your nomination as 'Non-Party' or leave the question blank on the Form.

If you are an independent candidate, you must submit your nomination form, along with one of the following, to the returning officer:

  • The completion of statutory declarations by 15 assenters (pdf): Assenters must be people who are registered to vote in the local electoral area. The statutory declaration must be witnessed by a commissioner for oaths; a peace commissioner; a notary public; a member of the Garda Síochána or an official of the registration authority.

or

  • Lodge a deposit of €100 with the returning officer.

Both independent and party affiliated candidates can include a photograph to be included on the ballot paper. You can find the photo size and other requirements detailed in the Nomination Form (pdf).

The returning officer must rule on whether your nomination paper is valid within one hour of when you submit it.

More information on local elections can be found in Section 15 of the Electoral (Amendment) Act 2009.

Rules for candidates

You are eligible to be elected to a local authority if you are ordinarily resident in Ireland and you are at least 18 years old. You do not have to be an Irish citizen.

You are disqualified from becoming a member of a local authority if you are:

  • A member of the European Commission, Parliament or Courts
  • A member of Dáil Éireann or Seanad Éireann
  • An Ceann Comhairle (the Chairman of the Dáil) or an Cathaoirleach (the Chairman of the Seanad)
  • A member of an Garda Síochána or a full-time member of the Irish defence forces
  • A judge
  • A member of the Court of Auditors of the European Communities
  • The Comptroller and Auditor General
  • A civil servant - where it does not specifically state in your contract of employment that you may be a member of a local authority
  • A person employed by a local authority and is not the holder of a class, description or grade of employment designated by order under section 161(1)(b) of the Local Government Act 2001
  • Employed by the Health Service Executive and at a grade or of a description of employment designated by order of the Minister for Health and Children
  • Currently imprisoned for a term longer than 6 months
  • A person who has failed pay local authority charges
  • A person who has failed to comply with an order of a court to pay money due to a local authority
  • A person who has been convicted of fraud or dishonest dealings affecting a local authority, corrupt practice or acting while disqualified

Candidate spending limit

Candidates are allowed to spend a limited amount of money on the local election campaign. This amount varies depending on the population size of the local electorate area.

Local electoral area Candidate spending limit
Population over 35,000 €13,000
Population between 18,001 and 35,000 €11,500
Population of 18,000 or less €9,750

Candidates must disclose how much they spent to the local authority within 90 days after polling day. The Minister sets the start date of the campaign spending period, which must be between 50 and 60 days before polling day.

Donations

The following rules apply to candidates:

  • A candidate may no more than €1,000 from a specific donor in a calendar year
  • Details of donations over €600 must be given to the local authority
  • A candidate who receives a donation over €100 must open and maintain a bank account specifically for their political donations

The following restrictions apply to donations:

  • No anonymous donations over €100
  • No cash donations over €200
  • For corporate donations over €200 the donor must be registered with the Standards in Public Office Commission and evidence that the donation was approved by the corporate body must be provided

Local election posters and signs

The Litter Pollution Act 1997, as amended by the Electoral (Amendment) (No. 2) Act 2009 allows people to display election posters for a certain period. They can be displayed from the date the Minister appoints the polling day by order, or 30 days before polling day, whichever is shorter. They must be taken down within 7 days after the polling day.

If an election poster is causing a hazard to motorists or pedestrians, you can inform your local authority about these safety concerns.

How to vote in a local election

On polling day, voters can vote by secret ballot at their local polling station. The Irish electoral system is based on proportional representation by single transferable vote (PR-STV). Voters can number the list of candidates in the order of their preference.

If you have a visual impairment, a Ballot Paper Template will be available at every polling station and you can use it to cast your vote.

You do not have to be an Irish citizen to vote in a local election. However, you must be ordinarily resident in the State on 1 September, to register on the Register of Electors for the following year.

To vote in a local election, you must:

  • Be over 18 years of age.
  • Live in the local electoral area.
  • Be listed on the Register of Electors, or the Supplement to the Register.

You may not vote in both a county council and a city council election.

To find out if your name is on the Electoral Register you can:

If you want to be added to the Electoral Register, you should complete an application form and return it to your local authority. Application forms are available online at checktheregister.ie or at your local authority office. You can send your completed application form by free-post to your local authority. There is no need to put a stamp on the envelope. In Dublin, you can also register online at voter.ie if you have a Public Services Card and a MyGovID verified account.

For more information, see our document on registering to vote.

Page edited: 19 November 2021