After the partition of Ireland in 1921, what eventually became the Republic of Ireland comprised 26 of these, with Northern Ireland comprising the remaining six. The counties of Northern Ireland are no longer used for local government, and two former counties in the Republic have been subdivided, giving a modern total of 29 counties for administrative purposes rather than 26. The names "County Dublin" and "County Tipperary" remain in common usage outside administrative matters. In addition, the larger cities are administratively equivalent to counties.
The traditional 32 counties had previously been adopted by sporting and cultural organisations such as the Gaelic Athletic Association, which organises its activities on GAA county lines, and today they still attract strong loyalties, particularly in the sporting field.
In Irish usage, the word county nearly always comes before rather than after the county name; thus "County Clare" in Ireland as opposed to "Clare County" in Michigan. The former "King's County" and "Queen's County" were exceptions; these are now County Offaly and County Laois.
Map of traditional countiesEdit
These do not correspond exactly to the counties used as political units.
|Republic of Ireland||Northern Ireland|
1. Often called Derry: see Derry-Londonderry name dispute
The political geography of Ireland can be traced with some accuracy from the seventh century. At that time Ireland was divided into about 150 different units of government, each one called a tuath (pl. tuatha). A tuath was an autonomous group of people of independent political jurisdiction under a chief called sub-rege (Rí Tuaithe, tribal king. often the chief of a clan).
In the sixth century, Ireland was divided into cúigí or fifths (sing. cúige). The four current provinces of Ireland were named after four of these cúigí, Ulaidh (Ulster), Laighin (Leinster), Connachta (Connacht) and An Mhumha(ain) (Munster). The fifth cúige, Mídhe (Mide), corresponded to the present-day counties of Meath, Westmeath, Longford, Offaly and south County Louth in present-day Leinster. North County Louth was considered to be part of Ulster. In bardic lore, the "fifths of Ireland" corresponded to the five provinces: learning was in the west, war in the north, wealth in the east, music or art in the south and kingship in the centre (Meath).
Shiring and CountiesEdit
Template:Life in the Republic of Ireland In 1172, Henry II arrived in Dublin, commencing English royal involvement in Ireland (commonly referred to in Ireland as the Norman Invasion). The English governed Ireland in a like structure as they did themselves, by dividing the country into shires or counties in the late 12th and early 13th centuries.
The counties were made up, in general, from an amalgamation of various smaller Irish territories which suited the colonial administration at the time and had little basis in older tribal boundaries. In many cases this involved dividing an Irish territory in two. For example, the kingdom of Uí Mhaine was split to form south County Roscommon and most of east County Galway. Many of the counties of Ulster roughly correspond to the territories controlled by the principal clan in that particular area such as the O Donnells of Tír Conaill whose political power was concentrated in what would become the County of Donegal.
The counties evolved over time, with the earliest defined being set out by King John, including a then much larger County Dublin. By 1200 there were also shires of Connacht, Cork, Kerry, Limerick, Louth, Tipperary and Waterford. Kilkenny and Wexford apparently date from this time, too. The County of Roscommon was separated from Connacht before 1292, and the parliament of 1297 created the new shires of Kildare, Meath and Ulster. Carlow probably dates from around 1306.
The Tudor administrations finalised the division of Ireland into counties. Westmeath was separated from Meath in 1543, and in 1556 King’s County and Queen’s County were created as part of the policy of plantation. The old shire of Connacht was broken up into the Counties of Galway, Mayo and Sligo, while Leitrim was separated from Roscommon in 1565. At the same time County Clare was created and moved from Munster to Connacht. It returned there in 1602. In 1583 County Longford was formed from part of Westmeath and transferred to the Province of Connacht.
The Province of Ulster was the last to be shired. The counties of Antrim and Down originated early in the sixteenth century. These were joined in 1584/5 by the Counties of Armagh, Coleraine (later Londonderry), Donegal, Fermanagh, Monaghan and Tyrone. County Cavan was also formed in 1584 and transferred from Connacht to Ulster.
The last county to be formed was County Wicklow in 1606, taking in the southern part of Dublin (with the exception of three "islands" of (mainly) church property), and the northern part of "Catherlough" or Carlow, including Arklow.
The counties were initially used for judicial purposes, but in 1836 their first use as local government units occurred. The Grand Jury (Ireland) Act 1836 imported a system already operating in England and Wales into Ireland. The grand jury consisted of the principal landowners of the county and had responsibility for bridges, roads and public works. In 1838 the number of counties was increased to thirty-three when Tipperary was divided into North and South Ridings. The Local Government (Ireland) Act 1898 introduced elected county councils taking over the powers of the grand juries.
Former counties include: County Coleraine which formed the basis of County Londonderry, and Nether and Upper Tyrone which were merged, and Desmond which was, in 1606, split between Counties Cork and Kerry. Other names seen on old maps include Caterlaugh or Caterlagh, archaic designations of County Carlow, in the days before much of the north of that county was taken into Wicklow in the early 1600's. In 1777, the ancient Norman town of Carrickfergus lost its status of county town – there was formerly a county of Carrickfergus which extended further than the modern borough of Carrickfergus.
To correspond with the subdivisions of the English shires into honors or baronies, Irish counties were granted out to the Anglo-Norman noblemen in cantreds, later known as baronies, which in turn were subdivided, as in England, into manors or townlands. (However, in many cases, both baronies and townlands correspond to earlier, pre-Norman, divisions.) While there are 331 baronies in Ireland, divided first into civil parishes, there are around 60,000 townlands that range in size from one to several thousand hectares. Townlands were often traditionally divided into smaller units called quarters, but these subdivisions are not legally defined.
Administrative division of countiesEdit
County Tipperary was split into North and South Ridings in 1838. More recently, in 1994, County Dublin was split into Dun Laoghaire-Rathdown, Fingal, and South Dublin.
The boundaries of the "traditional" counties have not always remained the same, changing in small ways on a number of occasions. As a result of the Local Government (Ireland) Act 1898 slight changes were made to the boundaries of Counties Galway, Clare, Mayo, Sligo, Waterford, Kilkenny, Meath and Louth, and others. Under the Local Government Provisional Order Confirmation Act 1976, part of the urban area of Drogheda, which lay in County Meath, was transferred to County Louth on the 1st January 1977. This resulted in the land area of County Louth increasing slightly at the expense of County Meath. The possibility of a similar action with regard to Waterford City has been raised in recent years, though opposition from Kilkenny has been strong.
Republic of IrelandEdit
The "traditional" 26 counties are today only part of the basis for local government, planning and community development purposes, although unlike the counties in Great Britain, the Republic's traditional county boundaries are still generally respected for other purposes (counties on occasion being sub-divided). The administrative borders have subsequently been altered to include various towns originally split between two counties wholly within one.
In the Republic of Ireland, six of the original 26 counties have more than one local authority area, producing a total of 34 "county-level" authorities. The two ridings of County Tipperary were renamed North Tipperary and South Tipperary in 2002. In 1994 County Dublin was split into Dun Laoghaire-Rathdown, Fingal, and South Dublin. By 2002 however, upon the establishment of County Development Boards, the definition of "local government" expanded to include the need for a proper identity in each of the new counties; the development of which is ongoing. Of the administrative structures established under the 1898 Local Government Act, the only type to have been completely abolished was the Rural District, which was rendered void in the early years of the Irish Free State amidst widespread allegations of corruption. On the other hand, administrative structures such as Town Councils and Regional Authorities (created to comply with requirements of the EU) exist in parallel with the county system.
Administration follows the 34 "county-level" counties and cities of Ireland. Of these twenty-nine are counties, governed by county councils while the five cities of Dublin, Cork, Limerick, Galway and Waterford have city councils, (previously known as corporations), and are administered separately from the counties bearing those names. The City of Kilkenny is the only city in the republic which does not have a "city council"; it is still a borough but not a county borough and is administered as part of County Kilkenny. The most recent local government legislation states that Kilkenny may retain the title of "city" for ornament only.
The Vocational Education Committee system was created in 1930. Originally, VECs were formed for each administrative county and county borough, and also in a number of larger towns. In 1997 the majority of town VECs were absorbed by the surrounding county. With the exception of the Dublin area, VEC areas are identical to the local government counties and cities. The separate committees for County Dublin and the former borough of Dún Laoghaire continue to exist.
The Institute of Technology system was organised on the committee areas or "functional areas", these still remain legal but are not as important as originally envisioned as the institutes are now more national in character and are only really applied today when selecting governing councils, similarly Dublin Institute of Technology was originally a group of several colleges of the City of Dublin committee.
Where possible, parliamentary constituencies in the Republic of Ireland follow county boundaries. Under the Electoral Act 1997 a Constituency Commission is established following the publication of census figures every five years. The Commission is charged with defining constituency boundaries, and the 1997 Act provides that the breaching of county boundaries shall be avoided as far as practicable. This provision does not apply to the boundaries between cities and counties, or between the three counties in the Dublin area.
This system usually results in more populated counties having several constituencies: Dublin city and county is subdivided into twelve constituencies, Cork into five. On the other hand, smaller counties such as Carlow and Kilkenny or Laois and Offaly may be paired to form constituencies. An extreme case is the splitting of Ireland's least populated county of Leitrim between the constituencies of Sligo-North Leitrim and Roscommon-South Leitrim.
Each county or city is divided into Local Electoral Areas for the election of councillors. The boundaries of the areas and the number of councillors assigned are fixed from time to time by order of the Minister for the Environment, Heritage and Local Government, following a report by the Local Government Commission, and based on population changes recorded in the census.
In Northern Ireland, a major re-organisation of local government in 1973 replaced the six traditional counties and two county boroughs (Belfast and Derry) by 26 "single-tier" districts for local government purposes, and these cross the traditional county boundaries. The six counties and two county-boroughs remain in use for some purposes, including Lords Lieutenant, vehicle number plates, and the Royal Mail Postcode Address File.