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History of local government in Northern Ireland

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Title: History of local government in Northern Ireland  
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Subject: History of local government in the United Kingdom
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History of local government in Northern Ireland

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Northern Ireland is divided into 26 districts for local government purposes. In Northern Ireland local councils do not carry out the same range of functions as those in the rest of the United Kingdom, for example they have no responsibility for education, road building or housing (though they do nominate members to the advisory Northern Ireland Housing Council). Their functions include waste and recycling services, leisure and community services, building control and local economic and cultural development. They are not planning authorities, but are consulted on some planning applications. The collection of rates is handled by the Land and Property Services agency. The 26 districts are variously styled districts, boroughs, cities, or city and district (in one case).



The current pattern of local government in Northern Ireland, with 26 councils, was established in 1973 by the Local Government (Boundaries) Act (Northern Ireland) 1971 and the Local Government Act (Northern Ireland) 1972 to replace the previous system established by the Local Government (Ireland) Act 1898. The system is based on the recommendations of the Macrory Report, of June 1970, which presupposed the continued existence of the Government of Northern Ireland to act as a regional-level authority.[1]

From 1921 to 1973, Northern Ireland was divided into six administrative counties (subdivided into urban and rural districts) and two county boroughs. The counties and county boroughs continue to exist for the purposes of lieutenancy and shrievalty.[2] This system, with the abolition of rural districts, remains the model for local government in the Republic of Ireland. See: List of rural and urban districts in Northern Ireland for more details.


Councillors are elected for a four-year term of office under the single transferable vote (STV) system. Elections were last held in May 2011 and are due again in May 2015. To qualify for election, a councillor candidate must be:

In addition, he or she must either:

  • be a local elector for the district, or
  • have, during the whole of the 12-month period prior to the election, either owned or occupied land in the district, or else resided or worked in the district.

The results of the last election, held on 5 May 2011, are summarised below.[3]

Party Seats won Change from
First Pref. % Change from
Democratic Unionist 175 -3 27.2% -2.4%
Sinn Féin 138 +9 24.8% +1.5%
Ulster Unionist 99 -16 15.2% -2.7%
SDLP 87 -14 15.0% -2.4%
Alliance 44 +14 7.4% +2.5%
TUV 6 +6 2.0% +2.0%
Green (NI) 3 1.0% +0.1%
Progressive Unionist 2 0.6% -0.1%
style="width: 5px; background-color: Template:United Kingdom Independence Party/meta/color;" data-sort-value="United Kingdom Independence Party" | UKIP 1 +1 0.4% +0.4%
Other parties 0 -3 1.3% -0.1%
Independents 27 +6 5.1% +1.6%


The districts are combined for various purposes.

Education and libraries

There are currently five education and library boards (ELBs) in Northern Ireland.

As part of the Review of Public Administration process, the library functions of the ELBs were taken over by a new body, the Northern Ireland Library Authority (branded Libraries NI) in April 2009.[4]

The education and skills functions were to have been centralised into a single Education and Skills Authority in January 2010, but this has been postponed.[5][6] As of June 2013, legislation was still pending but under active development.[7]

The boards are as follows:

Name Area
1. Belfast 200px
2. North Eastern Antrim, Ballymena, Ballymoney, Carrickfergus, Coleraine, Larne, Magherafelt, Moyle, Newtownabbey
3. South Eastern Ards, Castlereagh, Down, Lisburn and North Down
4. Southern Armagh, Banbridge, Cookstown, Craigavon, Dungannon and South Tyrone, Newry and Mourne
5. Western Derry, Fermanagh, Limavady, Omagh, Strabane

Health and social care

There were four health and social services boards which were replaced by a single Health and Social Care Board in April 2009.[8]

The former health and social services boards were as follows:

Name Area
1. Eastern Ards, Belfast, Castlereagh, Down, Lisburn, North Down 200px
2. Northern Antrim, Ballymena, Ballymoney, Carrickfergus, Coleraine, Cookstown, Larne, Magherafelt, Moyle, Newtownabbey
3. Southern Armagh, Banbridge, Craigavon, Dungannon and South Tyrone, Newry and Mourne
4. Western Derry, Fermanagh, Limavady, Omagh, Strabane

Eurostat NUTS level 3

In the Eurostat Nomenclature of Territorial Units for Statistics (NUTS), Northern Ireland is divided into five parts at level 3

Name Area
UKN01 Belfast
UKN02 Outer Belfast Carrickfergus, Castlereagh, Lisburn, Newtownabbey, North Down
UKN03 East Antrim, Ards, Ballymena, Banbridge, Craigavon, Down, Larne
UKN04 North Ballymoney, Coleraine, Derry, Limavady, Moyle, Strabane
UKN05 West and South Armagh, Cookstown, Dungannon, Fermanagh, Magherafelt, Newry and Mourne, Omagh

Proposed reform

Main article: Proposed reform of local government in Northern Ireland

In June 2002 the Northern Ireland Executive established a Review of Public Administration to review the arrangements for the accountability, development, administration and delivery of public services. Among its recommendations were a reduction in the number of districts.[9] In 2005 Peter Hain, the Secretary of State for Northern Ireland, announced proposals to reduce the number of councils to seven.[10] The names and boundaries of the seven districts were announced in March 2007.[11] In March 2008 the restored Northern Executive agreed to create eleven new councils instead of the original seven.[12][13][14] The first elections were due to take place in May 2011. However by May 2010 disagreements among parties in the executive over district boundaries were expected to delay the reforms until 2015.[15] In June 2010 the proposed reforms were abandoned following the failure of the Northern Ireland Executive to reach agreement.[16][17] However, on 12 March 2012, the Northern Ireland Executive published its programme for government, which included a commitment to reduce the number of councils in Northern Ireland to 11.[18]

See also


External links

  • NI Direct – Local Council Websites
  • NI Local Government Association
  • Review of Public Administration NI
  • Local Government Boundaries Commissioner for Northern Ireland
  • DOENI – Local Government
  • Macrory Report
  • Local Government (Boundaries) Act (Northern Ireland) 1971
  • Northern Ireland Councillor's Handbook
  • Map of the UK counties and unitary administrations
  • Map of all UK local authorities
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