Friday 18 October 2019

Explainer: Here's everything you need to know about the 2019 local elections

This year, the elections will be held on he same day as the 2019 European Parliament election and a referendum easing restrictions on divorce. Niall Carson/PA Wire
This year, the elections will be held on he same day as the 2019 European Parliament election and a referendum easing restrictions on divorce. Niall Carson/PA Wire

Callum Lavery

The 2019 local election count begins today.

These elections are held every five years in either May or June.

Members of the local community are asked to elect councillors who will represent their community in local authories.

Here's everything you need to know before this month's elections:

How many councillors are elected and where?

This year, 949 council seats are available across 31 local authorities, these authorities are:

  • The 26 county councils responsible for local government in 24 geographical counties. This includes Co. Dublin which has three councils: South Dublin County Council, Dun Laoghaire-Rathdown County Council and Fingal County Council.
  • City councils in Limerick, Waterford, Dublin, Cork and Galway

The number of seats available to each local authority can vary with the Minister for Housing, Planning and Local Government being able to divide a city or county area into smaller local electoral areas.

While only 949 seats are available, this year 1,979 candidates are running for election.

What do councillors do?

The role of a councillor is considered a part-time position, however many representatives consider the post a full-time job.

The work preformed by the elected members are known as 'reserved functions' and they include contributing to major decisions regarding policy and finance.

To put it simply, councillors act like a board of directors for the area with the city or county manager action as the CEO of the area and implementing their collective decisions.

Councillors powers include adopting the annual budget, giving approval to borrow money, land rezoning, making or changing by-laws, nominating a candidate for presidency and approving council land sales.

Are councillors paid?

Currently, elected members receive an annual gross payment of around €17,000 for their representation of their constituent, but this is subject to tax.

When they retire, they receive a lump sum payment of around €17,000 for a councillor who has served for five years.

However, councillors also receive an annual expenses allowance to cover the costs of travel, subsistence and mobile phone bills.

So, how does the vote work?

On polling day, voters vote by secret ballot in their local polling station. The Irish electoral system is based on proportional representation by the single transferable vote (STV).

Voters indicate their first, second, etc... choices for the candidates on the ballot paper by marking the relevant number in the box beside a person’s name, i.e. indicate your first choice by writing ’1′ opposite that candidate and ’2′ opposite your second choice, and so on.

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

When will we know the results?

The counting of votes begins on Saturday, May 25 and may not finish up until as late as Tuesday due to the vast number of candidates.

On May 31 the newly elected councillors take office. Their posters must be removed by this date to avoid constituting an offence of littering.

Finally on June 7, the councillors hold the first meeting of the new councils.

Why these elections matter:

Local elections are generally considered to provide an example of how parties will fare in a general election if called in the near future.

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