The political influence of the landlord class over local government ended with the enactment of the Local Government (Ireland) Act 1898. Also under that Act, for the first time, women could stand for election and vote. But the elections were dominated by national issues, which continued to dominate in the 1920 to 1922 period, when local government became an important battleground in Dáil Éireann's efforts to wrest control from Dublin Castle. After 1922, centralisation was constant. Rural district councils were abolished. Responsibility for major decisions was gradually transferred from councillors to city and county managers. Responsibility for senior appointments was given to the Local Appointments Commission.
From their inception, Irish local authorities suffered a lack of fiscal independence. The 1898 act crippled the new authorities when it introduction a 50 per cent remission of rates on landed property. This ability to raise revenue was again weakened by the abolition of domestic rates in 1977. The 1898 Act applied to all Ireland, but after 1920 local government in Northern Ireland and independent Ireland followed different paths. Reforms introduced in the 1970s resulted in greater centralisation in the north, mirroring earlier developments in the south. These are some of the themes which weave through the essays in this collection, lectures in the RTÉ Thomas Davis Series commemorating one hundred years of local government in Ireland.
County & Town One Hundred Years of Local Government in Ireland offers a mixture of academic commentary and anecdotal reminiscences from practitioners. The essays also look to the future and the major change process currently under way in local government, change and may determine whether councils and councillors will survive to celebrate their second centenary.