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AILG Highlights “Democratic Deficit” in Irish Local Government System in Submission to Council of Europe

The AILG has expressed major concerns to the Council of Europe (COE) and the Congress of Local and Regional Authorities (CLRAE) that Ireland has the most centralised system of local government compared to its European counterparts in terms of powers, functions, service delivery and funding.

AILG submitted its independent report to a CLRAE European Monitoring Committee during its recent visit to review Ireland, where they examined specific issues related to local & Regional democracy.

The full text of the submission made by the AILG to the European Committee of Local Self-Government is available on AILG’s website HERE.

Speaking in relation to the report, AILG President Cllr. Pat Fitzpatrick said; “Ireland has one of the most centralised systems of government of any European International democracy. Put simply, Councillors here have fewer powers than in almost every other country and have limited revenue-raising and spending powers. In reality, since the 2014 reforms, the position and powers of the Chief Executive have increased resulting in a growing imbalance between the executive powers of the Chief Executive and the reserved powers of the elected Councillors. Accordingly, this leads to a democratic deficit where decisions can be made without direct democratic accountability. This is outdated, anti-democratic, and no longer tenable and was never acceptable.”

Key areas of concern highlighted by AILG in its submission include;

  • The growing centralised nature of Ireland’s Local Government system, including increasing powers of the Minister through various Ministerial Guidelines.
  • An imbalance between the Elected Council and the Chief Executives in local authorities which leads to a democratic deficit where decisions can be made without direct democratic accountability.
  • The limited range of functions is carried out directly by local authorities in Ireland compared to other EU countries.
  • The lack of formal mechanisms for consultations between the local government associations and central government.
  • The low share of public expenditure by local government in Ireland in comparison to other EU countries.

The final report from the European Committee of Local Self-Government, part of the 46-nation Council of Europe is expected to be published in July 2023. Two monitoring visits of local and regional democracy in Ireland have previously been carried out in 2001 and 2013 respectively.


Please contact Communications Officer Elaine Lynch at or 087 3470274 for further information.

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