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26/03/2024 - Celebrating the history of Irish local government, Ag ceiliúradh stair Rialtas Áitiúil na hÉireann


The Department of Housing, Local Government & Heritage, in collaboration with Local Government Archivists and Records Managers, have produced a national exhibition highlighting the many achievements of modern local government over the course of 125 years.


This year, we celebrate 125 years of modern local government. The 1898 Local Government (Ireland) Act democratised local government and created modern local authorities including Donegal County Council. The franchise was greatly extended, for example allowing some propertied women the right to vote for the first time. Donegal County Council, along with other Councils, met for the first time on 22 April 1899.


This exhibition is an exploration of the history and development of local democracy in Ireland. It outlines some of the more significant changes such as the introduction of proportional representation in 1920. The long road to the modernisation of our democratic structures is witnessed by the very gradual increase in numbers of women both as voters and as elected members.


The exhibition looks at many of the roles of the various Services within local government over the past 125 years. These include the building and maintenance of roads, the development of the Fire Service, the crucial work of building social housing, the provision of clean water and modern sewerage systems and the increasing importance of town planning since the inception of the 1934 Town and Regional Planning Act.


The expanded role of local authorities over decades is also highlighted. While Library Services have existed since the 19th century, other Cultural and Recreational Services developed much more recently, including Archives, Museums, Arts, Heritage and Biodiversity. Local authorities’ recent roles include partnering with local communities in national and local initiatives, including Creative Ireland, Cruinniú na nOg and the Decade of Centenaries, and the development of local and sustainable tourism.  


The exhibition is illustrated with images and photographs highlighting the work of local authorities across the length and breadth of the country including many from Donegal.   It will be on display in the County House, Lifford until the 3rd April. For more information contact Donegal County Museum at 074 9124613 or [email protected]