Louth online archive to mark 120 years of local elections
Louth County Archives Service has created an online exhibition to mark the 120th anniversary of the first local elections which were held in January 1899 for urban districts and in April 1899 for county areas.
The passing into law of the Local Government Act of 1898 altered local government dramatically. Prior to 1899, local government lay in the hands of Grand Juries and Boards of Guardians who were mostly controlled by local landlords.
The 1898 Act abolished the Grand Jury system and established County Councils, Rural District Councils and Urban Councils and granted many Irish people the right to vote for the first time. This right gave people a say in local government which meant that they were able to influence the development of their localities. Before the elections of April 1899, Unionists held 704 local election seats and Nationalists held 47. After the elections, it was changed to 774 seats for the Nationalists and 265 seats for Unionists.
On 22nd April 1899 many of the new Councils met for the first time and passed resolutions calling for Home Rule. This quiet revolution paved the way for the future. The support of local councils was vital to the acceptance of government by Dáil Éireann in 1920.
The online exhibition features the minutes of the first Council meetings in 1899 and copies of some surviving archives from 1899 and those early years of Irish local government.
In addition, a travelling exhibition on ‘Local Elections’ will be on display in Louth Co Hall during the week of 15th April 2019. The exhibition, produced by the Local Authority Archivists Group, features archives from local authority collections around the country and offers people an opportunity to assess the history of local government in Ireland since that first local election in 1899.
The exhibition focuses on how elections work and on what say people have had and how they used their vote. It also highlights the elections that made a particular impact on Irish society.
It is intended that the exhibition will assist in raising awareness of the purpose of local elections and highlight the role and impact that local democracy has on our communities.
The Cathaoirleach of Louth County Council, Cllr Liam Reilly, said: “It is important to mark this significant anniversary of local democracy. I encourage all to visit both the online and the travelling exhibitions, particularly our schools’ communities and those who may vote in the local elections in May for the first time.”