Local government in Northern Ireland

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Northern Ireland is divided into 11 districts for local government purposes. In Northern Ireland, local councils do not carry out the same range of functions as those in the rest of the United Kingdom; for example they have no responsibility for education, road-building or housing (although they do nominate members to the advisory Northern Ireland Housing Council). Their functions include planning, waste and recycling services, leisure and community services, building control and local economic and cultural development. The collection of rates is handled centrally by the Land and Property Services agency of the Northern Ireland Executive.

Local Government Districts[edit]

Northern Ireland, administrative divisions - Nmbrs - colored.svg

The 11 districts were established in 2015.[1][2] Basic geographical statistics are shown below; data collected for 'religion or religion brought up in' and 'national identity' by district are listed separately.

Previously (between 1972 and 2015) the country was divided into 26 smaller districts.

District Council Meeting place Population[3] Density Area km² № on map
Antrim and Newtownabbey Antrim and Newtownabbey Borough Council Newtownabbey and Antrim (alternately) 142,492 249 572 3
Ards and North Down Ards and North Down Borough Council Bangor 160,864 349 461 2
Armagh City, Banbridge and Craigavon Armagh City, Banbridge and Craigavon Borough Council Craigavon 214,090 160 1,337 6
Belfast Belfast City Council Belfast 341,877 2,581 132 1
Causeway Coast and Glens Causeway Coast and Glens Borough Council Coleraine[4] 144,246 73 1,980 8
Derry and Strabane Derry City and Strabane District Council Derry 150,679 122 1,238 10
Fermanagh and Omagh Fermanagh and Omagh District Council Omagh and Enniskillen[5] 116,835 41 2,857 11
Lisburn and Castlereagh Lisburn and Castlereagh City Council Lisburn[6] 144,381 286 505 4
Mid and East Antrim Mid and East Antrim Borough Council Ballymena[7] 138,773 133 1,046 7
Mid Ulster Mid Ulster District Council Dungannon[8] 147,392 81 1,827 9
Newry, Mourne and Down Newry, Mourne and Down District Council Downpatrick and Newry 180,012 110 1,633 5

Composition of District Councils[edit]

Based on the 2019 Northern Ireland local elections.[a]

District DUP SF UUP SDLP APNI GP TUV PBP PUP Aontú Militant Ind Total
Antrim and Newtownabbey 14 5 9 4 7 1 40
Ards and North Down 12 8 1 10 3 1 5 40
Armagh City, Banbridge and Craigavon 11 10 10 6 3 1 41
Belfast 15 18 4 6 9 4 3 1 60
Causeway Coast and Glens 13 9 6 4 2 1 5 40
Derry City and Strabane 6 11 2 10 2 2 1 6 40
Fermanagh and Omagh 5 15 9 5 1 1 4 40
Lisburn and Castlereagh 14 2 11 3 9 1 40
Mid and East Antrim 16 2 6 1 7 5 3 40
Mid Ulster 9 17 6 5 1 2 40
Newry, Mourne and Down 2 16 3 11 3 1 5 41
Total 117 105 74 56 53 7 7 5 2 2 1 33 462

Last updated 5 August 2022


The current pattern of 11 local government districts was established on 1 April 2015, as a result of the reform process that started in 2005.

The previous pattern of local government in Northern Ireland, with 26 councils, was established in 1973 by the Local Government (Boundaries) Act (Northern Ireland) 1971 and the Local Government Act (Northern Ireland) 1972 to replace the previous system established by the Local Government (Ireland) Act 1898. The system was based on the recommendations of the Macrory Report, of June 1970, which presupposed the continued existence of the Government of Northern Ireland to act as a regional-level authority.[9]

From 1921 to 1973, Northern Ireland was divided into six administrative counties (subdivided into urban and rural districts) and two county boroughs. The counties and county boroughs continue to exist for the purposes of lieutenancy and shrievalty.[10] This system, with the abolition of rural districts, remains the model for local government in the Republic of Ireland. (See also List of rural and urban districts in Northern Ireland for more details)


Councillors are elected for a four-year term of office under the single transferable vote (STV) system. Elections were last held on 2 May 2019 and are next scheduled to be held on 4 May 2023. To qualify for election, a councillor candidate must be:

In addition, they must either:

  • be a local elector for the district, or
  • have, during the whole of the 12-month period prior to the election, either owned or occupied land in the district, or else resided or worked in the district


The districts are combined for various purposes.

Eurostat NUTS level 3[edit]

In the Eurostat Nomenclature of Territorial Units for Statistics (NUTS), Northern Ireland is divided into five parts at level 3

Name Area Population (2011) % of population
UKN01 Belfast 280,962 15.5 NUTS 3 regions of Northern Ireland map.svg
UKN02 Outer Belfast Carrickfergus, Castlereagh, Lisburn, Newtownabbey, North Down 391,560 21.6
UKN03 East Antrim, Ards, Ballymena, Banbridge, Craigavon, Down, Larne 439,682 24.3
UKN04 North Ballymoney, Coleraine, Derry, Limavady, Moyle, Strabane 288,138 15.9
UKN05 West and South Armagh, Cookstown, Dungannon, Fermanagh, Magherafelt, Newry and Mourne, Omagh 411,893 22.7

Former Education and Library Boards[edit]

There were five education and library boards (ELBs) in Northern Ireland.

As part of the Review of Public Administration process, the library functions of the ELBs were taken over by a new body, the Northern Ireland Library Authority (branded Libraries NI) in April 2009.[11]

The education and skills functions were centralised into a single Education Authority for Northern Ireland in April 2015.[12]

The boards were as follows:

Name Area
1. Belfast Northern Ireland Education.png
2. North Eastern Antrim, Ballymena, Ballymoney, Carrickfergus, Coleraine, Larne, Magherafelt, Moyle, Newtownabbey
3. South Eastern Ards, Castlereagh, Down, Lisburn and North Down
4. Southern Armagh, Banbridge, Cookstown, Craigavon, Dungannon and South Tyrone, Newry and Mourne
5. Western Derry, Fermanagh, Limavady, Omagh, Strabane

Former Health and Social Services Boards[edit]

There were four health and social services boards which were replaced by a single Health and Social Care Board in April 2009.[13]

The former health and social services boards were as follows:

Name Area
1. Eastern Ards, Belfast, Castlereagh, Down, Lisburn, North Down Northern Ireland Health Boards.png
2. Northern Antrim, Ballymena, Ballymoney, Carrickfergus, Coleraine, Cookstown, Larne, Magherafelt, Moyle, Newtownabbey
3. Southern Armagh, Banbridge, Craigavon, Dungannon and South Tyrone, Newry and Mourne
4. Western Derry, Fermanagh, Limavady, Omagh, Strabane


In June 2002, the Northern Ireland Executive established a Review of Public Administration to review the arrangements for the accountability, development, administration and delivery of public services. Among its recommendations were a reduction in the number of districts.[14] In 2005 Peter Hain, the Secretary of State for Northern Ireland, announced proposals to reduce the number of councils to seven.[15] The names and boundaries of the seven districts were announced in March 2007.[16] In March 2008 the restored Northern Executive agreed to create eleven new councils instead of the original seven.[17][18] The first elections were due to take place in May 2011. However, by May 2010 disagreements among parties in the executive over district boundaries were expected to delay the reforms until 2015.[19] In June 2010 the proposed reforms were abandoned following the failure of the Northern Ireland Executive to reach agreement.[20][21] However, on 12 March 2012, the Northern Ireland Executive published its programme for government, which included a commitment to reduce the number of councils in Northern Ireland to 11.[22]

See also[edit]

Tables relating to the old 26 council system[edit]


  1. ^ Five councillors have left the DUP since the 2019 local election, four of whom now sit as independents, James McCorkell (Limavady), Wesley Irvine (Bangor Central), William Keery (Bangor East and Donaghadee) and Nathan Anderson (Castlereagh South). Ryan McCready (Faughan) also left the DUP and has joined the UUP. Another DUP councillor is currently suspended from the party, William Walker (Rowallane). Four councillors have also left the SDLP since 2019, Stephanie Quigley (Coleraine) and Angela Mulholland (Causeway) now sit as independents while Denise Mullen (Dungannon) has joined Aontú, and Jim McKeever (Faughan) was expelled from the party. Three councillors have left the UUP since the last local election, William McCandless (Coleraine) now sits as an independent while John McDermott (Carrick Castle) has joined the DUP and Harold McKee (The Mournes) has joined the TUV, a fourth is currently suspended from the party, Derek Hussey (Derg). One councillor elected for Alliance has left the party since 2019, Carole Howard (Titanic) has joined the UUP, another councillor has joined the party since 2019, Cadogan Enright (Downpatrick). One councillor elected for the Green Party has left the party, Simon Lee (Castlereagh South) has joined the SDLP. One councillor elected for the PUP has left the party, John Kyle (Titanic) has joined the UUP. The one Cross-Community Labour Alternative councillor elected in 2019, Donal O'Cofaigh (Enniskillen) is now a member of Militant Left. These are all of the changes since the 2019 local election.


  1. ^ "Population Estimates for UK, England and Wales, Scotland and Northern Ireland, Mid-2019". Office for National Statistics. 6 May 2020. Retrieved 6 May 2020.
  2. ^ "Standard Area Measurements (2016) for Administrative Areas in the United Kingdom". Office for National Statistics. 1 February 2017. Retrieved 9 February 2017.
  3. ^ "Population Estimates for UK, England and Wales, Scotland and Northern Ireland, Mid-2019". Office for National Statistics. 6 May 2020. Retrieved 6 May 2020.
  4. ^ "Contact Us". Causeway Coast & Glens Borough Council. Retrieved 19 March 2018.
  5. ^ Council Meetings Fermanagh and Omagh District Council
  6. ^ "Contact". Lisburn & Castlereagh City Council. Retrieved 19 March 2018.
  7. ^ "Schedule of Meetings" (PDF). Mid and East Antrim Borough Council. Archived from the original (PDF) on 4 April 2016. Retrieved 23 March 2016.
  8. ^ "Council Meetings 2016". Mid Ulster District Council. Archived from the original on 19 March 2016. Retrieved 23 March 2016.
  9. ^ "Report of the Review Body on Local Government in Northern Ireland 1970". CAIN Web Service – Conflict and Politics in Northern Ireland (University of Ulster). Her Majesty's Stationery Office. June 1970. Retrieved 16 September 2011.
  10. ^ The Northern Ireland (Lieutenancy) Order 1975 (S.I. 1975 No.156)
  11. ^ Campbell officially launches a new era in libraries NI-Libraries.net, 2 April 2009; Retrieved 23 July 2013 Archived 29 October 2013 at the Wayback Machine
  12. ^ "Education Authority". Education Authority NI.
  13. ^ "Health and Social Board". Retrieved 19 March 2018.
  14. ^ "Review of Public Administration". Northern Ireland Executive. Retrieved 8 July 2010.[dead link]
  15. ^ "Major reform of local government". BBC News. 22 November 2005. Retrieved 19 March 2018.
  16. ^ Revised Recommendations for new council boundaries unveiled (Press Release) Office of the Local Government Boundaries Commissioner, 30 March 2007 Archived 7 February 2012 at the Wayback Machine
  17. ^ "NI councils reduced from 26 to 11". BBC News. 13 March 2008. Retrieved 19 March 2018.
  18. ^ Foster announces the future shape of local government NI Executive, 13 March 2008 Archived 25 July 2008 at the Wayback Machine
  19. ^ "Plan to cut Northern Ireland councils may be delayed until 2015". Belfast Telegraph. 7 May 2010. Retrieved 24 May 2010.
  20. ^ "The executive fails to agree a deal on council reform". BBC News. 15 June 2010. Retrieved 8 July 2010.
  21. ^ "Local Government Association Incensed as Minister Stops the Reform Process". Northern Ireland Local Government Association. 15 June 2010. Archived from the original on 17 February 2011. Retrieved 8 July 2010.
  22. ^ "Priority 5: Delivering High Quality and Efficient Public Services; Key Commitments" (PDF). Programme for Government 2011–15. Office of the First Minister and deputy First Minister. 12 March 2012. Retrieved 15 June 2012.

External links[edit]