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History of the Department

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Following the formation of the new Government in June 2020, the Department was renamed the Department of Housing, Local Government and Heritage with effect from 30 September 2020.

The majority of heritage functions transferred to this Department from the Department of Culture, Heritage and the Gaeltacht from 9th September 2020.


Responsibility for Motor Tax transferred to the Department of Transport, Tourism and Sport from 1 January 2018.


With the establishment of the new Department of Rural and Community Development, the Community functions previously undertaken by this Department transferred to it from 27th July 2017.

Following this transfer, this Department was renamed the Department of Housing, Planning  and  Local Government on 1st August 2017


Following the formation of the new Government in May 2016, the Department was renamed the Department of Housing, Planning, Community and Local Government with effect from 23rd July 2016.

The Environment functions were transferred to the newly-titled Department of Communications, Climate Action and Environment from 22nd July 2016.

Responsibility for Rural Development, Dormant Accounts, Tidy Towns and Social Enterprise was transferred to the newly-titled Department of Arts, Heritage, Regional, Rural and Gaeltacht Affairs from 9th June 2016.


Following the formation of the new Government in March 2011, Heritage functions transferred to the Department of Arts, Heritage and the Gaeltacht from 1 May 2011. Community functions transferred to this Department from the Department of Community, Equality and Gaeltacht Affairs with effect from 1 May 2011.

The name of the Department from 2 May 2011 is: Department of the Environment, Community & Local Government.

2002 - 2007

In June 2002, most of the Department's roads and traffic functions transferred to the newly established Department of Transport. At the same time the Department assumed responsibility for the built and natural heritage, nuclear safety and the Meteorological Service (Met Éireann). In June 2003 the Department's name was changed to reflect these new responsibilities - The Department of the Environment, Heritage and Local Government.

Following the formation of the new Government in June 2007, responsibility in relation to Non-national roads and the National Vehicle and Driver File (NVDF) transferred to the Department of Transport. New functions in relation to marine foreshores transferred from the Department of Communications, Energy and Natural Resources.

1947 - 1997

With the creation of separate Departments of Health and Social Welfare in 1947, the renamed Department of Local Government concentrated on local government matters and the infrastructural programmes of housing, roads, and water/waste water services. In subsequent years, the range of functions expanded in line with changes in the economy and society, and perceptions of the role of government in promoting national development.

New initiatives in the 1960s included comprehensive road traffic legislation, a modern physical planning system for the whole country and a renewed drive to meet demands for housing. In 1977 the title of the Department was changed to the Department of the Environment reflecting a developing role for the Department in the area of environmental promotion and protection.

A major priority in recent years has been the drive to modernise the local government system.This continues as a major priority and is reflected in the Government's decision in July 1997 to rename the Department as the Department of the Environment and Local Government.

The New State

In 1920, the underground Dáil Éireann, formed by successful Sinn Féin candidates in the 1919 General Election, set up a Local Government Department which assumed the functions of a central authority. The Local Government Board was still active and, nominally at least, in control of affairs so, for a time, there were two central authorities competing for the allegiance of local authorities. A majority of the local authorities, however, quickly recognised the new Dáil department and broke with the Local Government Board.

In April 1922, the Ministry of Local Government of the newly independent Free State took over the central administration. In 1924 the Department of Local Government and Public Health was established. This new Department took over the task of supervising the local government system which had been performed since the 1870s by the Local Government Board under the former British administration.

The focus of Department activities in the 1920s and 1930s was on reform of the operation of the local government system, expansion of the housing programme, development of other infrastructural services, introduction of town planning and growth in health and welfare services. By the 1940s, it was recognised that the range of functions of the Department had become too large and that change was needed.

1872 - Local Government Board for Ireland.

In 1872, the Poor Law Commission was transformed into the Local Government Board for Ireland. The establishment of the Local Government Board followed from the increasing range of duties that had extended the responsibilities formerly exercised by the Poor Law Commissioners far beyond basic care for the poor and into areas such as hospitals, disease eradication, medical services, sanitary services, and housing.

1838 - Poor Relief Act

The origins of today's Department of the Environment, Community and Local Government can be traced back to the passing of the Poor Relief Act in 1838 which created the first Government agency with responsibility for local affairs in Ireland.

The 1838 Act covered the whole country with a network of poor law boards whose members, called Guardians of the Poor were made up partly of justices and partly by members elected by ratepayers. Initially, the boards operated under the control of Poor Law Commissioners sitting in London, with the Irish branch office in the Custom House.