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Irish local elections, 1920


Irish local elections, 1920

Irish local elections, 1920

January & June, 1920

All 1806 Councillors across Ireland
  First party Second party Third party
Leader Éamon de Valera Thomas Johnson Edward Carson
Party Sinn Féin Labour Party Irish Unionist
Councils +/–
Councillors 550 394 355
Councillors +/–

The 1920 Irish local elections provide an interesting barometer of opinion in Ireland during the Irish War of Independence (1919–21), and were the last local elections to be held before the Government of Ireland Act 1920 was passed at the end of the year.

They were held in two stages:

  • Urban area local elections in January 1920 and
  • Rural areas in June 1920


In the Irish general election, 1918, held as part of the United Kingdom general election, 1918, held in December, the newly reformed Sinn Féin party had secured a large majority of seats with slightly less than 50% of the vote because of the "First past the post" electoral system. This provided a propaganda coup for Sinn Féin, and so the British Government introduced the Local Government (Ireland) Act 1919, which allowed for parliamentary elections by proportional representation in all of Ireland for the first time, by the system of the Single transferable vote for multi-member electoral areas. The government hoped that the new system would reveal less-than-monolithic support for Sinn Féin, and it was first tested in the 1920 local elections.[1][2]

The electoral method introduced by the 1919 Act is still used in Irish elections today.

January 1920

The urban borough elections result for first preference votes were:
Party % votes
Sinn Féin 27
Unionists[3] 27
Labour Party 18
Other nationalists[4] 15
Independents[5] 14
Excluding the more unionist province of Ulster, the urban results were:[6]
Party % votes
Sinn Féin 41
Independents 21
Labour Party 17
Other nationalists[4] 14
Unionists 7

June 1920

The rural elections showed a much greater level of support for Sinn Féin in its core support area. It took control of 338 out of 393 local government bodies, county councils, boards of guardians and rural district councils across the whole island.


Party Councillors ± First Pref. votes FPv% ±%
Sinn Féin 550
Labour Party 394
Irish Unionist 355
Old Nationalist[4] 238
Independent 161
Municipal Reform 108
Totals 1806 100%
Source: Michael Laffan[7]

Detailed results by council

Authority SF Lab IU Independent (politician) Total Details
Belfast Corporation 5 12 35 60 Details
Carlow Details
Cavan Details
Clare Details
Cork Details
Cork Corporation 30 56 Details
Donegal Details
Dublin Corporation 42 14 1 14 80 Details
Dublin County Details
Fingal Details
Galway 10 24 Details
Galway City Details
Kerry Details
Kildare Details
Kilkenny Details
Laois Details
Leitrim 19 19 Details
Limerick 26 40 Details
Londonderry Borough 10 19 41 Details
Londonderry Details
Longford Details
Louth Details
Mayo Details
Meath Details
Monaghan Details
Offaly Details
Roscommon Details
Sligo Corporation 7 5 4 24 Details
Sligo 20 20 Details
South Dublin Details
Tipperary Details
Waterford 19 40 Details
Westmeath Details
Wexford Details
Wicklow Details
Totals 1806


  1. ^ Sinnott, R. "Irish voters decide; voting behaviour in elections and referendums since 1918" (Manchester University Press, 1995), pp.27-28
  2. ^ report of the debate on the Bill's second reading, March 1919Hansard
  3. ^ Candidates from the Ulster Unionist Party and the smaller Irish Unionist Alliance
  4. ^ a b c Including candidates from parties such as the Irish Parliamentary Party
  5. ^ Sinnott R., op cit., p.28, says that "..most .. were unionist with a small "u"."
  6. ^ Martin, H. "Ireland in insurrection" (O'Connor, London 1921), pp.212-218
  7. ^ Laffan, Michael (1999). The Resurrection of Ireland: The Sinn Féin Party, 1916–1923. Cambridge University Press. p. 327. 
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