1920 Irish local elections
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All 1806 councillors across Ireland
  First party Second party Third party
Éamon de Valera.jpg
Sir Edward Carson, bw photo portrait seated.jpg
Leader Éamon de Valera Thomas Johnson Edward Carson
Party Sinn Féin Labour Irish Unionist
Councillors 550 394 355

Elections were held in January and June 1920 for the various county and district councils of Ireland. The elections were organised by the Dublin Castle administration under the law of the then United Kingdom of Great Britain and Ireland (UK), and held while the Irish War of Independence was pitting UK forces against those of the Irish Republic proclaimed in 1919 by the First Dáil. Elections were held in two stages: borough and urban district councils in January; and county and rural district councils in June. Sinn Féin, which had established the First Dáil, won control of many of the councils, which subsequently broke contact with Dublin Castle's Local Government Board for Ireland and instead recognised the republican Department of Local Government. The election results provide historians with a barometer of public opinion in what would be the last elections held on an all-island basis: the Government of Ireland Act 1920 passed at the end of the year effected the partition of Ireland from 1921. The next local elections were held in 1924 in Northern Ireland and in 1925 in the Irish Free State.


In the 1918 general elections the newly reformed Sinn Féin party had secured a large majority of Irish seats in the Parliament of the United Kingdom. Because many seats won by Sinn Féin were uncontested, and the elections used the "first past the post" system, Sinn Féin in all contested seats gained slightly less than 50% of the vote.[1] This electoral success 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 Bill's second reading debate and vote were on 24 March. 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.[2][3]

Some Sinn Féin members including Arthur Griffith had also helped to form the Proportional Representation Society of Ireland in the different circumstances of 1911. By 1920 the party was in a far stronger electoral position, and had no reason to oppose proportional representation, and it treated these elections as internal Irish elections for local authorities that were expected to swear allegiance to the new Irish Republic.

The electoral method introduced by the 1919 Act is still used in elections in the Republic of Ireland and most elections in Northern Ireland today.

January 1920

The 1919 act mandated elections for all urban councils except Sligo Corporation, which had been reconstituted and elected in 1919.[4] The cumulative first preference votes in the 1920 urban elections were:

Party % votes
Sinn Féin 27
Unionists[5] 27
Labour Party 18
Other Irish nationalists[6] 15
Independents[7] 14

Excluding the more unionist province of Ulster, the urban results were:[8]

Party % votes
Sinn Féin 41
Independents 21
Labour Party 17
Other nationalists[6] 14
Unionists 7

The 15 January elections saw Sinn Féin, Labour, and other nationalists winning control of 172 of Ireland's 206 borough and urban district councils. The subsequent mayoral elections on 30 January saw a Unionist elected for Belfast, a Nationalist in Derry, Labour in Wexford, and Sinn Féin in eight boroughs.[9]

Turnout and uncontested areas[10]
Electorate 293,410 13,367 154,632 13,583 474,992
Votes 198,487 9,968 112,844 10,204 331,503
Turnout % 67.7 74.6 73.0 75.1 69.8
Spoilt % 2.57 2.82 3.03 4.51 2.79
Electoral areas 40 12 204 39 295
Candidates 637 150 2,023 315 3,125
Seats 308 84 1,148 195 1,735
Uncontested areas 1 2 21 12 36

In Westport, only 4 candidates were nominated for the 18 seats on the urban district council, and only 2 of those accepted office. Since 5 councillors was a quorum, Mayo County Council mandated a special election for 15 March, but only one extra candidate was nominated.[11]

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. The county and rural district elections saw virtually no contests outside of Ulster.[12]

Sinn Féin's success allowed them to seize control of virtually every county council and rural district council outside of Ulster.[13] Sinn Féin success in 12 June rural and county elections extended even to Ulster, with the party winning control of 36 of Ulsters 55 rural districts.[9]


Map of Ireland's various county, urban, and rural district councils.
Map of Ireland's various county, urban, and rural district councils.
Party Councillors ± First Pref. votes FPv% ±%
Sinn Féin 550
Labour 394
Irish Unionist 355
Old Nationalist[6] 238
Independent 161
Municipal Reform 108
Totals 1806 100%
Source: Michael Laffan[14]

Detailed results by council type

County councils

Authority SF Lab U Independent IrishNat Total Result Details
Antrim Irish Unionist Details
Armagh Irish Unionist Details
Carlow Sinn Féin Details
Cavan Sinn Féin Details
Clare Sinn Féin Details
Cork Sinn Féin Details
Donegal 14 0 2 0 4 20 Sinn Féin Details
Down Irish Unionist Details
Dublin 12 2 3 2 19 Sinn Féin Details
Fermanagh Irish Nationalist Details
Galway 10 24 No overall control Details
Kerry Sinn Féin Details
Kildare 15 5 1 21[15] Sinn Féin Details
Kilkenny 16 2 1 19 Sinn Féin Details
Queen's Co. Sinn Féin Details
Leitrim 19 19 Sinn Féin Details
Limerick Sinn Féin Details
Londonderry 4 11 4 19 Irish Unionist Details
Longford 20 20[15] Sinn Féin Details
Louth Sinn Féin Details
Mayo Sinn Féin Details
Meath Sinn Féin Details
Monaghan Sinn Féin Details
King's Co. Sinn Féin Details
Roscommon Sinn Féin Details
Sligo 20 20 Sinn Féin Details
Tipperary Sinn Féin Details
Tyrone Irish Nationalist Details
Waterford 19 40 No overall control Details
Westmeath Sinn Féin Details
Wexford Sinn Féin Details
Wicklow Sinn Féin Details

County Borough councils

Authority SF Lab U Independent IrishNat Total Result Details
Belfast 5 12 35 5 60 Irish Unionist Details
Cork 30 56 Sinn Féin Details
Dublin 42 14 1 14 80 Sinn Féin Details
Limerick 26 6 0 4 0 40 Sinn Féin Details
Waterford 22 3 10 40 Sinn Féin Details

District councils

Authority SF Lab U Independent IrishNat Other Total Result Details
Armagh 5 8 5 18 No overall control Details
Blackrock Details
Dalkey Details
Galway Details
Killiney and Ballybrack Details
Kilrush 5 7 12 Irish Nationalist Details
Kingstown 5 4 8 4 21 No overall control Details
Londonderry 10 19 1 10 40 No overall control Details
Pembroke 6 6 3 15 No overall control Details
Rathmines & Rathgar 9 11 1 21 Irish Unionist Details
Omagh Irish Nationalist Details
Strabane Irish Nationalist Details




  1. ^ Whyte, Nicholas (19 December 2000). "The Irish elections of 1918". ARK. Archived from the original on 24 August 2006. Retrieved 31 March 2017.
  2. ^ Sinnott, R. "Irish voters decide; voting behaviour in elections and referendums since 1918" (Manchester University Press, 1995), pp. 27–28
  3. ^ "Hansard report of the debate on the Bill's second reading, March 1919". Archived from the original on 23 May 2012. Retrieved 1 March 2011.
  4. ^ Local Government (Ireland) Act 1919 §9; Sligo Corporation Act 1918
  5. ^ Candidates from the Ulster Unionist Party and the smaller Irish Unionist Alliance
  6. ^ a b c Including candidates from parties such as the Irish Parliamentary Party
  7. ^ Sinnott R., op cit., p.28, says that "..most .. were unionist with a small "u"."
  8. ^ Martin, H. "Ireland in insurrection" (O'Connor, London 1921), pp. 212–218
  9. ^ a b O'Day, Alan; Fleming, N. C. (2014). Longman Handbook of Modern Irish History Since 1800. Routledge. p. 69. ISBN 9781317897118.
  10. ^ Cmd.1432 p.x
  11. ^ Cmd. 1432 p.xi
  12. ^ Delany, William (2001). The Green and the Red: Revolutionary Republicanism and Socialism in Irish History, 1848-1923. p. 485. ISBN 9780595190157.
  13. ^ Laffan, Michael (1999). The Resurrection of Ireland: The Sinn Féin Party, 1916–1923. Cambridge University Press. p. 327. ISBN 9781139426299.
  14. ^ a b https://www.britishnewspaperarchive.co.uk/viewer/bl/0000056/19200610/042/0003 – via British Newspaper Archive. ((cite news)): Missing or empty |title= (help)