An electoral division (ED, ) is a legally defined administrative area in the Republic of Ireland, generally comprising multiple townlands, and formerly a subdivision of List of Irish local government areas 1898–1921, urban and rural districts. Until 1996, EDs were known as district electoral divisions (DEDs, ) in the 29 county council areas and ward (electoral subdivision), wards in the five county boroughs. Until 1972, DEDs also existed in Northern Ireland. The predecessor poor law electoral divisions were introduced throughout the island of Ireland in the 1830s. The divisions were used as local-government electoral areas until 1919 in what is now the Republic and until 1972 in Northern Ireland.

History until partition

Electoral divisions originated under the Poor Relief (Ireland) Act 1838 as "poor law electoral divisions": electoral district, electoral divisions of a poor law union (PLU) returning one or more members to the PLU's board of guardians. The boundaries of these were drawn by Poor Law Commissioners, with the intention of producing areas roughly equivalent in both population and "rateable value" (rates (tax), rates being the property tax which funded local government). This meant that while electoral divisions almost always contiguous, they might bear little relation to natural community boundaries. Elections used First-past-the-post voting, first-past-the-post in single-member divisions and multiple non-transferable vote in those electing two (or occasionally more) guardians. The 1838 act required electoral divisions to comprise complete townlands; an 1839 amendment empowered the Commissioners to ignore this restriction when constituting a large town into a single electoral division and dividing it into "wards" for poor law elections. Typically, poor law wards matched pre-existing municipal ward boundaries, though the respective Suffrage, electoral franchises differed. In 1872, the Poor Law Commissioners were replaced by the Local Government Board for Ireland (LGBI) which had broader powers. The Commissioners and LGBI had power to revise most local boundaries, including electoral divisions. Returns of the valuation of each electoral division were made to Parliament in 1846, 1866, and 1901. The Local Government (Ireland) Act 1898 established a system of Administrative counties of Ireland, administrative counties divided into "county districts" (Urban district (Great Britain and Ireland), urban and Rural District, rural districts) run by directly elected county councils and district councils. PLUs comprised one or more county districts, and poor law electoral divisions were renamed district electoral divisions (DEDs). Two rural district councillors were elected from each rural district DED, who were also ex officio guardians of the corresponding PLU. By contrast, urban districts had separate elections for councillors (elected from wards) and PLU guardians (elected from DEDs). The LGBI got temporary power to redraw boundaries to adapt to the 1898 act, which as regards DEDs it used mainly around municipal areas (county boroughs, urban districts, and town commissioners, towns with commissioners). If a municipal border crossed '''' DED, the LGBI split it into two DEDs, '''' Urban and '''' Rural. In general, a town or city's DEDs and wards were given the same boundaries, and a town not divided into wards formed a single DED; however, there were cases of multiple wards in a single DED and vice versa. County electoral divisions (for the county council) were formed from groups of DEDs. The 1898 changes also made DEDs the polling districts for Parliament of the United Kingdom, Westminster elections. Whereas the 1841–1891 censuses had been broken down by civil parish (Ireland), civil parish and townland, those of 1901 and 1911 were broken down by DED and townland. The Local Government (Ireland) Act 1919 mandated the single transferable vote (STV) from the 1920 Irish local elections, 1920 local elections, and the LGBI created multi-seat "district electoral areas" by combining one-seat and two-seat DEDs.

Northern Ireland

After the 1920–22 partition of Ireland, the Government of Northern Ireland (1921–1972), Stormont government took over the LGBI's powers within Northern Ireland; power to define DEDs fell initially to the Minister of Home Affairs (Northern Ireland), Minister of Home Affairs, later to the Minister of Health and Local Government, and finally to the Minister of Development (Northern Ireland), Minister of Development. The Parliament of Northern Ireland abolished STV in 1922 and returned to "district electoral divisions" instead of the larger "district electoral areas". The reconstituted DEDs were delineated in 1923 in time for the Northern Ireland local elections, 1924, 1924 local election. The Ulster Unionist Party used gerrymandering to ensure Ulster unionism, unionist control in areas with small Irish nationalism, nationalist population majorities. PLUs were abolished in 1948 on the introduction of the Health and Social Care (Northern Ireland), National Health Serrvice, but DEDs remained the electoral units for rural districts, and largely aligned with the wards used in urban districts. There were very few changes to DED boundaries made between 1923 and their obsolescence under the Local Government (Boundaries) Act (Northern Ireland) 1971, except to adjust to extension of urban municipal boundaries. The 1926–1951 censuses were published down to townland level, while for those of 1961–1971, the lowest level of detail was DED or ward. The 1971 act replaced the two-tier county and district local government model with a single-tier district model, with each of :Districts of Northern Ireland, 1972–2015, the 26 new districts divided into "district electoral divisions to be known as wards". A Boundary commissions (United Kingdom), boundary commissioner delineating the districts and wards could disregard the old DEDs but use them for reference where convenient. The centres of the new districts of Antrim (borough), Antrim, Castlereagh (borough), Castlereagh and Magherafelt District Council, Magherafelt were defined in terms of the DEDs of the same names. The worsening of the Troubles meant Direct rule (Northern Ireland), direct rule was introduced Northern Ireland (Temporary Provisions) Act 1972, in 1972; among the changes intended to conciliate nationalists was the reintroduction of STV for the 1973 Northern Ireland local elections, 1973 local elections, based on District Electoral Area, district electoral areas made up of multiple wards. The term "district electoral division" is obsolete, ":Wards of Northern Ireland, ward" being used instead. The Local Government Act (Northern Ireland) 1972 requires a boundary commissioner review every 12 years, and the wards were last redefined in 2012 by the Department of the Environment (Northern Ireland), Department of the Environment of the then Northern Ireland Executive.

Republic of Ireland

Because of the 1919 change, DEDs have no independent use in what is now the Republic of Ireland; however, they remained legally defined units used in General Register Office#Ireland, civil registration, Land registration#Ireland, land registration, statistical reporting, and as references for specifying the makeup of larger units, or the location of smaller ones. There were comprehensive revisions of the DEDs in County Dublin in 1971, to facilitate redrawing electoral boundaries in growing suburbs of Dublin, Dublin city, and again in 1986, when it was split into Dún Laoghaire–Rathdown, Fingal, and South Dublin counties. Otherwise DEDs were rarely if ever changed, so that a few came to cross county/county-borough boundaries which had been adjusted. The Local Government Act 1994 substituted the name "electoral division" to replace both the names "district electoral division" (as used in counties) and "ward" (as used in county boroughs, themselves renamed "cities" by the Local Government Act 2001). Ward boundaries had been revised more often than those of DEDs. There are a total of 3,440 EDs in the state, with an average population of 1,447 and average area of . Populations now vary widely, ranging in 2016 from 38,894 for Blanchardstown–Blakestown in Fingal to 12 for Lackagh, North Tipperary and 7 for Ballynaneashagh, Waterford, Waterford City. The DED/ED has been the lowest level of detail for printed census publications since independence. To maintain confidentiality, the Central Statistics Office (Ireland), Central Statistics Office (CSO) amalgamates 32 EDs with low population into neighbouring EDs in the presentation of detailed census data. Conversely, more populous EDs are subdivided to provide Small Area Population Statistics (SAPS); whereas sub-DED data could previously be requested from the CSO for a fee, SAPS data has been published online since 2002. The Nomenclature of Territorial Units for Statistics (NUTS) classification NUTS statistical regions of Ireland, for Ireland formerly specified as "local administrative unit" (LAU) the 3,441 EDs (counting the County Meath, Meath and County Louth, Louth portions of St Mary's ED separately). Since 2019, Ireland's NUTS LAUs have been the 166 local electoral areas.compare "Correspondence table LAU – NUTS 2016, EU-28 and EFTA / available Candidate Countries" 2018 and 2019



Local Government (Ireland) Act 1898

External links

;All island
Townlands in Ireland
– OpenStreetMap project mapping administrative divisions of the island of Ireland, including [district] electoral divisions *Boundaries of Administrative Counties, Co. Boroughs, Urban & Dispensary Districts & District Electoral Divisions (4 sheets, Ordnance Survey of Ireland) *
1912 edition
— from the Leslie Brown Map Collection *
1935 edition, partly revised 1961
— from the Placenames Database of Ireland ;Republic of Ireland
Electoral Divisions - OSi National Statutory Boundaries
— interactive map and downloadable geographic information system datafiles (there are duplicates of EDs affected by the 2019 Cork boundary change)
Categories of Disadvantaged Areas
Set of Excel spreadsheets, listing all townlands and the 1898 District Electoral Division they belong to — from Department of Agriculture and Food (Ireland), Department of Agriculture and Food
Electoral districts in Ireland
— from Placenames Database of Ireland; a total of 3474, with some double-counted ;Northern Ireland * {{cite web , author1=Ordnance Survey of Northern Ireland , title=Administrative map of Northern Ireland showing the boundaries of administrative counties, county & municipal boroughs, urban, union & rural districts, district electoral divisions & townships , url=https://collections.lib.uwm.edu/digital/collection/agdm/id/11899 , website=American Geographical Society Library Digital Map Collection , publisher=University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee Libraries , access-date=1 October 2020 , language=en , date=1935 History of local government in Ireland LAU 2 statistical regions of the European Union Subdivisions of the Republic of Ireland Electoral areas in the Republic of Ireland