Counties of Ireland

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The counties of Ireland were traditional and long standing divisions of the island of Ireland. Ireland was originally divided into five provinces, Ulster, Leinster, Munster, Connacht and Meath, with the latter eventually being absorbed into Leinster. The provinces were further subdivided into many hundreds of tuatha, a term which translates from the Irish language as meaning both the people, tribe or clan of an area and the territory they controlled. Following the Norman invasion of Ireland in the 12th century, the process of shiring the country into baronies and then counties began.

The counties underwent various changes and renamings over the years, settling into their by now traditional styles by the middle of the 19th century.

Partition of Ireland

The partition of Ireland into Northern Ireland and the Irish Free State saw the traditional thirty-two counties being split, with six of the nine Ulster counties becoming Northern Ireland, while the remaining twenty-six counties became the Irish Free State.

The traditional 32 counties are as follows:

Traditional counties of Ireland. Republic of Ireland
  1. Dublin
  2. Wicklow
  3. Wexford
  4. Carlow
  5. Kildare
  6. Meath
  7. Louth
  8. Monaghan
  9. Cavan
  10. Longford
  11. Westmeath
  12. Offaly
  13. Laois
  14. Kilkenny
  15. Waterford
  16. Cork
  1. Kerry
  2. Limerick
  3. Tipperary
  4. Clare
  5. Galway
  6. Mayo
  7. Roscommon
  8. Sligo
  9. Leitrim
  10. Donegal

Northern Ireland

  1. Fermanagh
  2. Tyrone
  3. Londonderry
  4. Antrim
  5. Down
  6. Armagh

Table: Traditional counties

Traditional County Formerly Name in Irish County town Province State
Antrim Aontroim Antrim Ulster Northern Ireland
Armagh Ard Mhacha Armagh Ulster Northern Ireland
Carlow Caterlaugh Ceatharlach Carlow Leinster Ireland
Cavan Cabhán Cavan Ulster Ireland
Clare Thomond An Clár Ennis Munster Ireland
Cork Desmond Corcaigh Cork Munster Ireland
Donegal Tyrconnel Dún na nGall Lifford Ulster Ireland
Down An Dún Downpatrick Ulster Northern Ireland
Dublin Baile Átha Cliath Dublin Leinster Ireland
Fermanagh Fear Manach Enniskillen Ulster Northern Ireland
Galway Gaillimh Galway Connacht Ireland
Kerry Desmond Ciaraí Tralee Munster Ireland
Kildare Cill Dara Naas Leinster Ireland
Kilkenny Cill Chainnigh Kilkenny Leinster Ireland
Laois Queen's County;
Leix and Laoighis
are former spellings.
Laois (sometimes still Laoighis) Portlaoise Leinster Ireland
Leitrim Liatroim Carrick on Shannon Connacht Ireland
Limerick Thomond Luimneach Limerick Munster Ireland
Londonderry Coleraine Doire Derry Ulster Northern Ireland
Longford An Longfort Longford Leinster Ireland
Louth Dundalk Leinster Ireland
Mayo Maigh Eo Castlebar Connacht Ireland
Meath An Mhí Navan Leinster Ireland
Monaghan Muineacháin Monaghan Ulster Ireland
Offaly King's County Uíbh Fháilí Tullamore Leinster Ireland
Roscommon Ros Comáin Roscommon Connacht Ireland
Sligo Sligeach Sligo Connacht Ireland
Tipperary Tiobraid Árann Nenagh (North Riding);
Clonmel (South Riding)
Munster Ireland
Tyrone Tír Eoghain Omagh Ulster Northern Ireland
Waterford Port Láirge Waterford Munster Ireland
Westmeath An Iarmhí Mullingar Leinster Ireland
Wexford Loch Garman Wexford Leinster Ireland
Wicklow Cill Mhantáin Wicklow Leinster Ireland

Modern administrative divisions

Various changes to local government in both Northern Ireland and the Republic of Ireland have occurred over the years.

Within the Republic of Ireland

  • County Tipperary, first established in the 13th century, was divided into two "ridings", North Tipperary (county town: Nenagh) and South Tipperary (county town: Clonmel) in 1898.[1] The county was formally divided into two separate counties, North Tipperary and South Tipperary, in 2002[2].
  • County Dublin, in 1993, was split into three new counties - Fingal in the north, Dun Laoghaire-Rathdown in the south and east, and South Dublin in the remainder - with Dublin Corporation becoming Dublin City Council, to govern the city proper.[3]
  • The Local Government Act, 2001 (Ireland) further refined and delineated the state's local government areas[4]. It lists 29 counties and five cities (with equivalent status to counties), as tabulated below. In addition to the five designated cities (Dublin, Cork, Galway, Limerick and Waterford), a sixth, Kilkenny, in deference to tradition, is given permission in that Act to style itself a city, though it is not officially designated as one and has a town council rather than a city council.

Within Northern Ireland

  • Until 1971, the six counties of Northern Ireland, along with the borough councils for the cities of Belfast and Derry, served as administrative areas. The Local Government (Boundaries) Act (Northern Ireland) 1971 and the Local Government Act (Northern Ireland) 1972 removed the official status of counties, replacing them with 26 Districts for local government purposes.

Traditional versus administrative

Both north and south of the border, the traditional 32 counties are still in favour with the majority of the population. They continue to be of everyday importance in cultural and sporting contexts - for example, the Gaelic Athletic Association's championships in hurling and Gaelic football still feature teams from the 32 traditional counties rather than making use of the new counties (though there has been some limited discussion about splitting the Dublin teams in two, due to a perceived population advantage).

In the Republic of Ireland, this is partly due to a lack of publicity surrounding the new counties, and partly as not all administrative systems have yet adapted to the changes. For example, the County Council of Fingal lists its postal address as "County Hall, Swords, Fingal, Co. Dublin."[5] Similarly, although car vehicle registration plates are supposed to carry designated initials depending on the county of registration, all vehicles registered within the new counties created from the former County Dublin still all bear the initial "D", for Dublin.

Table: Administrative divisions within the Republic of Ireland

Administrative division Status Formerly County town Province
Carlow County Carlow Leinster
Cavan County Cavan Ulster
Clare County Ennis Munster
Cork city City Part of County Cork n/a Munster
Cork County Cork Munster
Donegal County Lifford Ulster
Dublin city City Part of County Dublin n/a Leinster
Dún Laoghaire-Rathdown County Part of County Dublin Dún Laoghaire Leinster
Fingal County Part of County Dublin Swords Leinster
Galway city City Part of County Galway n/a Connacht
Galway County Galway Connacht
Kerry County Tralee Munster
Kildare County Naas Leinster
Kilkenny County Kilkenny Leinster
Laois County Portlaoise Leinster
Leitrim County Carrick on Shannon Connacht
Limerick city City Part of County Limerick n/a Connacht
Limerick County Limerick Munster
Longford County Longford Leinster
Louth County Dundalk Leinster
Mayo County Castlebar Connacht
Meath County Navan Leinster
Monaghan County Monaghan Ulster
North Tipperary County Part of County Tipperary Nenagh Munster
Offaly County Tullamore Leinster
Roscommon County Roscommon Connacht
Sligo County Sligo Connacht
South Dublin County Part of County Dublin Tallaght Leinster
South Tipperary County Part of County Tipperary Clonmel Munster
Waterford city City Part of County Waterford n/a Munster
Waterford County Waterford Munster
Westmeath County Mullingar Leinster
Wexford County Wexford Leinster
Wicklow County Wicklow Leinster


  1. Local Government (Ireland) Act, 1898.
  2. Local Government Act, 2001, section 10 and schedule 5
  3. Local Government (Dublin) Act, 1993.
  4. Local Government Act, 2001. Available: PDF format. Accessed: 24th August 2007
  5. Fingal County Council website. Available: Retrieved: 24th August, 2007.