The 29 Counties and 5 Cities of Ireland

February 15, 2008 at 12:24 am 12 comments

For some years, one of my cultural and political hobby horses has been wondering how many generations it will take before the 29 counties and five cities of the Republic of Ireland become accepted as the current counties of the State.

The traditional ‘32 counties of Ireland’ were gradually imposed, over several centuries, when the island of Ireland was under English rule. At any given time, the counties represented the areas under English rule, whereas the non-county parts of the island were still under Gaelic rule.

Since the Republic of Ireland became an independent State, the elected representatives of the Irish people have changed the counties of Ireland. Today, the Republic of Ireland has 29 counties and five cities that have the same status as counties. Here is a full list of them: >>>

The 29 Counties and Five Cities of the Republic of Ireland

As listed in Schedule 5 of the Local Government Act 2001


  • Carlow
  • Cavan
  • Clare
  • Cork
  • Donegal
  • Dun Laoghaire-Rathdown
  • Fingal
  • Galway
  • Kerry
  • Kildare
  • Kilkenny
  • Laois
  • Leitrim
  • Limerick
  • Longford
  • Louth
  • Mayo
  • Meath
  • Monaghan
  • North Tipperary
  • Offaly
  • Roscommon
  • Sligo
  • South Dublin
  • South Tipperary
  • Waterford
  • Westmeath
  • Wexford
  • Wicklow


  • Cork
  • Dublin
  • Galway
  • Limerick
  • Waterford

Differences from the Traditional 26 counties

The main differences between these and the traditional 26 counties are:

  • What was county Dublin is now three counties and a city.
  • Tipperary, once two ridings, is now two counties.

This is an important official distinction. Dun Laoghaire-Rathdown, Fingal, North Tipperary, South Dublin and South Tipperary are not administrative units within a county. They are counties, with County Councils, County Managers etc. They are new counties, democratically determined by the Irish Parliament, with the exact same status as any of the other 24 counties and 5 cities of the Republic of Ireland.

  • Cork, Dublin, Galway, Limerick and Waterford are cities that have the same status as counties.

This is another important official distinction. Cork City does not exist within Cork County, but beside it. Similarly with Galway, Limerick and Waterford Cities and Counties. And County Dublin has been abolished, and replaced with three new counties that are located around Dublin City.

Alongside this new reality, of course, many Irish people still identify with the 32 traditional counties, most notably in culture and sport. So how many generations will it take before the 29 counties and five cities of the Republic of Ireland become accepted as the counties of Ireland?


Entry filed under: Culture, Ireland, Politics.

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12 Comments Add your own

  • 1. Damien  |  February 15, 2008 at 6:48 am

    I had the same thought before recently, with particular regard to Tipp North/South and Fingal. The only real difference I could come up with is that the 26 “traditional” counties are the only ones to have GAA teams. I’m not aware of any official recognition/statutory basis for the 6 counties in the north either, again apart from GAA teams.

  • 2. Mark  |  February 15, 2008 at 10:47 am

    I’m going to go with never.

    There is no FL for Fingal licence plates and mail in fingal is addressed as Co. Dublin (even Fingal County Council give their address using this) and if you enter Fingal while you are greeted by a sign informing you of this it does not say County Fingal.

    People feel that county and city councils are purely administrative and separate from the actual counties. County Dublin (or just Dublin) will continue to exist regardless of it’s official status. I think that is fine.

    Interestingly when Dublin GAA recently re-designed their crest (for commercial reasons) they included one item from each of the councils that make up Dublin (City: Castle, Fingal: Raven, Dun Laoghaire/Rathdown: Viking Ship, South Dublin: Book)

  • 3. Fin Keegan  |  February 15, 2008 at 9:18 pm

    Interesting post, Michael. The notion of 32 (and, indeed, 26) Counties is too embedded in the Irish imagination to ever change. However, if it ever became politically necessary to alter the public perception, the Government would do as the French did and come up with a new nomenclature.

  • 4. Mike  |  March 8, 2008 at 7:13 pm

    “I’m not aware of any official recognition/statutory basis for the 6 counties”

    The only official recognition are the small white signs at each county boundary along main roads. and (to some extent) the numbering system for landline telephones.

    Other than that Counties in NI have no legal significance whatsoever. Fermanagh district council is the only local authority still based on county boundaries. Postcodes meean its no longer necessary to indicate the county postal mail is destined for.

  • 5. fiona kavanagh  |  August 16, 2008 at 2:12 am

    there is 32 counties in ireland

  • 6. Helen  |  August 18, 2008 at 3:11 pm

    Fiona, surely its “There are 32 Counties in Ireland?”
    I would suggest lessons in English and Geography and perhaps have a read of the Local Government Acts.
    There are 29 Counties and 5 Cities. If you have a problem with it take it up with the Minister.

  • 7. Alastair  |  September 2, 2008 at 9:33 am

    Ok Helen, could you please proceed to explain why there are 32 counties entering the GAA championships? Explain why there are 26 counties with licence plates?

    “Cork City does not exist within Cork County, but beside it.”

    Don’t be so stupid!!! This implies it is it’s own county, a city cannot exist outside a defined boundary all on it’s own, leastways not in Ireland. Cork City is in Cork County, Dublin City is in Dublin County, similar to the fact that New York City is in New York State!!

  • 8. Ryan  |  November 24, 2008 at 2:32 am

    Im from belfast (not a county)

    And we have 2 counties for the price of one

    Go us

  • 9. John McMahon  |  December 8, 2008 at 11:35 pm


    Please let me have your postal address. In the interests of your security, email it to me rather than post it on this site.

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  • 11. Liam  |  February 18, 2016 at 10:51 pm

    what about Kilkenny city

  • 12. J Cully  |  January 9, 2018 at 1:08 am

    Fully agree with the sentiment of this article, though I believe that there have been a few changes in recent years that has altered the picture further. Some city and county councils have fused into one unit, while Tipparary has been reunified as North and South have become one council again. The south isnt alone in seeing changes. Many electoral areas of the north have been subdivided into multiple smaller electoral areas. In the south I think the picture in the so-called traditional county of Dublin has been the slowest to be acknowledged. Each colloquially termed administrative county has its own county town. It has been this way for 24 years, almost a quarter century, yet no one acknowledges Tallaght, Swords or Dun Laoghaire, yet alone the new counties they administer. These locations are distinctive cities in all but name and their counties are well established with significant populations. It is high time Irish maps reflected an accurate depiction of our towns and counties and not the traditional make-believe that put towns like Bray on the map and ignore cities like Tallaght as if they didn’t exist. Most published maps are rooted in the early 20th century at best and the Norman era at worst. Time we grew up a little.


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A blog by Michael Nugent

Welcome to my blog about living in the maddest country on earth. Please feel free to leave a comment.

I also write Bionic Bohs, a blog about following Bohemians football club in the 1970s.


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Bionic Bohs

As mentioned above, if you like Irish football and/or cultural nostalgia, I also write Bionic Bohs, a blog about following Bohs in the 1970s.

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