New book documents 450 years of Clare local government

New book documents 450 years of Clare local government


Four-hundred-and-fifty years of local government in County Clare has been celebrated at glór with the launch of a new publication by Clare County Council.

In 1570, one year after Elizabeth 1st oversaw the shiring of Thomond as a county, County Clare was established at a court of English law held in the sacristy of the Franciscan monastery in Ennis.

‘The Story of Clare and its People 1570-2020’ by Dr Matthew Potter and Dr John Treacy provides a detailed account of how the local administrators of County Clare have helped to shape the physical, social, political, cultural and religious life of Clare over the following 450 years.

The book, the first of its kind produced by any local authority in Ireland, documents hundreds of landmark moments relating to local governance in Clare from the construction of the Ardnacrusha scheme and Shannon Airport to the Council’s management of the health service, the temporary abolition of Clare County Council in 1942, the role of the Urban District Councils and Town Councils through to the handling of the Covid-19 pandemic.

The publication’s front cover features a specially commisioned painting by Tomás O’Maoldomhnaigh of a secret meeting of Clare County Council in a haybarn near Spancilhill during the height of the War of Independence, one of the many previously untold stories of Clare that are featured in the new book.

‘The Meeting’ by Tomás O’Maoldomhnaigh. The painting depicts a secret meeting of Clare County Council in a haybarn near Spancilhill during the War of Independence.

The Mayor of Clare, Cllr Mary Howard, said: “The book deals with a very significant aspect of Clare’s history, that of its local government system, and shows how its impact has been of immense importance for the past 450 years.

“Throughout these centuries, the various local authorities from the grand jury and boards of guardians to the county council and town councils were central to the life of Clare and Clare people, so much so that this book is also a veritable history of the county itself and indeed an important contribution to the historiography of Early Modern and Modern Ireland. For anyone who is even remotely interested in Clare’s past or Ireland’s story, it is essential reading.”

Pat Dowling, Chief Executive of Clare County Council, said: “When County Clare came into existence in 1570, it was a peripheral, impoverished and turbulent area on the western edge of Europe. Four-hundred-and-fifty years later, the Clare of 2020 is a confident, prosperous and vibrant county strategically poised between two of the world’s most powerful economic areas, namely the European Union and the United States of America. Between these two dates, lies the exciting, interesting and often uplifting tale of how the people of Clare and their local government system interacted.

“I wish to pay tribute to the book’s co-authors, Dr John Treacy and Dr Matthew Potter, for delivering an excellent scholary work which is fully accessible for general readership and will make an important contribition to a better understanding of the political development of County Clare. The book also provides an excellent narrative about the development of local government in Ireland at large. I also want to acknoweldge Dr Joe Power who provided invaluable assistance as project advisor and everyone who contributed to this important publication.”

William Moloney, former County Manager and Chair of the Book Committee, said: “Modern Clare is a dynamic, modern and prosperous place, with a proud record in economic success, sport, the arts, and quality of life. This book demonstrates that these achievements can be credited to two principal factors: the successful partnership between the people of Clare and their local government system and the wonderful sense of local pride that has for long been a feature of the county’s public life.”

A 15-minute documentary video featuring interviews with the book’s authors and key local government figures in Clare is available to view on Clare County Council social media channels (Facebook, YouTube and Twitter).

‘The Story of Clare and its People 1570-2020 – A History of Local Government in Ireland’s Banner County’ is available to buy at O’Mahony’s Bookshop in Ennis and Ennis Bookshop.