Mapping the State

Ireland, as defined by the 1937 constitution is ‘a sovereign, independent, democratic state’. It is a state that, like its physical geography, has been influenced by many forces: The shifting plates of politics; The prevailing winds of an increasingly global economy; And the characteristics of the ground upon which its various parts stand. This map is part of a conversation about the nature of statehood. It is informed by a desire to better navigate the state, understand its modi operandi, and engage with its possibilities.

The primary reference point for this map of the Irish State is the Irish State Administration Database (ISAD), an initiative of the UCD Geary Institute for Public Policy. What proved challenging for Geary (and for us) was deciding on inclusion criteria—as there is no widely agreed upon set. The Institute identified a range including legal form, function, accountability, and policy domain to populate their database, and struck rigorously to these. We supplemented the ISAD with information on the basic structures of the legislature and local government sourced directly from official government websites. Additional sources are attributed as appropriate on the map.

Our intention is not to present the map as something absolute or definitive. We are still at the Discovery Stage of this project. We have found the varying degrees of emphasis and interpretation when engaging with sources and contributors on the project fascinating and illuminating. At the heart of the project and its ongoing development is the desire to open up a conversation about the state. There are certainly many organisations and institutions that are integral to the fabric of the state but are not recognised on this version of the map. We hope to add these and other layers of information to future editions as these conversations develop and evolve with current and new contributors, observers, and other commentators.

Map Design

The land mass assigned to Government Departments in the map of the state has been determined by the relative budget allocation per department as per 2015 forecasts from the Department of Expenditure & Reform, 2014. The relative position on the map is based on perceived power, spend and the appropriate proximity to state bodies such as the judiciary, local government and the defence forces.

Source: 2015 Revised Estimates for Public Services

Public Spending by Function of Government

This breakdown of public spending is according to the UN classification of the functions of government (COFOG), which is a standard way to compare public spending in a country over time or in comparison with other countries. COFOG has the advantage that even if Government Departments change or merge, or if duties pass from one Minister to another, the level of public spending under each of the ten COFOG headings does not change. Spend per household is based on 1,702,289 households (Census 2016).

Source: TASC / Eurostat, 2017 data.

Design Process

This map is a tool to assist in the first phase of a design process that aims to identify opportunities to make the state easier for citizens to navigate, understand, and participate in. The Design Council describe the design process as being divided into four distinct phases – Discover, Define, Develop and Deliver. Also referred to as the Double Diamond it is a simple visual map of the design process.

Discover — The first quarter of the Double Diamond model covers the start of the project. We look at the world in a fresh way, notice new things and gather insights.

Define — The second quarter represents the definition stage, in which make sense of all the possibilities identified in the Discover phase. Which matters most? Which should we act on first? What is feasible? The goal here is to develop a clear creative brief that frames the fundamental design challenge.

Develop — The third quarter marks a period of development where solutions or concepts are created, prototyped, tested and iterated. This process of trial and error helps us to improve and refine their ideas.

Deliver — The final quarter of the double diamond model is the delivery stage, where the resulting project (a product, service or environment, for example) is finalised, produced and launched.



Designed and Published by: Zero-G, 136 Capel Street, Dublin 1, Ireland. Concept & Creative Direction: Ciarán ÓGaora; Research: JP O’Malley; Production Design: Stephen Ledwidge; Design Team: Will Rice, Robert Chapman, Jean-marc Bradford.

Collaborators & Advisors for the First Edition of the Map: Emer Coleman, DSRPTN; Niamh Hardiman, UCD Geary Institute for Public Policy and UCD School of Politics and International Relations; Muiris MacCarthaigh, School of Politics, International Studies and Philosophy, Queen’s University Belfast; Colin Scott, Principal of UCD College of Social Sciences and Law, and UCD School of Law, Mark Hargaden, IT, UCD Geary Institute for Public Policy; Nuala Haughey, TASC; Gary Murphy, School of Law & Government, DCU; Bride Rosney; Eamonn Casey; Mark & Leszek at The Copper House

thanks also to: Mary Bruton; Ellen O’Malley-Dunlop; Louise Allen and the team at ID2015; John Bollard; Martha Pamela Dalton.

Mapping The State was commissioned by Alex Milton, Director of Irish Design 2015, as part of Liminal, Irish Design at the Threshold. © Zero-G, 2019

Zero-G bears sole responsibility for any error or omission in the map. Our sources were many and varied, and sometimes even conflicting. We have attempted in all instances to be as accurate as possible as of February 2019. The map is, however, like the state, a living, ever-changing thing. Our intent is to update the map on a regular basis. All comments, suggestions or clarifications are welcome and will be explored and incorporated once verified, in future versions.

Please send all correspondence to:

If you would like a printed version of this map please contact