In Ireland, coastal zone management has proceeded largely in an ad hoc manner and is based on sectoral legislation covering issues such as fishing, water quality, coastal protection, etc. Within this framework there exists a plethora of national and local institutions whose responsibility is divided between the marine and terrestrial sub-zones of the coastal zone. This paper presents results from a survey of local government approaches in 16 coastal local authorities to 2 aspects of coastal zone management, viz. coastal protection and application of the national legislation contained in the Foreshore Acts. The approaches of three local authorities are highlighted to illustrate that management, while based on the same legislative and administrative framework, varies considerably between local authorities. While changes in the administrative structure of local government are on-going it is important that the current problems of legal ambiguity and administrative uncertainty are clarified in order to provide a more consistent approach to coastal protection in Ireland.