Ireland reports the highest incidence of verotoxigenic Escherichia coli (VTEC) infection in Europe. This study investigated potential risk factors for confirmed sporadic and outbreak primary VTEC infections during 2008–2013. Overall, 989 VTEC infections including 521 serogroup O157 and 233 serogroup O26 were geo-referenced to 931 of 18 488 census enumeration areas. The geographical distribution of human population, livestock, unregulated groundwater sources, domestic wastewater treatment systems (DWWTS) and a deprivation index were examined relative to notification of VTEC events in 524 of 6242 rural areas. Multivariate modelling identified three spatially derived variables associated with VTEC notification: private well usage [odds ratio (OR) 6·896, P < 0·001], cattle density (OR 1·002, P < 0·001) and DWWTS density (OR 0·978, P = 0·002). Private well usage (OR 18·727, P < 0·001) and cattle density (OR 1·001, P = 0·007) were both associated with VTEC O157 infection, while DWWTS density (OR 0·987, P = 0·028) was significant within the VTEC O26 model. Findings indicate that VTEC infection in the Republic of Ireland is particularly associated with rural areas, which are associated with a ubiquity of pathogen sources (cattle) and pathways (unregulated groundwater supplies).