Wednesday, 1 March 1922
Dáil Éireann Debate
“That it be decreed that all lands which were in the occupation of enemy forces in Ireland and which have now been evacuated, except those which may be retained as necessary training grounds for the I.R.A., be divided up into economic holdings and distributed among landless men; and that preference be given to those men, or dependents of those men, who have been active members of the I.R.A. prior to the Truce, July, 1921.”
MR. DAVID CEANNT: There is one slight technical omission I would like to have inserted. The reason is because we hear so much about the different Governments or supposed Governments in this country. I want it made clear that it be decreed by Dáil Eireann. I want that put in the original. Now, a Chinn Chomhairle, there is, at the present time, a considerable amount of land evacuated by enemy forces which was formerly the property of the people of Ireland. During the next few weeks there will be a considerable addition to that. And now that the enemy forces are after evacuating it it is our duty to see that such land will, if not wanted for the training of the I.R.A., be divided up into economic holdings and parcelled out to landless men. We have at the present time, throughout the whole country, a tremendous amount of unemployment. We have, in the agricultural industry, a lot of land going out of tillage on account of the exceedingly bad year through which the farmers have gone. Agriculture is down to a very low level with the result that thousands of men are out of employment, and we have now at our disposal one means. It may be a small beginning, but a small beginning that may lead to big results later on. Now that we have a chance, it is our first duty to the people of Ireland and to the unemployed and landless men to fulfil any promise which we made them in the past that we would, at the first opportunity that would be offered us, do what lay in our power to put as many back on the land as we possibly could. Now, if we commence when we have this opportunity, even in a small way, later on we hope to see all the big places—the grazing ranches, the big estates, perhaps—purchased to be parcelled out into economic holdings for the people, so that the people of Ireland will have the right to live and thrive in the land which is their right. I know of places where there is a considerable quantity of land that has been evacuated. I know of one place where there is a thousand acres of valuable grazing and tillage land. Fifty acres of that have been under tillage for the past year by the military forces of England. There is a considerable amount of machinery there. I am sure what is the case in my part of the country is the case all over Ireland. And if we take the opportunity now of dividing up this land we should, at least, parcel it out into economic holdings of fifty or sixty acres in each place, and I am sure in that way we could make provision for several families throughout Ireland. I want to make myself perfectly clear that in giving the land to landless men, preference should be given to active members of the I.R.A. who, during the trying times of the last two or three years, have given their services to the country, and have brought us into the position that we now hold of being here in this House as Ministers of the Government which they helped to do by their exertions and sacrifices and by their lives. These men and their dependents are entitled to anything that we can do for them. These men came out, not for any pecuniary gain, but for love of country. And the first duty of a nation should be to the soldiers who fought for them. These men were out night and day, left their homes and families without fee or reward. Some of them and their dependents are in a very necessitous way. Some of them have not the necessaries of life. They are depending on their neighbours, and it would be a crying shame if we did not do what we possibly could to recompense them, and to show that we appreciate the services and the sacrifices they made. This is a small beginning which might lead to great things. Let us show that we mean what we have always been preaching about, that we will now give expression to those opinions, that we will do what we possibly can to relieve unemployment to as great an extent as we possibly can, and that we commence it now. And  therefore I move that it be decreed by Dáil Eireann that all lands which were in the occupation of enemy forces in Ireland and which have now been evacuated, except those which may be retained as necessary training grounds for the I.R.A. be divided up into economic holdings and distributed among landless men, and that preference be given to those men or dependents of those men who have been active members of the I.R.A. prior to the Truce, July, 1921.
MADAME MARKIEVICZ: I second that. I think it very important that something should be done for those landless men; if Mr. Ceannt will accept one little principle or proviso that I will put in, that is, that the men, in addition, to being members of the I.R.A., have a knowledge of farming, because without that it would mean ruin.
MADAME MARKIEVICZ: There are many labourers and farmers' younger sons who would be glad to settle on land like this. I think it is one of those things that the Government in Ireland should cake particular trouble about. I would also suggest that some land be given to women, who are just as capable of running farms as men as I have seen demonstrated myself. And I am thoroughly in sympathy in giving this land acquired from the English to the people who fought for Ireland.
MR. RICHARD MULCAHY: As far as I understand this question, I take it that it fits in more with agricultural policy than anything else; and I think it would be only a very small fraction of what would be the general policy of getting the land into the hands of the people, or the general policy of saying that those people who fought as soldiers during the war would get proper consideration in the division of such land. I would like to have it understood first and foremost that at the present moment we have no knowledge of the amount of land that will be transferred to us in this particular way. We have no definite knowledge as to the ownership of those lands—whether they belong to the Government or whether they belong to private individuals, that is whether the British forces in Ireland who occupied these lands rented them or had them on lease from any person; and I feel that the motion is premature and that even the passing of this motion here could not be very effective in getting what Deputy Ceannt really wants, that is, to get land for men who fought in the war. I think we ought to hear what the Minister for Agriculture has to say on the matter. I feel that it is premature at the moment to pass that.
MR. PATRICK HOGAN: I am in a difficulty because I do not know exactly to what land the Deputy refers. There are certain lands, such as Freemount Farm, evacuated by the British troops and handed over to the Provisional Government, and which, I presume to be in the occupation of the I.R.A. under the conditions which the Minister of Defence has explained to the House in answer to the previous question. And I should say that the first thing we should have to consider is this: Whether the tents and the lands attached to them would be wanted by the Army. That is the first thing we have to consider. And we can't consider that until we know what lands are in question. Secondly, if there is a balance of lands over after the needs of the Army are supplied, that is a matter for the Provisional Government. These lands were handed over to them and I can assure Deputy Ceannt and the other Deputies who have spoken that we are absolutely alive to the need for the completion of Land Purchase. We realise that that has got to be done immediately. But to me immediately is conditioned by the fact of which you are all aware—that to complete Land Purchase you have got to have legislation, and carefully thought out legislation, much more careful legislation than in the motion. Besides legislation you want finance, and consistent with having these matters thought out, I quite agree with Deputy Ceannt and the other Deputies who have spoken that Land Purchase must be completed. I want to make it clear that these lands, or the portions that will be available after the Army has been supplied, are handed over to the Provisional Government and must be dealt with by the Provisional Government; and it is only the Irish Free State, if and when it comes into existence, or some Government that has control of the finances of the country, that can properly and adequately complete Land Purchase. In the meantime we are doing what we  can to divide the lands that are in the Dáil Departments. And I may say in this connection there are about six thousand acres of land in the hands of the Dáil Departments and one way or another, in the Land Bank or directly under the Dáil Departments; and those six thousand acres are now about two years lying practically undivided, with some of it paid for and some of it paid for in part. On practically the whole of that six thousand acres the poor men are now practically broken for the very simple reason that to finance those schemes the poorer tenants and the poorer landless men had to go to the Banks and borrow money at six per cent. In the County Mayo I am dealing at the present moment with a very big area of land which was purchased under the Land Bank scheme. The poorer men had tried to get the money for a fourth of the deposit in the local Bank; and they got a certain amount and they were unable to get the rest. The result was that the men who should not get land under the State Bank or Land Bank scheme had to get land because they were the only people who had the money. And we were faced with a dilemma, that for the last two years the people who had paid the money were not entitled to the land, and that those who were entitled to the land hadn't the money to pay for it. That was the dilemma we were up against. And I sent down Inspectors to survey the whole situation and to try and find a way out; and I would ask every Deputy here who is interested to find some way for me. The only way that would please the poor tenants is to set the lands largely for grazing. We were in the position that the poorer men could not find the money. The Land Bank could not afford to let them off. And they could not find the deposits. We have either to divide the lands and leave out the poorer men, the poorer tenants, or put off the whole scheme for a year until we would have a Government of our own to clear up the mess and finance it. There is no use tinkering with this question. The settlement of the land question is an absolute necessity, and the settlement or completion of Land Purchase is the way to increased tillage. The right way to increase tillage would be by men on the land whose interest it would be to till. It is the economic way also. I am surprised to find any men here talking about tillage at this hour of the day. The breaking up of new lea land after January is absurd. It is merely producing a minimum of food at an absolutely maximum amount of cost. The labourer who gets “conacre” in the middle of January to produce food is producing food at a cost of fifty per cent. more than he can buy it. Breaking up new land in the middle of January is bad farming. Now, that is as far as tillage is concerned. But to come back to Land Purchase. I have shown you the dilemma in which we found ourselves trying to put Land Purchase through without finance, and that is the fact of it. And that case is only typical. Just face the problem squarely: How can landless men go on land and make it a paying proposition and live on it after borrowing the money at six or seven per cent.? There is no use pretending; it can only be done by the Government who has control of the finances of the country, and who has the credit to borrow the large sums that we are not in a position to borrow at present. In so far as lands can be divided, there were about six thousand acres of land came under my jurisdiction. Some of it can't be divided—that is the long and the short of it. We must put it off until some Government clears up the mess and produces the finance. With regard to the lands that can be divided, I have already borrowed Inspectors from the Irish Land Commission whom we control now, and they are dividing the balance of the lands that are lying there for the last two or three years, and set for grazing. I have a list here in my pocket which I got from the Land Commission of at least ten cases of large areas of land in the hands of local landless men for the last three years on which there has not been one perch of tillage done. Any farmer will know and understand that; there are Deputies here who don't realise it. You can't do tillage—I am not now speaking of tillage in the way a Scotchman or a large English farmer does it, but in the way it is done by the small farmer here—you can't do tillage properly unless you have your cows and your horses and farmyard on the land. The question of transit comes into it. It won't pay. You will have to cart the manure; you can't have the requisite amount of manure. Tillage never pays much, and never pays at all except when worked by small men on the holdings. I am speaking of tillage under Irish conditions, not American conditions,  where they can do things on a large scale. But that is the fact about Irish conditions. Now, that is what I have to say about Land Purchase. The first question is what the Army wants; after that it is a question for the Agricultural Department of whatever Government is in being to deal with the rest of it; and I can assure Mr. Ceannt that we are absolutely alive to the fact that Land Purchase must be completed by two means—finance and legislation.
MR. SEAN MACENTEE: I am supporting the motion introduced by the Deputy from Cork, Mr. Ceannt, for the reason that it is an attempt—not upon a very ambitious scale—to deal with one of the most urgent problems in the country at the time. It is: what is going to be done with landless men? We have heard a lot in this House about establishing law and order. The most productive agent of disorder is starvation, and the labourers in the country are practically upon the verge of starvation. It is all very well to say that if you break up land now the man who goes in to work at it will have fifty per cent. added to the maximum of labour needed for land broken up in the early winter. He can't produce anything in the way of food until he has the land, and he can't buy until he has the money. I would like that the Government would go much further into this matter. It is only tinkering with the matter to introduce a motion of this kind, because it only touches the fringe. I think it would be a great practical benefit if the Dáil now established a commission to enquire into the position of these labourers in agricultural districts; and to see if they cannot devise some practical way of affording them relief; and they ought to provide them with a practical means of making a livelihood for themselves. I think if the Minister for Agriculture, instead of relating all the mistakes that were made in the agricultural policy of the Dáil, made entirely under the direction of the present Minister for Finance and the present President, he ought to tell us what he intends to do in the future, and I suggest that one of the most practical things he could do in the future would be to set up a commission such as I have outlined.
MR. KEVIN O'HIGGINS: The economic condition in the country, as Deputy MacEntee said, is very grave. At the last Session of An Dáil we received a Labour deputation the spokesman of which stated there were one hundred and thirty thousand people out of employment up and down the country. That is a fact that cannot be waived. And the economic condition of the country, was, I venture to say, a big factor, if not a deciding factor, in many minds in the big decision come to at the last Session of Dáil Eireann. I have letters daily from people in the West speaking of starvation—some of them unfortunately, native speaking people. As to how that should be tackled is another matter. Tackling it by tillage in the late spring cannot be done. Tackling it by schemes of road repairing, by drainage schemes, by Housing schemes is, perhaps, a possibility, if a Parliament with financial and with legislative powers is set up in Ireland. But to ask the people to plough up now at this time of the year lea ground, and produce a crop from it, is not a business proposition, and is not a proposition that would commend itself to a man who knows anything about agriculture.
MR. K. O'HIGGINS: I have fifteen to seventeen years' practical experience of agriculture, and I know that to till land at this time of the year would be to get a minimum of food at a maximum of price. I submit that the economic condition of the country must be tackled in a big way by big road schemes and big housing and drainage schemes, and if not tackled in that way, it cannot be tackled at all. The country needs settled Government, and a Parliament that can legislate. And if the country is drifting into anarchy now owing to the concurring lack of jurisdiction of Dáil Éireann, the British Government and the Provisional Government, those who shirked asking the country for a straight vote are responsible.
PADRAIC O MAILLE: Tá a frios agam go bhfuil daoine ag caint anso i dtaobh ceist na talmhan agus í dtaobh  cuireadóireachta agus ná tuigid an scéal. Tá eolas agam ar an dtalamh san go léir ar ar thrácht Pádraig O hOgáin. Do ceannuíodh é sin cúpla bliain ó shoin do sna daoine a bhí ar bheagán talmhan; ní féidir leo san éinní do dhéanamh as anois. Is beag an chabhair é paistí talmhan do cheannach anso is ansúd. Caithfear líomatáistí móra do thógaint agus do roint ar fhearaibh óga áta gan talamh. Dubhairt Teachta ó chianaibh go bhféadfa maireachtaint dá mbeadh talamh agat. D'fhéadfá, ach dá mbeadh talamh agat ar maidin conus fhéadfá tighte do thógaint agus síol agus úirlisí feirme agus eile do cheannach gan airgead? Ní haon chabhair cíos trom do chur ortha. Caithfidh na fir seo an talamh d'fháil ó'n Rialtas agus cabhair chun é d'oibriú mar an gcéadna. I entirely agree with the views expressed here by the Minister of Agriculture. This question of Land Purchase is a very big question, and it would be the first duty of the new Government to deal with it. It would want the whole finances of the country to deal with the question properly. There is no use in taking up patch-work schemes. The whole question must be tackled. But it is worse than useless to appoint a commission. These commissions, in the old times, were meant to shelve questions. Whenever the English wanted to shelve a question they appointed a commission. The T.D. for Monaghan, Deputy MacEntee, enunciated a strange theory. He said if you had land you could raise crops, but if you had not the money you could not buy food. How, I ask, can a man build houses on his land and buy seeds if he has no money to help him to carry on his farming? This question must be dealt with by the State. The State must have the whole finances of the country at its disposal to deal with this question properly, and when the new Government is established in a few months, it must be taken up as a national question. There is plenty of room for every man in Ireland, and it is only just that the question should be dealt with properly. There is no use in this patch-work business at all.
MR. SEAN ETCHINGHAM: I support this motion as proposed by the Deputy from Cork. This thing is not as big as the question mentioned by the Deputy for Connemara. It is a small matter acquiring patches of land here and there adjacent to the towns. There is a lot of talk about questions of Spring tillage It is a question of soil. I know lands in my area should be ploughed in the Autumn if they were to be of any use or any way prepared for tillage in the Spring. But there are light lands; and some good could be done even if acquired now for potato sowing or for oats. It is a different question. But the trend of the argument, as I find it, on the Ministerial bench is to prove that Dáil Eireann is helpless. The work done by Dáil Eireann in the past I call great work under the circumstances; and a lot of you would agree that it was great work to acquire land under the Land Act system. And now the Minister of Agriculture throws a bucket of cold water on it. I am sorry that the ex-Minister is not present. I have a question addressed to the Minister which will be on the paper to-morrow. It will re-open this question, and I hope the Minister will be present. But there is a small matter that I am interested in now. There is a sale to-day at three o'clock of twenty-three acres of land adjacent to the town of Gorey, and some two months ago, when this sale was announced, we took action to acquire the land, and the District Council will grant its credit to acquire the land. I went to the offices of the Local Government Board of Dáil Eireann and saw the Assistant Minister. The local Bank is giving us the loan at five per cent. for thirty-five years, and all they want is the sanction of Dáil Eireann. The Bank asks the sanction of Dáil Eireann to this loan; and I want an answer now from the Minister for Local Government. I have got two telegrams now to the Minister for Local Government and I want the sanction sent down so that we will have it in time at three o'clock. That is the way we go about acquiring land, and this land is a paying proposition.
MR. S. ETCHINGHAM: The fisheries would be a paying proposition, too. You want to throw cold water on Mr. Barton's Bank scheme that the Minister for Finance said was the greatest thing in Ireland, and that no matter what we could do in the future, it would live. You may say it is necessary to have a Free State established—this is not a question of the Free State. The land is wanted now and there is no reason why it cannot be obtained. If there is no  finance it could be obtained through the local Councils as we find in Gorey and all we need from you is the sanction of Dáil Éireann; I think that could be obtained. You will not be asked to pay. The ratepayers will be willing to pay it; and they are not looking to any other body in the future.
MR. P. HOGAN: The lands mentioned specially in the notice of motion were the lands taken over from enemy forces. But now the speakers are introducing Land Purchase. As to these evacuated lands: first of all the Army has to get what it wants—and that has to be decided by the Army. When they get that, we will immediately proceed to divide the balance, and we have to know first what lands the Army wants.
MR. P. HOGAN: The I.R.A. under conditions which Mr. Mulcahy mentioned in his reply to Deputy Brugha. It will be decided first what lands are wanted. Then there will be a balance of lands left over. For instance, there is a farm near Dublin that might be suitable.
MR. D. CEANNT: The Minister of Defence and the Minister of Agriculture say it would require an amount of money to take over these lands. These lands that are to be vacated are the lands of the people of Ireland no matter what Government is in power. On these lands there are a certain amount of buildings. On some of them there is a considerable amount of tillage; and they are ploughed and fit for cultivation. It would be a very easy matter for the Minister for Defence and the Minister for Agriculture to decide this. Even within the next few weeks the Minister for Defence could find out what amount of land he will require for training purposes for the I.R.A., and then he could see what amount is available for distribution. The buildings are on the place already. The people of Ireland will eventually have to find the money, and it is only shelving the thing to put it back.
MR. MICHAEL COLLINS: I want to move an amendment to this. First of all let me characterise this motion as being a dishonest motion. I hear Deputies here supporting this motion and they are against the Treaty. They are against evacuation and they want us to divide evacuated lands. Can they not be honest about it? Can they not support the Treaty under the terms of which evacuation is possible? I am going to move this amendment. This is the kind of motion which is, presumably, going to hold us up for several months, and which is breaking the spirit of the agreement.
MR. M. COLLINS: Five times you have spoken now. The most important question for the nation is evacuation. If these lands are not evacuated who will divide them? I want to put these things on a perfectly logical basis as far as I can. But I am not going to allow people to get away with a motion like this who, on principle, are against evacuation, and then want to pose to the workers here as the people who want to divide up these lands. Now, the amendment I am going to move is this:
“That the matter of utilising the lands evacuated by the British forces in Ireland under the terms of the Treaty be considered at the earliest possible moment, and that special consideration be given to the question as to whether they may not be distributed amongst landless men,  preference being given to those men, or the dependents of those men, who have been in active military service of the I.R.A. prior to the Truce of 1921.”
I can promise on behalf of the Provisional Government that, as soon as the land that is required for Army and Police purposes is definitely allotted, that the remaining portion of the land could be divided immediately; for under that division no question of finance would arise. These lands will be taken over from the English as part of the general settlement. The moment allocation is made for national purposes the residue of the land could be divided at once. But I say here now that the minority of the Dáil, who are against the basis on which this resolution rests, must not be allowed to put themselves before the country as people who are interested in putting men back on the land. We are all interested in Land Purchase, and it is a matter in which the Provisional Government has the greatest concern.
MR. M. COLLINS: Half of you do not like to hear the truth. We are all interested in Land Purchase, and it is one of the matters that has been giving the Provisional Government the greatest concern; and it is not a simple question. At present Dáil Éireann has lands at its disposal. Why is there not a motion that these lands should be divided? Is it not more practicable to divide lands which we own ourselves than lands which we do not own? Now, these lands will revert to Ireland, but only under the terms of the Treaty, which you and your friends are trying to smash. It is only on these terms these lands will revert to Ireland. Why not divide the lands which we already have, and which have been purchased by the National Land Bank? Deputy Etchingham referred to people who are trying to cast discredit upon the working of the Land Bank. I do not know of any such people. The work of the Land Bank has been as good as it could be in the circumstances, and everybody, and nobody sooner than the originator of the Land Bank, Mr. Barton himself, will agree that it only just reddened the surface, and that it only dealt with the thing in the smallest possible way. It will need ever so many millions to deal with the Land Schemes in Ireland. And all these schemes—drainage and reclamation will cost many millions. That is not the point of this motion. The point of it must be put clearly. If the mover had put in after the word “evacuated” the words “Occupation of enemy forces which have now been evacuated in accordance with the terms of the Treaty,” nobody could find very much fault with it. But these words are left out, and left out for the purpose of discrediting the people who are upholding the Treaty.
MR. M. COLLINS: If they support the Treaty they have some right to talk about evacuation. If they oppose the Treaty they have no right to talk about the evacuation of this land, and they have no right to pose as the people who are putting landless men back on the land.
Now the Minister of Local Government wants to go to his office to send this wire, and I move the adjournment of the House to have this done. It is to acquire twenty-three acres of land at no cost to you. It is at the rate-payers' expense.
THE ACTING SPEAKER: I will ask the Minister of Finance to write out that amendment. There is a motion for the adjournment. If the House wishes that the discussion should be continued I am in your hands.
MR. HARRY BOLAND: On the question of adjournment: I understand there have been many complaints, particularly from the Press, about the Dáil meeting in this particular hall; and if it is received with favour by the general body that the next Session, to-morrow morning, be held in some other building, I would propose it.
MR. SEAN MACSWINEY: We are supposed to start at eleven o'clock and we started about twelve; and now, after little over an hour, it is proposed to adjourn. If we are starting at twelve, let us start at twelve. But I fail to see why we should adjourn for two-and-a-half hours when we all seem to be in such a hurry.
MR. M. COLLINS: We adjourned for two-and-a-half hours yesterday, and I spent two hours of them in my office. We will either have to leave off this altogether or be given a chance to go on with our Executive work. If we are not given a chance—there are only two possible courses open to us. We have to work in the morning from nine to eleven, and from two to four, and from six-thirty o'clock to goodness knows when. The opposition have nothing to do but to talk. We must be given a chance one way or another.
MR. A. MACCABE: Well, I would like to say a few words. We found the Land Bank was of very little assistance in a matter of this kind. The Land Bank  with a capital of two hundred thousand pounds or two hundred and fifty thousand pounds, was altogether too small to tackle a problem like the Irish land question.
MR. A. MACCABE: Well, I am speaking on the amendment. The resources of the Land Bank are too small. We have two thousand or three thousand acres down in our part of the country. The men who were getting the land were men who could only turn up with a quarter of the price of the land. We had, on the one hand, people who had money and were not entitled to the land. We got them to hold the land until such time as we had a Government with sufficient resources to come to the assistance of the poor men. In our present circumstances, without a recognised Government, and with very limited credit, we are not going to have the resources to take over this responsibility. We can only have it with a recognised Government that could furnish fifty or sixty millions for the scheme. There is one suggestion that should be acted on at once, and that is—as in Denmark, we should insist that people who put in claims for land should have an agricultural education.
THE ACTING SPEAKER: The motion and the amendment we are dealing with are not concerned with the general land question of the country. The motion is only concerned with certain parcels of land which were in the occupation of the British Government in this country.
MR. A. MACCABE: I wish to support this amendment, and I do so because our resources at present are not sufficient to take over much land, or, indeed, any land. And it is better to wait until we have an organised Government, such as that provided for in the Treaty, to take over the land question. At present it is hopeless to try to do anything with the land question.
MR. ERSKINE CHILDERS: As Director of the National Land Bank I should like to make a short reference to the remarks of the speaker who has just sat down. I do not think it fair to make a rather vague, general—I do not say charge—but a statement implying something of having wrongly selected tenants in occupation of land. I do not think there is any ground whatever for that statement. Our own organisers and servants have taken the utmost care in every case to have the societies which have been formed formed carefully, and to have proper people coming under the scheme; I do not think it right that the remarks made by the previous speaker should pass unchallenged, especially as they have not been supported by any evidence whatever.
MR. ROBERT BARTON: As the question of the Land Bank has been raised, I think it would be advisable for me to say what has been done. First of all, I would like to say that I sympathise with the Minister for Agriculture in asking for further time and thorough investigation before any fresh schemes for Land Purchase are taken up by the Dáil. I sympathise with him in the magnitude of the task he is taking on his shoulders. I also agree with him that the land question has only been scratched on the surface. But the scratching has been very effective, as I think I will show you. Now, the Land Bank has loaned three hundred and seventy thousand pounds for the purchase of land. That is the approximate figure for the purchase of sixteen thousand five hundred acres of land, or an average of about twenty-three pounds per statute acre. I don't think that any Deputy could consider that that price was an excessively high price. It has farmed some thirty-nine estates and purchased fifty-three estates; and the Societies have an approximate membership of eight hundred and fifty-three. Of the Societies that have been formed sixteen have actually divided the land, amounting to, approximately, three thousand one hundred acres; in the case  of eight Societies the land is in process of division, amounting to three thousand seven hundred and fifty acres; and in the case of six societies preliminary steps towards the sub-division have been taken, amounting to two thousand two hundred and twenty acres; and there are nine Societies remaining in which the land has not been vet sub-divided. I may say that the experience which the Land Bank has gained during these operations is at the disposal of the Minister of Agriculture and of the nation; and the staff at the Bank, at any time and every time, will assist the nation with that experience which it has gained in the past. Before I sit down I would remind the House that the Land Bank was instrumental in purchasing practically the whole of this land, and the occupiers of about one hundred houses in one town have become the actual owners.
MR. WILLIAM SEARS: I think that the scheme of the National Land Bank worked admirably in the counties where the people were able to put down the money. But in the West of Ireland they were not able to do that. And in several cases where the Land Bank scheme was put into operation it has led to great difficulties and trouble. The Minister of Agriculture referred to a case in Mayo. The National Land Bank sent down Inspectors, and invited the people to take shares. There were a large number of people around the village who were badly in need of land. And they took shares and promised to find the money, but were unable to find the money. But there also came into the scheme a number of people with plenty of money. And where the poor people were unable to finance, the rich people absorbed all those plots. So that what was taking place was a perpetuation, on a large scale, of the old system. And the poor people were left outside, and the people who had land already were made richer than before. The statement made by the Minister of Agriculture about the scheme of Land Purchase will be the best piece of reading furnished by this Dáil to the people of the West of Ireland. The position in which they are situated is a very tragic and a very sad one.
MR. W. SEARS: I say, therefore, that if this resolution is carried you will be tinkering with a very serious and tragic question. This is not a case of finding tenants for a few park fields. It is finding land for thousands of people who are in a desperate condition. Another year or half-year of the Terror would have brought ruin and bank ruptcy to nearly every farmer to the West of the Shannon. They had the rates up last year as large as the rents; and not only would the farmers be in the Bankruptcy Courts, but every town in the West of Ireland. I always thought it a terrible disgrace to Ireland that an army of eight or nine thousand men, all harvesters skilled in farming, had to go across to England to help to reap the English harvest. These may have eight or nine acres of land; I often heard of people, able-bodied men with large families, hungry for land; I often heard them say they could stretch from one hand to the other across their whole little farm. The statement of the Minister of Agriculture that something should be done with the land question, will certainly bring home the matter to the Congested Districts Board. The Congested Districts Board have districts in hands for the last twenty years, and, strange to say, they have in their possession for eleven, twelve and fifteen years, large tracts of land; and on the verge of those farms are people almost on the verge of starvation. And yet nothing has been done to divide up those ranches. They were very glad, therefore, to see that, under the Treaty, our people have got possesion of the Congested Districts Board. And I hope they will make use of it to divide up those lands. Now, take the case of a man out of employment. I know bogs in Mayo, regular storehouses of fuel; and the Congested Districts Board were written to and asked why were not those bogs made accessible to the people, who were famished for fuel. Their reply was those bogs were not drained or roads made through them. Here you have people hungry for employment, and work to do; and you have people looking for land who had tracts of land— not a few park fields—and the people huddled into little farms, little houses and little villages. I think nothing  should be done until people get the finances to finance the scheme that would settle the Congested Districts Board, and complete Land Purchase.
MR. P.J. MACGOLDRICK: I think we are straying from the question on the paper—from the motion and the amendment. We all know the momentous problem that is thundering at our doors here. And it is the question generally all over Ireland. This is but the fringe of the subject, and in dealing with this fringe it behoves us who are responsible to take effective steps, and to make sure that we proceed upon the right road. We don't know—any of us—how much land is involved in the motion the Deputy from Cork put down here. It may be much and it may be little. We know that it is not a case of making the occupiers of land, owners. There is no necessity to introduce the question of funds. We want to examine the question as to how this land comes to us—whether as judicial tenants, or whether as land purchased out, or land already vested. We want to know under which of these conditions it arrives under our control? And when we have this ascertained we should decide carefully how we are to proceed with regard to the allotment or partition of this land which will be at our disposal. Now, I think this is too hasty—we should not rush at once to do this. Because it involves serious issues. And it involves very careful thinking out on the part of the people who feel any responsibility to Ireland. In this matter I would, therefore, suggest that the House should agree to the amendment of the Minister of Finance that the matter stand adjourned until they have ascertained on a proper foundation what are the equities in the matter, and what are the best methods of proceeding. If you adopt any other course you are only going to create a precedent that will be ruinous, and disastrous to the whole land question when it comes up for settle-hereafter.
“That in the opinion of the Dáil the Provisional Government should, in dealing with lands which were in the occupation of enemy forces in Ireland, and which have now been, or are being, evacuated under the terms of the Treaty, excepting those that may be retained as necessary training grounds by the Army and Police, give special consideration to the question whether those lands may not be distributed among landless men, preference being given to those who were active members of the I.R.A. previous to the Truce before July, 1921.”
MR. EAMON DE VALERA: Before you put that—if I might for a moment intervene—it seems to me that the amendment adds very little to the motion as it was. Obviously if this be the order from Dáil Éireann that this thing should be done, it is obvious that the Cabinet and Executive will take the steps necessary to find out how much we could do. I see very little in the amendment that is not, by implication, contained in the resolution itself.
MR. SEAN MILROY: I am not going to discuss the land question; I know very little about it. But I would suggest that the Deputy who proposed the original motion should, now that he has achieved his object, withdraw the resolution.
MR. S. MILROY: Excuse me; I want to point out this. I want to refer to the subject of the motion. That refers to certain definite areas which are coming into the possession of the Provisional Government. Obviously, you have got to deal with the people into whose possession they will fall. The Minister of Agriculture and the Minister of Defence have given very fair and definite assurances that, when the requirements of the Army have been complied with, that what is the residue will be dealt with.  How much further you can get by passing this I cannot see. It will involve division, and a general obstruction of business without any gain.
MR. S. MILROY: I am adhering most rigidly to the terms of this motion, and I think I have a perfect right to refer to the implications of this motion so that we will know whether it is a motion that is intended to facilitate the business of the nation, or a motion intended to obstruct the carryng out of the Treaty. Now, I say if it is a motion intended to facilitate the business of the nation, the proposer of it has got all the guarantee that it is possible to get that what he desires will be carried into effect. Therefore I say if it is a genuine bona-fide motion his point has been served and it could, with advantage to the business of the House, and the good temper of the House, be withdrawn.
MR. D. CEANNT: I want to make it clear to the House and to the public at large that I did not consult any member of this House. I did this on my own responsibility, knowing that I was doing the right thing for the people who were trying to get work and land.
MR. D. CEANNT: I think the amendment to my motion is substantially the motion itself. There are several parts of the land ploughed up; they are ploughed already and it will easily be known in two or three weeks' time what land will be available, and they can then make a beginning. And let it be decreed by this Dáil that the land will be handed over. I want to get an assurance.
MISS MARY MACSWINEY: Like Deputy Milroy I wish to say that I do not know much about the details of agriculture, but this is a bill that appeals to us all. He first spoke about implications in this motion; and he suggested that the motion is dishonest; and that it is aimed at stopping evacuation and making an end of the agreement made at the Ard-Fheis. With regard to that agreement a rather interesting point has been put to me. While it was a defeat for the Irish Republican Party, who had a majority at the Ard-Fheis, it was a victory for Ireland. If that is so, that is exactly what we aim at—that Ireland should be the victor no matter what party suffers. That is why I get up to speak to that motion. It seems to me that those who are opposing it are making a very big mistake for their own party. If they are out to defeat us and pass the Treaty how do they think that they can get it better—get more support —than by taking over that land handed over to them by England and using it for the good of Ireland? The land is in their control. The Minister for Agriculture who is responsible to Dáil Eireann, has a dual capacity. As Minister of the Provisional Government he is one of the Ministers who have control  of that land. Why cannot he and those acting with him—the Ministry of Dáil Eireann—get together. The Minister of Defence will tell them inside a week how much land he will want for the soldiers, and he can rent the rest of it to the people of Ireland who badly want it. It can be done, and it is perfectly absurd to say it cannot be done. It can be done if they will only look on this as Irishmen first and Treatyists after—if they will look upon themselves as bound to take every inch that the enemy has evacuated, and not wait to see whether the enemy is going to get final victory or not.
MR. KEVIN O'HIGGINS: I spoke on the motion, and I would like to speak on the amendment by Mr. Collins. It has been pointed out that the amendment differs very little in substance from the resolution. In its effect, so far as the Irish people and the landless men are concerned, it leads to pretty much the same point. But there is, beneath the surface an important principle, and it is this: that this land is being handed over to the Provisional Government consequent and by virtue of the Treaty. And as one member of the Provisional Government, as I have said, I have the strongest possible objection to doing things that are consequential on and to answering for my conduct in things which are consequential on, and by virtue of, the Treaty, to people whose declared policy, from their weekly platforms and by their Press, is to put that Treaty in the fire.
MR. K. O'HIGGINS: In my capacity as Minister of Economics I will answer to Dáil Eireann, and in my capacity as member of the Provisional Government I will give the fullest account at any time to the body that appointed the Provisional Government. But what is being attempted here to-day in various ways and by various resolutions is to establish the principle that the people whose policy is to put the Treaty in the fire, are going to dictate to the Provisional Government as to their attitude consequential on the Treaty. That is a position which I cannot accept; it is a position which I definitely, as one member of the Provisional Government, will not accept.
MR. PATRICK HOGAN: I want to say that I adopt every word that Deputy O'Higgins has said with regard to the resolution and amendment before you. I want to know is the resolution a decree or a resolution? Is this a decree? Because, if it is, it raises a very difficult question. You are passing a decree here in regard to lands. You do not know what lands you are talking about. Nobody has given us any idea here of the specific lands, and you prepare to pass a decree in regard to them. Secondly, you have not got some of the lands yet. Now, that is not so important a point, because the Provisional Government will get those lands. Thirdly, you are arienating land without enquiring into the equities. For instance, we will be taking over land from the British——
MR. E. DE VALERA: But for the majority of Dáil Eireann you would not be talking as a member of the Provisional Government, because you would be swept out of the country by the Army. You are talking to the Dáil from which you get your authority—none other.
MR. P. HOGAN: I think I am keeping strictly to the point. Some of this land belongs to small tenants. I know that to my own knowledge. Where the land was taken over during the last three or four years, we should get that back. That decree alienates the whole of it. I think it would be a scandal to pass this decree. I hear a lot of talk about a sovereign assembly. Do you really believe it is?
MR. P. HOGAN: If this is a sovereign assembly you are making very little of it; you are attempting to pass a decree which would disgrace a Board of Guardians; you are alienating land without enquiring into the title of it. I can hardly believe there are about one hundred business men here when I come in and hear that this Assembly would begin to alienate lands and pass a decree in an hour without even enquiring into the title of that land.
MR. P. HOGAN: When I got up to speak I wanted to point out to you when you passed a decree alienating land without enquiring into the title you write yourself down as absolutely futile; you are doing a thing that no other Parliament in the world would do. Now, I think that that point ought to be perfectly clear. I know, to my own personal knowledge, that some of that land belongs to small tenants, and if you pass that decree you are alienating that land. Surely it should be obvious to any man that if you want to pass a decree in regard to land it wants a lot of thinking out.
MR. P. HOGAN: You may know more about it than I do; and that remark is uncalled for. I want to say this—anyone who respects the Dáil should not allow a decree of that kind to pass; it is unworthy of a business assembly which goes about its business in a businesslike way. Now, the amendment gets over all that difficulty. Miss MacSwiney says that the land should be divided and can be divided, and I absolutely agree. And, as we seem to be at one in the object in view, I wish to point out that you cannot do that by a decree and that, if you do, you are doing something that is really particularly futile.
MR. E. DE VALERA: As it is an advertisement that is required, the only words that I suggest are: “That are being evacuated under the terms of the Treaty.” We hear a lot about party methods—party is gone mad here.
MR. E. DE VALERA: And it is not on our side. The agreement mentioned to-day is that Dáil Eireann continue to function, and that the Cabinet need not be afraid of being thrown out by an adverse vote here; and one reason I had in my mind was that matters should be discussed here on their merits and not on Party lines. The Deputy, evidently, coming from an area where certain lands had been evacuated, felt that there was need that these lands should be divided, and brought forward the motion which has been dealt with for the sake of advertisement. Speeches have been made that were fit for the hustings and not for the Dáil here. If the other side want to have the credit of having this motion I do not see why anybody on this side should want to stop them. So long as it is done I don't care who has the credit of having it done. The question has been raised here. We are a minority in the Dáil and, as I have said time after time, we want to see that Ireland is not tricked again. As I often quoted here before, there is an Irish proverb which says: “Pitiable are those who do wrong and are poor after doing it.” We, at least, try to take no advantages which are not for the good of the people of Ireland. This is a matter that would not have raised any difficulty about Executive action in the old Dáil here. It is a simple principle. That is to legalise the transfer of these lands from their present position through the Agricultural Department, so that they might be divided there. That is all I take it in essence; and that a direction be given that they be divided up amongst landless men who have been active members of the I.R.A.; and if there is anybody who is objecting to it on principle I have not heard of it. The Cabinet would take the ordinary course as to what were the steps necessary. It is for the members here to decree that certain action be taken. And it is for the Cabinet to carry it out. Putting it into the terms of the amendment seems to me ridiculous and unnecessary.
MR. RICHARD MULCAHY: Looseness of thought and looseness of expression is at the bottom of all this business. I spoke on the motion at first, and now I want to say a word on the amendment. I do not question that this motion is put forward in the very simple intention that Mr. de Valera speaks of, but it is unfortunate that a motion put forward in that simple intention would not be carefully and properly worded, considering it is put before this meeting here as a decree of Dáil Eireann. And if there are lands in the neighbourhood of Fermoy and around there, some of which have been prepared for tillage by the military, and if there are lands there that want to be attended to why should they not be attended to by reference to the Ministry here instead of bringing in a regular decree affecting such lands in the country—and affecting them and proposing to assign ownership to them without finding out or having an idea as to who the owners are at the present time, and what is the amount of land involved, and as to whether any of these lands would not be more suitable for industrial than agricultural purposes. I disagree with the introduction of the reference to the Provisional Government in the amendment which goes forward, because I think, also, that that is unnecessary. The resolution or amendment which would get rid of that very objectionable thing that is in the amendment, is one that ought to be passed from this meeting here, and I am perfectly sure it would satisfy Deputy Ceannt as well as his own. But except we can deal with  things systematically and clearly, and except we can get rid of useless talk about the Provisional Government, I do not see how we are to get any work done here at all. I think, Mr. Chairman, you should tackle that word “Provisional Government” from the point of the Standing Orders, and see if some kind of phraseology will not be introduced and made incumbent on the House that would avoid mentioning it.
CATHAL BRUGHA: Béidir nár mhisde cúpla focal as Gaodluinn a rá anois. Na daoine sin go mhaith linn glaca leis an rún so ba mhaith linn talamh—nú pé cuid de atá le fáil—a thabairt do Lucht Airm na Poblachta, nú dos na daoine atá na gcúram ortha. Dheineamar socrú seachtain ó shoin, agus bé brí an tsocruithe sin ná go gcuirfimís le chéile ar feadh na dtrí mí seo chughainn. Má bhionn a thuille de'n tsaghas san oibre a thuit amach anso indiu agus indé againn is baolach na oibreomíd a láimh a chéile ar feadh trí lá gan trí mhí a bhac. Chím Teachtaí ar an dtaobh eile den tigh ag miongháiridhe—daoine na tuigeann focal atá agam a rá, daoine ná beidís anso in aon chor mara mbeadh ar dhein na fir troda. Is chun rud éigin a dhéanamh do sna laochra san atá an rún so os bhúr gcóir. Níl puinn deifríochta idir an rún agus an leasú a deineadh air, agus ní fheicim cad na thaobh ná glacfaí leis an rún.
MR. ERNEST BLYTHE: What seems to me to be wrong with this proposal is that it is not in form. If it had been a resolution of instruction to the Cabinet to take this matter into consideration it would be all right. But I certainly say that a law of this kind should not be passed. And I say in the Dáil now that in the old time that a resolution of that kind was not passed, and the person who brought it forward was instructed to put it into regular form. Apart from the amendment, what would seem to me to be the proper thing would be to postpone it and have it put into form so that it could be passed as law. Either that or convert it into an instruction to the Cabinet to go into the matter. I certainly think in the old Dáil there was a general consent that, in the form in which that is at the present time, it would be regarded as not in a proper form to be passed.
MR. SEAN MACENTEE: I think that the attitude of the Government in regard to this motion is very much similar to that of those people who used to say, centuries ago, that nothing good could come out of Nazareth. They have admitted that the object of the motion is praiseworthy. They have got up here and some of them said so. I think it was the gentleman who said on one occasion that he would have to look for principle with a microscope who now opposes this motion on the ground of principle. There is a principle in the motion, and that principle is that the land of Ireland belongs to the people of Ireland, and that those who fought for that land should have it now after it is evacuated by the enemy forces of Ireland. I am sure that there is no person on the side of the Government who would refuse to assent to the motion because the land may not come into their hands, or because they are not certain how the land is going to come into their hands. We do not want them to do anything dishonest, and certainly we all pre-suppose that the land has come honestly into their possession—it doesn't matter by what machinery—and the thing we ask them to do is, having the land, that they should proceed to divide it up amongst the people who are in sore need of it. It has been said that the object of the motion is good; obviously, it is for that reason we ought to accept the motion.
MR. GAVAN DUFFY: I should like to draw attention to one fact that has been overlooked. I appeal to all serious people on both sides to reflect that we must maintain the dignity of this sovereign assembly; and I ask them to realise that they do not maintain the dignity of this sovereign assembly if they present to the assembly one night, a proposed law, and pass it next day. In no country in the world that I know of, except in a time of war or emergency of that kind, is a law presented one evening and passed the next day without adequate consideration. That is not the way to deal with a serious subject, and we are making ourselves ridiculous in the eyes of thinking people if we deal with a subject in that way. I do not think there is anybody who objects to the principle of the motion. But I say it is a principle that a law of that kind is not passed except in a war emergency. This matter of emergency decrees is a relic of the time when we were fighting England in the  field, and when we had to face things on the spur of the moment. But that is not a worthy way to deal with the principal subject matter that will come before this assembly. A great deal of unnecessary heat has been introduced into this matter. The Minister of Agriculture was assailed when he said if you accept the words of this motion and act upon them as they stand, as you must act upon them, that a person who had the possession of land and was deprived of it by enemy forces would not get back his land, because you would be compelling the Government to give the land to landless people—the people whom you wish to benefit. The whole thing is ill-considered, but the principle is a thing everybody will agree to. But let us do it in a reasonable way. We must realise that there is one vital distinction between the proposal and the amendment; that one is to do the thing here and now without giving proper consideration to the serious subject matter, whereas the amendment recommends that the thing be taken into serious consideration by the Government and acted upon. In other words, that this Government, or the Provisional Government. have an opportunity of considering the matter before acting on it. If you give them the opportunity, no doubt it can be done; but if you pass this without consideration you are bringing this assembly into contempt. It is not right, except in a war emergency, to rush a thing like that.
THE ACTING SPEAKER: Before I put the question, as there seems to be general agreement on the principle involved in the motion, may I be permitted to suggest the following: That in the opinion of the Dáil the lands which were in occupation of the enemy forces in Ireland, and which are now being evacuated, except such as are required for military purposes, be divided amongst landless men; that consideration be given by the proper authorities, that preference be given to those men or the dependents of those men who had been in active military service of the I.R.A. prior to the Truce of 1921, and that the Aireacht Talman be requested to give effect to this.
MR. E. DE VALERA: I would like to say that this House can do something more than give an opinion for the Provisional Government. This assembly here is still—I insist on it—supreme in Ireland, and any Provisional Government or any other Government is subordinate to it.
THE ACTING SPEAKER: My proposal was made to try to have general agreement on it. The whole trouble is that we have no definite constitutional procedure for the passing of decrees and laws except in the sense of a resolution being brought forward. This motion of Daithí Ceannt is in the sense of a resolution being brought forward here. If we had a constitutional procedure, that motion would be the subject of two or three readings. My idea was, that if there was general agreement on this it might be passed unanimously without making it a party question. If there is not general agreement here I am compelled to put the resolution and amendment in the ordinary form.
MR. ART O'CONNOR: There are deserving people anxious and willing to get land, and we are fiddling more or less like Nero while Rome is burning. The poor people who want land are caught between two fires. The basic principle is that landless men and uneconomic holders of farms should get some of this land—that is, landless men who gave  good service to this country during the past two years.
MR. E. DE VALERA: I have no interest in this except that I knew that the Deputy who proposed it came from near Fermoy, where he saw a local need and he is interested in seeing it done. I am disgusted with this party system.
MR. R. MULCAHY: I move that it be an instruction to the Cabinet to consider at once whether all lands which were in occupation of enemy forces in Ireland and which have now been evacuated, except those which may be retained as necessary training grounds of the I.R.A., can be divided up in economic holdings and distributed amongst the landless men, preference being given to those men or dependants of those men who have been active members of the I.R.A. prior to the Truce of July, 1921, and that immediate action be taken in all possible cases.
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