Friday, 19 April 1929
Dáil Éireann Debate
“That a sum not exceeding £342,366 be granted to complete the sum necessary to defray the Charge which will come in course of payment during the year ending on 31st day of March, 1930, for the salaries and expenses of the Office of the Irish Land Commission (44 and 45 Vict., c. 49, s. 46, and c. 71, s. 4; 48 and 49 Vict., c. 73; s.s. 17, 18 and 20; 53 and 54 Vict., c. 49, s. 2; 54 and 55 Vict., c. 48; 3 Edw. 7, c. 37; 7 Edw. 7, c. 38, and c. 56; 9 Edw. 7, c. 42; Nos. 27 and 42 of 1923, 25 of 1925, 11 of 1926, and 19 of 1927). —(Minister for Finance).
Mr. J.T. Wolfe: When this matter was adjourned last evening I think I was referring to the strange policy of the chief Opposition Party towards the question of land purchase and the difficulties that that policy must necessarily put in the way of the Land Commission. I had referred to the untimely Bill which died an untimely death a week ago, “unwept, unhonoured and unsung.” I thought it was only fair to add to that fact that the proposer and supporter of the Bill had rather apologised for some of its contents. The day afterwards we had in Cork a further explanation from Deputy Mullins, who, addressing a meeting of an agricultural committee there, is reported to have said that what happened was that their Party—that is, the chief Opposition Party—had found out that the Bill contained flaws, and that they had allowed it to pass, but they intended to re-introduce it almost immediately. What a strange statement of the  policy of the chief Opposition! They found the Bill contained flaws. So far as I can see it contained nothing but flaws—and they allowed it to pass! How did they allow it to pass? What a strange mentality, what a strange procedure! They allowed it to pass by every other man-jack of them voting for it. So that in future we are to assume, when the members of the chief Opposition Party vote in favour of a Bill, that they really intend to oppose it. That is their way of allowing a Bill to pass. Deputy Mullins also told us—and this might be some information to you, sir—that they are going to re-introduce it immediately.
Mr. Wolfe: I referred to the suggestion that in carrying out land purchase, non-judicial tenants were to be put in the background and judicial tenants were to get the preference. I respectfully submit that that proposal is an outrageous one, and that it will thwart the Land Commission and prevent their putting land purchase through in any reasonable time. It will give the cold-shoulder to the non-judicial tenants who, to a great extent, are the victims of the land war, and who, above all others, ought to receive speedy treatment and exceptional facilities. All the judicial tenants have already once received the protection of the court; the great majority of them have twice received it; and very many of them have received it three times. The non-judicial tenants are in a different position, through no fault of their own, owing to circumstances over which they have no control, and which date back to the period from 1883 to 1886, and even later. They are to-day in the position that they  have not yet received the protection of the court and the reduction to which they would be entitled owing to the passing of the Land Acts. For them I make an appeal to the House. I would ask the chief Opposition Party to make even an eleventh-hour repentance, and say good-bye to the policy of marked hostility which they have, for some strange reason, adopted towards the non-judicial tenants. Even now I think the House generally would be prepared to allow them to say that they did not realise what they were doing when they introduced a Bill which would shut out for the next ten years, at all events, the non-judicial tenants from any ray of hope.
Mr. Wolfe: The Deputy will have an opportunity later of doing that. He has greater influence with them than I have. I suggest, apart from any question of politics, that we might agree that if preference is to be given, and I think it ought to be given, we ought to give it to the non-judicial tenants. It was suggested by the chief Opposition Party this day week—I do not say it was intended; it might have been a slip, and I do not want to take advantage of any slip; whether it is part of their strange policy or not I do not know—that tenants who had their rents fixed before 1911 ought to get a reduction of 6/- in the £, and that those who got a rent fixed since then ought to get a reduction of 7/-. That is a reversal of the present policy, and if it is part of the strange policy which the chief Opposition Party have adopted, then I think we had better remain as we are.
An Ceann Comhairle: I would not mind the Deputy discussing the backslidings of any particular Party if he can successfully associate that with the Vote which is  before us. The Deputy, I think, is discussing matters which will require legislation, and the fact that they were in a Bill would appear to prove that. That is out of order in a discussion on Estimates My objection to the Deputy's speech is that he is discussing legislation, not administration.
Mr. Wolfe: Surely I am in order when I say a word on behalf of non-judicial tenants and try to explain why it is that in carrying out administration regard ought to be had to the fact that they require immediate and preferential treatment. The point I make is this: that while some tenants are getting under the Act of 1923 a reduction of 6/- in the £, and while other tenants are or will get a reduction of 7/-, many non-judicial tenants are entitled to and will receive a great deal more than that. Why keep them from getting any reduction except the 5/- in the £ which they are getting and put them in the background? I do not think Deputies realise that at the present time there are many non-judicial tenants who are not even receiving the 25 per cent. reduction and who are paying their full rent. The reason is that prior to the passing of the Land Act of 1923, or prior perhaps to the year 1920, there were in this country a certain number of what are called English-managed estates, on which the landlord did the improvements and the tenant paid the gross rent. I suggest that the landlord did not receive more than 75 per cent. of his rent, and sometimes a great deal less. In 1920 the landlords stopped doing any improvement on these holdings, and the position in these cases at present is that the tenant is paying as much as 100 per cent. of his rent. I have put before the Land Commission some of these cases in the adjoining constituency of East Cork, where they had even been deserted by that patriot and expert in land purchase—Deputy Corry. They came to me in their distress wondering when they would get some relief, and I put the facts  before the Land Commission. These poor distressed farmers in East Cork were deserted, and they are still paying 100 per cent. of their rent, and I think that the Land Commission might at least say that they are deserving of a preference. Speaking for those with whom I am associated, I may say that we are all agreed that land purchase ought to be expedited. Deputies of every Party, whatever they did on this day week, will, I think, appeal to the Land Commission to expedite it. It is necessary that the proceedings should be expedited, but in expediting them we must have regard to one or two things. There is no use in making false and silly calculations as to the progress of land purchase.
I heard estimates last night from both sides of the House, and the one was as ill-founded as the other. The method of calculation adopted is this: If there are five thousand cases going through the Land Commission one thousand of them may have ten steps to go. In six years one thousand of them have gone all the ten steps, and they are admitted into vesting. The remaining four thousand may have gone nine steps, or eight or seven steps. Yet, by a strange mathematical calculation, the basis of which I cannot find, it is suggested that if a thousand of them take six years the remaining four thousand must take twenty-four years. That, of course, is absurd. At any rate, if the Parliamentary Secretary, and the Land Commission, wanted to indulge in humbug as regards the number of holdings vested they could deal immediately with small estates which would not take up a tenth of the time of the larger ones, and they could overwhelm people with figures which, while being technically correct, would be absolutely misleading. But the Land Commission has not done that. I am not sure they are right in not doing it. They say it is very hard luck to tenants who happen to be tenants on large estates, badly needing relief, to be kept back while the smaller estates are vested. It is hard luck,  but I think, on the whole, some people must suffer if you are to carry out the work expeditiously, and I think it is up to the Parliamentary Secretary, and he can do it if he likes, to increase the present rate by leaving aside the estates that must take ten and twenty years and longer to vest. They cannot be dealt with at the present rate, and it can only be done at the present time by hampering land purchase. That is what was at the back of the Bill introduced by the Opposition: that the judicial tenancies do not require revaluation. But the ones that require revaluation are the ones that should receive immediate attention. I submit that we should get some undertaking from the Parliamentary Secretary that that will be attended to.
I view with grave apprehensions two matters that were referred to yesterday. One of these matters is that on the 31st March last a number of tried and experienced inspectors of the Land Commission were got rid of. Their services have been dispensed with, and the staff has been considerably reduced in the interests of economy. I submit that that is false economy. If there is one service, or Government department, in which the staff should not be reduced, but should rather be increased, it is the Land Purchase Department. I view with great apprehension the information which points to the fact that a number of tried and experienced officials have been set adrift as from the 31st March last, in order to effect economy. That is not economy, in my opinion, and it, certainly, in the end, will tend to delay and embarrass the completion of land purchase, and I should be glad if somebody would induce the Parliamentary Secretary and the Minister for Finance to say that so far as land purchase is concerned the staff ought not to be reduced on any false cry of economy.
Some complaint also was made about the cutting down of the grants. Deputy Hogan (Clare), and Deputy Brennan, complained of the fact that the grants which were given to the Land Commission for  the purpose of improving small holdings were very much depleted for the coming year. It was pointed out by the Parliamentary Secretary, as well as I was able to follow him, that these grants were not in former years fully expended. That may have been the case, but heaven knows they could be well expended, and they ought to have been expended. We hear discussions of very great interest from time to time about housing. If Deputies would come down to my constituency I would show them houses in comparison with which the slums of Dublin are palaces. These are on small estates. It would not take much to put them right and to get rid of the gross scandal existing, for instance, on the island of Cape Clear where there are slums far worse than the slums in Dublin. Something should be done, and should be done quickly, to deal with this matter. It has already been done by the Land Commission in other places and at a comparatively trivial cost. Every effort should be made to get rid of the gross scandal attached to the existence of such plague spots. I hope the Parliamentary Secretary will see his way to induce the Treasury to spring a little bit more, and to cease making such a large inroad on the money given to the country for the purpose of carrying out the spirit of the Land Act of 1923 and the Land Act of 1927. Everybody in this House, regardless of Party, is in entire sympathy with that. We differ, only, on the question of methods. We differ perhaps on the question of precedence given to one Party or another. Whether estates could be settled on the basis that Deputy Fahy suggested, by townlands, I do not know. I do not say they could not, but I see a lot of difficulty. We differ as to methods but we are all agreed in the common purpose that the Land Commission should do everything in the settling of estates; and it is the unanimous opinion of this House that they should do everything to facilitate and expedite land purchase.
Mr. Morrissey: A good deal of the discussion on this Estimate has ranged round the question of vesting estates, and the question as to whether vesting should take precedence over the acquisition and the distribution of land. Many Deputies—and the Land Commission seem to be agreed on this matter— have suggested that the acquisition and distribution of land should be slowed down to enable the Land Commission to speed up the vesting which they declare is far more important. I do not agree at all with that view. I agree it is necessary that the land should be vested with all possible speed, but I think it is vastly more important that the land should be divided and given to the people. I think that those who are on the land and working it are in a better position than those looking for land and anxious to get it in order to get employment and to produce something from the soil. We know, unfortunately, that too much of the land of the country is idle and waste, and for that reason I do not at all agree with the policy announced by the Parliamentary Secretary of slowing down the acquisition and division of land. I think it is a mistake, in view of the unemployment in the country and in view of emigration.
I would like to see the Land Commission speeding up, as much as they possibly can, acquisition and distribution, so as to get people on the land. If we get them on the land we can then argue about the vesting and the price they should pay. There is another matter I would like to bring before the House, and I am almost ashamed to take up the time of the House with it, because I have brought it up every year for the last five years.
That is the question of the acquisition and division of certain estates in the County Tipperary. Most of these were mentioned by Deputy Hassett in his speech last night. In this House and in the Land Commission we have been pressing for the acquisition and division of those estates for nearly five years. On  the Estimates last year and the year before I raised the matter of what is known as the Lattin lands. I do not know whether it was due to an oversight or whether he did not think it necessary to refer to the matter, but the fact remains that in his reply the Parliamentary Secretary refused to take any notice whatever of what I said. I hope that on this occasion, after five years, that the Land Commission will be in a position to explain to the House the mystery of the Lattin lands.
Mr. Morrissey: On the question of the reduction of the amount for improvement work, the Party to which I belong will vote for the amendment moved by Deputy Derrig, if for no other reason than as a protest against the reduction of the amount set aside for the improvement of estates. This was money which gave a considerable amount of employment in the country where it was very badly needed. I must say that I cannot understand some Deputies who are continually clamouring for economy at all cost and continually telling us that the taxation of the country should be cut down to £12,000,000. I cannot understand Deputies clamouring one day for economy at any cost and then when economy measures are put up objecting. Our position in the matter, and we have always stated it quite clearly, is that we do not want economy at any cost. We want to cut out waste, but not useful expenditure, and I submit that this is useful expenditure. If we see any evidence of waste in the Estimates we are prepared to put down amendments and point out to the Government and the House the waste that we see, and to stand for a reduction, but we are not going to stand for a reduction merely for the sake of having a reduction and of having what is only economy on paper. I submit to the House that this reduction is not real economy at all, because the estates which would be improved and the employment which would be given, if the Estimate  under this particular sub-head were not reduced, would, I am satisfied, prove to be better and truer economy than this reduction. These estates will now not be improved, and those who are unemployed will have to get sustenance in some other way. I would stress very strongly the action, or lack of action, of the Land Commission with regard to three or four estates in the County Tipperary. The action of the Land Commission, so far as the Lattin lands are concerned, is, to say the least of it, scandalous. As I stated here twelve months ago, the people in that area are satisfied, and are absolutely convinced, that there is something shady going on in the Land Commission in connection with this estate. For two or three years I myself did not believe that, but in view of the way in which the matter has been dealt with, I have now been driven to the conclusion that there are some grounds for the suspicions of the people in that area.
It was mentioned last evening by Deputy Hassett that there is one gentleman affected in that area who, in all, has about 6,000 acres. I grant that most of it is mountain, but anyway he has 6,000 acres. There is another gentleman who has 600 acres of land at Lattin, as well as 600 acres at Dundrum, where he resides. The 600 acres at Lattin is an outside farm, surrounded by congests, and the Land Commission cannot see their way to take even these 600 acres, leaving this gentleman with his 600 acres and his residence at Dundrum. I think that the House is entitled to some explanation of this matter. I hope that the Parliamentary Secretary, in his reply, will give that information, and that he will not do as he did on former occasions, simply ignore the matter altogether.
Mr. Clery: I want to express my entire dissatisfaction with the Land Commission as far as the West of Ireland is concerned. I think the Land Commission should realise that their methods as regards the congested districts of the country are not, and cannot, be appreciated. We  heard yesterday, and again, this morning, certain Deputies lauding the Land Commission for certain things they had done. I think if the Land Commission understood the position properly they would realise that the greatest condemnation of their methods is the fact that they have been lauded by the Deputies who spoke here in regard to their work. The Deputies who did that come from counties where congestion is very little known. Deputy Shaw, who speaks for the ranch county, Westmeath, spoke about the wonderful work that the Land Commission have done in that county. Deputy Gorey, whose interests are more or less those of the rancher and not of the congests, spoke of the fine work of the Land Commission.
Mr. Clery: And then Deputy Jasper Wolfe, who represents in this House, I understand, the old landlord element in this country, also spoke about the wonderful work that the Land Commission have been doing, but in the tail end of his speech, for, I suppose, vote-catching in Cork, he suggested that they should speed up a little bit more. I think it would be unwise for us to follow Deputy Jasper Wolfe's methods, because he talked of our apologising for the Land Bill that was discussed here this day week on Second Reading. I think that Deputy Jasper Wolfe needs to offer some apology for his lapse in delivering to-day the speech that evidently he had prepared to deliver here last Wednesday. We cannot be held responsible for the Deputy's lapse, and probably he might not be entirely responsible himself either for that lapse.
I think the Land Bill introduced here last week should have been taken more seriously by the Deputies on the benches of the Farmers' Party. I hope that some of the remarks made with reference to the vesting of land will be taken more seriously by the Land Commission  authorities. I am of the opinion, from what I have seen going on for the past couple of years, that there are certain highly-placed people in the Land Commission who are deliberately obstructing the work of the acquisition and division of lands. I can come to no other conclusion, because the matter has gone on in such a slow way, and efforts that could have been made have not been made. I find that that opinion is fairly general among the Deputies and among the people too. The Parliamentary Secretary defended the Land Commission yesterday, and in glowing terms he told us of the enormous amount of work the Land Commission have done since 1923. If, I hold, the Parliamentary Secretary was not to-day dressed in the robes of office and in charge of the Land Commission, if he were an ordinary Deputy of this House, he would in this debate make the very statement he made in 1925, when he proposed a motion condemning the Land Commission for their slow methods in dealing with the acquisition and division of land. Deputy Roddy then said, according to the official debates:—
Anyone would think that the Deputy who made that statement in 1925, and who, for the last two or three years, has been in charge of the Land Commission, would see that some effort was made to remedy the state of things he complained of in 1925. Speaking for the County of Mayo, and some adjoining counties, I can say that no effort has been made for the past two or three years other than the method adopted previous to that by the Land Commission, to speed up the acquisition and division of land. The people in the West of Ireland feel, in the most congested areas, that they are in just the same position as they were years ago in the days of the land trouble. Some of the estates they worked and  struggled to have divided and settled are still in an unsettled state. They are living under the same disgraceful conditions in the West of Ireland as they were ten or fifteen years ago. With very few exceptions the Land Commission have not come in and acquired the ranches that are there and settled estates. I am sure that one-fifth of the estates in Mayo have not been settled by the Land Commission.
In connection with one estate in East Mayo, about two years ago I had a communication from the Land Commission. I wrote to the Land Commission about a year and a half ago about the acquisition of a certain farm. I got a favourable reply, and I thought everything possible was being done to have the land divided at an early date among the local congests. Only three weeks ago I enquired again, and I was told that there were so many uneconomic holdings in the estate that the Land Commission could not take any action until they were in a position to deal with the whole estate. That is surely putting it off from one day to another, and it is not a fair way of dealing with the people. In some of the townlands in Mayo we have had cattle-driving. I hold that the Land Commission are responsible for that state of affairs. There is a growing feeling among the people that they will have to take strong action to make the Land Commission open their eyes in the matter. There again I say, deliberately, that the Land Commission are responsible. Deputy Roddy, in 1925, speaking on his motion in condemnation of the Land Commission, said:—
“I feel quite sure that neither the Minister nor the Government wants a renewal of agrarian troubles in this country, and as far as I can see there is no prospect before us unless adequate measures are taken to alleviate the exasperated feelings of the people.”
The feelings of the people were never so exasperated as they are to-day, and there is every reason for them being so. I think in common decency the Land Commission  should tackle the question in a more lively fashion. It is the general opinion, and it is my opinion too, that the Land Commission, as an institution, is suffering from an advanced stage of senile decay, and that it would take the jack-boot method of the Minister for Finance to get it out of that state if anything is to be done. I am not going to deal with the different estates in Mayo regarding which something should be done by the Land Commission, because all that has been put before the Land Commission time and again. I appeal to Deputies from all sides of the House to support Deputy Derrig's motion to send back the Estimate for reconsideration. If some action like that is not taken by Deputies from all Parties you will have the same things going on for a number of years as in the past, and no definite action taken by the Land Commission.
I want to protest against the reduction in the Vote by £161,550 for the improvement of estates. That, I think, is one of the most glaring wrongs the Land Commission could perpetrate. Last year, I think, £200,000 was voted for the improvement of estates, and we can see that very little work was done last year, particularly in the West of Ireland. If we are to have £161,000 less this year expended on the improvement of estates, I wonder whether we will see any improvements done. All this is done in the name of economy. It is what I call indirect taxation. The people in the congested districts are being deprived of that £161,000, where it would have been spent on the improvement of estates. It would have given a good return spent in that manner, and its withdrawal is an indirect taxation levied on the poorer people of the country. A short time ago the Government proposed to economise in other Departments of the State. They intended to save £42,000 in the Post Office Estimate. That would result in the dismissal of 700 temporary employees. Now why did the Government not proceed with that proposal of economy? We are told they had  to abandon that proposal because the Farmer Deputies of this House, and certain of the Cumann na nGaedheal Deputies, threatened certain political action against the Government simply because 700 temporary employees were to be dismissed. The saving of £42,000 in that way was held to be wrong economy.
If the Farmer Deputies and certain of the Cumann na nGaedheal Deputies threatened political action because £42,000 was to be saved in that way, what action will they take when they find the Estimate for the improvements of estates is to be cut down by £161,000? Are they going to depend on political action? Or are they going to go into the Lobby and vote for that reduction in the Vote for the improvement of estates? I should like to know before a vote is taken on this Estimate what action they are prepared to take in this matter. If they go into the Government Lobby and vote for this reduction in the Estimate for the improvement of estates they are certainly betraying the people who sent them here from the congested districts. I have very little sympathy with members like Deputies Shaw, Jasper Wolfe and Gorey, because they do not represent the congested districts. I think that Deputies who come from the West of Ireland particularly, and other counties where there is very acute congestion, should get their backs up in regard to this Vote, and not allow those methods of the Land Commission to be carried out any longer in the way they are.
Mr. Heffernan: In listening to this debate and the various debates which have taken place from time to time on the question of the activities of the Land Commission, I have always been struck with one idea, and that is the unreality of the debate which is taking place. Deputies get up here and deal with the various details of the Land Commission administration, details of that administration sometimes in their own counties. But we hear of very few Deputies getting up and facing, in a constructive way, the work of the Land Commission,  analysing what has been done and making definite constructive suggestions as to how the Land Commission might improve its method of administration and better the work which it has been carrying out. It is rather unfortunate, perhaps, that the activities of the Land Commission, more than the activities of any other Department of the State, supply matter for election propaganda. Any Deputy can get local support and local strength by embarking on a campaign demanding that the untenanted land shall be divided up. A Deputy can embark on that campaign without having made any examination of the whole problem of land division in the country or even in his own county and without making any attempt to discover what the real difficulties in the way of vesting land are.
It seems to me that this whole matter of the activities of the Land Commission may be roughly divided under two headings (1) the acquisition and division of land and (2) the vesting of unvested lands and the collection of the annuities in the case of lands already vested. Connected with the question of the division of lands, there is another question. I profess to have a comparative knowledge of the land question in my own county and a knowledge of the conditions in the province in which I live. I profess to have no real knowledge of the problem in the congested areas of the country. But on the question of the division of land in my own county I think I may say that I happen to know a great deal. I have been associated with land division in my county for a great many years and I think that I can honestly claim that in regard to the land already divided in my county. Tipperary, I have taken a large part and have been partly responsible for as great an acreage of divided lands as any other Deputy representing the county.
Mr. Heffernan: I think I can speak with a real knowledge of the state of affairs in the matter of land division in Tipperary. I think the simplest way of giving the House an idea of this question in Tipperary would be to deal with the particular cases that have been referred to here over and over again, and to deal with the difficulties of the question of division of land. I maintain that in this matter Deputies have a responsibility, and they should face up to that responsibility when advocating the division of land. They should face up to the whole problem and have some conception of the extent of the problem when they are advocating this division. When doing so they should be actuated by some other motive beyond the motive that there is a large block of land that is not divided, and that because there is in, say, a certain area such a block of land to be divided that that land should be immediately divided.
References have been made here and outside the Dáil to one particular block of land in Tipperary. Before I deal with that matter I had better touch on the general question of the division of land in Tipperary. A Deputy got up here and said that the Land Commission is dealing very slowly with the division of land in Tipperary. Before Deputies make a statement like that they should have some realisation of what the Land Commission is doing. They ought to have made some effort to get the facts and figures of the matter. I have in the past taken some pains to get the information, and as a result of that information, and of the knowledge that I have acquired from my own personal experience for years past, I am satisfied that the Land Commission is proceeding at a reasonably fast pace in the division of land.
My figures will give some indication of the pace at which they are proceeding. I find that in the County Tipperary since the present Government took over control, or rather, since the Land Act of 1923 was passed, 20,000 acres of land have been divided. I find that altogether  since the first Act was passed that the amount of land divided in the County Tipperary is 37,000 acres. That means that since the Treaty or, to be more accurate, since the Land Act of 1923 was passed more land has been divided in County Tipperary than had been divided during the previous thirty years under all the previous Land Acts. There were, as I say, approximately 17,000 acres divided in the course of over thirty years under the previous Acts, and in the six years since 1923 20,000 have been divided. Not only have those 20,000 been divided, but in addition 26,000 have been vested in the Land Commission and, undoubtedly, in a very short time the balance of the 6,000 acres will be divided. Over 70,000 acres of land have been inspected in the county. I say, therefore, that Deputies who say that the Land Commission is not proceeding at a reasonable speed have not examined the facts and figures in connection with the matter.
When they come to the question of the division of land, Deputies ought to face up to the real facts and state what they know. I believe many Deputies are not stating what they think. It would be unwise for the Land Commission to proceed at a quicker pace in this matter. There are many problems in the division of land and the Land Commission must solve these problems. If a great deal of land were taken up and divided hastily amongst unsuitable allottees, it would eventually react to the detriment of the Land Commission and of the State. It is a fact that in the division of lands which has taken place in the past, and I refer particularly to the division that took place in the early stages, that some of the allottees who were placed in possession of the lands are not proving very good tenants, and it is probable that, at a later stage, some of these will become a problem for the Land Commission. My personal knowledge of the division of land is that in dividing estates, when the lands are divided amongst the neighbouring uneconomic holders, the results in most cases are satisfactory. I hardly know of one case  where a genuine industrious farmer living on an uneconomic holding in the neighbourhood of an estate which has been divided and who has been given a portion of that estate has not proved a success. I do not know of one such case where the man has proved a failure. There are cases of failures and these are where men have been brought in from other districts, men with little capital, and given a farm on these estates. Many of these men do not show any great indications of becoming a success.
Another point is this: in dividing large estates on which a good many agricultural workers were employed, the giving of land to these agricultural labourers on the estate has not been a success. I know it has been the experience of the Land Commission that the giving of land to such men has not been always satisfactory. I am not suggesting that such men ought not to get land. When these men have been employed on an estate that has been divided up I think something should be done for them. But serious consideration should be given to the fact whether more useful work could not be done by leaving the land in the hands of a man who is giving considerable employment on those lands than by placing a number of agricultural workers without capital on the same land. It is undoubtedly a fact that the particular type of experience that an agricultural labourer gets as a workman on a large estate is not the type of experience which fits him to be a success as a small farmer later on. There is a further difficulty, that he has not the available capital. The argument which I am really trying to develop and the fact which I am trying to bring out is that the hasty division of estates and the placing of men with practically no capital in possession of the land may eventually become a danger, not perhaps to the State, but may lead to much disadvantage to the Land Commission.
I said I would deal with the particular estate which has been mentioned here from time to time. I do not intend to deal with that  estate by way of contention with the other Deputies in the county. I simply will deal with it as an illustration of the general problem of land division. I think that is still a problem as it applies to my part of the country. A great deal of agitation has been raised with regard to that particular holding. Now as to the circumstances. I might say at the start that big meetings were called there and Deputies advocated the division of that particular holding. I attended, and, while not actually objecting, I said that there were very serious obstacles in the way of dividing that holding which had to be considered and that indiscriminate efforts to rush the Land Commission into a division of that holding would be unwise. Various facts in connection with that estate have been mentioned. My version of the facts in connection with that is this. Deputy Morrissey has approximately stated the facts of that case. The owner of that estate had a home farm of 500 or 600 acres. This farm in Lattin is an outside farm and is only about 400 acres. There was confusion by reason of the fact that land in the immediate neighbourhood belonged to a relative of this owner of the same name, and that land was confused with the land held by this owner at Lattin. In Lattin there is actually a 400 acre farm. This is the very best fattening land in Tipperary. The owner of that untenanted land was actually in the position of being a tenant rather than what you might call an owner, because there was a fee farm rent of £1 an acre; that is, £400 a year for 400 acres. That was not in any sense of the word a free holding.
My contention is that there are two obstacles to the division of that holding. One is that if the land were required by the Land Commission they would have to redeem the head rent in full and would have to pay the owner reasonable compensation. When the Land Commission would have done that the annuities falling on the allottees would be so high that the land division would  be uneconomic. By a very simple calculation you can arrive at that conclusion. Take 400 acres with a rent of approximately £400, and redeem the fee farm rent of approximately the same amount. Say the redemption price is twenty years' purchase. That would be £8,000. There is no doubt that the owner's interest in that land is valuable, and it would be sold at a very high price. Giving fairly moderate value according to the standard which prevails and assigning the owner's interest at £8,000, you would them have a redemption of £8,000, plus the owner's interest at £8,000, which would give a total capital sum of £16,000. That would result roughly in an annuity of £750 or £800. In the case of division that land would have to bear a total annuity of about £800. It would cost the allottees £2 an acre. I doubt very much if that would be good value. As grazing land, it certainly would be worth £2 an acre, and probably £4 or £5 an acre, but when you come to give land to a small holder, the type of land that would be worth £4 or £5 an acre as grazing land would not be worth the same amount to the allottee.
I hold that when it comes to dividing land, the best type of land from the point of view of grazing is not always the best to divide. The best type of land to give to the small holder is land of medium quality which he can till and feed his stock upon. The cattle trade is a very important trade for this country. The small holders are engaged largely in rearing young stock. They sell their stock at one-and-a-half and two years, at a time when the stock are not fit for the market. The small holders cannot feed and finish the big bullocks, because the big bullock would walk all over the small holder's farm, and possibly enter on the neighbour's farm over the fences. The fact is that suitable land should be kept for finishing off the bullock. It is very unpopular to talk about a bullock in the Dáil. Nobody dare mention it, because apparently the bullock is a most undesirable creature.
Mr. Heffernan: It should not be forgotten, however, that the bullock brings £20,000,000 a year to this country. While the small holders continue to breed and rear livestock, we must talk about livestock here. As I have already said, it is unwise to divide the best fattening land; some of it should be kept for finishing off the bullocks. Some Deputies might not care to say that, but I will say it. I know it will not get me a great number of votes at the next election, and perhaps it might be much better for me to go to Lattin and say, “By all means divide this land,” but I maintain that Deputies ought to face problems honestly, and they ought not to be afraid to express their opinions when they think that lands should not be divided.
We all know that there is a real problem with regard to vesting land. A Bill was brought in here by the Opposition and Deputy Wolfe dealt with it on a very extensive scale. The Opposition Party knew they were introducing a Bill which could not be worked, an impossible, unworkable Bill. I give them credit for having a sufficient knowledge of the Land Acts to know that the Bill was impossible. It was simply a gesture. The people will probably say that the Deputies on the Fianna Fáil Benches are going to see that the land is vested. The fact of the matter is that the men who come in last will get all the credit. It reminds one of the schoolboys who were running a race and at the fifth round a boy who was looking on joined the runners, won the race and claimed all the credit. Fianna Fáil wants to do the same thing here. There are Deputies on this side who have given a good deal of attention to the Land Acts and they have studied the land question in all its details. There are Deputies on the opposite benches who have not given as much attention to the working of the 1923 and 1927 Land Acts. They now introduce a simple Bill and at the next election they will get all the credit and probably they  will say “We completed land purchase in Ireland.”
Mr. Heffernan: If there is one thing evident it is this: that you cannot have the division of land proceeding at such a pace and have the vesting of land carried on at the same time. Any Deputy who faces the problem honestly will acknowledge that. Of course, Deputies opposite will not recognise that. They believe we can instil some patent elixir into the officials of the Land Commission so that they will be galvanised into a sort of increased activity. All the vesting will be carried on at double pace and the division of land will be equally accelerated. I have some knowledge of departmental work and if any dope of that kind can be produced I shall be very glad to avail of it.
Mr. Heffernan: The speeding up of land division or vesting can only be done by easing off in respect to one or the other. If you are to speed up land division you will have to case off on vesting and if you want to go more rapidly with vesting you will have to ease off on the division of land. Are Deputies willing to agree to that? Are they anxious to concentrate the activities of officials on the vesting of land? I am prepared to advocate that strongly. As far as I am aware, in my part of the country they can ease off on the division of land and concentrate on the vesting of the land. Some time will be required to assimilate the people who have already been vested.
While that assimilation is taking place and while the country settles down to the economic situation which will be brought about by the division of land, they might concentrate and devote almost all their attention to the completion of vesting. It is of the utmost importance that vesting should be completed. I am sure that I can speak on behalf  of a great many, if not on behalf of the majority, of tenants whose vesting has not been completed, and I say that they would not be willing to accept that impossible, hybrid form of vesting contained in the Bill put forward by the other side. When a farmer wants his land vested he wants to know that he has title to the land, and that it is his. He does not want a doubtful or uncertain title. If any attempt were made to maintain provisional title it would continue to be provisional for the next twenty or thirty years, because Parliaments and Governments are inclined to deal first with the immediate problems which call out for solution, and having made a temporary settlement in regard to the question of vesting land, the matter would be put on the long finger and it would await completion for many years to come. That is not in the interests of unvested tenants. It is up to us and to Deputies on the other side, because they have their responsibilities like ourselves to give a definite mandate to the Land Commission to ease up on the division of land and to concentrate on vesting. I am sure that the Land Commission could complete the vesting of lands in a couple of years if they did that, and would be in a better position then to face the problem of division. By that time, doubtless, we would have got a more sane or rational point of view on the whole economic problem of the division of lands.
Mr. Sheehy (Tipperary): I wish to point out that grave dissatisfaction exists in Tipperary in regard to the acquisition and distribution of ranch and estate lands. I am as anxious as Deputy Morrissey to have a reply from the Parliamentary Secretary regarding the Lattin lands and other estates. I referred to the matter on this Estimate last year, but I got no reply. I hope, however, that the Parliamentary Secretary will give some information on this occasion. In Lattin and Cullen there are about 1,200 acres, but there is widespread unemployment and extreme poverty existing there. The ranches there  are all in grass and yield very little production for the nation. There are other lands around Nenagh, such as the estate held by Miss Norris, which the Land Commission do not appear to be inclined to take over, on the plea that they give a lot of employment. There are other estates also in connection with which there is great dissatisfaction because they have not been distributed. It has been broadcast through part of Tipperary that the friends of the Minister for Agriculture are really the Land Commission down there; and that it is they and their confederates who get preferential treatment, while the uneconomic holders who are best entitled to those lands, have not got any portion of them. I have been listening to the speech of Deputy Heffernan, and it seems to me that he is giving great praise to himself in reference to what he has done. He claims to be the chief cause of having got lands divided by the Land Commission, and he also claims that the Land Commission has made great progress.
Mr. Sheehy: I do not want to be personal. As I was saying, Deputy Heffernan seems to want somebody to clap him on the back. I wonder is he aware of the conditions existing there, or of the thousands of acres that have not been acquired or distributed so far. He also stated  that the best type of land is not suitable for division amongst small holders, and that for that purpose the best class of land is the medium type, which can be dealt with and which can feed the people. I wonder if he were offered a farm in Lattin and a farm in the extreme north of Tipperary, where the land is poor, which he would take. I am nearly positive that he would take the fattening land of Lattin.
Mr. Sheehy: I am surprised if he imagines that he can fool the small farmers in Tipperary when he states that poor, medium-sized land is better for small holders than fattening land. I am also interested in lands in Tipperary which have not been vested, and I hope when the Parliamentary Secretary replies he will give us an assurance that he will hurry up the vesting of that land. I am particularly anxious about the Lattin lands, which the people in that district believe should have been divided long before this.
Dr. Ryan: The Parliamentary Secretary in introducing this Estimate, as far as I could understand his explanation, said that it was inadvisable to proceed more quickly with vesting. He gave us to understand that he had a large Department to handle and that in order to keep the staff of that Department at work until they would normally retire, it was necessary to coordinate this work so that the outdoor part of the staff would be feeding the indoor staff and so on. If that is really the argument——
Dr. Ryan: Perhaps he did not say that exactly so that we will have to leave it so. At any rate, the Parliamentary  Secretary gave me the impression that it was more important to keep the members of the staff of the Land Commission at work until they would normally retire than to vest land. The farmer has to go on paying his ten per cent. extra, a rebate of which he would get in cases of judicial holdings when vested. He has also to go on paying interest in lieu of rent without paying off any of the principal for some reason, whether for the reason that the staff must be kept there until they normally retire or whether it is that the Land Commission is too incompetent to go on with the work. For whatever reason it is done, I think the agricultural community have a grievance. Not only have they to maintain a Department that is costing £645,000 gross a year, but in addition they have to put up with whatever delays there are in the vesting of their land.
We have been accused here by Deputy Wolfe, Deputy Heffernan and some others of a policy of vesting judicial holdings at the expense of non-judicial holdings first of all, and, secondly, at the expense of the division of untenanted land. There is no such intention on our side. As a matter of fact if Deputy Wolfe had gone to the trouble of reading the Bill that was introduced here, he would see that non-judicial holdings would be vested within three years. There is nothing whatever in that Bill to prevent the Land Commission vesting the non-judicial holding the day after the Bill went through and became an Act, but there is a provision in it to see that the Land Commission could not delay for more than three years. That, at any rate, is a big improvement on the present system because, as was pointed out here by certain Deputies, at the rate the Land Commission is going, taking a proportionate amount of the work for the coming year that they have done in the past, even taking a geometrical proportion and assuming that they are going to advance for the coming year at the rate they did last year  and the year before, it will take a good many years before the land is vested. It is not our policy or intention to hold up non-judicial vesting. As a matter of fact, I believe myself that the non-judicial holders have a bigger grievance than the judicial holders, but how could the vesting of the non-judicial holders be delayed in any way by putting the Bill we introduced into effect?
We were also accused of being in favour of going slowly in the division of land, as evidenced by this Bill. There is just as much justification for that assertion as for the other. There is no reason whatever why, if this Bill were put into effect, the division of land should be slowed up. The Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister for Posts and Telegraphs asked whether we would state unequivocally here that we wanted the Land Commission to ease off the division of land in order to hasten the vesting of holdings. He asked for a mandate from the House to ease off in the division of land. Fancy giving the Land Commission a mandate to ease off anything! They have been easing off for the last five or six years, and it is not necessary for anybody in this House to give them a mandate to ease off. There is room enough for improvement both in the vesting of tenanted land and the division of estates. Another disquieting factor which I notice in the Estimates this year is that the Land Commission expect much more work in regard to defaulters than they have had in the past. We find that under Sub-head (F), incidental expenses for the Solicitors' Branch, there is an increase of £1,400. The Parliamentary Secretary, in giving reasons for this increase, said that the advertising of sales of defaulters' holdings would be responsible for a large part of that increase. We find again in the appropriations-in-aid that the costs recovered from purchase annuity defaulters is expected to increase by £500, from £3,000 to £3,500, during the coming year. I got a reply from the Parliamentary Secretary a few  days ago to a question which was asked on 13th of the last month. In reply to a question about the defaulters last year and the number of holdings advertised for sale in 1928 to recover arrears of land purchase annuities and interest in lieu of rent, he said that the number of holdings was 446, the area was 19,682 acres, and the amount £31,000. The number of holdings advertised for sale was 446, which is well over ten per cent. of the holdings vested for the year. That is a very large percentage of bad business if you like, or a large percentage of people who are not able to pay the annuities put upon them.
Dr. Ryan: I do, of course, make it seriously. If we are going to have estimates indicating that the Land Commission anticipate that a bigger number of holdings will be put up for sale, and that there will be more proceedings taken against defaulters for annuities during the coming year, I think it is rather a contradiction, at any rate, of the sentiment which we have heard so often from the Government Benches that we have now turned the corner. The tenant purchasers and the payers of annuities have not turned the corner, at any rate, according to the Estimate of the Land Commission. We also find, from a statement of the Parliamentary Secretary, that fifty per cent. of the staff of the Land Commission are working on collection.
Dr. Ryan: Well, as I do not know the exact figures, I cannot discuss that point further. I think the Parliamentary Secretary also said yesterday—and it was quoted in to-day's paper—that over £10,000,000 had been spent on land purchase since the 1923 Act was passed. As far as I can find out from the accounts of the Land Commission, the amount of land bonds issued exceeds £4,000,000 in value by only a small amount. I suppose it will be said that the remainder of the £10,000,000 went on land purchased under the 1903 and 1909 Land Acts, but I think that it will give a very false impression to the people to have a statement from the Parliamentary Secretary that £10,300,000 has been spent on land purchase during six years' work of the Land Commission. Those are the headings that we see in to-day's paper, and I think that the paper has quoted the Parliamentary Secretary fairly correctly, because at least that is the impression he left on us all yesterday. But if he wants to give an impression to the people, an impression that the people will actually get from the statement that £10,000,000 had been spent under the 1923 Act——
Dr. Ryan: I know that, but anyone reading that would get the impression that under the 1923 Act £10,000,000 had been spent on land purchase; that is, that the Land Commission had done, roughly, one-third of the work that has to be done under the 1923 Act.
Dr. Ryan: The fact is that under the 1923 Act, although it has been in operation for almost six years, the amount issued in land bonds is only a little over £4,000,000, whereas the amount that it was anticipated would be needed under the 1923 Act to complete land purchase, was over £30,000,000, and it is easy for a Deputy, or for anyone in the country, to make a simple calculation  as to the time required to complete land purchase. The Parliamentary Secretary for Posts and Telegraphs said that because there is a large tract of land in a district people at once propose that it should be divided. Now, it is one of the first essentials for the division of land that the land should be there, and the Parliamentary Secretary should have seen that. It is only natural to expect that if there is a large tract of land people will propose that it be divided. Afterwards, of course, when they go into the question and examine all the details, they may see that there are difficulties, but I believe, with many other Deputies, both on this side and on the other side of the House, that the Land Commission see difficulties in the division of estates that are not real difficulties, that are difficulties only from the official point of view, whatever the official point of view may be at the time. The Parliamentary Secretary for Posts and Telegraphs claimed that for the land that was divided in the County Tipperary he was more responsible than any other Deputy.
Mr. Heffernan: I did not claim anything of the kind, and if the Deputy reads the official report of my speech he will see that I did not do so. I said I claimed to have as much to do with it, if not more. I think those were my words.
Dr. Ryan: I see. He went on to say that some of the tenants are not very good payers. I do not know if he includes in that category his own recommendations. He said, further, that it is not good policy to give grazing land to the small allottees, that it was better to give them second-grade land, which would be more suitable for tillage. That is certainly a new principle. I have always thought, and I think most Deputies have thought the same, that whatever the size of a holding, the best land is the best to have. As everybody who understands tillage knows, the best grazing land is the best for tillage also, if a person wants to go in seriously for tillage.  It may not be the best in some cases as, for instance, was the case during the war, when, under compulsory tillage, the big grazing farmers ploughed up their land for one, two or three years' tillage, and then let it go back into grass. It may not be the most suitable for that sort of haphazard compulsory tillage. But where an allottee gets a small holding of anything up to thirty acres, surely he will be able to make a better living out of the best grazing land in Tipperary than he would out of good tillage land in another county, such as County Wexford, where they have not got good grazing land. Deputy Heffernan gave us the impression that these big grazing estates are necessary for the economy of the country. He said that the small farmers of twenty or thirty acres only rear their cattle up to a certain stage, and that they are then bought by the big graziers to be fattened off, and he told us that it was impossible to finish a bullock on a thirty acre farm. I cannot see that.
Dr. Ryan: I think so. If, say, a man with a hundred acres of good grazing is able to finish off twenty-five or thirty bullocks in the year, I do not see why a man with twenty acres of good grazing should not finish off five or six. It is only a matter of simple division.
Dr. Ryan: Well, I saw bullocks in my time. What is more, I have seen certain figures, and I do not agree that the bullocks are bringing this country £20,000,000 a year. For instance, last year our total export of cattle amounted to only £11,000,000, and as far as I could learn from other statistics with which we have been supplied, we are not killing quite as much beef in the country as we export, so that all the cattle—cows, calves, store cattle and bullocks—taken together  do not bring in £20,000,000 a year, and therefore the fat bullocks, being only a part of the whole, must bring in less than £20,000,000. Deputy Heffernan accused Fianna Fáil of coming in at the tail-end of the hunt and with going to have the land vested in the farmers to obtain political advantages.
Dr. Ryan: It is, perhaps, necessary for the leader of the Farmers' Party to make some such statement in order to explain to the farmers his attitude on this matter of their having to continue to pay this ten per cent. extra on their holdings, to pay interest in lieu of rent as long as the Land Commission wish, and to show that the Land Commission have the support of the Farmers' Party for that, as against our measure to vest the land immediately and give the farmers the advantage. It is, of course, very necessary for the leader of the Farmers' Party to try to misrepresent our Bill. It is absolutely impossible for any Deputy to side with the Government and to side with the farmers at the same time. He called our proposal “a hybrid form of vesting,” but he did not explain what he meant by “hybrid.” He went on to say that we were obviously not anxious to go on with the division of estates and that we were proposing to deal with the judicial tenant at the expense of the non-judicial, but I have dealt with that point already, and I need not go back on it. There is one other small point to which I wish to draw the attention of the Parliamentary Secretary. On page 227 of the Estiamtes it is rather puzzling to see that although we had four surveyors of improvement works last year, while we have three this year, the cost of the four last year worked out at £930, while the three this year are estimated to cost £1,120. That is a remarkable increment. There is no doubt about it that the three men to whom we are to pay the  £1,120 should do more than the four who were paid £930.
Mr. Colohan: I do not agree with the holding up of the acquisition and division of lands in order to allow vesting to go ahead. I think these two matters could go ahead simultaneously. I do not see why the Land Commission should not organise its staff in such a way that all these things, which the Opposition and possibly a good many of the Government Party think ought to be done by the Land Commission, could be done. To hear Deputy Heffernan speak of the Land Commission and its work one would think that they are above criticism, that the people should not be considered, especially the small holders and those looking for land or increased portions of land, so that they could make a decent living. I wonder how does the Deputy square his attitude now with that which he took up when he came into the Dáil some five years ago. It seems to me that when Deputies are appointed to ministerial positions they suddenly become champions of bureaucracy, and I think that in future the people will take a more intelligent interest in the turning and shiftings of Deputies who forswear all allegiance to the principles on which they were elected. I asked a question recently about untenanted land on an estate 1,024 acres in extent. I do not see why the acquisition of that land should be held up in order to please the Land Commission. I sent in a list of some fifty applicants who, from what I have been told, are all genuine applicants and would make good tenants. There is also some more untenanted land in the area, on the acquisition of which I think the Land Commission might be properly employed. This land contains some of the finest grazing land that we hear so much about. Of course, it should not be acquired; it is not fit to let to small-holders in order to enable them to live! Oh, no, press them back to the bog, and even go further, push them into the bog-holes! That is the conclusion I have come to as to what Deputy  Heffernan wants to do with these people. There are 400 acres in Lattin, in County Tipperary, but it is too good to give to the men of Tipperary, to the men who fought for Ireland in the past, and whose descendants are living in the district now! I take it that that was not the intention of the Land Act nor the intention of the people who sent us here. I say good land is not too good for the small-holder, and that such land should be divided amongst the people, and not go to build up a ring of 200-acre or 400-acre farmers. I suppose in a short time, we will be asked to restrict the exercise of the franchise to such people, and that no one else will be allowed to vote for Parliamentary candidates. It looks as if that is what will happen, and as if that is what some people are aiming at.
I received a letter this morning from a constituent of mine complaining that men living on small bog holdings by cutting turf cannot get turf banks. A couple of years ago the Department proceeded to acquire the Dobbs estate, but the matter is held up yet and, in the meantime, these people have no turf banks. I think that the officials of the Land Commission should take a little more interest in these people, and be a little more helpful. There are portions of cut-away bogs that these men could have the use of until the estate is divided. I intend to put a question to the Minister next week asking him to do something about the matter. It is not fair that these men should be deprived of their livelihood on account of the inaction of the Land Commission. I think if the officials of the Land Commission took a little more interest in such work, and gave a little more sympathetic consideration to the wants of these people, it would help to build up confidence in the Land Commission and in the administration of the State generally.
I want to object to another thing, and that is the reduction in the amount provided for the improvement of estates. We all know that employment is not plentiful at present. I spoke about this matter when  the Vote on Account came on, but I want to mention it again. The expenditure of such money was of great help to the people living on these estates, pending the division of the land. We have not too much employment at the present time, so that I think it is a wrong step to take. Possibly it was following the example of Deputy Heffernan in signing the death warrant of the rural postman. I also want to object to the planting of migrants in large numbers on lands acquired in County Kildare. I spoke about this several times before. The only object I see that the Land Commission has in acquiring land in County Kildare is to give it to migrants. In North Kildare men who were born and reared, and whose ancestors were born there, cannot get a patch of land, while it is given to migrants from the West by some official of the Land Commission. There is also a farm in the neighbourhood of Newbridge about which I asked a question some time ago. The reason I mention it now is that the Minister for Agriculture some time ago was  anxious about relations, and asked Deputy Sheehy if he could tell him the number and the precise relationship of the people he was referring to.
Mr. Colohan: There is a rumour, and I think there is a good deal of truth in it, that the farm of Mr. Bobbett's in Newbridge has not been acquired because there are relatives of his who are officials in the Land Commission. I would like the Parliamentary Secretary, when he is replying, to state whether that is so or not. That farm is an untenanted farm and is giving no employment. It would be very useful to congests around Newbridge.
|Last Updated: 16/05/2011 15:11:23||Page of 9|