Public Business. - Land Bill, 1933—Second Stage (Resumed).

Thursday, 13 July 1933

Dáil Éireann Debate
Vol. 48 No. 18

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Question again proposed: “That the Bill be now read a Second Time.”

Mr. P. Hogan:  (Galway): Would you allow me, sir, to make a personal explanation. I understand from the Official Report that Deputy Cleary made the following statement earlier this evening:

“Under the 1923 Land Act, the Mount Talbot House, Roscommon, was purchased by the Land Commission. The Mount Talbot House and 158 acres of land surrounding it, including gardens and some timber, were let by the Land Commission as one holding. One of the local congests—one of the hardworking [2497] farmers whom Deputy Hogan boosted to-day, working a very small holding, saving money and looking around for a patch of land he could buy—offered £300 and the appropriate rent to cover the cost as valued by the Land Commission for 50 acres of that land. Of course he was refused and sneered at although he was recommended by the Land Commission inspector. Who got the land? The 150 acres with the house were given to Deputy Hogan's best friend and local henchman for £1,300, £300 down and £1,000 to be paid at the rate of £47 10s. per annum .... Deputy Hogan's talk to-day about the hardworking farmer who would save money on the small holding and buy a small patch outside it, if he could get it, was not much thought of by Deputy Hogan when a similar farmer to the one he boosted to-day offered to buy 50 acres of land and was refused by Deputy Hogan. It is from those men whose hands are soiled that the accusations come about political tactics.”

There are two statements there. One is to the effect that I personally or, as the head of the Land Commission, refused a congest 50 acres of land at £300 and an annuity. There is no truth whatsoever in that statement. The other statement was that I got 158 acres for £300 and an annuity, for a friend and henchman of mine. There is no truth whatsoever in that statement either. There is a suggestion also that the Land Commission itself was a party to some sort of fraud in this matter. That is the sort of suggestion we are used to hearing from the Deputy who is a self-confessed eavesdropper. As far as I know, I do not believe that the facts, so far as the Land Commission is concerned, are correctly stated by the Deputy.

Mr. Cleary rose.

Deputies:  Withdraw.

An Ceann Comhairle: Information on Frank Fahy  Zoom on Frank Fahy  The Deputy has stated that there is no truth in that statement and that ends the matter.

Mr. Hogan:  I do not want a withdrawal from that Deputy.

[2498]Mr. Cleary: Information on Michael Cleary  Zoom on Michael Cleary  I will not withdraw because the statements are essentially true.

Mr. Lynch:  When the debate was adjourned I was referring to the fact that, in spite of the protestations or at least the scoffings of Deputy Cleary and the Minister for Justice at the statements made from this side of the House, fixity of tenure was being interfered with by the Bill. I hold, and I am sure there is nobody better aware of it than the Minister for Justice, that this Bill reopens the whole question of land tenure in the Irish Free State. That is written across the whole face of the Bill. Section 28 provides that even land purchased under the Land Purchase Acts can now be taken, hotch-potch, from men who felt that when they purchased their holdings under the former Acts there was a definite settlement for them. These lands can now be taken if the Bill becomes law and can be given to allottees according as may be determined by the Minister. The Bill gives the Minister, the political head of the Land Commission, absolute power except in four matters which are called excepted matters, these four being the determination of the actual persons from whom the land is to be taken, the price which is to be paid for the lands so taken, the individual allottees to whom the land is to be given and the price at which the land is to be sold to those individual allottees.

That may appear a safeguard and one would like to believe it is a safeguard, but then we read the speeches of Ministers, responsible and otherwise, through the country, stating as the Minister for Agriculture stated last Sunday, if he is reported correctly, that the Bill will give the Government power to take the land of any farmer who could not make it pay and pay him for it. In the same breath, in case there might be any doubt about it, he goes on to say: “After the election the big farmers who voted Cumann na nGaedheal or Centre Party got so poor that they had to sack their men, while Fianna Fáil farmers were able to keep their men.” There [2499] is no doubt what was meant by that statement. There could be only one inference from it and the inference I draw from it is this that the Minister was saying: “Boys, we will take the land from our opponents; we will take the land from those who voted Cumann na nGaedheal or Centre Party and we shall give it to those who stood by us.” It is undoubted that that is what he meant to convey to his followers. He meant that, in spite of the fact that there are excepted matters provided for in the Bill, the Minister and the Government would have the say as to who was to get land and from whom land would be taken. Either he meant that or he was fooling those who were listening to him, fooling his own followers. I should like to say to the Minister and to the Government, if they have any such intentions, that they had better get them out of their heads before the Bill is passed because the tenant farmers of the country had a sufficiently hard struggle to get to the position which they have now reached. They endured sufficient hardships to make them feel that they are not going to sit quietly by in the year 1933 and see themselves deprived of rights which they won so hardly. That is in no sense a threat. It is a mere statement of fact. The Minister can verify the position for himself.

I have seen in the papers statements of persons who said, when this threat of the taking of their land was first mooted, that they were going to put up a physical fight before the land would be taken. That would be a very regrettable state of affairs, but this Bill is giving the cue—if cue is necessary— to certain people. There has always been land hunger in this country. This Bill is an incentive to those who are possessed of that land hunger to denounce persons who hold land to the Government and to say: “We want that land.” The Minister, by the very provisions of this Bill, is depriving himself of something by which he could meet [2500] those demands, by taking all these powers he has over the Land Commission instead of leaving it to the Land Commission to determine these matters. These people will be able to come along to him and say, if he makes the excuse that it is a matter for the Land Commission: “That is all very fine. The new Bill gives you every power over the Land Commission and you must provide us with that land.” Section 6 gives the Minister absolute power over the Land Commission and the lay commissioners. It says that they must act “under and in accordance with the directions, whether general or particular, of the Minister and the Minister shall have and may exercise, if and so far as he shall think proper, full and unrestricted power,” etc. He goes on and he reserves to himself “rights of approval and disapproval, or of reconsideration, revision and confirmation of every or any act of the Land Commission or the lay commissioners not relating to an excepted matter.” As I said, the excepted matters are there. He will say that this is a safeguard and that the Minister cannot interfere as to what individual will be selected for the purpose of taking his land or he will not interfere as between the individual allottees when the land is being distributed, but I am afraid that, at any rate, it will be said that these are only unreal safeguards and that, in fact, he has taken the power to exercise political influence with regard to the taking and distribution of land.

In the next section we come to the appeal tribunal. Deputy Cleary was very satisfied with the appeal tribunal. He was making a case when he was stopped by the Leas-Cheann Comhairle, because he was dealing with a decision of the Judicial Commissioner. If he made any case at all it was this: that the Land Commission inspectors who go down the country are the best judges of what the real value of the land is. Therefore, the case he made is that there should be no tribunal at all to revise the valuations of the Land Commission inspectors. Nobody, I am sure, will agree with Deputy Cleary in that. No matter how impersonal the Land Commission may be in making its valuations [2501] of land, it is certainly elementary justice that the person from whom the land is being taken should be allowed to appeal against the valuation if he thinks it too low, but this appeal tribunal which is here constituted is a new departure. The Judicial Commissioner has to preside over the body of three but, in fact, he has no power to give a decision at all on any matter. He has no power to give any decision which is contrary to the wishes of the Minister. I understand that the Minister, in his opening statement, said that this section with regard to the appeal tribunal is being changed so that instead of an officer of the Land Commission there will be two of the lay commissioners of the Land Commission, but sub-section (2) Section 6 sets out that these persons must act under and subject to the dictum of the Minister. The Judicial Commissioner, therefore, can give no decision which is contrary to the wishes of the Minister unless his nominees turn tail on him. He appoints these two removable nominees and they sit with the Judicial Commissioner. They have to act on the instructions of the Minister and the matters that come before the appeal tribunal are not included in the excepted matters, so that, in fact, unless there is a change made in the Bill, the persons who sit on the appeal tribunal will be dealing with matters on the appeal tribunal which are not excepted matters.

Mr. Aiken: Information on Frank Aiken  Zoom on Frank Aiken  Would the Deputy read sub-section (4) of Section 6?

Mr. Lynch:  I will read the whole section for the Minister. Section 6, sub-section (1) says:

The following matters shall be excepted matters for the purposes of this section ....

The four exceptions to which I have already referred are then set out. The second sub-section gives control to the Minister, the third refers to the Land Commission and the fourth then states:

Nothing in this section shall apply to the Judicial Commissioner or to the appeal tribunal or [2502] operate to give the Minister any power or control of any kind over or in relation to the exercise of his functions by the Judicial Commissioner or their functions by the appeal tribunal.

That is very fine but his nominees will have certain instructions from him on matters which may come before the appeal tribunal and which are not excepted matters. I do not say that the Minister, under the Bill, can for one moment issue a dictum to the appeal tribunal, as it is going to sit on a particular matter. That would be a little bit too bald.

The Attorney-General:  The Deputy does not know that it is indicated that the lay commissioners are to be appointed by the Executive Council and not by the Minister.

Mr. Lynch:  Or by the Executive Council. So far as that is concerned, the one thing is the same as the other. The position of affairs, therefore, is this, that unless the Judicial Commissioner's views happen to coincide on a particular matter with those of the Minister, we would never hear a judgment from him and that is the position, even with regard to a matter of law, as has been pointed out. On matters of law, it is set out that the Judicial Commissioner's opinion shall prevail but he cannot determine that it is a matter of law, unless, again, one of the two nominees deserts the Minister and agrees with the Judicial Commissioner that it is a matter of law. Then the Judicial Commissioner is wiped out even in regard to a matter of law.

Part III of the Bill deals with the arrears and the revision of the purchase annuities and, again, I will refer to some of Deputy Cleary's statements. If I understood Deputy Cleary rightly, he said that if an amendment were put down refusing to wipe out the arrears in the good years, which I take to be the moderately good years—any years prior to the economic war—he would support it.

Mr. Cleary: Information on Michael Cleary  Zoom on Michael Cleary  No, the Deputy does not understand it.

Mr. Lynch:  Perhaps the Deputy did not understand what he was saying [2503] himself. I listened very carefully to what he said——

Mr. Cleary: Information on Michael Cleary  Zoom on Michael Cleary  I do not think that the Deputy who is speaking understands.

Mr. Lynch:  ——and he said that if an amendment were put down refusing to wipe out the arrears of persons who got into arrears in the good years and funding these instead, he would support it.

Mr. Cleary: Information on Michael Cleary  Zoom on Michael Cleary  I said that I would seriously consider supporting it and I possibly would.

Mr. Lynch:  I intend to give the Deputy that opportunity——

Mr. Cleary: Information on Michael Cleary  Zoom on Michael Cleary  I want to see it down.

Mr. Lynch:  Everybody knows that, as a result of the economic war, the farmers cannot pay their way, as Deputy Hogan and others have pointed out. They cannot pay their annuities now. They have not been able to pay their annuities out of their farms, anyhow, for the last 12 months, and if there is a case for wiping out any arrears, they are the arrears that have accrued in the last 18 months. I intended to give the Deputy an opportunity of supporting an amendment somewhat on these lines, that, since the Government feels that they must collect these three years' arrears, they should be the three years' arrears prior to the economic war. I will take the last three years before the present Government came into office, 1929, 1930 and 1931. Have those three years funded and wipe out all the arrears prior to those years and all the arrears since the economic war started. There is not any real excuse or, at least, it is not fair to the man who paid his way during the moderately good years when farming was paying that now the person beside him who did not meet his liabilities during that period should get off scot free while he is mulcted for the current bad years when through no fault of his own he is not able to pay. These are his only debts. These are the only liabilities he has contracted and they are not being wiped out, while the arrears contracted [2504] by others in former years are. The Minister for Justice tried to make a point against Deputy Costello when he referred to Section 27, that is the section which enables the Land Commission without judicial proceedings to send out a warrant to the county registrar of any county or, in cases where such officials exist, to the under-sheriffs in those counties. The Minister tried to make a point out of the fact that the Revenue authorities have such power already and that the rate collectors all over the country have that power. I would like to ask the Minister for Justice does he know of any case where rate collectors in fact exercised that power.

Mr. Ruttledge: Information on Patrick Joseph Ruttledge  Zoom on Patrick Joseph Ruttledge  This is not in substitution for the powers the Land Commission have already. It is an addition to them.

Mr. Lynch:  I am not dealing with that. The Minister said the rate collectors have already authority to go in and make a seizure for rates. Do they exercise that authority or that power? Not as far as I know.

Mr. Belton: Information on Patrick Belton  Zoom on Patrick Belton  The county councils would not tolerate it.

Mr. Lynch:  And the fact that the Revenue Commissioners have it is no excuse for giving such a bad piece of legislation any further place in our life.

Mr. Aiken: Information on Frank Aiken  Zoom on Frank Aiken  Who gave it to the Revenue Commissioners?

Mr. Lynch:  It was inherited by us from the British Authorities as portion of the existing legislation and we modified it to such an extent that they go into the district courts normally. That is how the Revenue authorities use it.

Mr. Aiken: Information on Frank Aiken  Zoom on Frank Aiken  You gave it to them.

Mr. Lynch:  We have inherited the law. The late Government inherited the law in the same way as the present Government inherited it. They have not changed it though they did denounce these laws in all the moods and tenses before they came into office. But I say that there is no case for the levying of the warrants departmentally. [2505] No matter how well run a Department is, it is not right it should have power to levy warrants and make seizures. As Deputy Rice pointed out, mistakes had been made in the past. Mistakes are inevitable. In a Department dealing with numbers of cases it is inevitable that cases have occurred and will occur again. And where legal proceedings were taken against annuitants for the non-payment of annuities and where the annuitants were able to produce their receipts to the judge no warrant would issue against them. They were safeguarded then but they will not have that safeguard now. The warrant will go down to the sheriff who will probably seize their stock and furniture. Very likely it will be the furniture instead of the stock on the lands which are practically of no value now. I think that is a bad principle and I think that if it does exist already in other Departments it certainly should not be extended to the Land Commission.

Mr. Keely: Information on Séamus P. Keely  Zoom on Séamus P. Keely  There are so many points in this Land Bill that commend themselves to me that I cannot help speaking on them. In the first place this Bill aims at remedying one of the greatest sores that we have in the West of Ireland. It aims at remedying the condition of the distressed or uneconomic holders along the moors, bogs, and mountains of the Gaeltacht of Galway, Clare, Mayo and Kerry. There are people many of whose parents or grandparents were evicted out of the lands in Meath, Westmeath, Longford and Tipperary and had to take refuge and shelter amongst the mountains of Connacht. Our object is to do justice to those people and bring them back to the land from which their forefathers were driven. In doing that I believe the Government are doing a Christian work and a work which would commend itself to anybody who has at heart the interests of the people of this country. In doing so we will not attempt and we shall not attempt to deprive any hardworking ordinary farmer of his land. Deputies on the opposite benches [2506] who have spoken have tried to confuse the issue here. They have tried to drag in the ordinary hardworking farmer at every stage of this debate. They never mentioned the rack renting landlord or the inheritors of the rack renters who held the land from which the people were evicted. Our object is to take back these lands and plant the dispossessed in them. The descendants of the people of Ireland will get back into their old heritage again. That is our object in bringing in this measure and the only fault I find with it is that it is not quite drastic enough to cope with the situation which exists in the impoverished western sea-boards.

A great deal has been said on the funding of the arrears and on the striking off of the arrears down to three years. The House will remember that the Fianna Fáil Government came into power about 15 months ago. Therefore we are not striking off any of the arrears that were contracted under the Fianna Fáil Government. We are striking off the arrears that were contracted when the Cumann na nGaedheal Government were in power. I hope the Minister, before he strikes off those arrears, will publish a list of the defaulters. When that list is published there will be found amongst them substantial farmers who are in a good way of life and a good way of living. These men were allowed to escape payment because they were supporters and followers of the Cumann na nGaedheal Government in power. It is in respect of those people that Deputy Hogan says the Government is placing a premium on dishonesty. There is the dishonesty of those who neglected through political patronage to pay their annuities during the time the Cumann na nGaedheal Government were in office, during the years that we were told were years of prosperity for everyone in town and country. We have not attempted to strike off a penny of the money that accrued since our Party came into [2507] power. We have not attempted to do it.

Mr. MacDermot: Information on Frank McDermot  Zoom on Frank McDermot  Why not?

Mr. Belton: Information on Patrick Belton  Zoom on Patrick Belton  Get on to the promised land.

Mr. Keely: Information on Séamus P. Keely  Zoom on Séamus P. Keely  I think it was a principle in all the Land Purchase Acts that at any time when sweeping changes took place in the land laws of this country there had always been a clause introduced into each Bill striking off arrears down to a certain date. In striking off these arrears we are only following the principle laid down in former Acts. We are striking them off irrespective of whether the defaulters are supporters of Cumann na nGaedheal or Fianna Fáil. We will do justice all round. We will do that justice in the case of the annuities, in the case of the distribution of land and in choosing the people from whom the lands are to be taken.

Reference was made by Deputy Hogan to a case in County Roscommon. I am not going to accuse Deputy Hogan of any of the dirty work that was done in that case. I wish to put the facts of that case simply before the House and the facts are these: There was a gardener working on an estate and when that estate was being divided——

Mr. MacDermot: Information on Frank McDermot  Zoom on Frank McDermot  On a point of order. This case is being raised again and I submit Deputy Hogan should be given a chance of being here. He has definitely denied any association with it.

Dr. Ryan:  Has he not a chance of being here if he wants to be?

An Leas-Cheann Comhairle: Information on Patrick Hogan  Zoom on Patrick Hogan  I happened to be here and I heard Deputy Hogan say he had nothing whatever to do with that particular case. I fail to see, unless Deputies want to make the point that the case could not be dealt with under previous legislation, how it comes up for discussion on this Bill.

Mr. Keely: Information on Séamus P. Keely  Zoom on Séamus P. Keely  I submit it arises as a matter of administration and I am [2508] going to show that such things cannot happen under the future administration of the Land Commission.

Mr. Belton: Information on Patrick Belton  Zoom on Patrick Belton  We have a national Government at last!

An Leas-Cheann Comhairle: Information on Patrick Hogan  Zoom on Patrick Hogan  If it is purely a matter of administration, and there is legislation at present to deal with the particular case the Deputy has in mind, surely it does not fall for discussion on this Bill. We can only discuss it if the legislation at present in force could not deal with it; it probably might arise for discussion in that case.

Mr. Keely: Information on Séamus P. Keely  Zoom on Séamus P. Keely  I bow to your ruling, but I fail to see——

Mr. MacDermot: Information on Frank McDermot  Zoom on Frank McDermot  Order!

Mr. Cleary: Information on Michael Cleary  Zoom on Michael Cleary  On a point of order. Deputy Hogan felt that I stated that he definitely was responsible for a henchman of his getting 158 acres of land——

Mr. O'Sullivan: Information on Gearóid O'Sullivan  Zoom on Gearóid O'Sullivan  On a point of order. The Deputy's remarks do not constitute a point of order, in my opinion.

An Leas-Cheann Comhairle: Information on Patrick Hogan  Zoom on Patrick Hogan  I must hear the Deputy first before I can decide.

Mr. Cleary: Information on Michael Cleary  Zoom on Michael Cleary  I accept Deputy Hogan's disclaimer. What I suggested might appear to be definitely against Deputy Hogan, but the facts as stated by me were essentially true in every detail and what was done was done under the patronage of Deputy Hogan and his Government.

An Leas-Cheann Comhairle: Information on Patrick Hogan  Zoom on Patrick Hogan  In my own hearing Deputy Hogan stated distinctly that he had nothing whatever to do with that particular case. When a Deputy makes a statement of that kind the House accepts his statement and I do not think Deputy Cleary should have repeated that now, seeing that Deputy Hogan has disclaimed any connection whatsoever with the incident referred to.

Mr. Cleary: Information on Michael Cleary  Zoom on Michael Cleary  I do accept it, but the mistake I probably made was——

Mr. O'Sullivan: Information on Gearóid O'Sullivan  Zoom on Gearóid O'Sullivan  Order!

[2509]Mr. Cleary: Information on Michael Cleary  Zoom on Michael Cleary  ——to declare it was Deputy Hogan was solely responsible. His henchman got it through the Cumann na nGaedheal Government under his patronage.

An Leas-Cheann Comhairle: Information on Patrick Hogan  Zoom on Patrick Hogan  The Deputy will have to discontinue that. With reference to Deputy Keely dragging in this case again, I pointed out to Deputy Keely that if there is legislation at present that can deal with the case there is no reason in the world for discussing it on this Bill.

Mr. Keely: Information on Séamus P. Keely  Zoom on Séamus P. Keely  All I have to say in passing from this case is that I hope and trust we will have no example of the sort under the administration of the 1933 Act. We were told by Deputies on the Farmers' Benches that not a single problem has been faced by this Government since it came into power except from a political point of view. They accused us of introducing this Land Bill in order to gain political kudos. The object of the introduction of the Bill is far from that. The object is to try to solve for all time the land question in Ireland. I am confident that under this measure the Minister for Lands and Fisheries and the Land Commission will have just ample power to solve that problem in the only feasible way.

There is one point I would like to stress on the Minister. When this measure is being put into operation the uneconomic holders of the West of Ireland, especially those on the mountain sides, should be taken en masse and migrated to counties where lands are available for the relief of congestion, and when they have been migrated the mountainy wastes should be handed over to the Forestry Department to be converted into what they were designed for by nature, forest lands. If that is done, and I am hopeful it will be, the problem that has been a burning problem for many Governments will have been solved, at least so far as the West of Ireland is concerned. We were told in 1923 by Deputy Hogan that he was going to solve that problem and on several occasions in Galway he mentioned the numbers of congested holders whom [2510] he intended to migrate under the 1923 Land Act from the barren slopes of Connacht in order to place them in other counties in holdings suitable for agricultural purposes. Not one-tenth of 1 per cent. of the congests have been removed from the West of Ireland since 1923.

If I speak now of migrating those people from the Deputy's constituency and my own constituency I probably will be told I am preaching politics and that I have not a national outlook. I think it is the duty of the Government to provide for the people and the only way in which they can provide for the people in those times is to give them an opportunity of earning a living and rearing their families on suitable land. If we do that we will be laying the foundations here of a nation that will be strong and prosperous. Every nation that has grown great or strong has derived its strength from the sons of the soil. As the poet said:

“A bold peasantry, their country's pride.”

We want to have in Ireland a bold peasantry who will be their country's pride, their country's mainstay and their country's defence.

Mr. O'Donovan: Information on Timothy Joseph O'Donovan  Zoom on Timothy Joseph O'Donovan  The Deputy who spoke just now must be very young. I thing he said in his opening remarks that this Bill was introduced in order to get rid of the landlords.

Mr. Belton: Information on Patrick Belton  Zoom on Patrick Belton  “This Act,” he said.

Mr. O'Donovan: Information on Timothy Joseph O'Donovan  Zoom on Timothy Joseph O'Donovan  He must be a very green boy, because we got rid of the landlords, I suppose, long before he was born. He must have been living up in the air for a very long time. The Minister said the object of this Bill is to establish on the land as many families as it is possible to establish. As far as I could catch them these were his introductory remarks. I wonder does the Minister know that we who are on the land, and working it, could produce a whole lot more than this country could consume and that his Party has deprived us of the market for our surplus produce?

[2511] The history of land tenure in this country is very interesting. We can go back a number of years when our fathers fought for the three F's—fair rent, fixity of tenure and free sale. Our fathers would turn in their graves to-day if they knew that an Irish Government or an Irish Minister proclaiming himself a national patriot and Irish of the Irish was introducing a measure depriving us of some of those rights so hardly won.

Mr. Jordan: Information on Stephen Jordan  Zoom on Stephen Jordan  And that from two F's —Fianna Fáil.

Mr. O'Donovan: Information on Timothy Joseph O'Donovan  Zoom on Timothy Joseph O'Donovan  Yes, and this measure is introduced by Fianna Fáil. The three F's that our fathers fought for are being done away with by this Bill, introduced by Fianna Fáil. There is no hope for any farmer, holding land and working it, under this Bill. There is nothing whatever to prevent the Government or the Land Commission coming down the morning after it is passed and taking his land from him. Mention was made of a certain ex-member of this House buying land recently in his native county. I believe his name was mentioned in the House, and that it was stated ex-Deputy Gorey paid £2,310 for a farm while there are landless men in Mayo, in Connemara and West Cork—and we have congests in West Cork. I should like to know what the Fianna Fáil supporters in ex-Deputy Gorey's constituency would think if they had migrants from Mayo or Galway or West Cork brought up and this land distributed amongst them in Kilkenny. Of course, I suppose migrants and landless men should have a better right to it than ex-Deputy Gorey with his six or seven sons at work on the land, knowing their jobs and having paid out of their honest toil for the land. They did not pay for it with money robbed from banks or other institutions.

Under this Bill the Minister is going to acquire land for the relief of congestion for landless men who are workshies. He is to get land for these people while we with our land fully stocked, fully equipped with farm implements, with generations of [2512] experience behind us cannot make the land pay at the present moment. How does the Minister expect that handless men and congests and follows who never worked without capital or equipment are going to make the land pay. I hold this is a most inopportune time to introduce a measure of this kind. If the Government at the moment were going to give us back our markets and were going to open up the one market that absorbed our surplus produce I could go a long way with it in agreeing that it was right to introduce a measure of this sort. Again, I could see reason for introducing a short Land Bill that would deal with matters that perhaps were not dealt with under previous Land Bills. I know there are questions of fee farm grants and of tithe rent charges which are relics of the penal days. They are mentioned in this Bill, I believe, but they are not dealt with fairly. I think they should be wiped out altogether. We have also the holders of potential building ground. So far as I can read this Bill it means no advance whatever in Acts passed by this Dáil since it was established. So far as I can see, there has been no advance by any attempt to deal with these three cases I have mentioned. There should, of course, also be included a reduction of the annuities by half, but everybody knows that that is a humbug and a farce. Everybody knows that by reducing them by half you are wiping them out because under existing conditions everybody knows it would be impossible to collect them.

There is another aspect that I would like to deal with. Here in this country we are a sort of economic unit. In my constituency in West Cork we have a number of congests; we have no land for sub-division, but we are hard workers and good workers. We find that under our system we have to sell our small cattle as yearlings because we could not hold them any longer as we have to depend on the sale of milk and butter in the summer and we could not have both young cattle and dairy produce. We find that landholders—some people would call them ranchers—go around West [2513] Cork and Kerry and other congested areas and buy from the small farmers their yearling cattle at good prices. They take them away from these areas to their own lands and they fatten them in the cheapest way it is possible for any man to fatten cattle and that is by turning them out on the grass. They bought them from us and when they fattened them they used to sell them on the British market. These people from these big ranch areas of Kildare, Westmeath, Meath and portion of Dublin probably, bought at least 70 per cent. of our young cattle. Is it the policy of the Government to get these congests and landless men, without money and means and without the wherewithal to work the land, into these areas and to distribute the ranches amongst these people who know nothing about farming or cattle and know absolutely nothing about anything at all connected with agriculture? You are going to divide these ranches amongst them. You are going to get them to produce commodities; to get them to grow wheat, oats, potatoes and young cattle that we have been endeavouring to produce, and that we have produced well in the past—and we got our market for them, too. They are going to produce in competition with us and the result will be that we will have a surplus of commodities and as somebody mentioned a few days ago, we will reach the stage where the bonhams were let go with the tide because they could not be fed or sold; or the stage, as in the County Louth, the Minister's own constituency, where they let hundreds of tons of potatoes rot in the field because they had no market for them. That is the condition we will be left in if this Bill is carried through. We will produce and continue to produce and we will have no market.

As I said, this State is an economic unit and each area works into the other area. Our people before us, who have been in agriculture for generations, who knew their job as well as we do, and perhaps better than we do, found that a system established in their area suited that particular area. When [2514] you change from that system, as we had to change during the big War, down in places like Limerick and portions of Tipperary—the Golden Vein—where they were obliged to till a portion of their land, the wheat rotted because the land was not suited for it. That was 15 or 16 years ago. They tried to grow oats and it was never reaped because the land was not suited for it. They had to give up the one industry that they knew and in which they were able to beat the world—the butter industry. The land ploughed up at that time in an endeavour to grow wheat and oats will not be in the same position for the next 30 years to produce butter as land that had not been tilled for the last 50 or 60 years. It is all very well to talk about the distribution of land and giving it to landless men and congests, but, first of all, you want years of training for the landless men and congests before you can put them on the land, because any man who knows anything about it knows that land and agriculture at the moment is most scientific and anybody who does not know his job has no business on the land. He must know his job and he must know it well. I have forgotten more about agriculture than all the Front Bench of Fianna Fáil put together ever knew. I say to them that it is impossible for any man to produce at the moment at a profit, or even to be able to keep going.

The big point in this Bill is the loss of free sale and the insecurity that follows on it, and the fact that what our people fought and suffered for in the past is going to be filched from us now. From the time of the passing of the Land Act, we saw and we remember the times when the farmsteads in our country were neglected; when there was no drainage of bogs; when the farmer had no security with the result that he would have no interest in it: and we saw, once he got fixity of tenure and security and once his land was purchased, the great change that took place on the face of the country-side [2515]—nice houses, well-kept places and well-kept farms. That was all over the State. It was obvious to everybody. That is going to disappear now. We are going now, as a result of this insecurity, to go back to the position in which our grandfathers were, in which we will have no interest in the land. Why should we? We do not know but that “Seán a Scuab” is going to have the place for which we slaved and in which we spent all our lives.

Another matter that is of great importance is the question of arrears that is being dealt with in this Bill. Again, we have the Fianna Fáil Government, I suppose, coming to the help of those—and there are a lot of them all over the country, and I know them—who are worthless and do not want to pay anything. These are the supporters of Fianna Fáil. These are the fellows who want to pay nothing; who do not want to pay the banks, or to pay their rates, or annuities, or anything. Their hope that they need not pay anything is realised in this Bill. These are the type of men with ten years of arrears of annuities and the arrears are now wiped out. This is what we have now. I said, and I repeat, that the people who are supporting the Fianna Fáil Government— the farmers who are supporting it— are the down-and-outs.

A Deputy:  That is not accurate.

Mr. O'Donovan: Information on Timothy Joseph O'Donovan  Zoom on Timothy Joseph O'Donovan  They are the people who do not want to pay.

Mr. Gibbons: Information on Seán Francis Gibbons  Zoom on Seán Francis Gibbons  That statement is a lie.

Mr. O'Donovan: Information on Timothy Joseph O'Donovan  Zoom on Timothy Joseph O'Donovan  I repeat it.

An Leas-Cheann Comhairle: Information on Patrick Hogan  Zoom on Patrick Hogan  Deputy Gibbons has characterised a statement made by the Deputy as a lie. That statement is out of order and should be withdrawn.

Mr. Gibbons: Information on Seán Francis Gibbons  Zoom on Seán Francis Gibbons  I withdraw the statement, and say that it is untrue.

Mr. O'Donovan: Information on Timothy Joseph O'Donovan  Zoom on Timothy Joseph O'Donovan  I have no hesitation in saying that it is true.

Mr. Smith: Information on Patrick Smith  Zoom on Patrick Smith  It is not true. When did you pay your own annuities? [2516] How many years of arrears do you owe?

(Interruptions.)

Mr. O'Donovan: Information on Timothy Joseph O'Donovan  Zoom on Timothy Joseph O'Donovan  I say that there will be a change here, and when again the farmer will come back——

A Deputy:  What a hope!

Mr. O'Donovan: Information on Timothy Joseph O'Donovan  Zoom on Timothy Joseph O'Donovan  We have a hope. The farmer will come back and have security and work his land as he did in the past and this Bill will be one of the unhappy memories of the past.

Mr. Belton: Information on Patrick Belton  Zoom on Patrick Belton  I hesitate to attack this big job at this late hour. I am afraid that if the Labour Party were attending to their duty they would question our right to dispense with the half-holiday by taking up a job at this hour. I listened with amusement to the second last Deputy in his picture of the promised land for the men of the west. He almost promised them a single ticket from the bogs and rocks of the west to the rich lands of the Midlands and the east where land can be got for the taking. I am a native of the Midlands and I am living in the east, and I never saw any place in the Midlands or in the east where land can be got for the asking or for the taking. A reference was made to ex-Deputy Gorey and his farm. I wonder if there is a member of Fianna Fáil in the County Kilkenny who would advocate an excursion train with passengers or migrants from the west with single tickets coming up to be dumped down on the County Kilkenny on this ranch that former Deputy Gorey is supposed to have bought. I think that if that Fianna Fáil Deputy from the County Kilkenny, or if the secretary of a Fianna Fáil Club in County Kilkenny, got up in the open and advocated a policy like that, it would be the last that would be heard of him in public life in County Kilkenny or in any other county. This Bill is divided into four parts. I oppose the Bill from beginning to end and I am going to explain my reason. I opposed other Land Bills when Deputies opposite were rainbow chasing on the hills in 1923.

A Deputy:  And 1927.

[2517]Mr. Belton: Information on Patrick Belton  Zoom on Patrick Belton  In 1923 and 1927, as the Deputy mentioned, when I brought them in here to do something. I regret that I have been accused of bringing them out of the Corporation.

Mr. Corry: Information on Martin John Corry  Zoom on Martin John Corry  It is a pity you were not thrown out yourself.

Mr. Belton: Information on Patrick Belton  Zoom on Patrick Belton  I suggest that the Title of this Bill should be “The Unsettlement of Land Bill, 1933.” The first Part deals with definitions and rules. In scanning these definitions and rules and bearing them in mind, it is easy to see, when one reads through the other Parts of the Bill, that there is not one farmer in the Government or even an individual able to carry on an intelligent conversation with a farmer, because the farmer is forgotten. It is easy to see that the Front Bench is dominated by the lawyers because Part II is devoted to securing adequate remuneration for the lawyers, who will be brought into the administration of this Bill if it ever becomes an Act.

Mr. Smith: Information on Patrick Smith  Zoom on Patrick Smith  You know what the lawyers cost.

Mr. Belton: Information on Patrick Belton  Zoom on Patrick Belton  I know what a calf jobber is, and the Deputy should know it.

Mr. Smith: Information on Patrick Smith  Zoom on Patrick Smith  You know what the lawyers cost.

Mr. Belton: Information on Patrick Belton  Zoom on Patrick Belton  I know how to pay my debts.

Mr. Smith: Information on Patrick Smith  Zoom on Patrick Smith  Have you the mandamus in your pocket?

Mr. Jordan: Information on Stephen Jordan  Zoom on Stephen Jordan  It is a sign of good citizenship.

Mr. Belton: Information on Patrick Belton  Zoom on Patrick Belton  Part II is taken up with framing machinery to give political jobs and to subserve political interests. Part III is a repudiation of debts and a national demoralisation of the agricultural community. Part IV is the adoption by the Government of Wild West methods of collecting annuities, a method that has been refused to be applied by every county council in the collection of rates. Every rate collector under a county council has full power to collect [2518] his rates without asking any permission from the county council once he gets his warrant.

Mr. Smith: Information on Patrick Smith  Zoom on Patrick Smith  And a mandamus.

Mr. Belton: Information on Patrick Belton  Zoom on Patrick Belton  He need not take any defaulting ratepayer into court. That power is not exercised, although it is exercisable by rate collectors. Then it is proposed to confiscate land because this means nothing else, under the latter sections of the Bill. The usual whine has been raised here to put the Irish people on the soil of their forefathers. Are the people who are on the soil of Ireland to-day not the sons and daughters of Irish forefathers?

A Deputy:  How do you know?

Mr. Belton: Information on Patrick Belton  Zoom on Patrick Belton  It does not matter at what time our fathers won the sod. They were Irishmen born and reared in this country and working in this country. It does not matter whether we came from the Baltic, or from the sunny lands of Spain.

Mr. Smith: Information on Patrick Smith  Zoom on Patrick Smith  How did you come to County Dublin?

Mr. Belton: Information on Patrick Belton  Zoom on Patrick Belton  I came and bought the land I own in County Dublin.

Mr. Smith: Information on Patrick Smith  Zoom on Patrick Smith  It was handed to you.

An Leas-Cheann Comhairle: Information on Patrick Hogan  Zoom on Patrick Hogan  Deputy Belton's land has nothing to do with this.

Mr. Smith: Information on Patrick Smith  Zoom on Patrick Smith  That is the sunny land of Spain.

Mr. Belton: Information on Patrick Belton  Zoom on Patrick Belton  It has been suggested that land was handed to me in County Dublin. I wish it were true. I paid over £6,000 for land in County Dublin —money I earned.

Mr. Smith: Information on Patrick Smith  Zoom on Patrick Smith  You employ women to work it.

Mr. Belton: Information on Patrick Belton  Zoom on Patrick Belton  I employ men to work it and women, and pay them trade union wages.

Mr. O'Leary: Information on Daniel O'Leary  Zoom on Daniel O'Leary  Not 24/- per week.

Mr. Belton: Information on Patrick Belton  Zoom on Patrick Belton  I am not making my living by going round with a few dying calves from fair to fair for a few bob. I have made my living by hard work.

[2519]Mr. Smith: Information on Patrick Smith  Zoom on Patrick Smith  Your land was handed to you.

Mr. Belton: Information on Patrick Belton  Zoom on Patrick Belton  I have come in here to state the truth and not lies.

Mr. Smith: Information on Patrick Smith  Zoom on Patrick Smith  You cannot deny it.

An Leas-Cheann Comhairle: Information on Patrick Hogan  Zoom on Patrick Hogan  Deputy Belton will please sit down. We will have no personalities in this discussion. Deputy Belton's land, or how he acquired it, has no connection with this Bill, and must not be introduced again.

Mr. Smith: Information on Patrick Smith  Zoom on Patrick Smith  We do not propose in the Bill we are discussing to take it from him. I only want to tell the House how he got it.

Mr. Belton: Information on Patrick Belton  Zoom on Patrick Belton  I have not given way to the Deputy. Of course, I know the plan of campaign. Certain Deputies are to throw in interjections when I am speaking—whether they are true or false is immaterial. I have made a statement, of which I defy contradiction, as to the buying of land and as to the paying of wages. There is a Minister who is running a bit of a farm on wages of 10/- a week——

An Leas-Cheann Comhairle: Information on Patrick Hogan  Zoom on Patrick Hogan  We will have nothing further on this matter either from Deputy Belton or anybody else. I allowed Deputy Belton to make a reply to Deputy Smith, owing to statements that Deputy Smith made which were quite irregular and disorderly. I allowed Deputy Belton to reply to these, but we will have no further interruptions of a personal nature on this Bill.

Mr. Belton: Information on Patrick Belton  Zoom on Patrick Belton  You conduct that side of the House and I will take care of this.

An Leas-Cheann Comhairle: Information on Patrick Hogan  Zoom on Patrick Hogan  The Deputy must not refer to statements made by the Chair in that flippant fashion. This House has to be conducted in a manner which will reflect credit on it, and not in that flippant fashion.

Mr. Belton: Information on Patrick Belton  Zoom on Patrick Belton  The Acting-Minister, in reading his statement introducing the Bill, referred to conditions in the country. He said there were a large [2520] number of uneconomic holdings and that there were large ranches which gave little or no employment. He also said that with the virtual stoppage of emigration there was a large increase in population in these latter years. He said that all this constituted a problem, and was the raison d'etre for this Bill. The Deputy-Minister did not elaborate or give the House a definition of what an economic holding is. A holding of five acres in one place might be a good economic holding, and a holding of 100 acres in another part of the country might be an uneconomic. It all depends upon the proximity of markets. The Deputy-Minister and his Government, when they destroyed the market of this country, rendered not only the small holding uneconomic, but they rendered the entire land of this country uneconomic. This Land Bill will, I feel sure, give rise not to a demand for the reinstatement of the three F's, but a demand for the reinstatement of the three F's plus another F, namely fair annuity, free sale, fixity of ownership, and free markets. Also the Deputy-Minister stated that it was necessary to divide the land in order to increase tillage. I wonder has he ever considered agriculture at all? Has he exchanged views with the Minister for Agriculture? Has he asked himself how this land policy of this Bill can be carried out successfully—by successfully I mean nationally successfully, and for the benefit of the country as a whole—side by side with the Minister's grain policy. If the Minister knows anything about the history of agriculture, and the history of land administration in Europe since the Great War, he should know that large tracts of Europe were corn growing areas prior to the Great War, when they were in ranches, because it is only in large areas that corn can be grown economically at a world price; and that since the Great War large tracts of those old empires have become portion of smaller States, and the ranches have been divided up into small holdings. Those holdings have been used in the main for dairying purposes, and the products of those countries have become our chief competitors in the British market.

[2521] The Deputy-Minister made a statement which is an absolute fallacy, that by dividing this land tillage would be increased. The tillage that is foreshadowed by the Minister for Agriculture is more corn growing. Corn can only be successfully and economically grown in large areas where the best modern machinery for cultivation and reaping and threshing can be used, so that that little gesture that he has chucked in there as a reason why land should be taken off one Irishman and given to another does not hold water. If, as he suggests, there are large ranches giving little employment, what is the Government doing? The Government of any country that has an economic policy carefully thought out is unfit to govern if it cannot induce the landowners of the country to carry out that policy, through the only means by which a policy will be successfully carried out in any country, namely by providing a market that will pay the farmers. The idea of the Government Bench, composed of people who know nothing about agriculture, is to give an order that a certain field must be tilled and a certain crop put into it, regardless of whether it will pay or not. The man is a rancher, he is an enemy, he is a West Briton, he is an imperialist, he is all that is odious, who does not do a thing that will not pay him. The incompetence of the Government is shown by the fact that they are not able to evolve an economic policy that is sound and good nationally, that will give employment to the unemployed to-day and yet give a good return to the man who will employ them.

An Leas-Cheann Comhairle: Information on Patrick Hogan  Zoom on Patrick Hogan  What is the relevancy of all this to the Land Bill?

Mr. Belton: Information on Patrick Belton  Zoom on Patrick Belton  The relevancy is the comment of the Deputy-Minister in introducing this measure that there were large ranches not giving employment, that it was necessary to break up those ranches into smaller holdings that would be tilled by those smaller holders, and that that would be a good national policy. I am pointing out that the way to get them tilled, [2522] regardless of the size of the holding, is to induce the owners to till them by providing a market that will give the produce of tillage a good remuneration.

An Leas-Cheann Comhairle: Information on Patrick Hogan  Zoom on Patrick Hogan  That is a bit far removed.

Mr. Belton: Information on Patrick Belton  Zoom on Patrick Belton  Also as regards the policy adopted by the Minister for Agriculture, namely, the grain policy, I have endeavoured to show by the example of certain European countries that the breaking up of big holdings into small holdings does not tend towards grain growing. On the contrary it tends towards the production of dairy produce and bacon. With this increased population, everybody who thinks at all about the country realises that it is a problem, and a national one. The Deputy-Minister suggests that a way must be found for them on the land. The Acting-Minister must know, if he has learned simple division, that, even in normal times, the land is not able, with a free market, to accommodate all the young people who are growing up. Some other outlet must be found for them. It is up to the education authorities, and the Minister for Education, to see that youths leaving school between 14 and 18 years of age are put to some trade that will be useful to them, because, per head of the population, we have a larger number of unskilled people than any country in Europe. Certainly a livelihood cannot be found for them on the land. The Minister should know that the first step to be taken in any land policy is to see if those who have land, which has cost the State nothing—men with economic holdings, and with family traditions for working land, who live according to a certain standard; who owe nothing, and who possess the necessary equipment—are making it pay at present? The Minister might then consider going on with his policy. If landholders and farmers are not making land, which cost the State nothing, pay at present, what is the use of setting up a ramp to take it in order to give it to others who have no farming tradition behind them? Is not the first [2523] problem for the Government to tackle to make agriculture a paying proposition? If there was any intelligence in the Government brain boxes it would start there.

Deputy Hogan has revealed the truth, that this is a political measure. Some people do not realise that land is practically valueless now. There is an idea that land is as valuable as it was six or seven years ago, or there is the hope that, at any rate, it will come back to its own some day. People will take land for nothing. Of course, they will, because, even if they fail, they will lose nothing. There is no provision in the Bill to see that people who get land will have some qualification to entitle them to it. The Acting-Minister should know that agricultural classes are held by the county committees of agriculture, and that certificates are issued to successful students. It is not even suggested in the Bill that potential allottees should possess certificates issued by the County Committees of Agriculture to show that they know something about land. There is no clause in the Bill to the effect that men who get land must keep it for a certain time before selling it. There is no protection of that kind. The only idea appears to be to give the land, and if some fellow can be found to give a few pounds for it afterwards, it can be disposed of. I could take the Minister to ranches that were broken up and given to allottees within the last 20 years which are now ranches, where the bullocks are going in or out of houses that were built by public money. Is this the time to introduce a Bill like this, when we have no markets, thanks to the Ministers on the opposite benches, and thanks, perhaps, more than anybody else, to the Minister in charge of the Bill? The Minister had the audacity to get up and say that we would now have cheap food.

Mr. O'Leary: Information on Daniel O'Leary  Zoom on Daniel O'Leary  And wide doors.

Mr. Belton: Information on Patrick Belton  Zoom on Patrick Belton  Cheap food to be produced by trade union labour. We [2524] need not go to Cooley, where the potatoes rotted.

An Leas-Cheann Comhairle: Information on Patrick Hogan  Zoom on Patrick Hogan  That was not stated on this Bill.

Mr. Belton: Information on Patrick Belton  Zoom on Patrick Belton  Farmers have been criticised because they do not till their land, and they have been dubbed ranchers. How can they till land when they have no markets for their produce? Because they do not till, the land is now going to be taken from them compulsorily. I have not half as much land tilled this year as I had last year. I will have none tilled next year, and neither will my neighbours, if the present situation continues. We may thank the Government for the present position, and more particularly the Minister who introduced this Bill. He stated that these were the minimum proposals. When the Minister puts up a proposition like this Bill he should be asked to prove it. If men who have land, which cost the State nothing, cannot make it pay, how can other people, on whom of necessity the land must be dearer, make it pay, in view of the conditions produced by the present administration? These are some of the practical problems that the Minister should have explained. The Minister told us that it would take the Land Commission 30 years to transfer 1,000,000 acres, and he suggested as an alternative to the acquisition and distribution of land, to get people who own what he called ranches to cultivate them. If the Minister has not studied the agricultural problem, before we adjourn, he should read T. W. Midleton's “Agriculture in Germany,” which can be had for 2/6 from the British Stationery Office. In that book he will find that the best agricultural education in Germany is given on large farms. A big farm run on moderate lines was a better method of disseminating agricultural education, and giving a practical demonstration of agricultural work than any of the agricultural colleges. In the space of 20 years the productivity of the soil of Germany had been increased by 30 per cent. The Acting-Minister wants to wipe out all the big farms, but the Government will not apply that principle to anything [2525] else. They will not apply that principle by giving a junior lawyer a chance. I move the adjournment of the debate.

[2526] Debate adjourned.

The Dáil adjourned at 10.30 p.m. until 10.30 a.m. on Friday, 14th July, 1933.


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