Tuesday, 5 May 1936
Dáil Éireann Debate
Go ndeontar suim ná raghaidh thar £932,379 chun slánuithe na suime is gá chun íoctha an Mhuirir a thiocfaidh chun bheith iníoctha irrith na bliana dar críoch an 31adh lá de Mhárta, 1937, chun Tuarastail agus Costaisí Oifig an Aire Tailte agus Oifig Choimisiún Talmhan na hEireann (44 agus 45 Vict., c. 49, a. 46, agus c. 71, a. 4; 48 agus 49 Vict., c. 73, a. 17, 18 agus 20; 53 agus 54 Vict., c. 49, a. 2; 54 agus 55 Vict., c. 48; 3 Edw. 7, c. 37; 7 Edw. 7, c. 38 agus c. 56; 9 Edw. 7, c. 42; Uimh. 27 agus Uimh. 42 de 1923; Uimh. 25 de 1925; Uimh. 11 de 1926; Uimh. 19 de 1927; Uimh. 31 de 1929; Uimh. 11 de 1931; Uimh. 33 agus Uimh. 38 de 1933, agus Uimh. 11 de 1934).
That a sum not exceeding £932,379 be granted to complete the sum necessary to defray the Charge which will come in course of payment during the year ending on the 31st day of March, 1937, for the Salaries and Expenses of the Offices of the Minister for Lands and 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; 19 of 1927; 31 of 1929; 11 of 1931; 33 and 38 of 1933, and No. 11 of 1934).
Minister for Lands (Mr. Connolly): The amount of the Vote for the current year shows a net increase of £132,979 on the previous year's total (as adjusted to include the Supplementary Estimate of February last).
Sub-head A.—£291,181. Salaries, Wages and Allowances under sub-head A are increased by £16,181 owing, mainly, to a strengthening of the indoor and outdoor staff and to the normal additions by way of increments of basic salary and bonus.
Sub-head B.—£30,000. The original Estimate of £30,000 for Travelling Expenses under sub-head B last year was reduced to £29,000 on the taking of a Supplementary Estimate, but the figure has been restored to £30,000 for the current year in view of increasing activities in inspection work.
Sub-head C.—£2,620. The addition of £100 Incidental Expenses under sub-head C is due, mainly, to the increased cost of advertisements inviting tenders for the construction and improvement of dwelling houses, etc. in connection with the division of untenanted land.
Sub-heads D and E.—D, £828; E, £7,040. The small additions under sub-heads D and E represent normal salary increments of the Clerical Staff of the Public Trustee's Office and Solicitor's Branch respectively.
Sub-head F.—£8,200. The increase of £700 under sub-head F is due to the increased number of appeals to the Appeal Tribunal arising cut of proceedings by the Land Commission for the acquisition of land under the Land Acts, 1923-33, involving the payment of Costs, Surveyors' Fees and Counsel's fees.
Sub-head H.—£112,000. The increase of £2,708 under sub-head H (which provides for the annual payment of interest and sinking fund on all land  bonds issued under the Land Acts, 1923-33, and for State contribution to price and Costs Fund) is due to the greater issues of land bonds which are being made for the purchase of land.
Sub-head I.—£606,550. The largest increase is found under sub-head I, where an additional sum of £76,500 over last year's Vote is required for the purposes of land improvement. The sustained effort of the Land Commission to divide the greatest possible area of untenanted land renders necessary a big expenditure in equipping the new holdings created with fences, drains, roads, dwelling houses and out-offices, as well as the fencing and general improvement of parcels of untenanted land allotted for the enlargement of uneconomic holdings and of rundale holdings of tenanted land rearranged into more convenient and economic units. It should be explained that the total of £606,550 set down in the Estimate includes £5,000 for the purchase of Tenancy Interests in holdings on Congested District Board Estates required to be taken up for division and £1,550 for payments under the Workmen's Compensation Act, etc., leaving £600,000 for actual estate improvement. This is a large amount but it represents a judicious capital expenditure for the improvement of the agricultural land of the country which should be ultimately repaid by increased production; and, incidentally, the work provides useful employment in agricultural districts.
Sub-head J, £19,000.—Under sub-head J there is an increase for the current year for advances to meet the deficiency of income from untenanted lands purchased under the Land Acts, 1923-33, last year's Vote of £12,000 (reduced to £9,000 on the taking of the Supplementary Estimate) being increased to £19,000. This addition is due partly to an anticipated increase in advances for the purchase of untenanted land during the current year and partly to the increase in the carry-forward of the amount of purchase moneys in respect of untenanted land not yet listed under Section 24 of the Land Act of 1931. It is necessary  to provide under this sub-head for liability to the Land Bond Fund in respect of interest on the purchase moneys of untenanted land acquired by the Land Commission but not yet listed under the Act of 1931, as well as such charges as rates, herds' wages, etc. The charge on the sub-head represents the amount of these items, less receipts from allottees, grazing lettings, etc., and is therefore necessarily conjectural.
Sub-head K, £18,500.—The increase of £1,897 under sub-head K is due to the anticipated dissolution of the remaining two co-operative farming societies under Section 46 of the Land Act, 1927, and to some anticipated further advances for “committee” cases under Section 42 of that Act. The sums required under this sub-head are for the purpose of paying 4¾ per cent. interest and sinking fund on that portion of the sums advanced under these sections for which the State has assumed liability.
Sub-heads L, M, N—L £100, M £100, N £500.—The amounts put down under sub-heads L (deficiencies on realisation of land bonds), M (loss on unoccupied holdings) and N (advances in respect of additional sums payable by purchasers) are the same as last year and do not require comment. Sub-heads L and M represent merely token Votes to provide for possible contingencies.
Sub-head O, £1,000.—Sub-head O is in the nature of a contingent liability to provide for the redemption of land bonds issued under the Land Act, 1931, in respect of holdings in which the purchase proceedings are subsequently dismissed, or in which the annuity is altered, and to provide for amounts that may become payable to the tenants or landlords of such holdings. No charge has yet arisen under this head, but it is deemed advisable to raise the nominal figure of £10 to £1,000 in order to meet possible eventualities this year.
Sub-heads P and Q — P £1,500, Q £100.—Similarly under sub-heads P and Q the nominal figures of £10 each are raised to £1,500 and £100 respectively in order to provide (sub-head P) funds for the maintenance of embankments  or other works which may be required during the current year, and (sub-head Q) to provide for contingencies that may arise under Section 34 of the Land Act, 1931, in respect of payment of claims out of purchase moneys notwithstanding certain defects of title.
Sub-head R, £585,000.—The amount provided under sub-head R to meet deficiencies in the Land Bond Fund arising from the revision of annuities under Part III of the Land Act, 1933, is increased by £25,000 in view of additional advances expected to be made in the current year, involving a corresponding addition to the deficiency charge.
Sub-head S, £7,000.—The amount of £6,500, estimated last year under sub-head S as likely to be sufficient to complete the purchase proceedings still pending under the Land Acts of 1903-09, is deemed now to be insufficient, and accordingly the amount is increased by £500.
Sub-head T, £500.—Under sub-head T (which provides for the payment, under Section 14 (4) of the Land Act, 1933, of arrears of interest in lieu of rent in excess of the three years' arrears added to the purchase money, etc.) there is a reduction of £500, as the reduced sum will probably be sufficient for payments under this head.
Sub-head U, £500.—Under sub-head U (which provides for payments under Section 17 (J) of the Land Act, 1933, in respect of adjustments of arrears of interest in lieu of rent between sub-tenants and their immediate landlords) the original estimate of £500 for last year, which was reduced to £100 on the taking of the Supplementary Estimate, has been restored for the current year as a precautionary measure, but no exact estimate under this head is practicable.
Sub-head V, £5,000.—There is a reduction of £4,000 under sub-head V, as last year's Vote covered the charges arising in the year 1934-5 (previously unascertained), as well as in the year 1935-6, for deficiencies caused in the Church Temporalities Fund by reason of the funding of arrears and revision  of annual payments provided for by Section 18 (9) of the Land Act, 1933.
Sub-head W, £1,000.—It is impossible to estimate with any exactitude the amount which may be required under sub-head W to write off land purchase annuities on lands submerged by coast or other erosion, but it is deemed advisable to restore the round figure of £1,000 which was provided in last year's original Vote, but was cut down to £200 on the taking of the Supplementary Estimate.
Sub-head X, £1,000.—Under sub-head X the amount of £750, provided last year to assist migrants from the Gaeltacht to lands in County Meath, is increased this year to £1,000 in view of the second and larger colony which is to be established in another district of County Meath during the current year. The details of the assistance required have not been yet fully worked out, but the round sum of £1,000 is put down as a reasonable estimate. Great care and attention is being devoted by the Land Commission to these experiments in migration. There is reason for satisfaction with the results so far achieved by the first colony, and the experience gained is being utilised to good purpose in preparing for the further colonies.
Coming to the Appropriations-in-Aid of the Vote, the total amount for the current year is expected to be less by £7,540 than last year's figure. This is due to the disappearance of the item for repayments of fees paid in connection with proceedings under Section 28 of the Land Act, 1933, as such fees are no longer leviable, and, therefore, there will be no repayment in respect of them. Apart from this item, the estimated Appropriations-in-Aid show an increase of £2,460, of which £2,000 is attributable to excess annuities arising in respect of advances for improvements made out of the improvement sub-head (I) of the Vote and repayable for the benefiting tenant purchasers.
As regards the general work of the Land Commission, during the past year there has been an intensive and strenuous effort to maintain or even surpass the remarkable record made during the year 1934-35 for the division  of untenanted land. In spite of formidable difficulties, once again the 100,000 acre mark has been passed for area divided under the Land Acts, 1923-33. Precise figures are not yet available, as it takes some time to get back all the re-sale schemes from inspectors and to analyse and tabulate them, but the provisional returns indicate that an area of about 103,000 acres of untenanted land, acquired under the 1923-33 Acts, was divided during the year 1935-36 among some 8,070 allottees, thus surpassing the previous year's figures (of 101,800 acres and 6,244 allottees). In addition 6,500 acres of untenanted land situate on estates acquired by the late Congested Districts Board were divided among 970 allottees. In the previous year 21,477 acres of this former Congested Districts Board land was divided amongst 1,107 allottees. The area in hands for division on the Congested Districts Board estate is, of course, decreasing year by year.
Were it not for the adverse effect of certain judicial decisions in cases arising out of the interpretation of the Land Acts during the year, even this fine achievement would have been exceeded. Particularly in the matter of the resumption of holdings, and the acquisition of certain classes of purchased holdings, proceedings have been delayed, and in several cases re-sale schemes, which had actually been prepared, have been held up owing to the unexpected difficulty in the procedure of acquiring the lands. Were it not for these set-backs, the total division for the past year would have reached something like 120,000 acres. Another impediment to progress which increasingly arises is the difficulty of obtaining large tracts of untenanted land suitable for division.
The average size of the holdings which the Land Commission can acquire and divide is becoming smaller. It will be understood that the process of acquiring an estate of, say, 300 acres may be as tedious and troublesome as that for the acquisition of an estate of 1,000 acres, whilst the division of smaller estates actually presents greater difficulties for inspectors and Commissioners. It is of interest in  this connection to compare the average area of the estates of untenanted land acquired under Sections 24 and 36 of the Land Act, 1923 (that is, compulsorily and voluntarily) in the year 1935-36 with that for the total period up to 31st March, 1935. In the year 1935-36 the average size of each estate represented about 250 acres, whereas in the period from 1923 to 1935 the average was 400 acres. These figures are indicative of the position with which the Land Commission now have to deal.
A comparison of the division figures under the Land Acts, 1923-33, for the last two years is also interesting. In the year 1934-35 a total area of 101,800 acres was divided among 6,244 allottees. In the year 1935-36 some 103,000 acres were divided among some 8,070 allottees. Thus, though the area for the latter year shows but a comparatively slight addition, the number of persons provided for is substantially increased. From the point of view both of staff work and national utility, the number of allottees provided with land is a better criterion than the area divided. Every effort will be made during the current year to acquire and divide as much land as is humanly possible. The staff of the Land Commission, both indoor and outdoor, are working with whole-hearted zeal in this task which they recognise to be of such great national importance. The total of the expenditure on estate improvement works during the past year was approximately £489,000, which constitutes a record for the Land Commission.
The various activities of the Land Commission under other heads are being well maintained. Attention is being given to the revesting of holdings in the tenants. During the past week some 2,000 holdings of tenanted land were vested in tenant purchasers showing a great increase over previous years. The distribution of the purchase prices of estates vested in the Land Commission is proceeding at the rate of upwards of £2,500,000 per annum. The collection of annuities is improving. The provisional returns up to the 30th April last show that  since the coming into operation of the Land Act, 1933, as from the November-December Gale of 1933, a total amount of approximately £5,137,000 has been collected on account of revised land purchase annuities, leaving an arrear of about £937,000 at that date over the five gales. To have already collected over 84 per cent. of the total collectable is not unsatisfactory, taking account of all the circumstances.
I think the results will indicate the hard and systematic work that the Land Commission is carrying through towards the completion of land purchase and land settlement. It is difficult work for our staffs and I would like to express to all concerned— Commissioners, inspectors, and all outdoor and indoor members of the staff—my keen appreciation of their whole-hearted and zealous efforts. It is due entirely to their co-operation and hard work rather than to any efforts of mine that I am able to put this record of work before you, and on that account I would like to make that known publicly to express to them my thanks.
Mr. Fitzgerald-Kenney: The concluding phrase of the Minister's statement brings up a matter upon which I would like to have a very clear and explicit statement from him. He has told us a considerable amount about the acquisition and the division of land during the last year, and said that was due to the work done by the officials of the Land Commission: that it was attributable to them—to use his exact words— rather than “to any efforts of mine.” Now, that raises, as I say, a question upon which I would like to hear the Minister speak definitely and authoritatively, because we have had again and again from the Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister, statements in this House that services, which are reserved services to the Land Commission, are reserved completely and entirely to them not only in theory but in absolutely strict fact: that as far as the acquisition of land is concerned, the Minister or the Parliamentary Secretary has nothing on earth to do with that question, and that as far as the distribution of land is concerned, the Parliamentary Secretary  or the Minister has nothing on earth to do with that. If land is acquired fast, no credit is due to the Minister and none to the Parliamentary Secretary; if land is acquired slowly no discredit is to be attached to the Minister or to the Parliamentary Secretary. Those are purely and entirely reserved services.
We have been told by the Parliamentary Secretary that in those reserved services neither the Minister nor he interferes. I would like to know definitely from the Minister if things are precisely under the surface as they appear to be on the surface, and if the Minister and the Parliamentary Secretary do not, in fact, interfere in the questions both of the acquisition and of the division of land. If they keep to the strict letter of the law, and if those services that are reserved to the officials of the Land Commission in which, by law, the Minister has no right to interfere, no power to interfere—to which the Minister is as much a stranger as any Deputy in this House or any member of the community who is not a Deputy of the House—then I would like to know, if that is the case, why does the Minister talk of “any efforts of mine” in the concluding words of his speech? He has no right to make any efforts. The rate at which the procedure goes is a reserved service. The Minister has no right to make any efforts for the acquisition of land; he has no right to make any efforts for the division of land; he has no right to interfere at all. If the Minister does not, in fact, make any efforts, if the Minister does not, in fact, interfere, as we have been told again and again by the Parliamentary Secretary, then they cannot have it both ways. The faults of the Land Commission are very many. I am going to mention some of them to-night. If the faults of the Land Commission are to be placed upon the shoulders of the Land Commission officials, and the Minister is to wash his hands completely of them, then everything which is to the credit of the Land Commission officials as far as the acquisition or speedy division of land is concerned is not a matter for which the Minister can take  any credit. If on the one hand he declines to take any blame, and shelters himself behind the strict provisions of the Act, then on the other hand the strict provisions of the Act prevent him from taking any credit. I am assuming now that the Parliamentary Secretary's statements in this House are correct—that the Minister does not interfere at all in the acquisition of land or the division of land. It would have been very much more candid and more clear to the people of this State if the Minister had said: “It is not due to any effort of mine; it is due to no effort of mine, because I have made no effort.” That being the case, and the Minister having nothing to do with the acquisition of land or the division of land, I wonder why the Minister goes on tours around the country.
It was very much advertised that the Minister and one of the Land Commissioners had gone down to East Mayo lately to formulate a scheme of assistance for the people of that neighbourhood. What brought the Minister there at all? It is a reserved service. The Minister has nothing to do with it. The Minister cannot interfere. It is completely reserved, and it is reserved as I have already said— quoting as my authority the Parliamentary Secretary, who surely ought to know—in fact as well as in theory. Why does the Minister go around and make those parades, deceiving the people into the belief that he is doing something and making some effort, when in truth and in fact, according to the Parliamentary Secretary, he is carrying out the law very strictly and is not venturing to make a single suggestion to the Land Commission officials as to how they should carry out the duties which are imposed upon them, which are reserved services, and in which by the Act of 1933 he is debarred from interfering? I should like the Minister to make that point very clear. Does he interpret the statute as the Parliamentary Secretary interprets it? I quite agree that the interpretation is plain. They are reserved services, but I want to know if they have been altogether as much reserved as the Parliamentary Secretary would  lead us to believe, because certain things have happened which certainly shake my belief in the suggestion that the Minister or the Parliamentary Secretary have never interfered in the acquisition or distribution of land. I should say incidentally that not alone has that statement been made by the Parliamentary Secretary, but it has also been publicly made by other members of the Executive Committee, notably by the Minister for Agriculture with reference to the acquisition of certain lands in Wexford.
The matter of the acquisition of these lands in Wexford is very interesting. It has come before the House already, but I should like again to draw the attention of the House to the full and complete matter. Certain farmers in County Wexford—all of whom are men holding comparatively small acreages of land, going from 20 to 80 acres, all of whom are residing upon their land, all of whom were tilling and working their land very properly, and all of whom are living in the vicinity of farms, some of which were let upon the eleven months system, and some of which were actually lying derelict—were selected by the Land Commission as persons from whom land was to be taken, in preference to the land which was lying, as I say, practically derelict in the neighbourhood, and the owners of which were willing to sell. The Land Commission sent down to this body of farmers—six or seven of them —a notice saying, “It is the intention of the Land Commission to acquire this land.” The matter was raised in this House, and this excuse was brought forward: “The Land Commission have made a mistake. The notice which was meant to be set out was a notice saying that the Land Commission intended to inspect this land with a view to acquiring it.” I want to know why the first mistake was made, and what explanation the Minister is going to give to this House and to the people of this country for that initial mistake.
It was rather an interesting little matter. One day one of the owners of the land that was to be acquired  received a letter from the Land Commission. He had not written to the Land Commission and he was rather astonished at receiving a letter from them. On opening the letter from them he discovered that it was a formal acknowledgment in Irish—as all formal acknowledgments are—with the name of his property on the heading, and the name of the person to which it was addressed, a prominent Fianna Fáil supporter in the neighbourhood, at the end. It was perfectly obvious— at least it appears to be perfectly obvious; if there is any other explanation I should like to hear it from the Minister—that a communication had been received from this prominent person with reference to this land; that they had meant to acknowledge that communication, and that while they had put the right name inside they had put the wrong name outside by mistake. Instead of putting the name of the addressee they had put the name of the owner of the land. I should like to know from the Minister if there is any other explanation except that. I dealt with this matter myself at a public meeting, and I am aware that a particular individual of the same name has disclaimed writing to the Land Commission. He told me that himself and I think it right to mention the fact in this House. He came to see me with reference to this matter, and he told me that he had gone to the Land Commission and that the person whom he had seen in the Land Commission had informed him that they had acted in this matter entirely on the report of their inspectors.
But the inspectors had never seen the land. The Land Commission had never sent an inspector to the land at any time. Without any inspection at all they had stated their intention of taking up the land; therefore they could not have had any reports from their inspectors. Of course, the matter went a bit further because the injustice of this proceeding was very apparent and very striking. The Minister for Agriculture went down to Wexford —by a strange coincidence be arrived there on Saturday and Deputy Dillon was to speak on Sunday—and  announced that the Land Commission were completely repentant and were going to withdraw all these notices. I believe that all the notices were withdrawn, with one exception, and that that one exception has now been withdrawn was apparent from an answer made by the Parliamentary Secretary to Deputy Keating to-day. In the course of his speech the Minister for Agriculture again made the statement that, of course, the Minister for Lands could not be blamed for the sending out of those notices or the taking up of those lands; that it was not a matter for which the Minister for Lands could be blamed in the slightest bit, because the Minister for Lands had no power to interfere and had not in fact interfered in the question of the acquisition of lands.
Personally I very much wish that that was the case, and that no sinister influences were being brought to bear upon the officials of the Land Commission, but I must express very grave doubts as to whether that is entirely the case, and as to whether no influences are being brought to bear upon the members of the Land Commission, because I do not think the members of the Land Commission, who are supposed to carry on this work uninterrupted, undisturbed, and unconsulted by the Minister or the Parliamentary Secretary, have suddenly become the rabid supporters of the Fianna Fáil Party, that they must have become, if, without, any influence being brought to bear upon them, they have done a certain number of things that have been done. I very much question if there is this pre-eminence given to certain prominent Fianna Fáil supporters by the officials if influence is not being brought to bear upon the officials. I want a very clear and definite statement from the Minister that he has strictly observed—and if he has not in the past, that he will in the future observe—the law, as it is interpreted, and, I think, correctly interpreted, by the Parliamentary Secretary, so often in this House, and by the Minister for Agriculture in the speech to which I have referred, and that he will not interfere, but will leave the conduct of the acquisition  and division of land to the Land Commission officials entirely and will see that they are kept there un-influenced by anybody—and by that I mean by anybody using political influence upon them—in the carrying out of their work.
I have said that I do not believe that the Land Commission officials have suddenly become very strong political supporters of the Government. I find it very hard indeed to accept any statement that resolutions from Fianna Fáil clubs as to what land should be acquired, do not reach, and are not conveyed, to the officials of the Land Commission, and that they do not carry weight when they do reach those officials. I have just mentioned in connection with that Wexford case, the curious feature of this letter being sent out with the name on it, though not actually addressed to, of a prominent Fianna Fáil supporter and I believe the same thing is happening elsewhere.
Let me leave Wexford for the moment and come down to my own constituency. I have already in this House drawn attention to what I would submit is a breach of the law by the Minister. On that question of the legality or illegality of the action of the Land Commission, I do not wish to say a single word at the moment, because, as you are aware, Sir, it is a matter upon which I have requested the Attorney-General to express his view as to whether their action is legal, and the Attorney-General has promised to express his view when he has fully considered the matter. Therefore, I am not going to dwell upon what seems to me to be the illegality of the action and as to whether these sales can or cannot stand, is a matter which the Attorney-General has promised to consider, and, I am sure, will consider.
Let me come to the particular sales themselves. Land is acquired on an estate called the Bowen Estate. The tenant was a man called Heshin, and the lands were the lands of Coolbawn, beside the village of Roundfort in County Mayo. On those lands, which were acquired for the relief of congestion,  three of the persons who were given land were one medical practitioner and two national teachers. I put it to the House, that if national teachers and medical practitioners want building plots, as we were first told, they should go into the open market and buy them in the open market. Let them not be presented with practical gifts of land by the Irish Land Commission. These men received eight acres, five acres and five acres respectively—18 acres in all. The Parliamentary Secretary discovered that he could not stand over the phrase “building plots” and they were turned into “cow plots”—an entirely new phrase to me. Eight acres of good land were given to a doctor at something like £12 an acre, and that land was bought for the relief of congestion. I want to know how the Minister explains that. Of course, I know the explanation. The doctor was the heart and soul, the life and the vigour, of Fianna Fáil in the vicinity—a very simple explanation. He was a very good canvasser for Fianna Fáil. He stood outside the election booth asking people to vote for them at the last election, and he gets his eight acres of land at £12 an acre—land acquired by the Land Commission for the relief of congestion—and I am asked to believe that that is done off their own bat by the officials of the Irish Land Commission. I have my doubts.
There is another matter I should like to have cleared up. There is one thing we are entitled to in this House. When we put questions to Ministers or Parliamentary Secretaries, we are entitled to get the whole truth, and nothing but the truth, and we should not be deceived by answers that are not true. In the immediate vicinity of this farm at Coolbawn, there is an estate which was, at one time, the Lindsay-Fitzpatrick estate, which is now the McCartan estate, Mr. McCartan, a timber merchant, having bought Mr. Lindsay-Fitzpatrick's demesne, at Hollymount. In that demesne there was a gate lodge, in which there was a man, John Moran, an employee of Mr. McCartan, who  sometimes worked at timber and sometimes on the land. I put a question on this matter in this House, and I was told that he was only a tenant at will, that he could be evicted at the wish of the Land Commission, and that the Land Commission had already demanded possession from him. I asked why the herd's house on these lands at Coolbawn, to which I have already referred, could not be given to this man, who has a wife and a long family, and why they should be flung on the road by the Land Commission when this house at Coolbawn was available. I asked:
“Has it been given to the doctor as the rest of this farm was? Does the Minister consider that a man who was working on the Hollymount demense is not a more suitable person to get land than the doctor and national teachers who got the land?”
I did not believe that. I did not accept it. I put a question to the Parliamentary Secretary later on, and the House will be astonished to hear that this particular herd's house was on the land that was allotted to this doctor. I have been told emphatically here in the House— I read the words—that it was not; that it had been allotted to a migrant; and yet, when I press the matter up and want to know the migrant's name, I am informed “Oh, the Minister for Justice made a mistake,” and that the Minister for Justice, in answering this question and saying that it was given to the doctor was drawing on his imagination, in effect. That is practically what it comes to.
 Well, I do not accept that. I do not believe that the Minister for Justice made the answer that he did make without having some documentary evidence to support it. That is my own view, at any rate. However it came about, there was a question arising directly out of my question. It was not a vague supplementary question because, in the question I had put, I had mentioned this specific herd's house. I had put it down in the written question, and therefore it was a matter on which the Land Commission, I think, must have given definite information to the Minister. Personally, I do not believe that it was the Minister for Justice who misled this House, but however it came about, we were misled, and I discovered that a definite, categorical answer, which was given to me, was untrue in fact, and that this land which this doctor had received—these eight acres at £12 10s. an acre—did contain the herd's house I mentioned a moment ago, and that this house was available for the man from Hollymount, who was living in the gate lodge and was held to be a tenant at will and that the Land Commission had the power to put out. I do not know whether they have actually acted on that power at the moment. I raised the matter in the House and I sincerely hope that they do not, but the excuse they put forward was that this lodge was on land they had allotted to a migrant. Who is the particular migrant? The County of Mayo is a congested county. It has not enough land on which to supply all the needs of the tenants who live on congested holdings within it. It certainly has got no superfluous land into which migrants from other counties can be brought, and I discovered that this land—this mansion house at Hollymount which used to be Mr. Lindsay-Fitzpatrick's place—is given to a man who is brought in there from the County Roscommon. Roscommon certainly is a county which has got more untenanted land in it, in proportion to its size, than Mayo ever had, and it has not at all the same acute problem of congestion as the County Mayo has, but I discovered that a man was brought in from Roscommon to Mayo and given this mansion  house and a considerable area of land besides.
I should also like to know—and I hope the Minister will be able to give me specific details—how much land did this particular individual surrender and how much land did he get together with the Hollymount house. Was it by mere accident that he happened to be—the House, I think, can guess what I am going to say—the heart and soul, the beginning and the end, of Fianna Fáil in the portion of the County Roscommon from which he came? It is a very strange coincidence. There was no political influence, of course! The Minister or the Parliamentary Secretary have nothing to do with it; but by a very strange coincidence that happened. I should like to know how much land he gave up and how much land he got and why a stranger was brought in into the County Mayo.
That is not all. There is another matter which I raised here in the House in connection with which the Parliamentary Secretary thought that he would score a verbal victory by giving the poor law valuation of one particular townland and leaving out the poor law valuations of other townlands. The question to which I refer is a question of the distribution of the lands of Brize which were in the occupation of Senator MacEllin. That matter was raised by me here in the House some little time ago. The motion was spoken to by Deputy Nally, and Deputy Nally and I received the unexpected, but entirely welcome, assistance of Deputy Walsh in condemning the scheme. What were the facts of this case? A considerable area of the land had been taken up. The Land Commission went to two men, one of them in the townland of Derrowel—a man caled Thomas Higgins, who has 22a. 1r. 20p. in the townland of Derrowel, and a poor law valuation of £7 5s. 0d.—and they asked him if he would sign what he thought was a purchase agreement— the Parliamentary Secretary says that they did not ask him to sign a purchase agreement but to sign an undertaking of his willingness to migrate— and they pointed out to him a holding immediately adjoining him which they were going to give him.
 Now, at the same time, in a neighbouring townland—the townland of Coolaghbaun—exactly the same procedure was adopted with reference to a man named James Lavin who had 17a. 2r. 8p. of land and a poor law valuation of £8 10s. 0d. These men considered, when they had signed agreements to migrate, or their willingness to migrate, and when lands had been pointed out to them just beside their very doors, so to speak, to which they were to be migrated, that they would get these lands; and unless it was the original intention of the Land Commission to do so, when they were asked to sign their intentions to migrate to these holdings, when the holdings were pointed out to them, I do not know why the lands were pointed out to them. It must have been the intention of the Land Commission to migrate them, and that would have been right and proper; but they did not. Instead of that, they gave these lands to unmarried men who had no land at all and who were free to go off and sell that land in the morning. When I raised that question of the adjournment the Parliamentary Secretary said that a man called Biesty, who has got land, was a workman on the land before it had been acquired. I challenged that statement then, but I have since discovered the fact. Biesty himself has written to me stating that he was a workman and I accept his word that he was a workman on the land. Therefore, so far as he is concerned, the giving of land to him does not seem to be objectionable.
Also, on the adjournment motion, I laid down the general principle that I thought if men lost their work by land being broken up that they should get land as compensation. But there were three young, unmarried men who had no claims. One of them, as I pointed out in that debate, had been secretary of a co-operative society and then he had done some clerical work in Castlebar in the county council office. He had no experience of land. I wonder was it due to political influence that that supporter of the Government, as of course he was, suddenly received  this holding of land? Then these other two men received holdings of land also—unmarried men with no title to land at all. They were free to put their holdings up for sale by auction in the morning and get considerable sums, to the detriment of the two bona fide farmers who had been shown the land to begin with.
I mentioned in that debate that there were three townlands affected— Derrowel, Coolaghbaun and Knocknakill. The Parliamentary Secretary read out all the valuations of Knocknakill and they ran from £15 to £18 or thereabouts and he thought he had achieved a great triumph. But what I had stated was not that the people of Knocknakill had not got a very fair area of land in extent, but that Knocknakill was not arable land and these people were not able, in their holdings in Knocknakill, to get enough land to till. They always had been in the habit of taking conacre land outside and at least half of their total tillage was done on conacre land and, therefore, though they did not expect very large areas, they did hope for a few areas of arable land to balance the amount of non-arable land they had upon their holdings. The Parliamentary Secretary said they were not in a congested area because their holdings had valuations of £15 to £18. I never said they were a congested area.
The Parliamentary Secretary came along with the Knocknakill poor law valuations, but he forgot to bring down the poor law valuations of the three other townlands in the neighbourhood. I have here, certified by the secretary of the Mayo County Council, the areas and poor law valuations of these holdings and I will leave the House, even the Fianna Fáil Deputies, to decide, when they have heard some of the figures that I will read out, whether these lands should be utilised for the relief of congestion or whether these three unmarried men, who never worked before on the land, who never had land of their own, should have been given holdings. I will give particulars first in relation to the townland of Derrowel More:—James Commons, 8a. 3r. 5p., poor law valuation on land, £3; Martin Reilly, 22 acres, poor law  valuation, £2 10s. 0d.; Martin Loftus, 10a. 3r. 25p., poor law valuation, £4 10s. 0d.; Thomas Higgins—this is the man who is to be moved—22a. 1r. 20p., poor law valuation, £7 5s. 0d.; John Boyle, 23a. 3r. 25p., poor law valuation, £8 5s. 0d.; Thomas Shannon, 21a. 1r. 15p., poor law valuation, £7 15s. 0d.; William Commons, 19a. 2r. 25p., poor law valuation, £7 10s. 0d.; Bridget Toole, 1a. 2r., poor law valuation, 6/-; and Catherine Commons, 17a. 3r. 39p., poor law valuation, £8 3s. 0d.
Was it not an obvious thing that somebody should be taken out of that townland, and that the congestion should be relieved? What the Land Commission had intended doing was to take out Thomas Higgins, giving him this holding which they afterwards gave to the landless men with no claims. They intended taking him out and letting his 22 acres be divided between the people with the £2 10s. and £3 holdings. Did they do that? Not at all. That is all upset. I would like to know what was the cause of it being upset.
Take the town of Coolaghbaun. There we have John Brett, 55a. 3r. 35p., poor law valuation on land, £25; James Lavan,— the man who was to be moved —17a. 2r. 8p., poor law valuation, £8 10s.; Michael Morley, 17a. 1r. 20p., poor law valuation, £8 10s.; John Flanagan, 13a. 3r. 17p., poor law valuation, £5 12s.; and Martin Sheridan, 7a. 0r. 36p., poor law valuation, £3. Again, was it not an obvious thing that those two persons, Flanagan and Sheridan, were persons who should receive additions when land was available adjoining their holdings? There is another village adjoining, the village of Facefield. There are a number of people in Facefield, and I might as well read out the valuations in the townland. I will just give you some of the holdings that unquestionably require enlargement:—Patrick Gannon, 14a. 2r. 37p., poor law valuation, £6 1s.; Martin Sheridan, 9a. 1r. 6p., poor law valuation, £4; Edward Murphy, 9a. 0r. 2p., poor law valuation, £4 5s.; Michael Fallon, 12a., poor law valuation, £4 8s.; and Bridget Forde, with two denominations, 6a. 3r. 10p. and 13a. 2r. 20p., having poor law valuations of £2 10s.  and £5 5s., making a total valuation of £7 15s. Then there is Michael Griffin, 15a. 3r. 25p., poor law valuation, £6 10s., and James Malley Owen, 7a. 3r. 20p., poor law valuation, £4 10s.
Is it not as plain as anything can be that this farm was situated in a very congested area? Those figures which I have now given to the House, figures which were not given in the adjourment debate by the Parliamentary Secretary show that this farm was situated in an area in which there is a very considerable amount of congestion, and that however you may balance the claims of the congests as against the claims of men who were working upon the land, however you may balance the equity of this work, there is one thing as clear as anything can be and that is that if the spirit of the law is to be carried out, if the law is to be administered as this House laid down that it was to be administered and if the main function of the Land Acts is to relieve congestion then this thing is inequitable. It is an absolute certainty that this congestion exists in this neighbourhood. That state of congestion I have demonstrated to the House by the figures which I have given. If three men with no claims under the sun to land are to be given holdings of land in that area then I say that is entirely inequitable. I want to know what explanation the Minister is going to give to this House for his action. After all, whether the Minister is going to whether he does not interfere, we will, I suppose and hope, get from him a very clear definite statement. When the matter is over he must, I submit, obtain from the Land Commission officials a clear and definite explanation as to why these extraordinary things are being done. He must obtain a definite statement as to why it is that these persons have been selected to get land; how it is that doctors are getting land and how it is that national teachers can get land; how it is that men with no claims at all can get land, and that the claimants with real claims, genuine congests, are to be entirely disregarded.
We must bear in mind that this is  not a temporary matter. We must bear in mind that the arrangement as far as the small holders are concerned is practically final. We must bear in mind that the amount of land which is available for the relief of congestion is getting smaller and smaller every day. We must bear in mind that really the amount of available land— what is called grazing ranches—has now almost gone. These ranches have certainly gone in Mayo and I might say all over Connacht. The Minister's opening statement shows that the large ranch is no longer available for distribution and that you must come down to the small places. Therefore, the chances of persons having congested holdings getting enlargements of those holdings is getting smaller and smaller every day. Here you see persons living on congested holdings; you see a farm of land to be broken up and you know that that is the last chance these congests in the neighbourhood have of getting their holdings enlarged. On the other hand, you see persons with no claims under the sun; persons who are not migrants or owners of land but absolute strangers are chosen and put in to enjoy that land that should be given to the congests I have named. These people realise that they have no chance of ever having the congestion under which they live remedied if it is not remedied now.
Is it not surprising, therefore, that these people in desperation should take certain measures to have this scheme broken up? I deprecate and I always will deprecate anything approaching violence. I deprecate and not only do I deprecate but I condemn violence or extra legal action as strongly as I can. But I do think we must always recognise what human nature is and we must always recognise that there is a danger of violence in districts where the people's sense of justice or their sense of fair play is violated. That is precisely what took place in this area of Balla. The Parliamentary Secretary says he has no power to deal with the matter and no power to make recommendations but he should just send back to the Land Commission a suggestion that it was  his view that the Land Commission ought to change this very inequitable arrangement. As far as I have been able to gather, though that debate took place some little time ago, no steps have yet been taken to change this very inequitable arrangement. I want a clear and definite statement from the Minister on this matter now. Is the Land Commission going to carry out its first intention and are these two men—Higgins and Lavelle—going to get the holdings that were originally pointed out to them? Is the land which they were going to surrender going to be made available for the relief of persons who have small holdings in the vicinity? I want further to ask the Minister if these holdings are to be given to men who have no claim to them at all? These two men were told they were to be given the holdings that were pointed out to them? Then there was a third holding. Will the Land Commission undertake that that third holding will be given to somebody out of one of these adjoining townlands of which I have given particulars to the Minister? Will the land which these men thus surrender, in order that they may be given a holding in exchange, be distributed amongst their neighbours for the relief of existing congestion?
I now pass away from that particular branch of the subject to another matter to which I would like to draw the attention of the House: that is, the execution by way of distress under a particular section of the Land Act of 1933, instead of proceeding in court for the recovery of the land annuities. Nothing has done more harm to this country, nothing has created more disturbance and let to more violence than that senseless method of dispensing with the courts and with court procedure, and the sending down of what were distress warrants to the sheriff. These sheriffs come and make seizures without the intervention of the courts, depriving the persons who are not able to pay their annuities of the opportunity of making their case to the district justice or the circuit judge, as the case may be, the case that they were bona fide unable to pay, and thus have an opportunity of being given time. That procedure  has led to a tremendous amount of disturbance. I sincerely hope that in his reply the Minister will tell us that the bad practice of the Land Commission is going to terminate, and that the Land Commission will never again put in force those powers.
There is another matter in that connection to which I would point. It is a matter within my own knowledge. I refer to the fees which the sheriffs are charging. They are charging the fees that the sheriffs would charge in ordinary seizures when they go to a man's house to levy a distress warrant. They are not entitled to do so. In the case of Halpin v. the Land Commission, heard here some months ago by Judge Johnston, it was decided that the sheriff who seizes goods under a warrant from the Land Commission is not entitled to charge the fees which he would charge if he were seizing under an order of the court. It was decided that the only sum he is entitled to recover is the sum of 2/- for making the seizure and 1/- for sending out the notice. That is the law as laid down by Judge Johnston. It has not been appealed from, and I do not think it is going to be questioned. That is the decision in Halpin v. the Attorney-General. If the Minister wishes to see the reference he will find it reported in the Irish Law Times report of last December. In fact, I know of my own knowledge that sheriffs are charging very much larger fees. I came upon a case the other day where the sheriff was entitled to charge 2/- and 1/- for the notice, that is 3/- in all. As a matter of fact, he demanded £2. That particular case may go into court, and I will not say anything further about it. What has happened in one case may have happened in a great number of other cases.
I put this question to the Minister and I should like a definite reply from him. In cases where the sheriff has charged fees which he is not entitled to charge, that is to say, when levying distresses under these warrants the sheriff has charged sums going up to pounds on occasions where he was only entitled to charge 2/-, will the Land Commission refund these sums to the persons who have been thus grossly overcharged? I know the Minister may  say that the Land Commission do not actually get the sums, that the sheriff's bailiff gets the sums and puts them in his pocket. But they are sums illegally charged and being illegally charged at the suit of the Land Commission. I put it to the Minister that he should have all these returns carefully investigated and, wherever an overcharge has been made, he should communicate with the person overcharged. In common justice towards these people, as a huge number of them do not know their rights, he should tell them when an overcharge has been made that they should apply to the sheriff. As all these warrants have been sent out under the aegis of the Land Commission, if the money is not recoverable from the sheriff, will he take steps, without putting these persons to the necessity of legal proceedings, to see that either the sheriff makes a refund or that a refund is made by the Land Commission?
Very large sums have been extorted from people wrongly, probably in the case of the sheriff under a mistake, before the Halpin case. I suggest to the Minister that between the State and the subject there ought to be fair play; that the State, when it has overcharged and taken from subjects moneys that were not due by the subjects to the State, should not be looking for excuses for not returning the money. The State ought be more than anxious to return those moneys, so that nobody will have a sense of injustice, and it will be known that the State is anxious to deal fairly with its citizens, and not that there is a Government Department taking from people considerable sums of money wrongly, and, when they discover that they have taken them wrongly, not being willing and anxious to return them.
There are certain details in this Vote which I should like to go into, but I do not like to detain the House at too great length. There is, however, one thing I should have liked the Minister to refer to in his speech, but to which he did not make reference. One of the most useful bits of work which the Land Commission are doing is the work originated by Deputy Roddy when he was Parliamentary Secretary, about  1930 or thereabouts, and that was giving persons in the Gaeltacht sums of money for the reclamation of their own land. That is far and away better than giving them unemployment assistance. Money given to people on the assumption that they will do nothing is completely wasted. But if, instead of giving a man 5/- or 6/- a week unemployment assistance, you give him that money for doing work such as has been and is being done to a small extent upon small holdings in the Gaeltacht, I think you will be doing excellent work. There was a very interesting article on that in the journal of the Department of Agriculture recently on this subject. It is very excellent work, and I sincerely hope that for cutting drains on their land, liming their land and generally improving their own land, the Land Commission will give them considerably more help than they are giving at present.
Mr. Walsh: It was not my intention to intervene in this debate were it not for some remarks passed by the preceding speaker. Deputy Fitzgerald-Kenney said he was very much astonished when I supported his motion on the adjournment.
Mr. Walsh: You can have it any way you like. He said he was very pleased when I supported his objection to the division of the MacEllin lands. I did object to the way in which these lands were divided. My views on the land question in Mayo are that the relief of congestion should get precedence over everything else in the division of land. I should like to get an expression of opinion from Deputy Fitzgerald-Kenney and Deputy Nally as to whether they stand for that principle, and also whether they stand for the principle that the only landless men in the Free State who will not get land are the landless men in County Mayo. The reason I ask that question is that at the present time the Land Commission, as far as my knowledge goes, are giving land to landless men in every other county in the Free State.
 I said in this House when this question of the MacEllin lands was raised that I was opposed to giving land to landless men in the County Mayo. I am still of that opinion. But I certainly do not stand for the principle that the only landless men in the Free State that should not get land are the landless men in Mayo. I am not going to tie myself to a policy of that description. If Deputy Fitzgerald-Kenney, Deputy Nally, or any other Opposition Deputy, stands for the principle that no landless men in the Free State should get land until the problem of congestion is solved, then I am with them and will support them in that policy. But while the Land Commission are giving land to landless men in other counties, the landless men in Mayo are entitled to their share of it.
I objected to the scheme of division on the MacEllin estate. I considered that it was unsuitable in the circumstances, as there was tremendous local congestion. Deputy Fitzgerald-Kenney kept the House occupied a long time in discussing the division of that estate. He also made reference to the giving of land to teachers and other in another portion of the County Mayo. I can assure Deputy Fitzgerald-Kenney that neither I nor any other Deputies that I know would give land to any of these professional gentlemen.
Deputy Fitzgerald-Kenney spoke here as if the present Opposition, when it was the Government, in the policy of their division of land, showed themselves above reproach. I would ask the Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister for Lands to get the files with regard to the division of the Browne estate near Castlebar.
Mr. Walsh: The previous speaker raised a point as if it were a new custom for the Land Commission to  give land to national teachers. I never was in favour of giving land to national teachers though that has been going on, and land has been given them, and others of the same class, as I know, during the last 20 years. I have known cases where, when estates were being divided up, sites and plots were deliberately set aside for the building of teachers' residences, and these plots consisted of three or four acres. It is, therefore, not a new thing at all for the Land Commission to give plots to national teachers at the present time. I am not in favour of that.
I repeat my question: Are we to understand that the Opposition stand for the policy that landless men should not get land until the congestion problem is solved? Are we to take that implication from Deputy Fitzgerald-Kenney's speech and that it is the definite policy of the Opposition that nowhere, in the Free State, are landless men to get any land until congestion is solved. If that is so I am with him. But again I repeat that, while the Land Commission are giving land to landless men in other counties, the landless men in Mayo are entitled to their share of it, but I also say that there is no land for any landless man in Mayo considering the amount of congestion that exists in that county.
Mr. Nally: I wish to ask the Parliamentary Secretary a question with regard to the division of the land at Brookhill, Claremorris. These lands were acquired recently by the Land Commission. For four or five years I brought this matter before the Land Commission and asked them to acquire that land. They did nothing, and Colonel Lambert sold the land, piecemeal, to half a dozen purchasers. The moment these people bought the land the Land Commission stepped in and acquired that land from the new purchasers, and it is there still, and has not been divided. What is the cause of this land being held up? I also wish to know if it is the policy of the Land Commission to acquire land from smallholders, especially in the County Mayo? I know of several small farmers who have got notice  from the Land Commission as to the acquiring of their land for the relief of congestion. There are half a dozen of these people near Claremorris with holdings whose valuation is not above £25 and they have been served with notice that their land is to be acquired. In one case notice was served on a man who only owns eight acres.
Right beside these we have the estate of Lord Oranmore and Browne, and the Marquis of Sligo. Memorials and petitions have been sent to the Land Commission asking them to acquire these lands. Congestion exists in the vicinity of these estates, as has been pointed out, but nothing has been done. On the Oranmore and Browne estate there are probably about 2,000 acres that could be acquired for the relief of congestion. I do not know the amount on Lord Sligo's estate, but it is well over 1,500 acres. I would like to know why the Land Commission are acquiring land from small farmers and leaving these big ranches in the possession of their owners. The Land Commission must be afraid of something when they leave 2,000 acres alone and take land from small farmers with only 15 or 20 acres. I have known several such cases. I think some of these people were brought before the Judicial Commissioner and he decided the land should be taken over though the valuation is only £25 or £30 in two cases.
With what Deputy Walsh said about providing land for landless men I thoroughly agree. First of all, so far as land is acquired, the owners of uneconomic holdings should get first preference. Until such time as their needs are looked after by the Land Commission, I think the landless men should not be dealt with in Mayo. I do not know about other counties. Of course, a great deal depends upon the vicinity and the locality in which the land is acquired. If land is acquired where there is congestion it should be used for the relief of congestion. Where there is any amount of land, and little congestion, the claims of the landless men should be considered. We would all like to see landless men getting land. We would like to see these people with large families trying to eke out an existence on pieces of  land of from £5 to £10 valuation brought up to a proper standard.
I want to refer, also, to the burning of Bloomfield House. It was sold to a purchaser some time ago for £1,400. £500 was paid in cash, the remaining £900 was to be paid on some arrangement over a certain number of years. These premises were burned down. The owners sued the Mayo County Council for £10,000 for damages in respect of malicious injuries. The Land Commission, in order to substantiate this, and help him, put in a claim for £3,000. They wanted £3,000 for malicious damage to a house which they sold for £1,400. I should like to have an explanation as to where the Land Commission came in. I may say that the Mayo County Council defended the case, and that the Land Commission claim, and the claim of the tenant for £10,000 were scouted out of court. Mayo County Council, I understand, got their costs. The Land Commission should not bring such a case into court. Perhaps they thought that they would find Mayo County Council asleep and that they would not defend these claims. With regard to the acquisition of land, I direct attention to the estates of the Marquis of Sligo, and Lord Oranmore. There are some lands which were vacated over 20 years ago. I refer especially to two holdings in the townland of Ranahar, in the vicinity of Claremorris. These holdings, which were vacated about 20 years ago, have not yet been divided. Several other holdings have been vacated and have not been divided. In some cases in County Mayo where tenants were migrated, they have taken up the new holdings but are still grazing the old holdings. That has been going on for eight or ten years. As a matter of fact, they are grazing both holdings at the present time. Several cases of that kind have occurred. The matter was reported to the Land Commission but still nothing has been done. I hope the Minister will look into the matter as soon as possible, and get these lands divided.
There is a great deal of trouble in some parts of Mayo with regard to  co-tenants. Where a number of tenants graze a farm, a great deal of difficulty arises with regard to the payment. Some are willing to pay, while others do not want to pay. There is endless trouble and occasional litigation. I think the Land Commission should look into that matter. I hope the Land Commission will see to the acquisition of the lands of Lord Oranmore and the Marquis of Sligo, and that they will leave the unfortunate people from whom they are taking from eight to 50 acres undisturbed. I do not think that the Land Commission should take over 30, 40 or 50 acres. It is absolutely outrageous and scandalous that the Land Commission should do so. I do not say it is due to politics but it looks very like it. All these people with under 50 acres or under £50 valuation who got notices recently are not, I understand, supporters of the present Government. I heard that but I am not sure about it. However, there must be something in it when the Land Commission are taking their land off these people.
Mr. Bennett: Attention has been drawn by previous speakers to the practice of resuming the lands of tenant-purchasers. There has been a tendency in the Land Commission recently in that direction. In almost every county, tenant-farmers have been receiving notice either that their lands are to be inspected or that they are to be acquired for relief of congestion or for some other purpose. In fact, some holdings have actually been acquired. I should like to point out to the Land Commission the danger of embarking in any wholesale way on the acquisition of tenant purchasers land. It has created in the minds of a lot of farmers a great feeling of insecurity. The practice has, in fact, been criticised almost directly by a leading member of the Government— the Minister for Finance. In a debate recently, he made a rather remarkable statement, which emphasises the danger of this policy more than any words I could use. He said:
“Possibly, at this stage, I should remind the House that one of the fundamental principles upon which  our social system has been built is the right of private ownership in land. Our whole rural economy is based on that principle. We fought the land war in order to establish it and I believe that any person who attempts to undermine it will face an opposition that would overawe a Hitler or a Stalin.”
Mr. Bennett: I am referring to the practice of resuming the land of tenant purchasers, the majority of whom, so far as I know, have paid their debts. I have no evidence to the contrary. We were assured again and again by various Ministers that this practice would never be adopted, that the security of the tenant farmer would be as safe in the hands of the present Government as in the hands of any other Government — safer, perhaps, than it was under Cumann na nGaedheal. The Minister for Defence, the Minister for Agriculture and other Ministers emphasised that the Government would not interfere with purchased tenants or that if, perchance, in exceptional cases, they had to interfere, the tenant would be suitably compensated. I shall come to the question of compensation later. This particular action has raised grave doubts in the minds of tenant farmers in every county. They are wondering whether the sacrifices of the land war, to which the Minister for Finance referred, were in vain and whether all the Land Acts which were passed to secure them fixity of tenure were in vain—whether at one stroke of the pen all this is to be undone. The credit of the farmers is being rapidly destroyed and we need a definite statement from some responsible Minister that this practice is going to stop. The banks are pressing farmers for debts and are refusing to make any further loans on the security of land, mainly because they believe  such security is not ample, that there is a danger—and a grave danger—that the land on which they lend money may be taken from the holders in the near future. Is there to be discrimination between one set of citizens and another? Is the agricultural holder to be denied something which is permitted to every other member of the community?
The Minister is right. You might just as well deprive him of his right to own any other property as his right to hold land. The Minister justly refers to the consequences I spoke of. If you do take land what is going to happen? The Minister said:
“Banks would find themselves compelled to recall some of their loans or to ask those ground-rent owners to whom they had made advances—most probably to finance industrial undertakings—to put up additional security.”
That is what the banks are being compelled to do. The Minister for Finance was insensed at a practice that the Land Commission are pursuing, because in the major portion of his speech, directly or indirectly, he referred to this matter. He said:
I want the House to mark the words. If some private individual acquires land, according to the Minister for Finance, the owner should be entitled to the full market value—full compensation. When the Land Commission  acquires land not for building houses, but for an equally useful purpose, that of putting weaker people on the land, is the State to confiscate property, while a purchaser in the other case would be required to give adequate market value? We are not to be taken —because we are criticising the Minister in this particular matter—as being opposed to the division of land.
Mr. Bennett: I am glad Deputy Donnelly says “hear, hear.” We are just as anxious to put people on the land as Fianna Fáil. It is a good principle. It has many advantages in the way of social relief over other forms of relief. There can be no better way in rural districts of improving the social lot of the people who “have not” than by putting them on the land. But, as a social experiment, it should be conducted, not at the expense of the individual but at the expense of the State. The State we are told is not going to acquire land compulsorily at a confiscatory price. But that is what is happening. While there is untenanted land to be acquired not a sod of purchased land should be touched. I might even go further and say that when all the untenanted land is eventually acquired—and I put in a proviso as to a few larger holdings of which the owners might be able to spare a patch—I doubt very much if it would be a wise principle to undo all that was fought for—to undo the benefits of land purchase. Remember what is happening to tenants to-day, through the policy of the Land Commision. The partial confiscation which they suffer now may happen to the new recipients to-morrow. In five years' time if this policy is to be pursued, and if there is to be another redistribution of the land, these recipients would have no security that the last stage of the agitation for land was not worse than the first. It was thought that with the advent of a native Government, and with the attempts that have been made to improve the legislation of a foreign Government, tenant farmers would at  last be secure, that they could sleep in comfort, without the fear of waking up to find that the farms they owned yesterday were to be taken from them. They were lulled into that belief and banks and others had the same degree of confidence when these tenants came to borrow money. No longer will the facilities that were hitherto extended to them exist. There are other methods of acquiring tenant-purchased land if the Land Commission are driven to that policy. I would like to emphasise that, if the State steps in and acquires any land, the full market value should be paid. The House was assured by various Ministers that if the State ever took such a step it would pay the full market value. It was largely on such assurances that such an Act was permitted to go through this House.
Mr. Bennett: About 1933. We were assured time and again—I can get the quotations and send them to the Deputy—that if the Government was driven to acquire land belonging to purchased holders they would get full and adequate compensation. That is not being given. Are agriculturists to be treated differently from other members of the community? What is this going to lead to? It means that holders of land will have no inducement to improve it, or to expend capital on property which, after a short time might be forcibly taken from them, at a tithe or a half of its value. There are other avenues open to the Government if they want to pursue this course. Why not go into the open market, if they are prepared to give full market value for land? There are in every county numerous farms and agricultural holdings for sale, the property of tenant purchasers. No wrong will be done to anyone if the Land Commission pays the full market value for such land. The owners are willing to sell and there is full consent to buy, so that there will be no agitation. All that need be done is to pay the market value. The  Minister's answer will probably be that that would be too costly a procedure to engage in, as they would have to pay too much. If that is so, is it not a clear admission that there is confiscation at present? There is the rub. The Government is attempting to carry out this policy in a manner that they would not attempt to pursue in connection with other problems. They are attempting to give these farms to people at very little cost to the State, while in fact other forms of relief, not offering the same benefit to the community, are largely financed at the expense of the State. The policy of the Land Commission appears to be this: We will resume the farm of any tenant we like at any price we like, and the price we like will be the price at which we can let it to the incoming tenant. That is a refutation of what we were led to expect when the original Act was passed. If I remember aright at that time Deputy Haslett asked the Minister if the price that the Government would give, when acquiring a purchased holding, would be the full market price, or the price that the Land Commission could pay, so that it could be given to the allottees at a fair price. The Minister replied:
If there is going to be any reality in debates in this House, if there is going to be any confidence amongst Deputies on either side, in statements made by Ministers, there should be some attempt to fulfil them. As far as the Land Commission is concerned, every promise made by every Minister in regard to the resumption of tenant holdings has been broken. We were assured, first of all, that Fianna Fáil were as anxious as we were to preserve the rights of the people on their lands. They apparently are not, because in every county, almost in every district, tenant farmers are receiving notices that their lands are going to be inspected with a view to acquisition. We were assured  that if perchance the Government were forced—and they should not have been forced—to resume such lands, the price to be paid to the tenant would be the full market value. That promise was definitely broken, because in any of the cases where land has been resumed the price paid has not represented the full market value or anywhere near the market value. I think any Deputy who has any knowledge of the subject will bear me out in that statement.
There is a danger in this policy which is greater than may appear from the present debate. There is a danger to coming generations from this policy. There is a danger that the land question will never be finally settled in this country; that the division of land is going to proceed ad infinitum. If to-day the Land Commission is compelled to divide land in which people felt they were in secure possession, in which they felt they were secured by Acts of Parliament, and if this land is distributed to other men, these men to whom it will be distributed will be in the same position in years to come as their predecessors were. There will be further agitation, and there will be no surcease from agrarian troubles. I hope, however, that we shall get some declaration from the Minister before the debate concludes that this practice of resuming land from the tenant farmers will be discontinued, that there will not be a general extension of that policy. If, for any reason, some large holdings have perchance to be taken— by large holdings I mean holdings of about 200 acres—if, perchance, they have to resume any holdings, big or small, I want an assurance from the Minister that the promise given by other Ministers in this House, that the full market value will be paid, will be fulfilled.
Mr. Bennett: The Minister for Finance said it was a violation of the principles of justice. I could read further extracts from the Minister for Finance, but I do not want to delay the House too long. The Minister was more incensed at that particular policy than I could be. Deputy Donnelly may say that the Minister for Defence is not the Minister I should quote. I am quoting him because the Minister for Defence stood over there in that corner in charge of the Land Bill of 1933 which he shepherded through the House, and when we criticised the provisions of that Bill both he and the Minister for Agriculture made a similar statement. When we foresaw what is happening now, what any clear-thinking man might see, there was an explicit assurance given by the Minister that such a thing could not and would not happen, that the tenant farmer was as secure in Fianna Fáil hands as he could possibly be in ours, that he would not be interrupted in possession except in exceptional circumstances, and that if he were interrupted in possession, the full market value of the land would be paid. I want the Minister now in charge of the Land Commission to say that, as far as he is concerned, if mistakes have been made of this kind they will not occur in future. If there has been this tendency on the part of inspectors of the Land Commission—he may give the excuse, as Deputy Fitzgerald Kenney has stated, that it was done by bodies that are not under his control; that may possibly be the answer; it was given by the Parliamentary Secretary on another occasion. This is a matter that is entirely under the control of the Land Commission. These inspectors are officers of the Land Commission. The men who are going to tell the Minister whether a particular holding should or should not be divided are inspectors of the Land Commission, and their salaries are charged to this Vote. It is a matter on which a clear statement should, and I hope will, be made to the House.
There are one or two other matters in this Vote of a minor character to which I should like to refer. One has reference to the actual division of  lands. Although I have criticised the Minister for acquiring the land of tenant farmers in a manner that should not be pursued by him, I am as anxious as any other Deputy in this House that, where possible, deserving people should be settled on the land. I recognise, as any honest, fair-minded Deputy must, that that is one of the best forms of social advancement this State could pursue where it is possible. The Minister referred—I think he rather referred to it in pride—to the recent tendency to give smaller parcels of land to allottees. I deprecate that practice. I think it would be better to place ten people on holdings of land where they would have some hope of living successfully than to place 20 people on a similar area who could not possibly look forward to anything but poverty. I do not at all agree with the policy of giving a man a parcel of land so small that he can scarcely exist on it. That appears to be the tendency, because the Minister tells us that in two successive years, while the amount of land divided remained about the same, the number of allottees had increased out of all comparison, a sure proof that the tendency is to give smaller parcels of land to allottees. That is a policy with which I, for one, am not in agreement. I believe that, whatever we do, we ought to endeavour to give them as much land as will suffice for a bare existence.
Another matter to which I wish to refer is the provision of houses for allottees The criticism is made in various parts of the country that the houses which are being built, while a large amount of money is being spent on them, are not of as substantial a type as they should be. Adverse criticism has also been made in regard to the fencing of plots. On the Vote for the Department of Local Government and Public Health, I spoke of the tendency to erect inadequate fences around labourers' cottages. I have the same comment to make in regard to the fences erected between different holdings which are created. The upkeep of these fences will entail considerable expense on the unfortunate holders afterwards. When we are doing the thing at all, we should do it well.  When we are dividing a farm amongst eight or ten people, we ought to make the fences sufficiently substantial to prevent the possibility of these people quarrelling about them in a year or two. If what I suggest be not done then the fences that are being built by the Land Commission staff will be in need of repairs not in years but in months, with the result that you will have squabbles going on between adjoining land-holders as to the upkeep of the fences. The fences made ought to be of a durable character. I made the same suggestion when speaking on the Vote for the Department of Local Government as regard the fences around labourers' cottages. As I said then, narrow bank fences are of very little use. They will not last, and I suggest to the Minister, as I did to the Minister for Local Government, that when fences are being made around pieces of land they ought to be of a durable character. I hope that when the Minister is replying he will deal with the principal point I have raised on this Estimate, namely, the acquisition of land from purchased holders.
Mr. Donnelly: We have listened to what I can only describe as a grand speech from Deputy Bennett on the division of land. I congratulate him on that speech, because for years we have been listening to arguments from the Opposition to the effect that agriculture will not pay. Despite all that, we had Deputy Bennett to-night advocating the division of land. Opposition Deputies listening to him must, I am sure, have felt, in view of the attitude they have taken up in this House to the agricultural policy of the Government, that something has gone wrong. For years they have been telling us that land is good for nothing, and yet we had Deputy Bennett devoting a good part of his speech this evening to the question of advocating the division of land.
Mr. Donnelly: For the last three or four years we have been listening here to the Deputies opposite talking about the economic war. We have had speeches from Deputy McGovern to the effect that no kind of activity in connection with the land would or could pay, and yet we have had Deputy Bennett advocating the division of land.
Mr. Donnelly: Of course it will. Deputy Bennett's argument was that the division of land is the best thing that could be done for the people of the country. As regards this question of land division, I think I can claim to have given less annoyance and trouble to the Minister than any other member of the House. I do not write to him; I do not go to him. I do not annoy him at all in connection with it, but if I happen to meet him I say to him, “Divide the land,” and I find that that is being done.
Mr. Fitzgerald-Kenney: It is a reserved service and the Minister has no power in connection with it. I am afraid that Deputy Donnelly does not listen to what the Parliamentary Secretary states in the House.
Mr. Donnelly: As I have said, I am one of the Deputies who does not give the Minister any trouble or annoyance in connection with this question of land division, and the reason is that I am one of those who believe that the Land Commission is, perhaps, something that we could do very well without.
Mr. Donnelly: I hold that I am in order in relating this year's work to the work of the last 49 years. The Land Commission was set up to do a certain job in this country. I may or I may not be in order in speaking on this, but if I am in order I want to say that one of the best night's work that we could do in Dáil Eireann would be to put “the works”—to use an American phrase—on the Land Commission. Perhaps one of the best night's work that we could do would be if we said here to-night that those gentlemen who are impeding and obstructing the division of land would have to go.
An Leas-Cheann Comhairle: The Deputy must confine himself to the Estimate. He is now referring to the Land Commission which is a statutory body. It was set up by statute and would require an Act of the Oireachtas to remove it. He is drawing in the Land Commission in reference to what he calls obstruction in connection with land division. The Minister for Lands and the Parliamentary Secretary are alone responsible to this House for the policy of the Land Commission and they are the only people who can be criticised on this Estimate.
Mr. Donnelly: I hope to be able to relate what I have to say to this Vote in this way: I represent the constituency of Leix-Offaly. I have been working for a long time to get land divided in Luggacurran. If I cannot get that done then I hold that I am entitled to relate that on this Vote for the Land Commission. I am not going to make the Minister responsible for it, but what I do say is this, that this body—the Land Commission—has been primarily and wholly responsible for holding up land division in this country. That has been going on for quite a long time.
An Leas-Cheann Comhairle: I cannot allow the Deputy to proceed along that line. I have already told him that the Minister for Lands and the Parliamentary Secretary are alone responsible to this House for the policy of land distribution. Officials cannot be discussed. They merely administer. The Minister and the Parliamentary Secretary are responsible for the policy of land distribution.
Mr. Wall: Certain moneys are voted annually in this House for the upkeep of river embankments, and I think anyone who is acquainted with this problem will agree with me when I say that the amounts voted in the past have been totally inadequate. The embankment problem is a very serious one for all parties concerned. It has been troublesome and costly to the Land Commission, troublesome and costly to the owners, and I predict that it is going to be much more troublesome and much more costly in the future, for the reason that the lands protected by those embankments are used principally for the grazing of cattle, and since cattle values dropped below an economic point the owners of the land are not deriving any revenue from their holdings. As a consequence, they are not able to put sufficient money into the annual maintenance of those embankments. The embankments are deteriorating, and, if those lands are to be saved, I believe that the Land Commission will have to step in sooner or later, and I think the sooner the better; it is going to be a very costly matter if it is deferred too long.
I have been interested in this question for a long time, and I have  tried to induce the Land Commission to put the embankments maintenance on a more satisfactory footing. So far I have not been very successful. When breaches occur and steps are not immediately taken to repair them, vast sums of public money are being squandered. If an embankment breach is tackled within 24 hours, it may be repaired for perhaps the sum of £20, £30 or £40. If it is allowed to continue for three or four days the sum necessary to repair it may be £400 or £500. On a certain occasion last September it came to my knowledge that breaches had occurred on the River Suir and the River Bride in County Waterford. I immediately wired the Land Commission to send an inspector there to see what steps should be taken to have the breaches repaired. From previous experience I had a certain amount of doubt as to whether any action would be taken, and I came up to Dublin two or three days afterwards. In the meantime I had not even got an acknowledgment to the wire, and no steps had been taken when I got here. I do not think that is a business-like way of dealing with this problem. In the next place, I think there is not sufficient co-operation between the Land Commission and the land owners. I believe that, if the embankments are going to be properly kept, such co-operation is absolutely necessary. I would suggest to the Minister that this matter should now be investigated thoroughly, that a fund should be created for the maintenance of all river embankments, and that that fund should be administered by the Land Commission. In the earlier Land Acts no provision was made for this maintenance work. Trust funds were created under the subsequent Land Acts, but in most cases those funds are bound to be inadequate for their purpose. I believe that, if things are allowed to drift as they are drifting at the present time, those lands will be lost to the State altogether. They are valuable lands for their own purpose. They are not arable, and in existing circumstances some relief will have to be afforded by the Government. The only way in which that relief can be afforded is  by creating an adequate fund for the future.
There is just one other matter to which I should like to refer. I have been approached lately by a number of farmers who are unable to pay their Land Commission annuities and who wanted advice on the matter. I told them to write to the Land Commission. They said they had done so and had not got any acknowledgment.
Mr. Wall: I understood from recent statements made by Ministers here that if an annuitant was genuinely unable to pay, and made representations to the Land Commission, he would not be interfered with. One man came to me and told me he was genuinely unable to pay. I asked him would he declare that fact on oath. He said he was quite prepared to do so, but even that was not sufficient; the man's stock was seized. I want to know how exactly a man like that can satisfy the Department that he is not in a position to pay. I should be glad if the Minister would deal with that matter when he is replying. It is a very serious matter for those concerned, and I should like to know whether it is to be taken this way—that so long as a man has a four-footed beast on his holding he would be regarded as being in a position to pay the Land Commission annuities. A man may have several animals on his holding and still be quite genuinely unable to meet his Land Commission annuity. There may be other very pressing calls that he must answer, and I should like to know whether the Land Commission claim takes priority, and whether the Land Commission are going to insist, in those times of stress, that a man must make all the sacrifices possible and then be turned out on the road when he has done his best. I do not think that is fair.
Mr. Curran: We heard a good deal to-night about the division of land. One would imagine from the speech of Deputy Donnelly that the Opposition, as he terms it, is against the  division of land. I never heard that policy advocated from those benches, good, bad or indifferent. I have criticised the Land Commission in the past owing to the price which they were paying for land acquired, and I think the very fact of the decisions recently before the various courts has borne out the truth of my statements, because in cases where an appeal was made from the award of the commissioner it was increased considerably. If land has to be divided, and I am not saying that it has not, I think it is the duty of the State to pay a reasonable price to the people from whom it is acquired. They are not all wealthy people from whom land is being acquired. I hold that a price of £5 to £7 an acre is not a fair price for the Land Commission to pay for certain lands they acquire. If land is to be acquired, I think it ought to be bought on a reasonable basis. I do not approve of saddling the incoming tenant with a big rent, because he is unable to pay, and the Land Commission might just as well make up their minds at the outset that he must get it at an economic rent, and that the gap between the two will have to be met out of the Central Fund. Give a man a chance of making good. That is my policy briefly in connection with land division.
Reference has been made to fences and matters of that sort upon which I will not comment, but, like my colleague, Deputy Wall, I want to emphasise this point about embankments. I live within a few miles of hundreds of acres of land which are flooded at the moment. There is an absolute river flowing into these acres and I do not know when they will be of any use again. I do not even know what is the law in the matter, but it is one which should be considered by the Land Commission. If the tenant holders at present made a mistake in the past in accepting responsibility for the upkeep of these embankments, it has now come to the time when that error should be rectified. We have a home Government, and it ought to be their duty to  remedy that state of affairs, because the longer these things are left unattended to, the worse the situation becomes in connection with the upkeep of these embankments. As I say, I can see hundreds of acres flooded within a few miles of my own place, and when that land will be of any use again, I do not know.
Mr. Curran: I might talk about that later on. I have made a plea for those whom Deputy Donnelly is now taking under his wing, those people whom he is so glad to put into land, that they should get a fair chance to make good. If the State has to find the money, it must find it. There is no use putting a man into a holding and saddling him with something he cannot meet. The one thing I object to in connection with land division is the creation of uneconomic holdings—small holdings of seven and eight acres. I do not see how a man can live on that. I know that in my district the smaller farmers are really not farmers in the strict sense of the word. They do a good deal of work on the roads, and, according to their statements to me, they derive a greater income from that than they do from the land. That is what I find in connection with small holders, and I think it is a bad business to be creating more uneconomic holdings than we have at present. I can see places in which it would be an acquisition to a district to acquire land, and I think that our Party does not stand for the non-division of land and never did.
Mr. Curran: I listened to the Minister in his opening statement talking about the increased activities of the Land Commission, and the thought struck me: was he referring to its activities in connection with the collection of annuities and the sending round of the flying squad to the farmers in order to collect land annuities? It is just as well to face up to the fact that a very serious situation exists at present among the farming community.  I do not suppose that every farmer is as badly off.
Mr. Curran: I remember a case a very short time ago where the bailiffs came to a small farmer, a neighbour of mine. They gave him until 12 o'clock to find the money, and he went around the country to two or three people before he could get them to buy the few cattle he had. On that occasion he was able to pay something in respect of his land annuities; but if that policy is persisted in, and if it is the policy of the Land Commission to take the last beast off a farmer's land, what then?
Mr. Curran: I should like them to be able to keep what they have. It is not a joking matter from the point of view of the people for whom I speak. I know the present situation, and it seems to me that there is no mercy given in connection with the payment of rates and annuities. It seems that the rate collector must get his money and the Land Commission must get theirs. I say that it is not there for both at the present time. Does the Minister stand for squeezing the last bob out of the farmer and leaving his place derelict? What is to become of the farmer then?
Mr. Curran: Deputy Donnelly is in a very joyous mood this evening. I am glad to see it, but the question of the division of land has no relation whatever  to the annuities which the Land Commission have been collecting from the farmers. It is a different matter. I explained my views in connection with the division of land, and I have now spoken about the hardship which the Land Commission are imposing on farmers up and down the country in the matter of land annuities. I say that it is a serious problem, and, like Deputy Wall, I suggest that it would be well if we knew where we and the people stand in this respect. It is well known, and Deputy Donnelly and every other Deputy here must know that there are many farmers in the country unable to meet the demands being made on them at present. One would imagine from the activities of the Land Commission and the rate collectors that the farmers had no demands to meet, except the rates and land annuities. There are plenty other things in connection with the farmer's household, whether he is a big or small farmer, which have to be met besides rates and annuities, and I say that, in present circumstances, it is absolutely unfair for the Land Commission to be pressing so hard for land annuities.
There is just one word more I should like to say in connection with land division. I know good land which has been planted by the Land Commission, and I should like to know why. I think it a very strange thing that the Land Commission should use arable land for reafforestation. Probably some of the Land Commission officials will know the place I am referring to— Castlemorres.
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