Wednesday, 6 May 1936
Dáil Éireann Debate
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, ss. 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 Industry and Commerce.)
Mr. R. Holohan: I should like to make a few remarks in connection with this Vote. The first matter I want to deal with concerns the taking over and inspection of farms, and the qualification of those who are placed on such land. What I cannot understand is why the Land Commission should try to resume the land of farmers who are not willing to sell their land considering the number of applications  that are made from time to time to the Land Commission to take over other farms from people who are willing to sell their holdings for division. One can see on the daily papers, and on the local papers in every county, a number of advertisements offering farms for sale from time to time. I always thought it a very strange thing that the Department would not make some effort to purchase farms that had been offered for sale in this way in the various counties, if they want land for division, instead of writing to farmers who do not want to sell their land, telling them that it is their intention to acquire their farms or portions of them for division.
There is more land for sale in the country than is required by the Land Commission. Why do they not go out in the open market and purchase the land at a price which would fairly represent the value of the land, a price which other people are prepared to give? To take over land at a price fixed by the Land Commission, even though the Land Commission may consider that a fair price if the land were put up for sale, I consider a grave injustice to the owner of the land. When I speak about purchasing land in the open market, and handing it over to allottees, I do not expect that those allottees would be able to pay off, in a number of years' rent, the money paid for the land. What I suggest is that the land should be purchased in the open market at these auctions, and that whatever the price paid by the Land Commission, at the same time they should give it at a fair price to the tenant, so that he will be able to pay the rent imposed upon him. If the tenant is asked to pay over a number of years the amount of money that will have to be paid for the land at a public auction, the rent which he would have to pay would be too high. It is hard to understand why the Land Commission do not make some attempt to purchase some of these farms which are freely offered for sale by their present owners instead of taking land from others who do not wish to sell  their land. The sending out of these notices to farmers to say that the Land Commission will acquire a farm or portion of a farm, is creating a good deal of dissatisfaction and insecurity amongst the people of the country. It is source of great annoyance to a farmer who is left under the impression that the Land Commission may take steps to acquire his farm or portion of it for division. There is, as I say, sufficient land for sale in the country without causing this inconvenience to farmers who do not wish to sell their land.
Another point arises in connection with the qualifications of people to whom it is proposed to give land. Speaking from experience of the division of land, I know that in the past holdings have been given to a number of people—holdings of 10, 15 or 20 acres—who had no means whatever and who, therefore, were not in a position to work that land. Land is of very little use to a man who has not some means or capital to work it. The only use he can make of it is to let it on the 11 months system for grazing, or for meadow land. I do not know what advantage is gained by taking land from one man who, it may be alleged by the Land Commission, is not making proper use of it, and handing it over to another man who has no capital to work it. In my opinion no application for land should be entertained from any man who has not the means of working that land. There are, I have no doubt, a number of people who would do well if they were given a little bit of land, but it is hard to think that any man can make a living for himself and his family on 15 or 20 acres of land. My experience is that there is a certain period in a man's life, when he will have the help of his family to do the necessary farm work, during which he will be able to make a living for himself and his family on such a holding, but there is another period during which his family is young and when they are practically useless to him. At such a period it is very hard for a man to make a living on 15 or 20 acres. From what I know of these people, I can say that if it were not  for the outside work which they get, such as contracts from the county council or carting on the roads now and again, they would not be able to live on the land at all. In my opinion the people who should be allotted portions of these farms are those already in possession of holdings of from 20 to 30 acres to whom an additional five or ten acres would be very useful. To create a number of small holdings, to my mind, is merely to build up a certain amount of poverty in this country, because no man can make a living on these holdings unless he gets outside work such as I have mentioned on the roads or from some contractor.
I know it may be said that there are people in counties such as Mayo who are able to make a living on farms of from 15 to 20 acres. However true that may be, I know of my own knowledge that it is not possible to make anything like a decent living on such farms in County Kilkenny. Of course, if a man lived near a large town or market for which he could grow vegetables and get the best price for them, there would be some chance of making a living on a small holding, but away in the country where a man is miles away from any decent market, the cost of getting anything that he might grow on the farm to the market would be so high that it would take away any profits he would have. I would suggest to the Minister that he should be very careful in the selection of tenants for those farms, because if a man is not in a position to work the land to the best advantage, or if he has not some capital, you are only putting a millstone around his neck and binding him down to something which he cannot bear by putting him on such a farm. A man would require at least sufficient capital to purchase farm implements and stock, and even then, on a holding of 15 or 20 acres, he will find it very hard to make a living. What then is to become of the man who is put in on a holding of 20 acres if he has no capital to work it? As I say, you are merely putting a millstone around his neck which will hinder him all his life. I am not opposed to the division of land in cases where I think it would be advisable.  As I have said before, there is plenty of land up for auction and the Land Commission could arrange to take over such land at a fair price. I do not stand at all for acquiring land at anything under the real value of it. I do not believe in taking over land at whatever price may be fixed to suit the convenience of the Land Commission. The price fixed should bear some relation to the market value.
I desire to call attention to the manner in which land was divided at Castlemorres, adjacent to the district in which I live. On that estate there were 40 or 50 acres of fairly good land. I shall not say that it was prime land, but it was fairly average land and these 40 or 50 acres have been planted. The people of the district were rather surprised that land of such good quality as that should be planted. I myself went to look at the place and I, too, was rather surprised that the Land Commission should plant land of that kind. I know farmers in the locality who would be willing to give plenty of land further back on the estate which was suitable for nothing but planting. These farmers would be very glad to get portion of the good land in exchange for the land which is more suitable for planting at the back of the estate. Why the Land Commission should have planted these 40 or 50 acres I do not know. I thought it a shame and a disgrace that it should be planted while there are so many people looking for arable land in various parts of the country.
I would also like to refer to the collection of the land annuities. For some time past we have had heated discussions here in connection with the land annuities, and the agitation that was going on in the country against the payment of the land annuities. Now, I think that the Minister and the members of the Executive Council should see for themselves what the position is at the moment. We have a number of farmers who, because of the pressure put on them in the last couple of years as regards meeting the payment of the land annuities and other charges, find themselves at the moment scarcely able to support themselves and their families. In spite of  that position we have the flying squads being sent out month after month to collect from these unfortunate people the money that is due to the Land Commission here. One would imagine, from the attitude that is taken up by the Land Commission in sending the flying squads through the country to collect that money, that we had not already paid the £3,000,000 to the British Government that we were paying in respect of the land annuities originally, and that, in addition, the British Government are collecting another £2,500,000 from us in special duties and tariffs. We have to pay that to them whether we like it or not. On top of these two sums we have to pay a further £2,000,000 that is demanded from us by our own Government. In my opinion, that is a great injustice to the unfortunate farmers of this country.
Mr. Holohan: I did not see it. I do not read the Irish Press. At any rate, the position is as I have stated it. I ask the Minister and his Department to go easy with their flying squads. What hope will there be for the unfortunate farmers of the country if the flying squads continue to go through the country and take from these men the few cattle that they have on their lands? If that is done where are these men going to get money in the future to pay land annuities or anything else next year or the year after? About a month ago, I made representations to the Land Commission on behalf of nine or ten farmers who have been visited by the flying squads. They came to me and asked if anything could be done for them, pointing out the position they would be placed in if the flying squads took the few cattle that they had on their lands. I got very little satisfaction from the Land Commission. I was told in the Department about what was the position in other counties as compared with the County Kilkenny. I do not know what the  position is in other counties, but I know that it could not be worse than what it is in the County Kilkenny. These men who came to me were in a very bad way. They are honest men who, heretofore, were always able to pay their way. I can also tell the Minister that they are not all supporters of the Deputies who sit on this side of the House. Some of them are supporters of the Government Party. That did not make any difference to me, because no matter what side a man is on I am always prepared to put his case before the Minister if he comes to me and asks me to do so.
I would again appeal to the Minister to go easy with the flying squads and to leave to the unfortunate farmers of the country the few cattle that they have. He should also pay attention to the manner in which the flying squads, when going through the country, treat the unfortunate farmers. As I have already indicated, we are called upon to pay the original sum of £3,000,000 to the British Government; another £2,500,000 to the British Government in tariffs and special duties, and a further £2,000,000 to our own Government. When we ask the Government to give us relief from these payments we get no satisfaction. That is the position that the farmers of the country are in at the moment.
General Mulcahy: There are just a few matters that I would like to deal with on this Estimate. A short time ago we were told, first of all in the Press by the Minister, and afterwards by the Parliamentary Secretary in reply to a Parliamentary question, that during the year 1933, 517 new holdings were created and that 15,085 acres of previously untenanted land were utilised for that purpose; that in the year 1934, 484 new holdings were provided out of 12,326 acres of untenanted land, and that in the year 1935 the number of new holdings has risen to 2,424, the number of acres of untenanted land utilised for the purpose being 55,260.
General Mulcahy: Somewhat more. I asked the Parliamentary Secretary  if he would tell us the cost to the State of providing these new holdings. He could not, and neither could he tell me how many people were put on these holdings. I must say that the statement of the Parliamentary Secretary on that subject was a revelation to me of the methods and of the whole attitude of the Land Commission. We are asked here to vote annually huge sums of money for the service of the Land Commission, and I think ever-increasing sums for the purchase of estates and their sub-division. It appears to me that all that the Land Commission are concerned with is the amount of money that they can get voted and the claims that they can lay to the purchase of estates. Any amount of money is wanted. They will take as much as they can get, and the whole sum of their activity is that they are able to placard through the country that the landlord is being wiped out. I submit that what we want is a presentation of the Land Commission's work that will show us what fabric of economic production they are producing in the country out of all their expenditure. As far as we are concerned here, there is no reference in the Dáil to estates when purchased. No estimate is submitted as to the economic possibility of the fabric that is being destroyed. Estates are bought up without any case being presented to us to show that the economy of these estates is worth having at all. All that we are told is that a number of smallholders have got additional land, and that a certain number of new holdings have been created without any presentation of a picture to the House that would indicate that the economic fabric that is being created is in any way better than the economic fabric that is being bought out.
We are, apparently, in the position that we are refused and cannot get any information as to what the cost is of creating new holdings and of putting new families on the untenanted land that is being bought up. Now, a very considerable amount of money is being spent in this way. We are spending a large amount of money on building houses as well as on the better housing of these families. But where new families are housed, there is a very considerable  check to see that only the people most in need of those houses, by reason of the fact that they have large families, are put in. The Parliamentary Secretary has not been able to tell us to what extent preference is given, in the creation of new holdings, to large families rather than to small families. I particularly want to ask the Minister to discuss how it is possible that new holdings were created to the extent of 2,424 last year. He cannot tell us what the land that provided those new holdings cost, what it cost to improve the land before handing it over, what it cost to build houses to house the families, and the nature of the families that have been put in them. It is again, as I say, a complete revelation as to the lop-sided way in which the Land Commission looks at its work. It is looking at it from the wrong end of the telescope entirely.
The Parliamentary Secretary did suggest in answer to a Parliamentary question that if it was desired by members of the House the records would be kept in a different way. I think it is absolutely essential that the records should be kept in a different way, and I think that the House is due some explanation as to why the records have not been kept in that particular way in the past. Apparently the recording system, as far as expenditure goes, deals with what it cost to buy the particular estate and carry out all the necessary improvements, and then the costing finishes there. We are not in a position to get any detailed information as to the cost of increasing existing holdings or the cost of creating new ones. I again want to press the Minister that it is an absurd position to be in, and it is a new and rather disturbing light on both Land Commission methods and Land Commission outlook.
Mr. Davin: Deputy Mulcahy can be excused, I am sure, for expressing the peculiar point of view which he has just stated, because he is fortunate enough to be a representative of a constituency where he gets no trouble from anybody in connection with the acquisition and division of land——
Mr. Davin: ——because everybody knows that there is no land available for division in the constituency which he represents in this House. Deputy Mulcahy does not appear to know or to have made a sufficient study of the situation to realise that the person who gets a holding from the Land Commission under existing circumstances is repaying most of the cost over a stated period.
Mr. Davin: If the person who gets the holding is satisfied—as far as I know the majority of them are satisfied, and a big number of people are jealous because they are not able to get the land at the cost—to take the land under existing conditions, I think Deputy Mulcahy who knows nothing about a landed constituency should keep very silent on matters of this kind.
Mr. Davin: It is quite obvious that the Deputy got up to make a statement without any careful preparation, or without asking for any information from his Back Bench Deputies, who are in a position to know more about this matter than he is. If he would have a private conversation with Deputy Roddy at the earliest opportunity he would be able to furnish him with some very valuable information on the matters which he has just mentioned, because of his experience in charge of the Land Commission over a long period during which Deputy Mulcahy was Minister. I never heard such silly questions from an intelligent Front Bench Deputy.
General Mulcahy: I never heard of such a silly attitude. We are to know the cost of houses but we are not to know the cost of new farms.  We are to know how many people go into the houses in Deputy Davin's constituency, but we are not to know how many people are put on the farms. That is a small point. The cost is important. The cost has to be paid.
Mr. Davin: Every citizen of this State who was associated with the fight for freedom, whether it was the fight made by the Irish Party or the fight made subsequently by Sinn Fein, associated himself with that fight because he wanted to get the right of government in this country, and the right of providing a greater number of holdings in this country for the people who were then being compelled to go out of it. When I was first honoured by being elected in 1922 as a representative for my native constituency, I made up my mind that there was one thing I would concentrate on, namely, trying to persuade the Government elected by the people of this country to realise the necessity and the urgency for the acquisition of large estates in this country, and their division amongst the most deserving uneconomic holders and landless men in the areas concerned. I say here to-day that every Deputy who came into this House for the purpose of backing any Government on a policy of that kind must feel fairly satisfied—I do at any rate—with the progress that has been made during the past year. I would ask critical Deputies like Deputy Mulcahy to compare the progress made during the past year or two with the progress which was made during any period that they themselves were in office. The Minister furnished the House with information to prove that a greater acreage of land was divided last year than in any previous year. That was made possible, I suppose, as a result of the passage of the 1933 Land Act.
He stated also that, were it not for the cumbersome procedure laid down for dealing with appeals, a large additional acreage would possibly have been provided. On that point I should like to ask the Minister when he is replying to give us some indication as to the number of appeals  that have been lodged under the 1933 Land Act in any particular year for which he has figures, compared with the number of appeals that were lodged at any particular period previous to the passing of the 1933 Act. I want to find out to what extent appeals are holding up the acquisition and division of land since the passing of the 1933 Act, as compared with any previous period which the Minister likes to quote under previous Acts. I am aware of a number of cases for instance where the Land Commission, under the previous régime, took steps to acquire large estates in my constituency, where appeals were lodged, where appeals were successful, and where the Government of that period were unable to proceed any further with the division of the lands concerned. I am aware of a number of the same cases where appeals have been lodged under the 1933 Act, and where the same lands have not yet been divided.
There were two questions on the Order Paper yesterday dealing with two of the cases mentioned, where proceedings for the acquisition of three estates in my constituency have been going on for eight or nine years, four or five years under the Cosgrave régime, and four years since this Ministry came into office. I am informed that the reason for the delay in dealing with those estates is the procedure which has been laid down for dealing with appeals. Appeals have been lodged, and I dare say the landlords have taken every step they possibly could to prevent the commissioners from acquiring and dividing those lands. I should like some information, if the Minister has it available, to show us to what extent the division of land has been held up for that reason. I should like also if the Minister would give the House and the country, and particularly Deputy Mulcahy, figures showing the average price paid for land by the Land Commission over any particular period of years, since this Government came into office, compared with any particular year which the Minister likes to quote during the period the Cosgrave Government was in office. If the Minister has information  on that matter at his finger-tips, Deputy Mulcahy will say much less in future on the question of prices than he said here to-day, and he did not say a terrible lot.
Mr. Davin: I am asking the Minister, who is the only person who has official information at his disposal, to give us some enlightenment on that point. If he looks up the records in regard to Leix-Offaly, he will be able to quote some very interesting cases for Deputy O'Higgins in that respect.
Mr. Davin: I could quote an estate, if it could be called an estate, in my constituency, where 250 acres of land, consisting mostly of bog and furze, was taken over by the Cosgrave Government for £6,053. The poor unfortunate people who were foolish enough to take it — and I advised some of them at the time not to touch it — are to-day unable, for obvious reasons, to pay even the reduced annuity. That estate, and Deputy O'Higgins knows it well, was bought in 1914 for £3,000 by the gentleman who was fortunate enough to get £6,053 for it from the Cosgrave Land Commission. I know what I am talking about. I raised the case in this House and the figures were given at the time by the then Minister for Lands and Agriculture. I should like to know if there is any case of that type which the Minister can give to Deputy Mulcahy, or any other inquisitive Deputies who want to know all the ins and outs of the finances and operations of the Land Act, 1933.
I, with my colleagues, am very pleased to note that an increased amount is being provided for the improvement of estates. It is well known by those who know anything about the division of estates that every penny provided for the purpose of improving lands—whether for the draining of land, the building of houses or the making of roads—is  going into useful circulation locally and giving very valuable employment. For that reason, we are delighted to see that an increased amount is being provided. I should like the Minister to make inquiries as to whether there are any large number of cases of improvement works being started and the work held up at a particular period and not continued until the following year. I have written to the Minister recently in regard to two such cases. In the case of one estate, improvement work was commenced two years ago and it is not yet finished. I am informed that, as a result of the failure to complete the road work, some of the tenants are prevented from getting into the bog which they use for turbary purposes. I would strongly urge the Minister to impress on the officials concerned, and particularly the chief county inspectors, that wherever improvement work is started in a particular year, it should, so far as possible, be finished the same year, and that the making of a road in a particular part of an estate should not be carried half way and then left to be finished in the following year. I think that should be avoided as far as possible.
I should like to urge on the Minister —I do not think it is necessary to do so very strongly—the necessity for acquiring as much land as possible which is available and suitable for afforestation purposes. Deputy O'Higgins and the other Deputies for my constituency can tell the Minister that there is a very large acreage of land available in Leix and Offaly which is, in my opinion, suitable for afforestation purposes. I have travelled a good portion of the Continent and one cannot fail to notice the improved appearance of any country where afforestation work is carried out on an efficient and scientific scale. I know this country fairly well, from north to south, and I know of no country where there is such a field available for that purpose, and where the money could be spent to such advantage, both from the point of view of improving the appearance of the countryside and  giving very valuable employment to the people who can be found employment on such work. I could not urge the Minister too strongly to proceed as expeditiously as he can to acquire all the available and suitable land in my constituency, and I hope that greater progress will be reported at the end of the present financial year than is reported now.
I should like to know whether the Minister has given any consideration to the problem of dealing with the bogland of this country, and whether he, or his colleagues in the Cabinet, have any intention of reclaiming millions of acres of bogland which are available for reclamation throughout the country. I have heard people who know a great deal more about the value of such land than I do state that it would be far better for the Land Commission, or whatever Government Department would undertake such work, to reclaim the bogland of this country and plant it with local uneconomic holders than to bring numbers of people from Kerry and plant them on the plains of Offaly, Leix or Meath. The Minister should tell us what would be the cost of reclaiming the boglands of the country and planting local uneconomic holders and landless men on them, as compared with the cost of bringing people from Kerry and the western areas to the midlands. I am informed that the cost of making the boglands productive and providing holdings on them for uneconomic holders would be much less than the cost of the present policy of bringing people from Kerry and planting them in Offaly and other counties.
Personally, I have strong objection to bringing any people from Kerry, or any such counties, into either of the counties in my constituency, so long as there are in my constituency suitable uneconomic holders and landless men who are able to work the land better than any people who come from Kerry. In the days of the Hogan administration, a number of people were brought from Kerry and planted on some of the best land in Offaly. They were supplied with loans from the Agricultural Credit Corporation and money was voted under the Improvement  Vote at the time to provide decent housing accommodation for them in the area into which they were brought. What has been the result? They came from a county where a different kind of farming was carried on. They could not teach the people of Offaly anything about the kind of farming carried on in Offaly and they were unable to learn anything to their own advantage about the kind of farming carried on there. These people turned out to be complete failures, and I do not want to see that kind of policy continued by the present Ministry. Before any people are brought in from outside, every effort should be made to provide local uneconomic holders and landless men with whatever land is available and, if any land is left, bring people in from some county who can learn something to their own advantage, but do not bring in people who cannot do any good for themselves and who might be far better off if they were left in their own counties. Deputy Roddy knows that, because he has some knowledge of what I am talking about.
I should also like to know to what extent the Land Commission has been taking steps to acquire and divide what are known as derelict farms. I am aware that the commissioner administering the affairs of the Leix County Council submitted, through the Local Government Department, to the Land Commission, some considerable time ago, a list of the derelict farms in the county. Nobody is being held responsible for rates or annuities on these farms, and the people of the county as a whole are obliged to carry the burden for the rates on the land as well as to make up the deficiency which arises as a result of the failure to pay the annuities. I should like to know from the Minister what steps, if any, have been taken to deal with that situation, and I should also like to know whether it is the general policy of the Land Commission to acquire farms of that type and divide them amongst uneconomic holders and landless men.
Mr. Davin: Very good, Sir. I bow to your ruling and will take another opportunity of mentioning the matter later on. However, I should like to hear from the Minister, who has been in charge of the matter for some time, and who has got, by the goodwill of the House, a considerably increased staff for the purpose of carrying on the work, whether he, personally, is satisfied that the staff at present at his disposal is being used to the best possible advantage. I state here quite candidly and without the slightest prejudice that, from my 14 years' experience as a Deputy in this House, the Land Commission is the most dis organised Department of any of the Departments of State. There are too many so-called self-contained departments in this Land Commission. I have never made it a practice, since I came in as a Deputy to this House, to chase Ministers around with grievances or requests in connection with the Land Commission or any other Department of State. Since I became a Deputy of this House, I have always taken the course of submitting anything I had to submit, in the first case, by correspondence, and I think that anybody who has had experience—14 years' experience, at any rate, under two Governments—in dealing with the Land Commission, must confess that in most cases all one gets by way of reply is a polite acknowledgment of one's letter, and that one has to wait for a year or even two or three years before one gets anything in the nature  of a satisfactory reply. Often I have had to put down a Parliamentary Question.
Mr. Davin: Well, I will not say that, but I have had 13 years' experience of clerical work and, apart from my own experience as a clerical worker in a limited sphere, I have been appointed, on more than one occasion, on Commissions whose object was to deal with the organisation of certain industrial concerns. There is no industrial or commercial concern in this country that would tolerate work being done in the way it is being done by the Land Commission. That is not meant personally either to the Minister or to his officials.
Mr. Davin: I am asking the Minister, who has had experience in commercial life in this country, whether he is satisfied that the staff at his disposal is being used to the best possible advantage. I suggest that the number of departments in the Land Commission could be reduced to the advantage, possibly, of the working of the Land Commission, and I am making the suggestion that it should be possible either for the Minister, through the agency of a departmental commission, or for the Government, if they accept anything of what I say, to set up something like a staff commission which would inquire into the organisation of the Land Commission and report to the Minister, or the Ministry, as to whether any improvement could be effected in the existing organisation. The existing organisation is very little different, as far as I know, from the organisation that was handed over by the British to the Cosgrave Government in 1922. The organisation taken over in 1922 was an organisation that existed for the purpose of proving, in some kind of plausible way, that there  was a body placed here in Ireland by the British for the purpose of dealing with the land problem. If the Minister is satisfied that there is no way of improving the present situation, and if he cannot take any steps which will enable the Land Commission to give satisfactory replies to Deputies, much less to ordinary citizens of this State, within a reasonable time, then I must say that it was entirely useless for me to raise this matter. In any case, however, I am raising this matter as a Deputy of this House, because I expect, as I am sure every other Deputy of this House who wishes to do his duty to his constituents expects, a reply from the Land Commission, or any other Department of State, within a reasonable time. If the Minister would take steps to have that done, I would thank him for doing so, because it is something that has not been done up to the present, and I am speaking as a Deputy with 14 years' experience of this House, and the House will be able to inform the Minister that I have sent as many letters to that Department as has any other Deputy in my constituency— although I cannot say much for other constituencies. However, I am sure that Deputy Belton will bear me out.
Mr. Roddy: Deputy Davin made a characteristic speech. He blew hot and cold. He began by throwing bouquets at the Minister, and finished by making the strongest possible case against the Minister's policy of migration.
Mr. Roddy: Deputy Mulcahy asked what is the cost per head of placing the 8,000 odd tenants that the Minister claims he put on holdings in the past  year? That was a perfectly reasonable question. It is perfectly obvious that Deputy Davin did not understand the nature of Deputy Mulcahy's question, or else he would not have made the absurd onslaught that he made. I was not present when the Minister was speaking last night, and, accordingly, I have to rely entirely on the very meagre report of the Minister's speech in to-day's papers. However, even reading that report, meagre and all as it was, I was inclined to be impressed by the statement until I had an opportunity of examining the figures in the book of Estimates. The Minister is asking for a sum of £1,578,301 for the financial year 1936-37. It is an enormous amount of money, and the question which occurs to one's mind is this: Is the country getting value from such a huge expenditure of money? In order to get an answer to that, one must go back to the expenditure in previous years, especially to the expenditure in the years before the present Minister and his Party assumed responsibility for the government of this country. For the year 1931-32 the total estimate for the Land Commission was a sum of £578,901. In other words, the expenditure of the Land Commission to-day is, approximately, three times what it was in 1931-32; and, mark you, in that year of 1931-32 the Land Commission divided, approximately, 60,000 acres of land— including the land on the old Congested Districts Board's holdings—in addition to provisionally vesting 100,000 holdings in the tenant farmers of the State.
As regards the year with which the Minister dealt in his statement last night, we are told that approximately 103,000 acres of land were divided. The Minister cannot give the exact figures, and it certainly seems rather extraordinary that, two months after the end of the financial year, the Minister cannot give the exact figures of land distribution for that year. In the financial year 1931-32, for an expenditure of £578,901, approximately 60,000 acres were divided, plus the provisional vesting of 100,000 holdings in the tenant farmers. In the financial  year 1935-36, for an expenditure of £1,578,301, approximately 103,000 acres were divided. I do not know the number of holdings vested, but I think the Minister said 2,000. I leave it to the Dáil to decide which was the greater achievement. Is there any honest-minded Deputy who will not truthfully say that the achievement of 1931, at one-third of the cost compared with the financial year 1935-36, was the greater achievement?
I notice that in the very first sub-head there is an increase of £16,181 in wages, salaries, etc. It is perfectly true that you can double, treble, or quadruple the activities of the Land Commission if you go on indefinitely increasing the staff and expenditure; but if you indefinitely increase the staff, will you be able to get an output from that staff commensurate with the expenditure and will the country get value for the money spent? I am not sure if at the present moment the Land Commission is not overstaffed and whether it is not beyond the capacity of the administrative section to control the huge staff and ensure to the people of the country that they are getting an adequate return from the individual members of that staff.
Under the heading of Improvement of Estate there is an increased expenditure of £76,500. I certainly agree that money spent on the improvement of estates is undoubtedly money well spent, but again there can be such a thing as over-expenditure on the improvement of estates. I would like the Minister to be certain that the Land Commission and the people of the country are getting value for this enormous expenditure. In 1931-32 there was a sum of £211,250 spent on the improvement of estates, and last year there was a sum of £606,500 spent—three times the amount of money, although only double the acreage was distributed. I agree that the Minister is spending more money on house-building, but it is conceivable that this class of work can go on at such a rate that it will not be possible for the local officials to control the work and ensure that the Department and the country are getting an  adequate return for the amount expended.
I am rather suspicious that the Land Commission is not getting full value for the money spent on the improvement of estates, and I submit that the Minister should look into the question of the supervision of the expenditure of this money, and see that it is tightened up in certain directions. If he will take the trouble to investigate the matter, I think he will satisfy himself that it is necessary to tighten up the expenditure of that money in certain directions.
Under another sub-head, in order to meet a deficiency of income from untenanted land there is an increase of £10,000. That appears to be an abnormal increase. I cannot understand why there should be such an enormous loss on the management of untenanted land taken over by the Land Commission. I know that under the Land Act of 1933 the Land Commission did take certain additional powers to enable them to take over the control of land before they were in a position to distribute it. It appears they must have taken over an enormous acreage when there is such a huge loss. Why was it necessary to take over so much land, and why has there been such a very big loss? The ordinary farmer incurred a loss in letting land during the last few years, because of the depreciation in the price of cattle, and surely it must have been apparent to the Land Commission that they could not let land more advantageously than the individual farmer? Why is it necessary to take over land before the schemes are actually ready for distribution? It was the policy of the Land Commission in my day not to take over the land until the scheme for distribution was ready, in order to prevent the possibility of loss in this direction. What is the justification for such a departure now? Were there special circumstances or considerations which weighed with the Land Commission to induce them to incur such a huge loss?
As I have already stated, Deputy Davin made the strongest possible case  that could be made against the migration policy of the Minister and his Commissioners. To a large extent I agree with the case Deputy Davin made. When you take a person from one county and place him in another county, you are conferring a doubtful benefit on that person, because the conditions of farming, the quality of the land, marketing prospects and the other conditions relating to the conduct of farming generally may vary considerably as between one county and another. It was my experience in the Land Commission that the majority of fairly large farmers who were migrated from western and southern counties to eastern counties in the main did not succeed, and I doubt if they are succeeding at present.
The Minister is engaged on the experiment of migrating a number of smallholders, native speakers, from the West, to colonies in Meath. One huge migration has already taken place, and the objects are, first of all, to provide these people with better land, larger holdings, and enable them to live under different and better conditions and, secondly, to establish Irish-speaking colonies in the eastern province. I understand that this migration scheme is still being subsidised. I would be interested to hear from the Minister what success has attended his efforts in the direction of migrating these poor tenants from the West to Meath. Is it the Minister's opinion that these people will be able to stand on their own feet after a short period, or will the Government have to continue subsidising them indefinitely? As to the Minister's second object, spreading the Irish language in the County Meath, it is my personal opinion that the Minister's optimism in that direction is not justified, although I am sorry to think so. I do feel that these people will, in the course of time, succumb to their environment and gradually adopt the customs and language of the people amongst whom they live.
In the discussion on the Supplementary Estimate recently I referred to the action of the Land Commission in serving notices on certain small holders down the country that it was  intended to send a Land Commission inspector to report on the suitability or otherwise of their holdings for acquisition. I got no guarantee from the Parliamentary Secretary at the time that such a practice would cease. Even yet, I understand that such notices are being served on a certain type of smallholders. I have a case now to bring before the Minister and it differs, in certain important respects, from the two cases I have already mentioned. There was a certain farm of land in my county which was offered for sale by auction two years ago. I know that it was put up for sale on at least three occasions and, possibly four or five occasions, and no offer was made for it. Subsequently, the farm was offered to the Land Commission and, as a matter of fact, I myself did my utmost to interest the Land Commission officials in the purchase of this farm. The owner wanted to leave the country to go to New Zealand where she had relatives and friends. The farm was left practically derelict for three or four years. At the end of that time a returned American, who had made some money, bought that farm. That was a short while ago. From the moment, I understand, he bought the farm shoals of letters from supporters of the present Government Party poured into the Land Commission, pointing out that it was the duty of the Land Commission to take over that farm for the purpose of having it distributed to the smallholders in the area. The result is that this man who has invested his money in it, and has tilled and improved it since he got it was called upon by an inspector a few days since for the purpose of reporting on the suitability of that farm for acquisition. Surely to goodness it is time that the Minister and the Land Commission should stop that sort of nonsense. After all if practices of this kind are continued no man, returned American or anybody else, would dream of investing money in land. Certainly no returned American would dream of investing his savings in land if such practices are allowed by the Land Commission to continue.
There is one other matter to which I wish to refer. I referred to it also in the course of the discussion on the  Supplementary Estimate. That is, the practice in which the Land Commission has recently engaged of giving additional portions of land to labourers living in labourers' cottages. I have not the slightest objection to labourers who are living in labourers' cottages getting additional land, but I do think that if they are to be given land at all they should be given an economic holding. After all I do not see how such men are going to succeed as a sort of half-farmer and half-agricultural labourer. It is not possible for them to live on the two or three or four acres of land which they get from the Land Commission. If the Land Commission has the desire to give them land, let them give them an economic holding. There are plenty of young people coming on after them to take their places as agricultural labourers. I think the policy of the socialisation of land is a bad practice in any country and it is a particularly bad practice in this country. I think it is a wholly mistaken policy. I would ask the Minister to look into it. I have known one instance where a man living in a labourer's cottage, a man who was really not a labourer but a tradesman though not a professional tradesman, has been given land. This man I know is earning quite a substantial income by doing carpentry work and masonry work in his neighbourhood. He is known as a sort of handy-man. That man, even against his will, was practically forced to take two or three acres extra where an estate was being divided. This was done in face of the fact that a stone's throw away there was a smallholder who could have made good use of these two or three acres of land which would enable him to maintain his family in a greater degree of comfort than on his existing small holding. I would like to get an answer to this and the various other questions I have asked. As I have stated, I am not at all satisfied that the country is getting value for this huge expenditure of money which in the course of five years has jumped from £500,000 to £1,600,000. I submit, Sir, that the country is not getting value for that money. I ask for an answer now to the various questions I have put to the Minister  in the course of my contribution to the discussion.
Mr. J. Flynn: Deputy Davin uttered a good deal of nonsense in the course of his speech. I use that word deliberately. He tried to show that the migratory schemes as carried on both by the last Government and the present Government were failures. The Deputy has attempted hopelessly to try to make a case to show that the people who have been transferred from Kerry to the midlands were not a success in their method of farming or in the general working of their holdings. Perhaps the one cause, and only the one cause, that would prevent them from being a success is that the land which they were given was purchased at too high a price. In fact the maximum price was paid for land at that period. Our present policy is quite contrary to that. The land that has been purchased under the present Administration is purchased, so far as I am aware, at a very reasonable price. The result, of course, is that when the incoming tenant has taken over possession he is able to work his holding economically. It has been shown on all occasions that where the land has been acquired at a reasonable price, the incoming tenants have been found to be an asset to the nation in the general working out of their little holdings in the counties where they have been given land.
Deputy Davin tried to make the point that the people who had been migrated from Kerry into the midlands were not accustomed to the type of farming which had been carried on in the midlands. I think and feel and I submit that the whole cause of the trouble is that people like Deputy Davin and others in the midland counties are simply jealous of the migrants from Kerry and Cork and the West of Ireland. I submit that these men who have eked out an existence on poor holdings on the mountainside, and thus proved their worth, are the really suitable people to get the land available for distribution in the midlands. It is a good policy on the part of the Government to bring these people from the congested and remote  areas and to give them the land which other people who have had it for centuries were unable to work or failed to work it.
Mr. Flynn: Yes, because they failed to work it. I submit that the small farmers' sons, who are intelligent and who have, through their industry, built up their little holdings and put by a little capital of their own, are the proper men to whom land should be given. There has been a lot of comment made about bringing in people from outside districts, but there is no question at all that the bringing of people from Kerry and giving them this land has been a success. Instead of Deputy Davin trying to make a case against the policy carried on by the last Government, I think a strong case can be made that that policy should be pursued and pursued extensively. I cannot see any case in which these people have been a failure, whether they are brought from Cork or Kerry or the West of Ireland. I dispute the statement that the migrants from Kerry have been a failure, or indeed the migrants from any other county. If there was any question at all of their not having done better, it was because of the fact that the land purchased at the period when they were migrated was purchased at too high a figure, and the annuities or rents fixed on the holdings had been too high. Under the present Government land has been purchased at the minimum price. The price has been so low that in the majority of cases the holders have appealed against it. As the Minister pointed out last night, that has been the cause of very much delay and has held up very beneficial work.
As far as we in Kerry are concerned, we realise that the Land Commission has become a live-wire department, as is proved by its present administration. The people have confidence now in the Land Commission which they had not before. Take the case of employment given by the Land Commission. Under the present system men are employed  through the local labour exchange. Only certain people, belonging to a small particular group in each district, were employed by the Land Commission when the late Government was in power. All that is changed, and as I say, the people now have confidence in the administration of the Land Commission. So far as I am concerned, I have got every assistance from the Department and its officials. So far as improvement works and land division are concerned, they are a credit to the Minister and to the Department.
There are one or two matters concerning certain areas in Kerry which are a constant source of trouble. There is the question, for instance, raised last evening by other Deputies of advances for the maintenance of embankments. Under the late Government improvements in that direction were carried out by way of annuity payments. I submit to the Minister that when land is adjacent to tidal rivers on the coast line and requires work to be done constantly, entailing an additional amount added on to the annuity payment, in time it will become unbearable, and will call for some change or adjustment in the system. As an alternative I suggest that, with the sanction of the Department of Finance, a special fund should be set aside by the Land Commission— you might call it a contingency fund— for such work as this in certain areas which require it, and when tenants cannot afford to pay this annuity for the repairs carried out the State should come to their assistance.
The other point is that in our county there is a shortage of inspectors. Very useful works were being carried out, but they have not been completed. I understand that some inspectors were transferred to other counties, and in order to complete these urgent schemes I suggest that one or two additional inspectors should be sent to that county. Generally speaking, as I said, we have reason to appreciate the efforts made by the Minister and the Department in regard to improvement works in the county,  but I hope that the points I have raised will be considered by the Minister.
Mr. Belton: After flinging some bouquets across the floor of the House, Deputy Davin found it necessary to fling some thistles. After giving examples of what happened, he asked if any business concern would be run in this manner. I wonder does anybody look at this from a business standpoint. The Land Commission have two main functions—we may forget the others—the collecting of annuities and the acquisition and distribution of land. There is a small collection of old tithes, a little purchase of existing annuities, and an odd application to divide a farm amongst the members of a family to be dealt with. I challenge the Minister or the Parliamentary Secretary to say that the Land Commission have any other function, and I think I know the Land Commission as well as either. What does the collection amount to? £2,000,000 per year. Would not any reputable firm of estate agents collect that easily at a cost of 2½ per cent., given the machinery that the Land Commission have? They would not have to send out anybody to collect it. Rate collectors are not paid 2½ per cent. on their warrants. We get warrants amounting to £30,000 collected in County Dublin for £400 per year.
Mr. Belton: I am talking of one collector's warrant. He gets £400 a year for collecting £30,000. This man has to go round and call on the people—the Land Commission have not to send out anybody. By a certain date the money must be paid to the Land Commission. Facilities for payment are provided through the banks. Originally it could only be paid through the Bank of Ireland, but now any bank will take it for transfer to the Bank of Ireland. If the money is not paid, a schedule of defaulters is sent to the sheriff and he does the rest, but the annuitant has to pay him. At 2½ per cent. the cost of collection would be £50,000 per  year and the total Vote we are asked for this year is £1,578,000. Therefore, practically £1,528,000 must be required for the acquisition and distribution of land. I did not hear the Minister's statement yesterday, but, according to “Truth in the News,” which cannot be wrong, the Minister said that the distribution of the purchase prices of estates vested in the Land Commission was proceeding at the rate of upwards of £2,500,000 per year.
Mr. Belton: We will talk about that later, with the permission of the Ceann Comhairle. Deputy Davin is not going to put me off my track. According to a statement given rather boastfully, this Ministerial Department puts through their hands every year land valued at £2,500,000. And the Land Commission requires from the taxpayers £1,528,000 to handle that £2,500,000 worth of land. I ask Deputy Davin to consider that from a business angle. These are the figures given, and I am sure the Minister is not wrong. Eight thousand holdings were allotted, so that each holding cost the State for administrative purposes £200. And on a distribution of 103,000 acres, the average is 12 acres, so for every 12 acres the cost of administration is £200.
Mr. Belton: I see the Minister is smiling. But the taxpayer who has to pay cannot smile. I would like if the Minister could controvert these figures. If he does he is controverting his own figures. Will he deny the value of the land held is round £2,500,000?
Mr. Belton: I want to emphasise the Minister's own statement that £2,500,000 worth of land passes through his hands; and he asks the taxpayers to pay him over £1,500,000 to do this work. The Minister also told us that the game is getting scarce. For a period he gave 400 acre farms. Now  they are down to 260 acres. Has he fixed any limit at which he will stop, or will the non-farmers in control of the Land Commission try and learn a little about farming?
It is strange that the Minister for Agriculture is absent during this important debate. I hold, and always held, that the two Departments should never have been separated, because the policy of one cuts right across the policy of the other. If the Minister destroys large farms, I wonder where the Minister for Agriculture is going to grow cereals. That is going into the preserves of another Ministry, but the reduction of large farmers down to crofters is a very serious outlook for this or any other country.
The old Congested Districts Board spent many years in endeavouring to plant people, who had been on what were termed uneconomic holdings, upon economic holdings. For the last two or three years I have been listening to Ministers here speaking on land estimates, but I have not yet heard a member of the Government Front Bench define what an economic holding is. I would like the Minister to note that, and, when he replies, to give the House a definition of what an economic agricultural holding is. Does he suggest that 12 acres is in any way an economic holding? What is the size of the holdings his Department is making? I think the Minister should give the House information that would indicate the poor law valuation of the parcels of land given to landless men. He should give the standard he is trying to arrive at by way of poor law valuation which in his opinion and in the opinion of his Department would make an economic holding. There are still in the Land Commission old officials, with long experience of the Congested Districts Board, and he should state the standard which in their opinion would mean an economic holding. I am afraid the policy of the Land Commission now is to set up more congests and to create a congest problem for a future day.
I asked the Minister a year ago for information which should be available to every Deputy, and available to the  public, in relation to the County Dublin. I asked whether the Land Commission had large estates which were to be divided between uneconomic holders and landless men. I was refused the information. I was told I would not get it. I would like to know from the Minister why? If any landless man in County Dublin, or elsewhere, wants to register himself as an applicant for land, he has to do it on a prescribed form. That prescribed form asks a question which must be answered, otherwise the application will not be entertained. The question is: “Where is the land you require situated?” How can a landless man in the country know where the Land Commission have land available if the Land Commission will not tell him? He has not got the information. A man wrote to the Land Commission asking where they have land for sub-division in County Dublin, and he got no answer. I put down a question here to that effect, and was refused an answer by the Parliamentary Secretary. We have men roaming round the country who would not know a plough from a harrow distributing land, and the way to get that information is to go and join a local Fianna Fáil club. What is the Land Commission buying land for? Is it to help landless men to make a home, or is it to enable Fianna Fáil agents to job in land? Will the Minister deny that land was sold to a prominent Fianna Fáil supporter who never lived on it and would not live on it? Will he deny that 70 acres at the Naul were sold for £200 and re-sold in a couple of weeks?
Mr. Belton: That is immaterial. That estate was acquired to help uneconomic holders and landless people around Naul. Why was it not given to them? A man living in the village of Naul had a little bit of land at some distance to graze a cow. He asked for a piece of this land and would not get it. Why? He was told he was a Blueshirt and that he would not get it. He offered the land he  had in exchange for a piece of this land, which was at the back of his house, but still he would not get it. That land was given to a land jobber. I hope the Minister will take a note of that. I am sure he will not attempt to contradict it; he knows better.
The Minister said that there was an improvement in the collection of land annuities. I wonder if the Minister has departed from the high moral code set years ago by the Sinn Féin movement in its struggle for freedom. Does he consider as just the harshness with which he collects these land annuities or, more strictly speaking, this land tax? The Minister ought also consider the business end of acquiring estates and sub-dividing them. Generally speaking, is the land in the hands of farmers to-day on a paying basis? Is the Agricultural Credit Corporation functioning as it was intended to function? That is, to some extent, a barometer of the conditions in agriculture.
Mr. Belton: I am not going to develop that. The conditions of agriculture have a very important relation to the methods of the Department's administration—that is to say, taking large farms and dividing them, at great expense to the State, so that, taking them all round, they cost the allottees more than ordinary farms are costing. If farmers who have a tradition in agriculture cannot make their farms pay, how is it to be hoped that people with small experience of agriculture, people who are given something for nothing—very often the worst thing that can happen a man— will make farming pay? These people are not required to have any qualifications for working the land. They are not required to have capital to work the land. No condition is even imposed that the allottee must remain on the land for a few years before he can dispose of it. No condition is imposed that he must work the land in a husbandlike manner. He can let it, as it is being let, to my knowledge, in County Dublin, on the eleven  months system. It is very important that agriculture should be on a paying basis before we experiment in taking land from people who know how to work that size of farm and that type of land and giving it to people who have no experience of the working of land.
I should like to know from the Minister if he has given consideration to suggestions I made last year which, I think, were favourably received by him. In the case of the agricultural classes being held by the agricultural committees, has the Minister specified some standard for an agricultural certificate? Has he considered any scheme by which he would give preference to holders of such agricultural certificates in the allotment of parcels of land? If this thing is going to be done, the State should have a guarantee that the expense it is being put to by this revolutionary action will have some result by having men put on the land who know their job and who are prepared to work the land. Is anything being done to ensure that people who get parcels of land know their job? Have they any experience? Have they any record of successful agricultural effort? What questions are asked, what qualifications are required and what amount of their own money is necessary? If a man wants to buy a house, the Government, through the county councils and corporations, will make him a loan towards the price of the house up to 90 per cent. of its market value. But he must have 10 per cent. Why? In order that he will be a fixture in the house, that he will look after it, that he will have some stake and interest in it and that he will not be merely a house jobber. There is no such requirement in the case of an allottee of land although it is far more necessary in his case. Anybody can live in a house but it is not everybody can work land. To make a living out of it, one must know something about it.
Mr. Belton: It all depends on the quality of the land. An acre in one  place is worth 50 acres in another place. That is one thing I wanted the Minister to define and he has sidetracked it. The more he delves into the question the more difficulty he has in defining what an economic holding is. It has a greater relation to the track of trade than to the size of the farm. You can have a crop 50 miles from Dublin which is worth nothing to you. If it were nearer, it might be worth more than the land on which it grows. That, of course, does not always happen. It is vitally important that division of land should be done in some scientific manner and that it should not be purely the reward of political services. I would be sorry to think that it is done for political services rendered. I must pay this tribute to the Minister and his Department: that I know many cases where that was not so in the last year or so. But it leaves a lot of room for suspicion with the Parliamentary Secretary when he refuses to tell a Deputy, in answer to a public question, where there is land in the possession of the Land Commission for sub-division. I could quite understand not giving every estate, because negotiations might be at such a delicate stage that it would not be correct to do so.
Mr. Connolly: I am not trying to divert the Deputy. Why should information be given to any one person more than another? If information is going to be given, should it not be given to the whole country? If it is going to be given about one estate, why not about all estates?
Mr. Belton: Does the Minister deny that forms are issued by the Land Commission, in which certain queries are asked, amongst others, this one: “Where is the land situate of which you want a parcel?” Is there such a form issued?
Mr. Belton: There is no need for the Minister to resent what is not there to resent. I am long enough in the world to know this—and I have had such a varied life—that I would not be so foolish as to make such a statement.
Mr. Belton: The Minister seemed to be putting me off the track and off the inquiry I was making. Does the Minister deny now that prescribed forms of application for parcels of land are not issued by the Land Commission?
Mr. Belton: Are they issued by the Land Commission? The Minister does not know whether they are or not. I handled them for a long time, and I know that they are issued. I knew that the Minister was on dangerous ground when he tried to deny that they were issued.
Mr. Belton: How did information get to Fianna Fáil clubs as to the exact position in which every estate is? I am speaking of County Dublin, where I have made some inquiries into this matter? How is it Fianna Fáil clubs had this information? There is jealousy even within the clubs as to who should have the information, because there is competition inside as well as collective competition outside. How do they know when certain land is being acquired and when it is to be divided? How can these forms, when completed, be in Fianna Fáil clubs? They can only be completed when information is available in these clubs that will not be given here by the Minister. I asked the Minister for information, arising out of administration of his office, about the division of land, of which there is so much boosting. After the analysis that this Vote is getting, perhaps people would have more information. The country will know that it costs £1,500,000 to administer property worth £2,500,000, or a loss of £1,500,000 in the handling of £2,500,000 worth of property. Notwithstanding that, the Minister will not give to the public that is taxed to provide this money the information that is in his possession, when negotiations have got beyond the stage that it need no longer be kept confidential for Departmental reasons. Even when  negotiations are beyond that stage the information will not be given to the people.
The Minister tried to controvert what I said by insinuating that I made a statement or suggested that information should be given to some individuals but not to others, or given about some estates and not about others. I made no such suggestion. I said that negotiations about some estates that the Land Commission were concerned with might not have reached a stage when it would be wise or right to give any information to the public. I was referring to estates that the Land Commission were thinking of acquiring and of which they had a preliminary survey, and that might or might not be acquired. In the case of estates that they had decided to acquire, then it was definite, and the land was ready for sub-division amongst landless people, and not only should that information be given to the public—not because they were members of any political clubs—but should be publicly advertised so that it would be known in the locality and amongst citizens and taxpayers who are subscribing their share of this £1,500,000. I hope the Minister is trying to convince the Parliamentary Secretary of the unwisdom of the answer he gave a few weeks ago. As it is seldom we have the opportunity of asking the Minister questions in this House, I should like to know why, when the Land Commission has acquired estates or when negotiations have reached the stage that it is certain they will be acquired, there should then be any objection to giving Deputies or citizens an affirmative answer to an inquiry as to whether or not estates in a particular locality have been acquired. What right has he to refuse the information? I made a certain deduction from it. I am sorry to have to make that deduction, but I could make no other than that that estate was kept secret in order that political adherents of the Government would get first preference. In justice to the Minister I must repeat what I said a while ago, that I know few cases where anybody could accuse the  Minister or his Department of political partisanship. What good reason is there for refusing to answer a question put in this House? I thought it was only a matter of form to put it. I first thought of going around to the Land Commission for the information. It was merely by accident I put the question here, rather than go around to the Land Commission, and I was amazed when I was refused the information here and told that I would not get an answer.
I have not seen any data on the question, but I should like to know from the Minister what relation the annuities on these allotments bear to their poor law valuations, and whether these annuities are higher in relation to the poor law valuation than annuities on farms purchased heretofore, not sub-divided untenanted land but ordinary tenanted land purchased through the previous Acts. Which is bearing the higher annuity? I want to draw the Minister's attention to this.
Mr. Belton: I should like the Minister to give us information on that point for it is very important. Deputy Davin drew the Minister's attention to the number of derelict holdings in Leix out of which no rates were being paid. Such holdings are everywhere. You cannot get rates out of them. We are short £80,000 in County Dublin. There are people with 100 acres of land in County Dublin who have to be assisted. If that is the agricultural situation, does the Minister look forward with confidence to the investment of public money that he is making in these new  farms he is creating? Is there any hope that they will pay, especially as many of these people have no knowledge of agriculture and no money of their own to put down? Is there any hope that they will succeed or that they have any incentive to make a supreme effort?
There is another side of the Minister's Department, the collection of land annuities. I was entertained to read a very jubilant article in the Irish Press to-day. It is strange how it coincided with this Estimate for the Land Commission. The Minister boasted that there is an improvement in the collection of land annuities. Surely it has come to a sorry pass in this country when men who have devoted their lives to the freedom of this country are going to be attacked in the country by an ex-journalist from the Morning Post. I wonder would that gentleman go back to his native Raheen, in County Limerick and say that, or would he look at the condition of the farmers around his native parish? After spending the best years of his life serving John Bull in the Primrose Press of London, he comes over here to preach public morality to the farmers of this country.
Mr. Belton: Perhaps not, but it is a strange coincidence that this should be dished out during the debate on the Vote for the Ministry of Lands. I wonder, in all the Minister's pronouncements about the collection of annuities, in all his statements about the conspiracy against the payment of annuities, did the immorality of the job he was engaged in ever strike him? He has had a business experience. What would he say if he were to order stuff from his wholesaler and if he had kept his account paid up, if the sheriff came with the same amount again and demanded payment? I wonder what he would think of people who would say that that was an honest merchant?  What would he think of a Government who had no authority, who had no law to enforce that payment, but made a law and handed it to the Minister in order to enforce that second payment?
Mr. Belton: The farmer purchasers of this country agreed to purchase their land from the landlord. The Land Commission lent the money to the purchaser to pay the landlord and the purchaser contracted to pay the annuity on foot of that loan. The Minister knows very well that all liability on foot of that loan is being discharged in another way.
Mr. Belton: Very well. I would like to have some information from the Minister as to the reason for the increase of £16,000 in salaries and wages. I would also like to know from him how the semi-Gaelic missionary colony in Meath is progressing. Where on earth was the idea conceived of bringing up people from a rocky part of the country, people who very probably never saw any implement of agriculture except an old spade or a laidhe made in a forge that could not be used anywhere except among rocks, and of planting them on the rich land of Meath, building houses for them, furnishing them and giving them a cow or two and some young stock, some hens and some out-offices and 30/- a week? I am not quoting from any document. I am repeating what I have heard from various sources, and I do not know whether it is all true or not.
I have also heard—I do not want to malign these people, and if what I am about to say is not true, I hope it will be contradicted—that it is one or two o'clock in the day when these people get up. I hope that is not true. I am not saying it to malign these people, but that has been whispered about them, and, if it is not true, it is time it was contradicted. I have also heard  another thing about them which I hope is not true, and it is that the one industry they have brought into the place is the making of poteen. If that is not true, I hope it also will be contradicted. I wonder what mind conceived the idea of giving people a farm of land, a house and stock and 30/- a week for 12 months. Have we all gone mad when we start doing a thing like that? I am quite sure that Deputy Kelly from Meath had many letters from landless men and smallholders in Meath in connection with this. Not many men in Meath or in Westmeath or Dublin men got that. Where does the Minister think that such a policy is going to lead to?
The curse of this country, and the curse of a lot of farmers in this country, is too much spoon-feeding. If you want to have a successful farmer, let the Minister, who knows very little about farming, get this truth into his head: that farming is a business, and that any man who approaches it from any other angle will never be anything but a failure at it, or, as one hears so often said throughout the country, he will always be pulling the devil by the tail. I suggest to the Government that' they should stop this spoon-feeding. If you are going to give a man a farm, have a good look at him, and find out from him what he is going to put into it. If it is only £5, let him have it. When you give him the farm, let him go ahead and have no more spoon-feeding. If he does not succeed after a fair trial, let him get out and let a better man get in. The idea of bringing up people who have been reared on a different kind of land, in a different environment— taking them away from the place where they have been rooted for generations —and giving them a farm of land, and a pension as well, is absurd. How long are they likely to remain? Just as long as the pension will last—until they can get a fair price for the land-and then they are away. I see in this Estimate that it is contemplated to extend this experiment. Well, perhaps that is the best thing that could happen. There are some people who cannot be corrected  until they get an overdose of their own foolishness. Perhaps the best way to correct this foolishness is by having an overdose of it, but in my opinion it will never bring any tangible results.
I do not entirely agree with what Deputy Davin said about the Kerry men who had been brought up to the Midlands. He said they were a failure. I know some of them who have been a distinct success. They were a success at farming before ever they came to the Midlands, and it was because they were a success that they were able to acquire large holdings in Kerry. They gave over those holdings for the relief of congestion in Kerry and came to the Midlands. I know some of those men very well. They were known for years at every fair in the Midlands, in the West, and in the Dublin cattle market. Some of them may not have been a success, but the majority of them, I know myself, were a marked success, and on the whole I think they have done even better than the local people.
Dr. O'Higgins: I would like, in the first place, to add my complaint to that of Deputy Belton in respect to the leakage of knowledge, in one direction only, with regard to the intentions of the Land Commission. I do not know whether it is through the political heads of the Department or from within the Department itself that the leakage occurred, but it is beyond yea or nay that the Fianna Fáil clubs in every county have advance knowledge with regard to the acquisition of estates. Their knowledge is so advanced that it does not even appear to be within the knowledge of the chiefs of the Land Commission. Time and again every one of us has got letters from parishes in our constituencies to the effect that a meeting of the Fianna Fáil club was held with regard to the proposed sub-division of such and such an estate, and we are asked if that estate is about to be sub-divided. In the course of our duties as Deputies, we write in the ordinary official way to the Secretary of the Department and ask if there is any truth in the rumour. Every one of us,  time and again, gets back the reply that it is not so, and that there is no knowledge in the Department to that effect.
I believe in the honour of the people dealing with those questions at the top, but in 12 or 18 months' time we find that the rumour was correct. Now, it may be attributable to a type of uncanny, intelligent anticipation peculiar to those with a Fianna Fáil mentality: it may be attributable to a number of very significant coincidences, but it is a fact that for the last two or three years the pivotal agents of Fianna Fáil in rural Ireland have very advanced knowledge with regard to the intentions of this Department. Now that is regrettable, and it is not either increasing the respect there should be for a great Government Department or the prestige of that Department. It is a game that may appear to be profitable, looked at from a very short point of view. In the long run it is both nationally and politically harmful. I will ask the Parliamentary Secretary and the Minister at least to accept this from me—that that has repeatedly come within my knowledge. Time and again I have gone down the country and I have said: “That is not so; put that out of your head,” and within 12 months I have found that the rumour was correct. I do not know where the fault lies, but a fault there is, and a type of fault that should be rectified.
During the course of this debate this evening, and arising out of Deputy Mulcahy's remarks, I think that every Deputy in this House with a sense of responsibility must have felt rather perturbed. It was stated here from this bench that Deputy Mulcahy put down a question to the Minister for Lands, asking him to give the cost of land acquired and allocated, and that the reply he got from the Parliamentary Secretary was that it would be difficult to give that information, or something to that effect. The Deputy's question was as follows:—
“If he will state in respect of each county and province in Saorstát Eireann the total amount of the charges paid or to be paid by the  State in connection with the creation and assigning of new holdings of untenanted land under the Land Acts 1923 to 1933, during the year 1934, specifying the main headings under which such charges were incurred, the total amount of the charge under each such heading, and the gross total of those charges.”
“I have made detailed inquiries into the system of recording the sanctions for improvement works carried out by the Land Commission on the division of untenanted land, and I find that it would be impracticable to supply the information which the Deputy desires without the expenditure of such time and labour as would be out of all proportion to the value of the information.”
In other words, when there was a question of accounting for the expenditure of £1,500,000 of the people's money, and when a statement was made to the effect “so many acres of land or so many holdings have been bought out of that money,” the Deputy asked: “How much did you pay for each of these holdings? What was the all-in cost of each of those holdings?” and the answer he got was that it was impossible to supply that information.
Sooner or later we have got to develop here a sense of the responsibility that is on our shoulders when we are spending other people's money. There is no one in this Assembly, from the Parliamentary Secretary to the top bench there or to the top bench here, who would buy a farm of land out of his own money, and would find it impossible to tell anybody next day how much he had paid for it. It should not happen that when you are buying land out of other people's money you do not know how much you are paying for it. It strikes me as definitely unbelieveable that at this day of this year we should have such a state of affairs in the country. We can all make allowances for the great number of charges that go to make up a thoroughly accurate costing. There are the overhead charges of officers, there are the administrative charges of  officers, there are the travelling expenses of officers of various types, there is the cost of the land itself, the cost of whatever type of house was constructed on it, as well as the cost of improvements, fencing, and all that, but certainly it is not either meeting this House in a fair or reasonable spirit or extending the courtesy that should be due from a Government member to a Dáil Deputy to reply in the form in which Deputy Mulcahy was replied to. Moreover, it is not playing the game by the people, poor and rich, who are asked out of their wealth or out of their poverty to supply £1,500,000 a year to a Department which, as far as we are concerned, does not know how much it is paying for any article is buys.
Perturbed as I was at that, I was more perturbed by the point of view expressed by Deputy Davin, which if it meant anything at all implied that there was something improper in a Deputy of this House seeking such information or being interested at all as to the cost to the public of any particular service; that it was particularly extraordinary for a city Deputy to be interested in such a matter; and that all that mattered was the division of the land. That is a rather extraordinary point of view for a Deputy who told us two or three minutes later that he had been 14 years in this House. I hope the rest of us will not be as bad after 14 years. I hope the rest of us will retain some sense of responsibility if ever we are here for 14 years, but if that is the fate of the old-timer, then the quicker most of us are knocked out the better. A city Deputy is supposed to be as cautious as a country Deputy with regard to the expenditure of £1,500,000 of the money of a poor country such as this. It does not matter whether there is land to be divided in his area or not; the people in his constituency have got to put up money to buy the land. It would be a better day for all of us if there were more concern, more close study, and more consideration given by the representatives of constituencies all over the country to the manner in which public funds are spent and  administered. I am as anxious as Deputy Davin to see land divided where land division is desirable. I am as anxious as he is to see landless men placed on the land, and to see uneconomic holdings made economic, but I would never be so anxious for that particular state of affairs as entirely to overlook the cost of the transaction.
It is not sufficient for anyone to say “all that matters is the dividing of the land, and we are not interested as to the overhead charges; we are not interested as to the cost of the transaction.” That is a reckless and irresponsible spirit, which should not be encouraged here. The way to discourage it, and the way to make us all more responsible and more aware of our responsibilities is for Ministers in charge of Departments to go to some pains, and their officials to devote some time to giving the information which is asked for by a Deputy, particularly when that information is in regard to the cost of an article paid for out of the finances of the country.
The other question dealt with by Deputy Mulcahy, and answered, I understand, in much the same style, was an inquiry as to the number of people placed in holdings, and the information was not forthcoming. What is the whole driving force in land division? What was the cry behind the desire for land division back through the ages? What was the background of the cry of planting the people on land? What was the idea? Was the whole mind of those people, past and present, that it did not matter whether there were one, ten or 1,000 people placed within holdings? Was it their outlook that the number of human beings placed on the land did not matter; that all that mattered was so many scratches and dots and lines on a Land Commission map: that the human element never entered into it? If that is the outlook of the Parliamentary Secretary, I take this opportunity of telling him that he is wrong. The idea in the mind of anybody who ever stood for land division, the breaking up of estates, and the placing of tenants in the broken up areas, was to  place the greatest number of people into economic land units, and it is certainly disappointing to me, and, I should imagine, to Deputies on both sides of the House, to know that we have reached a point at which there is no consideration given to whether a man is married or unmarried, or whether he has no dependents or has ten or 11 dependents; that that is an aspect of the situation that does not enter into consideration when land is to be allocated or when an estate is to be sub-divided.
That is the only interpretation that can be put on the reply received. If it is incorrect, if it is unfair, if it is unjust, the refusal to give the information asked for must be held responsible for the misinterpretation or the injustice. If it is a fact that the state of an applicant—married or single, whether he has dependents or not, and, if he has dependents, the number—is taken into consideration before an allocation is made, where is the difficulty in giving such figures and such information to the House? If there were 500 holdings allocated in such a year, and one of the factors taken into consideration in giving these holdings was the number of dependents, surely it is no huge task that would divert the Land Commission from its proper duties to ascertain what was, or what was not, the deciding factor in each of those allocations?
Deputy Holohan called attention to another matter which I consider to be of vital importance, at least in the midlands, and that is the type of people, or the position of the person, to whom land is given. I do think that, without some type of loan, some type of State aid, it is useless to give 10, 15, or 20 acres of land to an unfortunate labourer or labourer's son, without a “bob” in his pocket. The Parliamentary Secretary must agree with me in this, that whether a man is a good farmer, a bad farmer, or knows nothing about farming, by merely throwing a holding at him, without either money or credit, with no stock, no grain and no implements, you would be expecting a miracle if you expected that unfortunate man to make good. Take the position of that  man in contrast with the Gaelic colonists. Take the way one group is treated, and contrast them with any labourer's son who gets a holding in the same parish, without 1/-, without a bit of credit, without as much as a hen, but merely a house, the boundaries and so many acres of land. I hold that you are expecting an impossibility, if you expect that man to make good, and that the very minute you depart from the bare policy of making uneconomic holdings economic, and you launch out on a perfectly reasonable and sound policy of providing land for landless men, you must, in addition, consider some plan for launching those men as small farmers.
I believe the immediate cost would turn out, in the long run, a gain, and if the desire is really sincere to build up the greatest number of small economic holdings, where men will rear families in a degree of meagre comfort, you have got to start along sounder lines than the present lines. Very few Deputies like telling tales as to exactly what has happened, and what is happening, at all events, through the midlands, where big estates have been broken up, and where men have got their ten-acre holdings. They have not got 1/- in their pockets; they have no way of stocking their holdings; they have no money to purchase implements; and they have no credit. What do they do? It is within the knowledge of everyone of us that they let their land on the 11 months system, and you have as big a ranch in the end as you had in the beginning, except that there are banks and fences here and there through the ranch. Some people may say: “Why does he take it, if he is not going to work it?” When a man is poor enough he will take any chance, and there is always the gamble that prices may go up, or that the price of the letting may go up, that it may go up to such a height that if he lets it in two, three or four years, he will have enough in hand to launch himself, but building banks through ranches and putting boundary fences around outside does not end ranching, and it is not ending ranching.
I heard, in the course of this debate,  some reference by Deputy Davin, and also Deputy Flynn, to the prices paid for land to-day, and some three or four years ago. I heard Deputy Davin's reference to a particular farm, which he mentioned, in a particular constituency, and the implication was that there was an exorbitant price paid for that ranch, and that there was some particular hidden reason why an exorbitant or fancy price was paid to that individual. I protest against that kind of talk. We should be getting away from it. That is a charge of corruption against one of the big Departments of State. No fancy price of the type alleged by Deputy Davin, for a poor type of land mentioned by Deputy Davin, could be paid by the Land Commission, either now or five years ago, unless there was absolute corruption from top to bottom in that Department.
The personnel is the same now as then. No matter what side of the House we are on, we should be proud of the type of fibre that is to be found in the Civil Service. They may be well paid or badly paid, but we can all find consolation in the knowledge that, financially, the civil servants of this country have been continuously incorruptible; and the type of statement made over there, and its obvious implication, was unjust to that Department —to the political head and to the officers who constitute the Department. We can carry on our debates and our discussions without any of these kinds of suggestions. We can discuss the administrative policy, whether we approve or disapprove of it, without insinuating financial corruption either for personal or for political reasons.
In the course of his remarks, the Deputy then went on to contrast the prices paid for land, generally, some four or five years ago with the prices paid to-day, and Deputy Flynn's point was that the Land Commission was only paying half as much for land to-day as the Land Commission paid for land four or five years ago. That may be so. Deputy Flynn may have some peculiar information, which he got from the Parliamentary Secretary, which the Parliamentary Secretary  would not give to us; because after all, how could he have that knowledge in view of the answer that was given to Deputy Mulcahy? We do not know how much is being paid. Deputy Flynn apparently does. Deputy Davin apparently does. Where have those Deputies a secret source of knowledge that is denied to us? Assuming, however, that they are correct—assuming that there is only half as much paid for land to-day as was paid four years ago—do the Deputies think that that is a national gain or that that indicates national progress or increased prosperity? The capital value of any country is the added capital value of all the citizens of that country. We are living in a country where from 70 per cent. to 80 per cent. of the people are depending on land for a living. Farmers do not keep money in stocks and shares. Farmers rarely hoard money in a bank. The wealth of 80 per cent. of the people is in the land, and is there anything to crow about in the fact that you have succeeded in reducing the value of that land by one-half? Is there anything to crow about in the fact that you have reduced by one-half the capital value of the nation? It is a thing to be ashamed of. Circumstances may have brought it about. It may have been recklessness, or it may have been incompetence. Be it one or the other, no matter how it was brought about, it is a state of affairs of which every one of us should be thoroughly ashamed.
It may be argued by some that the result of that is that landless men get land at half the price at which they would have got it four years ago. Why should that be so? If you are so very anxious about the position of the landless men, and if you are still anxious for the progress and prosperity of the nation as a whole, why could you not, by a gesture, show your appreciation of both by footing half the bill that the landless men would have to foot, by keeping values up? I desire to protest against the deliberate policy of the Land Commission in forcing down land values. Immediately, it may appear to be financially wise, but in the long run it will prove to be a disastrous policy. A thing that, heretofore, was regarded as a sound asset  has disappeared as an asset and has become a liability, and it is mainly due to the policy of the Land Commission. Heretofore—four, or five, or even ten years ago—any farmer with a bit of a holding, and with no mortgage on that holding, felt that at any time, after ten minutes' work, he could raise from any banker X number of pounds from that holding. Where is the farmer who would get from any banker even a “tanner” on any amount of land at the present moment? What is the banker's answer if you go in to raise money on land at the present moment? He will say: “Is the place clear—is there any mortgage on it?”“No.”“Have you any debts?”“No.”“Are you the holder of this farm?”“Yes.” When you reach that point, it looks like plain sailing, but then the banker's next question is: “How long are you going to be the holder of the land?”“I do not know.” Then the banker says: “Well, I should be glad to help you, but business is business, and we cannot advance money to a man who is not secure in his holding.” That is what has played puck with the whole land position in this country. It has even interfered with the position of that newly-placed labourer in the land. If he were put, without a “bob”, into a ten-acre or 15-acre or 20-acre holding some years ago, he had, in his right, goods on which he could raise money sufficient to stock it, but the value has fallen out of land. The banks are glutted with it. The value was mainly reduced by the present policy of the present Government, and what should be an article of immense value to the country—to the credit of the country —has ceased to be an asset and, in many cases, has become a liability.
Now, there is one other point that has been touched on in the course of this debate, and we had, from even the same side of the House, very divergent views expressed upon it. It is one of the things in connection with which the Minister certainly has my sympathy. I am referring to this question, or this problem, of migration. I do not know if there is anything peculiar about the Kerrymen, but we had Deputy Davin appealing to the Minister to keep the Kerrymen out of  Laoighis, and he was followed by Deputy Flynn, who seemed to be overanxious to get the Kerrymen out of Kerry. I do not know where the rights of the question are, but I would say that any policy, such as the colonisation policy, or even the transplanting of men from too populous areas to less populous areas is a good policy. I believe that any experiment in that direction is entitled to get the support of everyone of us.
It may work out successfully; it may be a failure. None of us is a prophet, and at all events you can never argue with a prophet. It is one of those things that, if it turns out to be a success, then the success will be clear to the whole lot of us and you can proceed further along similar lines. If, on the other hand, it turns out to be a failure, I would urge you not to overcommit yourselves and then discover that it is a failure. Give a reasonable time test to the colonies already established and, above all, give a reasonable period after the grant has been stopped. If the colony turns out to be a success in two or three years after the money is stopped, then I think it is a policy to be proceeded with further; it is a sound policy and it is doing good national work. You will always be met with the opposition of a Deputy who, naturally, wants land in his own constituency for the people born and reared and resident in that constituency. I sympathise with Deputies whose particular constituencies are selected for colonisation; their trouble to-day may be my trouble to-morrow. But if, after a reasonable time test, the experiment proves itself successful, then my idea would be to go ahead, but not to rush too fast until you are satisfied that the experiment is proving itself successful.
Mr. J.P. Kelly: Various Deputies speaking this evening referred to a matter which interests me. It is the suggestion that Fianna Fáil clubs are in a position to secure advance information as to estates about to be acquired for distribution. I can assure the House that one of my great difficulties at all times has been that I have not been able to secure advance  information in regard to estates the Land Commission are about to acquire. Any information that Deputies on the Fianna Fáil Benches are able to supply to Fianna Fáil cumainn in the country is secured from the official information published by the Land Commission. That information is available to all Deputies, to Deputies on the Opposition Benches just as much as to Fianna Fáil Deputies. If we have any intelligent anticipation of what may be in the minds of the Land Commission it is secured from our knowledge of the working of the various Acts and the working of the inspectors under the rules laid down by the Land Commission. When an estate is inspected, the knowledge that it has been inspected becomes local property; people living in the neighbourhood know that the land has been inspected and, if we believe it is an estate that comes within the general rules laid down by the Land Commission for acquisition, then we can have that intelligent anticipation that has been spoken about. We are accused also of knowing the price that has been paid for land by the Land Commission. Here again we have the official publications, and we are able to get the price there without asking Departmentally for such information.
There is another matter which has been raised in the debate. When speaking a few moments ago, Deputy Belton slandered the residents of the new Meath Gaeltacht. He stated that he was told that some of them do not get up until 2 o'clock in the day to do their work and that they are making poteen. That is only his information. I would advise Deputy Belton that, before he comes into the House to slander anybody, he should go to the trouble of investigating for himself whether or not there is any foundation for the allegation. If he only took the trouble to go down to the Meath Gaeltacht and spend a week-end there or in the neighbourhood, and if he found out from the local people the conditions that exist there, he would not come here and make such a cowardly onslaught on those people from the West.
 On this question of migration, the House is aware that it is a matter of Government policy. It does not rest with the Minister at the moment to cease operating that policy. Already we have one Gaeltacht colony in Meath, and the Minister has signified his intention of establishing another Gaeltacht colony in Meath on a larger scale this year. When he was introducing the Vote yesterday evening he stated that the £750 provided to assist migrants from the Gaeltacht to the Midlands was being increased this year to £1,000 in view of the larger colony which was to be established in another district of Meath during the current year.
There are a few questions that I would like to have answered in connection with this question of migration. The Minister has promised that if we in Meath are able to prove that we have congestion in a particular area, he will consider the question of establishing a colony of Meath migrants in Meath. Deputies may accuse us in Meath of being selfish. They may say we have the rich, good lands, and that we are not satisfied to allow others to come in. That is not so. We accept the principle that Meath lands should be for Meath people, but we also recognise the fact that we have at least nine acres for every person living in Meath, and, if equitable distribution were carried out, we would have more than enough land for all who require it. But we have our good land and we have our bad land in Meath. I can state that we have land in North Meath as bad as could be found in any part of Ireland. We have rocky land, rushy land on hillsides, and water-logged land that cannot be drained. We have our bad land, and it is here on the bad land that we find our congests, not on the good land. In the years gone by the good lands were cleared to make room for the bullocks; the people were driven to the bad lands, and consequently we have them on these bad lands yet. We would like to hear from the Minister what he intends doing in respect of this matter, or if he thinks any progress can be made along these lines.
 Another matter that has been mentioned and to which I would like to refer is in regard to this question of migration. The statement has been made that more help has been given to the migrants, and it is rather a source of worry to my colleagues and myself that when local people have secured parcels of land they have not got the same amount of help as has been given to the migrants. I am prepared to admit that those people who were driven to Connaught under the Cromwellian edict received no subsidies when placed on the rocky coasts of the West. They have been living impoverished lives since. They were impoverished when taken out of the West. I suppose the Minister would not have taken them from the West if it were not that they had been impoverished. They were placed on the rich good lands of Meath, but they did not have the tradition for tilling those lands. We acknowledge that it will take a certain amount of time to enable those people to secure the same living on the Meath lands that a Meath man would be able to make out of the same lands. Meath men have a tradition of making a livelihood from the soil of Meath. We know that the Minister is merely levelling matters up so that in a short time those people from the Gaeltacht would be able to make a living equal to that of the Meath men. We are told that assistance is not given to the Meath men because the Land Commission will not give a holding of land to any man who has not already sufficient means to work that parcel of land to the satisfaction of the Land Commission. I am quite aware of that. The only plea I would make here would be that if the Minister intends setting up a colony of Meath migrants in Meath, some assistance should be forthcoming, similar to that given to the Gaeltacht colony, because these Meath migrants are coming from land equally bad. They are equally impoverished. When a Meath farmer gives up his holding in his own district he should be given the same assistance as a migrant from the Gaeltacht.
Another matter to which I wish to  refer is this question of providing local men with farms—satisfying all the local needs before the migrants come along and are given portions of land. The Minister has told us that all local eligible applicants will be provided for before the colonists are set up. I have been asked on various occasions if it would be possible to have the lands divided amongst the local people before the migrants are brought in. Personally, I believe that the Minister will stand up to his promise. Unfortunately down the country we have people living on promises made by successive Governments. Of course, when their fulfilment is delayed somewhat they look upon the whole matter with scepticism. That being so, I would ask the Minister, with a view to promoting harmonious relations between the local people and the Gaeltacht colony, to state exactly what he intends to do in this matter. It is in the mutual interests of the Gaeltacht people and the local people, not to mention the interests of the nation as a whole, to have harmonious relations promoted between all.
The distribution of land has been satisfactory in Meath during the past year. We in Meath have more land for division than any other county in Ireland. Any complaints that I make this evening are merely minor complaints. Distribution has taken place over a wide area on various estates and in different districts, but unfortunately owing to one cause or another—owing to the fact that obstacles have been placed in the path of the Commission in securing land, there are areas extending to nine or ten miles in length in which no land has been divided. I ask the Minister to see that the Land Commission will concentrate their energies in the coming year to secure some land for division in those areas.
The total amount spent on improvement works during the last year has been very large. Under this head there are a few matters to which I would like to draw attention. When farm buildings and out-offices are being erected I think it is desirable that such out-offices should be provided with some kind of small lofts to hold  corn. Under the new intensive agricultural policy which is now in operation in Meath, and especially on those farms recently divided, the incoming tenant finds it rather awkward that he has no storage accommodation in his out-offices which are without lofts. The provision of lofts on out-offices would be a matter of expense to the Land Commission, but I would ask the Minister to see if anything can be done about it. It is, of course, a great hardship on the tenant if he is without such storage accommodation or if he is forced to provide it himself, because the conservation of his capital is absolutely essential when he is taking over a new holding. I must acknowledge that the Department has not been niggardly in the erection of out-offices in general. Their action has been a great contrast to what was the rule in previous years in the matter of building out-offices. The amount of money expended upon the improvement of estates at present is a great inmprovement on past years.
Some Deputies have asserted that we might very well get on without the Land Commission. These men, of course, are experts at their work, and if they were not there already, I suppose the Government of the day would be compelled to get somebody else to do the work. The Land Commission do give effect to the law as it stands. Though delays do take place, this much I will say, that when their work is completed, and when they hand over a holding to a tenant, they give a clear title. That in itself is a great deal. If any change is to be effected, it is the law that needs to be changed. When impediments are removed, and judicial obstacles remedied, then perhaps the Land Commission will be able to proceed more quickly with the acquisition and distribution of land than they have been doing. I may state that over 90 per cent. of the estates divided in Meath during the past year have been successfully divided. They have given local satisfaction, and the various allegations made this evening do not apply at least to 99 per cent. of the estates divided in Meath.
 If, in an odd case here and there, a few people who are supposed to be entitled to land under the rules and regulations are left out of the distribution, I find that the Land Commission are anxious to reconsider their cases, if not for the particular estate concerned, then for some adjoining estate, after consideration of any new information placed at their disposal which they may not have had in the first instance. I do say that where an estate has been divided, the division has been along the lines of giving land to those best entitled to it, namely, workmen who have lost their employment on the divided estate, small uneconomic land holders adjoining the estate, cottage holders in the vicinity, and pre-Truce I.R.A. men who have some little means to work land.
I can safely say that the greatest grievance we have is the fact that land is not being divided as quickly as we would like. I do not want the Minister or the House to misunderstand me when I say that we would like to see all the land available divided in one year. We are, of course, anxious to have the land divided. It is a very healthy sign to see so many clamouring for land. If land was so useless, and was such an uneconomic proposition as to be a drug on the market, as we are told by Opposition Deputies, we would not have so many people clamouring for land. These are not people who have not worked land before, but people who know all about the working of land. They know what security land is. Even though Deputy O'Higgins may tell us that the banks are glutted with land, and they do not look upon it as any security, we find all these people looking for land. Of course, we know the banks are glutted with land, but that has not happened since the Fianna Fáil Government came in. They were glutted with land during the regime of the last Government.
I do know that the Land Commission has worked very hard so far as the County Meath is concerned, and that the staff has been working on overtime. The machine may not be big enough. The procedure necessarily  must be very slow because of the various legal obstacles to be overcome, which I hope the Minister in the very near future will be able to remove. I am very pleased to see that the Minister has provided for an increased staff this year. That being so, I suppose we may look forward to an acceleration of the speed, if that is possible. We at all times welcome the distribution of land, and I compliment the Minister on his work during the last year so far as County Meath is concerned.
Mr. Corish: I want to take the opportunity to refer again to the disgracefully low wage which is being paid to men employed from time to time in the erection of fences and the carrying out of drainage work on lands taken over by the Land Commission. The Minister will admit that the wage paid is anything but a living wage and that there is very little difference between it and a starvation wage. In my constituency, recently, work was being done on the Richfield estate, and the men were started at 26/- per week. They were permitted to work for a month at that wage and then it was reduced to 24/-. I brought the matter before the Parliamentary Secretary and he stated that a mistake had been made in the first instance and that the men should have been only paid 24/-. I suggest that the mistake was not made in the beginning but when the 2/- was taken off.
These men have a very precarious existence when working on these jobs. They are not paid during wet weather. On various occasions they go to work and when they arrive they are not permitted to start because it is raining. It is hard for them to make up their minds before they start whether they are going to be permitted to work or not. It all depends on the whim of the foreman or ganger who happens to be in control of the job. In addition, these men out of their miserable pittance of 24/- have to provide themselves with spades and shovels. Surely the Land Commission, which pays such a miserable wage as 24/- a week, should at least provide these unfortunate men with implements. I suggest to the Minister that he ought to  approach the Minister for Finance again with a view to having a better wage paid, and if a better wage is not going to be paid, that the least that should be done is that implements should be supplied to these men.
A lot has been said by various speakers about money being made available to people who have been given parcels of land under the redistribution scheme. I should like to support that point of view. When men are being placed on new holdings they should receive a certain amount of money to enable them to work the land. If that is not done I am afraid the cure will be worse than the disease and that we are going to have a great number of people left with land on their hands who will let the land to graziers in the future. I know of cases in my own constituency where appeals have been made to the Minister for certain moneys so that these people will be in a position to till their lands and turn them into good economic holdings.
There is one matter which has not been mentioned by anybody, as far as I know, to which I think the Minister will have to direct his attention in the near future, and that is the question of coast erosion. In a great many parts of the country coast erosion has been very great in recent years. On the south-east coast of my constituency hundreds of acres have been lost by coast erosion. Notwithstanding that these lands are no longer available for the people, they still have to pay the same annuity. I suggest to the Minister that it is most unfair that these men should still be called upon to pay the same amount of money in annuity as they were paying when there was a great deal more land there. I have written to the Minister within the last few weeks in connection with two or three different places in my constituency. He told me that the matter is under consideration, and I hope that consideration will mature promptly and that something will be done in the matter. I think everybody must admit that it is very unfair to ask people to pay for something that they have not got.
Apart altogether from coast erosion in view of the fact that drainage, to  a very great extent, has been neglected, a great deal of the land is under water and not available to people who have paid for it. I do not refer to small drains; I refer to drains that are returned as in the scheduled drainage area. These were neglected for many years, and I suggest that it is unfair to ask landowners, or county councils, in whose jurisdiction the areas are to pay money to have this land drained. There is a section in the Land Act of 1923 which, I think, gives the Minister power to take certain action before he takes over land affected by the drainage system. As far as I know, some lands were taken over without this section being put into operation by the Minister. I suggest if the Minister has taken over lands in regard to which this section applies, he should put the section into operation, so that people will get better land when purchasing from the Department.
I have nothing more to say, except that I would particularly direct the attention of the Minister to the question of coast erosion and to flooding in scheduled areas. I wish also to say that the wages paid to labourers taken over by the Land Commission are simply a disgrace. I suggest the least wages that should be paid are those paid by county councils working in those areas. That would be the decent thing for the Department to do. The work of those labourers is equivalent to that done by county council labourers. If that were done, although the wages are low enough in some of the counties, there would be more contentment.
Mr. Seán Brodrick: The matter of migration has been mentioned in this debate, and different opinions have been given with regard to the Gaeltacht tenants that have gone to Port Laoighise and Meath. I was rather surprised when Deputy Davin was referring to the Kerry migrants to hear him say that they would have been much better off if they had been left in Kerry. He said that there was more of the type of land there that suited them, and more of the life to which they were accustomed. As far as the tenants who have been sent up from  the Gaeltacht are concerned, I support the action of the Government in the matter. As Deputy O'Higgins has said, I would not like to see the Government commit themselves to a very great extent in that direction. It is worth the trial to give these tenants holdings. We all know the existence they had in the Galway Gaeltacht—I certainly know the existence these people had. I believe if these people had the same training in farming as some of the Meath and Leix farmers had, they could teach them their business. It was in training they were lacking. They did not get the land in the Gaeltacht, and they did not get the training. If they had got half the training of the people in these counties they would be able to teach them. They are industrious, hard-working people and they are very good workers. The fact that they are living in these counties may be of great advantage to the people there. I would like to see more contact made with these people so that they should not be left alone at Athboy. These people have made great sacrifices by coming up there, where farming and living are much different from what they are in the West and South of Ireland.
On the matter of land distribution, the first grievance I have is in regard to the kind of replies we get from the Land Commission. Deputies get applications from people for parcels of land and they pass these on to the Land Commission and ask that the local inspector should make investigation. The only reply we get is a mere acknowledgment, and of course the person in whose interest the application was made expects to hear something more about it. The reply simply says the application for land from, say, Tommy Murphy, is acknowledged. People come round and ask me if I have got any information or any reply from the Land Commission. I have sent many of these applications and asked for information as to what is being done, but I have got no reply from the Land Commission up to the present day. This is most unfair to Deputies and to the public. The Land Commission have a big staff, and they should give the information asked for.  I find, in going through the country, very often, that a Fianna Fáil Deputy who applied on behalf of another person maybe in the same district, or on the same estate, gets definite information. I think that is most unfair. Deputies from all sides are entitled to the same service. Documents referred to by Deputy Belton are circulated from Fianna Fáil clubs throughout the country. I have seen them in the hands of secretaries to Fianna Fáil clubs, being passed on to Fianna Fáil supporters, asking for the age of the applicant, what service he had got in the I.R.A. and so on. Circulars of this kind are coming from Fianna Fáil clubs to be sent on to the Land Commission.
I do not know whether the Land Commission is to blame, but these documents are printed and sent to the secretaries of Fianna Fáil clubs. I also believe there is much unfairness in regard to the work of local inspectors throughout the country. These are men of great experience, many of them have over 20 years' service and some of them much more. There is not a townland in the country but some of these men know. There is not an applicant for land but they know, and they know whether the applicants are industrious men and whether land would be of any use to them if they got it. These men make out schemes and good schemes which would be a credit if the right people were put on the land instead of every Tom, Dick and Harry. Some time ago a local inspector pointed out a piece of land to a man that he thought suitable, but on the 3rd of May, 1936, only a few days ago, that man received a letter that his application had been turned down although, apparently, up to that time the Land Commission were satisfied to give that man a parcel of land. He was a man with a small farm in the County of Galway. I could pass on that communication to the Secretary or to the Minister for Lands. It is not fair that there should be any such interference with inspectors down the country. These men know their jobs and they do their jobs. It is not right that every secretary of a Fianna Fáil club should be able to come up here and say so-and-so should not get land.  But that is what is happening through the country. There is no getting away from it.
There is an estate to which I called attention as far back as two years ago, namely, the Morrow Estate in Glenamaddy. There were seven tenants on this estate and they signed purchase agreements a number of years ago. There was a certain amount of turbary to be provided when they signed those agreements. At the time they were informed that the 25 acres of turbary would be divided amongst them. They would not have signed the purchase agreements if that promise had not been made to them. What is the position to-day? One man is holding up that question of the 25 acres of turbary. The other five tenants have used up the turbary they had. Because this man is a local Fianna Fáil prop, he cannot be disturbed. The last answer I got from the Parliamentary Secretary was that after two years they were not able to provide this man with a holding although he has 25 acres of turbary which should have been divided amongest the other tenants.
As regards the improvements of estates, I am pleased to see that the Estimate shows an increase. We are spending a great deal of money in the improvement of estates and one matter in this connection has troubled me for a number of years. When we are making roads into villages and into bogs, would it not be possible to have some agreement with the people whom these roads are to serve by which, in their own small way, or, perhaps, with some little help from the Land Commission, they would keep these roads in repair? At present, thousands of pounds are expended year after year on the same roads. I know roads which were repaired at great expense four or five years ago and on which the same work has to be done over again. It is a bad thing to have money spent every two or three years on the same road. The Land Commission should get some agreement signed by the people whom the roads are to serve by which they would keep the roads in repair. It would cost very little to do this and some help might be forthcoming from the Land Commission each year.
 I have a communication here about an estate which is being divided in Toghermore, Tuam. I think it is called the Burke Estate. There was a man there with 2½ acres of land, the rent of which was 10/6 and the valuation 15/-. That small holding was left to him some years ago by a friend. This property was divided quite recently. The letter I have here is dated 28/3/'36. This man had to leave that little holding—he has ten of a family—and go to work as a labourer in the town of Tuam. He would not get a perch of that property, because he and his family were not living on those 2½ acres, with a rent of 10/6 and a valuation of 15/-. A man from the same village got 37 acres on that estate although there were only himself and his wife to be considered. That is most unfair. This man was left this small holding by a relative, and he had to leave it to make a living for his family by working as a labourer in Tuam at 32/- or 35/- per week. That man is passed over and another man who has no family gets 37 acres in the same place.
I received another communication within the last five or six weeks concerning another Tuam estate, the Lewin Estate. A holding was reserved four years ago on this estate. For the past three years engineers have been going on this estate and promising to divide it amongst eight tenants. Some of them have only four acres fit for tillage. One man is grazing that reserved holding and he has never tilled the old holding. That holding has remained as it is at present for four years and inspectors have been calling on these eight tenants for the last three years.
Mr. Brodrick: If you give them the land they will make sports-fields out of it. In these small towns also there is very often a shortage of milk and this land would serve as a cow-park. It could be used by the older people for this purpose and it could be used by the younger people as a sports-field. If the land is given, the young people will make a sports-field out of it.
Mr. Brodrick: It would serve both purposes. As regards the reclamation of land, the Government have done a fair amount of work, but I have experience of cases where the valuation test has operated rather unfairly. One sees big stretches of land the valuation of which is over £25. A grant for reclamation is not obtainable in cases of over £25 valuation. I have seen two holdings, one adjoining the other, and both of the same quality of land. One had a greater acreage than the other. The holding with the smaller acreage was eligible for a grant, and the owner was able to clear his land of stones, brushwood and so forth and thus prepare it for ploughing. The other man, with a few acres more, was unable to get a grant. It should be left to the local agricultural inspector or the inspector of the Land Commission to decide whether such a grant should be made available. It is most unfair that a man should be deprived of the grant because his valuation differs to the extent of a couple of pounds from the valuation of his neighbour.
I notice in my county that inspectors have been calling on holders of tenanted lands with families of four or five. These lands have been dealt with under another régime, and the untenanted lands should be first dealt with. When they are dealt with, the tenanted lands could be dealt with, if necessary. I think it is wrong to take away lands which have been already dealt with and apportion them. I know instances in Galway in which people have got notices from the Land  Commission that their land is to be inspected for the purpose of acquisition. I have put down questions here within the past two months regarding cases in which this has been done, although untenanted lands lie alongside the lands concerned. These lands are practically ranches. There is not an acre of tillage in them. In fact, the owner of one of the properties has been in America for a number of years. That land has been left there although a poor man who has a family and whose land was dealt with some years ago has got notice from the Land Commission that they are about to inspect his land for the purpose of acquisition and division. That is most unfair. Instead of relieving congestion, you are really creating it.
The holdings you are making or the additions you are giving are too small. When you bring a man from a valuation of £6 up to a valuation of £8 or £9, on which he has to try to bring up a family, the problem remains, and you are not relieving congestion. In fact you are creating it. By increasing the valuation of such holdings from £6 to £8 or £9 you are only bringing down the standard of living, so that nobody is going to benefit. These people have lived long enough in holdings with small valuations of £3, £5 or £6, and they want to make a decent living now. They cannot do so on holdings with valuations of £9. When dealing with estates the lowest valuations should be £12, in order to give the people a decent standard of living. Otherwise, there is no use putting people on such land. I ask the Department to consider that point when dealing with the distribution of further estates.
Mr. Corry: The first matter I want to call attention to concerns the maintenance of embankments. About two months ago an embankment broke on a farm in my constituency, and a letter was written to the Land Commission asking if any money was available for repairing it. The tenant received no reply from the Land Commission since, and, in the meantime, close on 300 acres of land were flooded by the tide every day, as well as neighbours' land. Whoever is in charge of that  particular branch of the Land Commission should, I suggest, get an old age pension and be sent home. The following letter was sent out from the Land Commission on 24th August, 1934:—
“With reference to the Deed of Trust dated 17th May, 1917, relating to the maintenance of embankments, sluices, groynes, etc., on the above estate, I am desired by the Land Commission to inform you, as one of the trustees of the Trust Fund referred to therein, that they propose to erect a series of groynes along the foreshore adjoining portion of the lands of Pillmore and Clonard West for the protection of these lands from sea erosion, and that they also propose to issue a direction in virtue of their powers under the Deed that the Trust Fund shall bear the cost of the maintenance of the new groynes.”
From August, 1934, until May, 1936, no inspector or anyone else turned up to look over the groynes or the erosion. Whatever official is responsible for that condition of affairs in the Land Commission, I suggest, is not worthy even of an old age pension.
The Minister painted a very rosy picture of the division of land last night. I wonder how it is that practically every Department seems to have nothing but kicks for County Cork. I heard the complaints made by Deputy Brodrick and Deputy O'Higgins in connection with matters on which they say information has leaked out. I make no secret of the fact that the first job I did was to get a return of every holding being used as ranch land, containing 200 acres and over, in my constituency, and I furnished that to the Land Commission with a demand that such land be taken over and divided. I am going to see that that is done, because I find that a large proportion of the unpaid annuities and unpaid rates is on these ranches, and that the deficiency has to be paid by unfortunate small farmers, living on the mountain side, on holdings of 30 or 40 acres.
 These small farmers have to pay not only their own rates and annuities, and to rear families on small holdings, but they have to pay the unpaid rates and annuities on a bundle of ranches. It is about time that state of affairs ended. I suggest to the Minister that he need not be thinking about dividing the 200-acre farms that he spoke about, while there are ranches of 1,600 or 1,700 acres in the best districts in County Cork, in Cloyne, under the control of a man and a dog. That land is derelict and the rates and annuities are unpaid. We have had enough of kicks in Cork County and we will not put up with that position any longer! It is about time that the Department got down to work in Cork County by taking over these lands and dividing them. I make no apology to anyone for suggesting that these ranches should be taken over. I do not see why ordinary farmers in that county should be called upon to pay rates and annuities on ranches that are not worked. The owners will not work them, while all around them are small holdings, from 20 to 40 acres, worked by farmers with three or four sons, perhaps, from 35 to 40 years old. These small farmers served this country through the Tan racket and the civil war. They might have a share of these ranches and I will see that they get it. There are no bones about that, and I make no apology to any Deputy for saying it. I consider that the first claim on such land belongs to the pre-Truce I.R.A.
Deputy Roddy seems to be afraid that the Department is proceeding too fast. He referred to the manner in which land was divided in 1931-32 and compared the amount spent in that period with the present time. In 1931-32 50,000 acres were divided as against 103,000 acres during the present year. When the Deputy makes comparisons I wonder if he troubled to follow up what happened on the estates that were purchased by the Department when he was in charge in 1931-32, to find out what became of the tenants; how many of those who were idiotic enough to take land at the price at which it was bought by the Land  Commission at that time, and agreed to pay 15/- or £1 per acre while neighbours held land at 5/- an acre, are still there. The Deputy should have told us how these tenants got on, how many of them are on the land to-day, or inform us if it has not gone back into ranch land, because of the inability of the tenants to carry the financial load that was put on their shoulders. I will make a fair suggestion, that an examination should be made of the position on the Gubbins estate in Carrigtwohill in 1928, and that the Land Commission should ascertain what tenants are in possession of these holdings to-day. That is a fair comparison and if he is not completely satisfied with that he can go up to the Barrymore estate in Watergrass Hill, make the same examination there and see what became of the unfortunate tenants when land was taken over at ten times its actual value. That money was paid over to gentlemen like Barrymore and the Gubbins, who went off to Monte Carlo to spend it, while the unfortunate tenant had to try to pay off the amount in annuities. I am glad to see that that state of affairs has ended in this country and that now some consideration will be given to the man who is trying to get a livelihood on a holding of from 15 to 20 acres of land.
I should like to support Deputy Seán Brodrick in urging that the amount of land allotted to each tenant is entirely too small. I frankly admit that I have very little experience of land division in my constituency. The Land Commission seem to have forgotten that my constituency exists at all, except when they go round to collect annuities. They seem to have forgotten that there is any land for division there. In my constituency a holding of £15 valuation would only be about nine statute acres. I do not think any farmer in this House will say that nine statute acres would provide a livelihood for a man and his family. The land was valued under the Griffith valuation and an enormous value was put on it. If the basis of valuation is going to be the guide in the division of land, I think it would lead to a rather ridiculous situation.  Deputy Roddy's complaint was that we were going too quickly with the division of land. I would suggest that we are not going quickly enough, and that one of the guarantees that was given to the people by this Government—and I must say also by the previous Government—was that these ranches would be taken over and divided. While that is so, I can look at one parish alone in my constituency and see there a bunch of people—seven of them—in possession of 6,000 acres, out of which no employment is given. Very few of the seven tenants pay rates or annuities on the land, and the burden has to be borne by smallholders in the county. I think that is an intolerable state of affairs, a state of affairs that will have to come to an end. I say the Land Commission that is carrying out that policy should either be scrapped or straightened up, either of the two, and I am not troubled which of the two is done with it.
I am glad to see that there is a large increase in the amount provided for the improvement of estates. That, after all, will provide a decent amount of employment. I am at one with Deputy Corish in regard to the wages that are being paid on these schemes for the improvement of estates. When farmers in a district see that the maximum wage being paid by a Government Department is 24/- a week, it is a very poor incentive to them to pay any more. They can always say: “There is the big rich Government which is only paying 24/- a week.” I would seriously suggest to the Minister that the wages bill should be increased a little. I do not wish to delay the time of the House any further. I have brought these few points to the attention of the Minister, and I hope I shall not have to go to the trouble of raising them again here by way of question and answer.
Mr. Everett: I do not intend to take up much of the time of the House, but, like Deputy Corry, I think that the Land Commission must have forgotten that there is a place called County Wicklow when considering the division of estates. I do not, however, want the same system followed as was  adopted in a place called Hollybrook, where the magnificent wage of 24/- a week is paid to labourers employed and no unemployment cards are stamped. I heard Deputies here to-day complain of having received a postcard acknowledgment of certain representations made to the Land Commission. I sent a complaint to the Land Commission in regard to the small rate of wages paid to labourers engaged in the erection of fences down there, and up to the present I have not received even the postcard acknowledgment about which some Deputies are complaining. Of course this Government will go down in history as the Government that initiated a wage of 24/- per week.
Mr. Everett: We support them on certain principles, but we are more independent than the Deputy and his Party at certain times. They went into the Division Lobby with the Government against the Labour Party. We cannot forget that the Deputy was a member of the Government Party who reduced the pensions of the old-age pensioners. This Government deliberately sent their Deputies into the Division Lobby against the Labour Party's motion in regard to wages on these schemes, and although Deputy Corry may protest about the rate of wages paid by the Land Commission, I think if he will look up the records he will find that he went into the Division Lobby and voted for a wage of 24/- per week on minor relief schemes.
Mr. Everett: I am glad to hear that, but there was a majority against the Labour Party, and each individual member of Fianna Fáil must take the responsibility for the wage of 24/- per week which the Land Commission pays on minor relief schemes. When a Deputy approaches the Land Commission, the Land Commission ignores the Deputy. What treatment can we expect an unfortunate farmer or a taxpayer of the country to receive, when he communicates with the Land  Commission, when Deputies are treated with contempt and when even they will not receive a postcard saying that the matter is receiving attention? The sooner Deputy Davin's and Deputy Corry's suggestions are carried out the better. If there is not a sufficient staff to deal with correspondence, there are plenty of young men capable of performing the clerical work involved in replying to requests sent in by Deputies.
Deputy O'Higgins made some reference to Deputy Davin's remarks and referred to them as insinuations about jobbery and corruption. I was listening to Deputy Davin and neither Deputy Davin nor any member of the Labour Party ever made a charge, no matter what Government was in power, of corruption, political or otherwise, against any civil servant or officer of the Government. We are proud of the fact that civil servants are above corruption, no matter what Government is in power. Deputy Davin did say that a large price was given for a particular estate in his constituency and he contrasted that with prices given in certain other areas. It can be understood why Deputy O'Higgins misrepresented what he did say, but I say that Deputy Davin would be the last member to make any statements that could be construed as making a charge of corruption against any civil servant. I think that Deputy O'Higgins should not have misrepresented the remarks of Deputy Davin.
I have no knowledge as to whether Fianna Fáil clubs receive notice regarding estates which it is intended to divide in various districts for the reason that very few estates have been divided in my constituency although we have men in possession of 300 and 400 acres each in that area. There are cases even where there may be two names down for the same holding, the names of two brothers, one of whom may be a professional man in Dublin and the other man living on the holding. These men would have 500 or 600 acres between them. We have had the position that a large number of small uneconomic holders had to take land from some of these men on the  11 months system or in conacre. The men who have had to do that are trying to eke out an existence in that way, while the Land Commission have made no attempt to acquire some of the land in question for distribution in County Wicklow. We received a promise from the Minister last year that he would remember the County Wicklow. I hope he will do something now to fulfil it, and that the grievances we are suffering from there will be remedied. I hope, therefore, that some of this land in County Wicklow will soon be divided. I trust that we will also have some satisfactory explanation from the Parliamentary Secretary with regard to the scandalous wage that he is responsible for, and that he is paying, in the county. I hope that Deputy Corry at the Party meeting will try to influence some of his fellow-members to right that wrong, and get them to change their attitude with regard to a 24/- a week wage for the workers of the country.
Mr. B. Maguire: The Minister, in the course of his speech last night, dealing with the progress of the work undertaken by the Land Commission, undoubtedly disclosed a great advance as compared with previous years. In view of the fact that the work of the Department is increasing, it is natural to expect that the expense involved in doing that work should also show an increase. Deputy Roddy seemed to be perturbed about that this evening. He made a comparison between the expenditure in the last year that the Cumann na nGaedheal Government was in office and the present year, and said that it was proportionately higher this year. No doubt, the Minister when replying will give the details on that. If the expenses are working out higher now it is, of course, due to this, that more land is being divided, and that increased sums of money are being given to farmers who are getting allotments and new holdings, for the building of new houses, in some cases the improvement of old houses, the building of outoffices and the improvement of fences and drainage. All these things may account for some of the increase. However, I am sure the Minister will give full details.
 If one were to put oneself in the position of the Minister, having listened to some of the speeches made on this Estimate, one could understand how difficult it is to expect anything like a reasoned, considered policy or plan of action that would meet with the viewpoint of every Deputy. Last night Deputy Fitzgerald-Kenney was wroth about certain happenings in the Land Commission. The main burden of his complaint was in reference to the circular letters that go out from the Land Commission, a matter to which Deputy Brodrick also referred this evening. Deputy Fitzgerald-Kenney said that these circular letters perturbed farmers considerably, and that they have a very serious effect, in so far as they created a certain amount of instability, and tended to lessen the standing of the farmers who received them with bankers and other people. The Deputy was rather puzzled as to how the Land Commission get a hold of these people's names, and as to why they should ever have been notified of such an intention on the part of the Land Commission. The Deputy must know perfectly well that the Land Commission are most careful in the steps they take with regard to the proposed acquisition of land. They act with great precaution. In cases where they do assume the possession of land, not only is the individual land-holder paid the value of his land, according to the standard price fixed, but he is also paid compensation for removal. In any cases that have come to my knowledge the prices paid were quite satisfactory.
If the Deputy were in the House when Deputy Brodrick was speaking this evening, he would understand better some of the things that seemed unexplainable to him last night. For instance, it would have been explained to him how the Land Commission get the names of the people they send their circular letters to from time to time. Deputy Fitzgerald-Kenney seemed to be under the impression that the Land Commission get the names through some political organisations. I think Deputy Brodrick said that was the source from which the names came.  Deputy Brodrick made a direct charge to the Minister that he should take such steps as were necessary to recover and resume possession of a 25 acre farm from some fellow in his constituency, and explained how this man was holding up things there. If Deputy Fitzgerald-Kenney were present he would have got a good deal of information from Deputy Brodrick's speech.
Mr. Maguire: Deputy Fitzgerald-Kenney last night introduced what was another serious bone of contention with him—an estate down in Mayo which was divided amongst a number of people. There were four landless men expecting holdings there, and the Deputy said that the four landless men who got the land were four Fianna Fáil supporters. I do not know. I am not in a position to contradict that, if it occurred. If we assume that it did, I do not see any valid reason why four men who, assuming again that they were entitled to receive land and were capable of working it, should not receive it. I do not think that their membership of a Fianna Fáil cumann should be a decided objection to their getting land. That should not disqualify them. The insinuation in the Deputy's speech seemed to be rather sinister. It seemed to imply that political influences are being worked, and that this was an indication of the general policy of the Land Commission in dividing land. I am delighted to learn from the Opposition Benches that prejudice is being shown in favour of Fianna Fáil supporters,  because it proves complete impartiality in the attitude of the Land Commission officials. Why I say that is this: that the general complaint from the Fianna Fáil cumainn all over the country is that the Blueshirts are getting all the farms. I am delighted to have such speeches made from the Opposition benches, because they will go a long way to prove to members of Fianna Fáil cumainn in the country that they are not the only people who are being victimised in this matter.
Deputy Belton also had some complaints to make about the operations of the Land Commission. He asked the Minister if he had adopted any of the very valuable suggestions which he, Deputy Belton, had made last year when speaking on this Estimate. He had suggested, he said, that classes should be arranged in the vocational schools for the purpose of giving instruction in the management of farms generally, and that those who followed the courses successfully should be given certificates. He added that people, before getting possession of new holdings, should be required to prove that they were the holders of such certificates. The idea is splendid. I do not know whether the Minister has acted on it or not. There is no reason why an efficiency test should not be applied in the case of a person applying for a farm as well as in that of a man applying for some other position in the community. I think there is a lot to be said in favour of it, and so Deputy Belton apparently thought last year. His opinion did not change up to this year, because he asked that the Minister should adopt it. He also sounded a note of warning and said that care should be taken that in the present procedure of the Land Commission they did not destroy a better and more efficient organisation for land management than they were putting in its place. Again, that is quite true, and such care should be taken. But Deputy Belton further told us a story about people in County Dublin—it is, of course, the best county in the Free State, and the land there is the most valuable—owning 100 acres of land, who were in need of  assistance. I assume he meant that they were in need of home help, unemployment benefit, or some other benefit of that sort. I suggest to Deputy Belton, with all his splendid ideas about the efficiency of the men who get 10, 20 or 25 acres of land from the Land Commission, that a high standard of efficiency ought reasonably to be required from farmers holding 100 acres. He says they are in need of assistance. If that state of affairs exists—and we must assume that it does, since Deputy Belton has said so —then I am sure the Minister need now slow down his pace one hour in putting any kind of people at all into possession of land in the County Dublin, since farmers owning 100 acres in that area are in need of assistance. I am afraid Deputy Belton's contribution will not help the Minister very much.
He also made a complaint against the Minister's system of what he called subsidising migrants. He made a lot of wise statements in connection with them, but at any rate he did object to subsidising them. He said that if a farmer could not live by his own efforts and through his own knowledge and experience he should get off the land. I rather think that Deputy Belton himself is a man who is living on a fairly decent Government subsidy. I think a good deal of the protection given by the Government for the various tillage crops is taken advantage of by Deputy Belton, as well as, of course, by most farmers in the country. To-day, practically every farmer who produces anything from his farm has the advantage of some form of subsidy, because he is producing something that is subsidised by the State. I cannot, therefore, see the logic of Deputy Belton's statement. Migration is a very serious matter for this Government and, to my mind, ought not to be continued at its present pace. In regard to the matter of migrating people from congested areas I think that neither this Government nor the previous one has tackled the problem with the seriousness which it ought to have received.
Leakage of information from the Land Commission has been complained  of by Deputy O'Higgins and other Deputies. Deputy O'Higgins and other Deputies must understand that there is no information handed out from the Land Commission; neither is it needed. Any ordinary person in any district can anticipate that a certain farm in his district will be inspected by the Land Commission, and probably acquired by the Land Commission. He can see that the size of a certain farm in the area is over the average. He can see the type of people who run it. He can see whether or not it is the type of farm that the Land Commission would ordinarily acquire. To discover that does not require the uncanny mentality which Deputy O'Higgins assumed to be part of attributes of Fianna Fáil supporters who discover it. It does not require any leakage of information from the Land Commission. If Fianna Fáil supporters know those things before the supporters of Deputy O'Higgins, the only explanation I can offer is that of course the Fianna Fáil supporters are always very much more intelligent than his supporters, and accordingly there is nothing extraordinary about it.
Mr. Maguire: There have been some complaints made against the officials. Personally, I must say that I find the officials are kindly and courteous people, who are endeavouring to do their work with an enthusiasm which is not always evident amongst Government officials, or officials of any kind, for that matter. They are certainly not prejudiced. Their method of handling the farms which come under their survey, and their method of dividing them, are beyond question on a fair basis. I say that great credit is due to those people, because they have tackled a big problem with more than ordinary enthusiasm. They should be encouraged in their efforts, and I do resent any attempt being made to charge them with political bias or intrigue in the discharge of their duties.
Last night Deputy Bennett made charges about the method of fixing the  price of land. We were told here to-night that we are depressing the price of land, and thereby ruining the state of the country. Deputy Bennett made a wonderful suggestion to the Minister; if he adopts it he will be applauded as the greatest benefactor the farming community ever had. The suggestion was that he should buy land in the open market. I assume the suggestion meant that when a farm is up for public sale the Minister should go out and bid. Were it not for the fact that Deputy Bennett is a simple man, who does not understand very much about business matters—I assume from his speech last night that he never had occasion to do so—he would understand that the moment a Government Department goes into the open market to buy land the price of land goes up very considerably. In a short time the price would not be depressed, but would have gone up by a big percentage. It would not require a wonderful lot of manipulation to do that. It would mean that every farm which was put up for sale would have to be bought by the Department. If another bidder were allowed to buy, the Opposition would say: “You did not buy that farm because the fellow who was selling it was a supporter of ours, and the fellow who was buying it was a supporter of yours.” The Department would be compelled to buy every farm that went into the market, and pay whatever price the auctioneer considered they should pay.
Having reached that stage you would have all other buyers going out of the market, because it would be foolish to try to buy against a Government Department. You would have eliminated the whole idea of free sale, and would come back to the point where the Land Commission were the sole buyers. I mention that, not as a serious matter—because I do not suppose that Deputy Bennett meant it seriously himself—but in order to show the sort of help the Minister gets in regard to the running of his Department on an occasion such as this. I am rather surprised that no practical propositions were put forward, but perhaps it is the greatest compliment that could be paid to the Minister and his staff,  showing as it does that this House, although so full of good intentions cannot make any proposition for working is more successfully than the Minister is doing. That is a compliment to him and to his Department.
General MacEoin: I am glad to hear that Deputy Maguire is against the purchase of land by the Minister in the open market, because I, for one, would not approve of that. We would have the same sort of sales as we have at cattle sales in Fermoy if that occurred, and we certainly would oppose it in a very definite way. I do not suppose, however, that there is any chance of the Minister adopting this scheme, so we need not worry ourselves about its being given effect to. But, mind you, even one convert in the Government Party is not bad. I do not think there is any use in labouring that point, because I do not think it is seriously meant by Deputy Maguire when he suggested that the Minister buying land in the open market would increase the price of land. Statements have been made here by Deputy Corry and others, as to extravagant and maximum prices having been paid by the Land Commission for farms in the past, and that the Land Commission has now changed its spots like a leopard, and is paying minimum prices.
I have not very much experience of it, but, for some reason or other, I must say the Land Commission at the moment in their purchase of land are going very near the confiscation price. That was very clearly shown in the Limerick case, but I am not going to labour the point. I do want the Minister and the Land Commission to realise, however, that when they are acquiring land, even though there is very great need for land in the district, justice should obtain. That is all I ask, and while I have not got any evidence that they have departed from that, the complaints have been fairly general. I know of two cases, one in Galway and one in Roscommon, where a man paid as much as £6,000 for a farm of land, and had a good deal of trouble, by way of appeal and otherwise, in getting the Land Commission  price raised to £2,000. It does not matter whether you say he paid too much for it or not; the fact remains that you have taken land from him for £2,000 for which he paid £6,000. That is a big difference, and it takes a good deal of need for land to justify such action.
In regard to the division of land, I must say, as I said here last year, that the Land Commission, or any other body of men in this country, that tries to divide land cannot please everybody, no matter who they are, and it would be the worst day that even a Fine Gael Deputy could meet, if the Land Commission were to say to him: “You divide that estate in your district.” He would be finished before the next election came along, and he certainly would not get the support he might get if somebody else divided it. Therefore, I do pay the tribute to the Land Commission that, so far as I know, they have carried out the law in a fairly reasonable and impartial way. That may not be in accordance with the views of other Deputies on this side of the House, but I will give my views exactly as I find them. That is all I have to say on that point. While that is so, there are several things happening for which, I suppose, it would not be fair to hold the Minister or the Land Commission responsible. Deputy Belton said that Fianna Fáil clubs sent out application forms. All I can say is that Deputy Belton was paying a tribute to the efficiency of certain Fianna Fáil clubs. It simply means, so far as I know, that Fianna Fáil clubs copied some particular form and were ambitious enough to arrogate to themselves certain rights and powers and prerogatives that were not theirs.
I do not suppose we can blame the Minister for that, or, at least, if I felt I could hold him responsible parliamentarily, I would tell him something I thought about him. However, I do not suppose I can do that, but I do say that the Minister should not allow either the Land Commission, or his office as Minister, to be abused by people who are members of his political party. I know a case of a Deputy of this House who went to a  certain district and declared that the Land Commission had now been reorganised, and that new Commissioners had been put in to watch the other fellows. He assured them that no person would get land from the Land Commission unless he put his application in through the secretary of the club.
That was good, sound, political stuff. It happened that a person who voted Fianna Fáil at the last election came to me and said: “I have put in an application for a farm of land, but I am not a member of any club. Do you think I should join?” I said: “The best thing you can do is to go to that Deputy and ask him whether you should or not.” I said that if I told him no—but I will not go further into that. It shows the reaction to that particular statement of that Deputy, and I think the Minister should definitely say that the policy of the Land Commission is not changed, that it is a policy of giving effect to the law as passed by this Oireachtas, that every citizen is equal before it, and that nobody has any more advantage than another, except so far as is laid down by regulation and well-defined principles, such as valuation, and the other conditions which apply. I suppose it is asking too much to ask the Minister to do that, because, in effect, it would be a repudiation of that particular Deputy, but I think that, in order to show that, from the Ministerial point of view, there is no partisanship in this Department, that statement should be made.
The next point that strikes me is that it is rather peculiar that the ordinary taxpayer should have to pay an increased cost under the law charges section of this Vote. Under sub-head F, we find that there is an increase this year of £700 in the solicitors' branch. That is a fairly substantial increase in view of the full amount involved, and considering the amount of expenses which annuitants throughout the country have to pay, I think that section of the Land Commission is costing too much. If there is an increase in that particular section, I think the cost of collecting land annuities, in cases where unfortunate farmers have been unable to pay, should  be considerably reduced. You have court messengers going out to collect annuities, in cases where they have not been paid, on warrants issued by the Land Commission, and you find these court messengers going to as many as ten farmers, within a radius of three or four miles. They demand the amount of land annuities due, and also a fee of half-a-crown per mile, from the County Registrar's office to the landowner's home, and they collect that off all ten or fifteen farmers, as the case may be. I hold that that is absolutely inequitable. They may have a right to collect off one, but to collect off all is an astonishing state of affairs, and I hold that it is very unjust to inflict that hardship on the annuitants.
Now, how far the Minister is responsible for that I do not know. Whether it is a financial matter or not, I do not know, but certainly a reasonable figure should be struck in the case of a poor, unfortunate farmer who is not able to pay his land annuities. You have to seize on his stock, and, dear knows, it is punishment enough to seize on his stock without adding half-a-crown a mile for four well-fed fellows like myself going out to take his stock off the farm. There should be some arrangement whereby the annuity could be collected at a reasonable rate without robbing the man concerned, because I do hold that it is highway robbery to take half-a-crown a mile off a man in such a case. In some cases that can amount to quite a large sum, and where is the justice or equity in that? I do not know what the Minister's answer to that is, but certainly I hold that in such cases there should be a revision, and there should be reasonable rates. After all, in the case of a county council, 6d. a mile for travelling expenses is regarded as enough, or even in the case of a doctor I think it is the same, but half-a-crown a mile is a most unreasonable sum to charge.
I do say that, where land has been acquired and where ditches and roads are being made, some different system to the one now obtaining should be employed. There are men in such districts, hard-working labourers, who would be prepared to take on these  works by what is known in the country as task work. I think that the Land Commission, instead of employing men at 24/- a week or any other figure, should set the work out, where possible, to the men on task work, at so much per perch: let them go out and do the work by contract, and let it be subject to approval by an inspector afterwards when the work is finished. In that way you would give employment to a number of men, because one man might take on the making of a road or a ditch for a certain distance and then he would take on his friends and neighbours to work with him. In my opinion, you would get really good work done in that way, because the men would not be always looking at the clock to see whether they had one hour or two hours to go, and so on, and you could get a good deal of work done by working in that direct way.
As to the migration schemes, I think that is a very good idea. I think it is very wise that those who are on the Western seaboard or from the Gaeltacht should be brought to good lands in order to see how they would get on and to see if it would change that particular area. I am glad that Meath was tried, because, from the way Deputy Kelly spoke, God knows, Meath wants it. If the Gaeltacht brings any little bit of Irishism into that place, it will be all a-wanting; it will be the better of it. I only hope that if you extend the scheme in Meath they will go on a sort of a mission to Deputy Kelly, so that he may be improved in his general outlook. However, I am not going to say very much more on that point, because I think it would be better to leave it unsaid. I want to conclude, Sir, with this note: that the Land Commission have a difficult task to fulfil and difficult work to do, and I would ask the Minister not to interfere with them unduly, but to let them travel along their line and to let them administer the law as it is passed here without any interference from Fianna Fáil, Fine Gael, Labour clubs, or anybody else. If you give way to that sort of thing, you might as well close up; but if the Land Commission are allowed to carry on  without any interference in that way, I think we can look on them with confidence as doing the work that this House expects them to do. Perhaps I might be permitted to say this to the Land Commission itself: They should remember that they are the custodians of the powers vested in them by this House, that they are the arbiters between the Executive and the citizen, and that they are bound to give a fair return and a fair price and fair distribution to all citizens—a fair price for the land and fair distribution to all citizens. If they do that they will satisfy me, and, I am sure, they will satisfy every member of this House.
Mr. M. O'Reilly: I do not intend to delay the House too long, but I just want to say that I should like to congratulate the Minister on the advances he has made in land division—in County Meath at any rate—through the reorganisation of methods and systems, and particularly through the efficient way in which allottees are selected. I see no indication whatsoever of any political preference, and I see the Land Act being carried out to the fullest extent. I do not see that there is any liberty at all under the Land Act for such a thing as political collusion or the getting of land politically. Of course, it might not apply so much in County Meath, because our opponents in that county are very few, and the few that there are may have been supplied with land during the previous regime. I am not quite satisfied, however, that there could be anything like political victimisation. If Fianna Fail supporters there get 95 per cent. of the land, they get it because there is nobody else there to get it. However, I am very glad that the Minister has been able to reorganise the method and the system, and that he has tried to wipe out the rather bad blots that existed previously. For instance, there was considerable difficulty formerly through the uneconomic scattering of people in many parishes without any method. Many of these people have now been made economic, and their small holdings that they held in different parishes have been given to  other people and they themselves provided with substantial holdings.
Another redeeming feature here is that houses are being built. That is something that was not in existence up to the present time, and it is certainly very encouraging in County Meath to see, along any road one might travel, the land being divided and, above all, the houses being built. I should like to say a few words in connection with the houses. I should like to criticise them, but my criticism will be constructive as far as possible. The houses, of course, are generally built of cement, and at the stage at which they are at present they do not look inviting. I take it that later on when they get whitewash on, when they get coloured, they will look better; but I doubt if they are suitable houses at all. I am informed, in relation to the much-talked-of Gaeltacht colony, that these houses are extremely cold, and that it takes quite an amount of turf to warm them. There is one house that is built of stone, and they tell me that it needs only half the quantity of turf it takes to heat the cement houses. According to what I hear, these houses do not look too well; the whitewash rubs off, and the general appearance, I understand, is regarded as unwholesome and uncomfortable. Where it is possible to build houses of brick or stone, I think that should be done, because firewood is rather scarce and turbary is not plentiful in Meath, and there may be great difficulty in getting a sufficient supply of turf.
I would like to say a few words about the lay-out of farms. It is a very important matter. Of course it has improved very much indeed since the Land Commission Department was reorganised, and since it was indicated to the different inspectors, and those whose duty it was to lay out farms, to pay particular attention to an economic lay-out. A very great effort has been made in that direction and considerable success has resulted. There is, however, some difficulty about water. Quite a number of places have not got water. Another great difficulty is that in many instances fences have not been apportioned. The tenants do not know their own fences. It is not  possible sometimes to be able to tell them what fences belong to them. Sometimes you find trees on the fences and they are cut by a man not supposed to own them, and that creates trouble and difficulty. Some effort should be made to indicate to people where their fences are, to apportion the fences between the people. If that could be done, it would be very desirable. Of course, I realise there are difficulties in the way of even doing that.
As regards the houses, the Land Commission sometimes seem to decide themselves what class of house suits a tenant and I think there is nothing to prevent the Land Commission building a house with an upstairs or without an upstairs. Quite a number of tenants have asked me if it would be possible to have a house with an upstairs. I believe it might be more suitable, and that, if it does not cost more, whatever wishes the tenants express in that way should be satisfied.
Deputy Kelly made a reference to sheds. Arising out of that, I would like to say that a good many people need lofts in the sheds. It seems there are no lofts provided. It is a pity to build a shed and later endeavour to put in a loft. Many of the tenants are prepared to pay a little extra in order to have a loft put in. If that suggestion were favourably considered it would be greatly appreciated.
I object very strongly to the statements made about the migrants in the Meath Gaeltacht colony at Rathcairn. Some very suggestive statements were made. I was not present, but I understand that those statements have been made and I object strongly to them. I am one who has always objected to migrants in the County Meath, but my objection was in relation to the migration under the last régime, not to any great extent to the migration of the present time. So long as the Meath people are treated fairly, get a reasonable amount of land and are given a chance, they have no objection to migrants. I know a good deal about those migrants and I have found them most respectable and decent people, working in perfect harmony and contentment with the people of the district.  Unfortunately, one of the migrants died since they came there, but it is significant that the whole parish turned out to attend the funeral. That indicates that there is no attitude of hostility against them at all. The position is that previous to this that estate supported only three people. In the colony there are now 300 souls being supported and they are well able to get a living out of the land.
It is highly objectionable that statements such as have been made here should be circulated. It is almost as objectionable as the statement made by Deputy MacEoin that Meath wanted to be made more Irish. I can tell Deputy MacEoin that it was Meath revived the Irish language, because the great revivalist was born in the County Meath. Not alone that, but Parnell was elected for County Meath and many other great leaders found refuge in the County Meath. I do not think Deputy MacEoin meant it that way; I think he meant something else; but at the same time what he said touched me that way and I think it was very objectionable. Deputy MacEoin and myself have never crossed swords in this way and I do not think I would care to cross swords with him very often. He is, perhaps, a younger man and may be more able, physically, than I am. I took his remarks as if they were an attempt to cross swords and I submit it is objectionable that such statements as he made should be circulated. Let me emphasise that Meath has always been a national county and possibly because it was extremely national during the last two or three elections, that might be considered objectionable by some. I am not one of those people who have any political prejudices. I treat my political opponents with all the fairness I can, and I always advocate that everyone else should do likewise. Even if Meath definitely did say “No” to the Deputy's particular political Party, that is no reason why he should express his resentment in that way.
Mr. Beegan: If every Deputy in the House followed the same line as Deputy MacEoin I think the debate  would have concluded long ago. His was a non-Party speech, but I cannot say the same for some of the other Deputies on that side of the House, and particularly in regard to one Deputy from my own county. It may appear all right in the local Press to make a statement here and try to give the impression that certain forms that were in circulation in County Galway came from the Land Commission directly. They did not come from the Land Commission, and Deputy MacEoin, while he was trying to make capital out of that, was paying a compliment to the intelligence of the secretary of a Fianna Fáil club. I do not think, at the same time, that there is anything whatsoever wrong in it. If there are a number of people in a district who require land, as there are in Galway, where we have acute congestion, not merely in the Gaeltacht, but outside it—where you find 20 congests, for instance, having a total valuation of £38 10s.—it is only reasonable to expect that the Fianna Fáil club should have some other functions and other rights besides going out at election times and shouting “Up, Fianna Fáil.” If they do a thing in a systematic manner nobody can find fault with them.
For instance, if a form is drafted out addressed to the Secretary of the Irish Land Commission and reading as follows: “Congests under £10 valuation. Name and address of the applicant. Family circumstances. Valuation. Name of estate and the receivable order number,” and if that is sent to the Secretary of the Irish Land Commission, I do not think there can be any fault found with such a form, and there is nothing political in it. Such forms are drafted in certain Fianna Fáil clubs in certain Fianna Fáil districts in County Galway. I am sure the Fine Gael people have done the same thing in their time. I am aware that electors have been approached at previous elections—I have not done it, anyhow—and they were told that if they joined a certain organisation they would get land on the strength of it. I know that happened previously when people were told that the production of a card of membership of a particular organisation  would be their surest way to get land.
I do not want to delay very long on that point, but there are a few remarks that I desire to make in regard to other matters. Deputy Brodrick talked about the small parcels of land that were being taken over by the Land Commission and acquired for distribution. The Deputy, however, did not say very much about the large ranches that we still have in the County Galway. These large ranches are owned by a few individuals there. While the Land Commission has made considerable progress in acquiring land in the last few years—and we must compliment them on their speed—at the same time there are in my area a number of instances where a few individuals have thousands of acres of land. I know the Land Commission have taken some steps to take over that land but there are some obstacles in the way. At all events, the people of Galway want the land divided. The Land Commission has divided 103,000 acres during the past year. It is up to every Deputy on this side of the House to see that twice as much land will be divided in the coming year. But that cannot be done by the present staff of the Land Commission. I know that in County Galway the Land Commission officials are working very hard. There is a skeleton staff there but it is only the size of the old Congested Districts Board staff in Connemara. We cannot have acceleration in the acquisition and distribution of land without any increase in the staff. If the inspectorate could be still further increased it would be one more means of bringing about a more speedy distribution of these lands, a matter which is only second in importance to achieving the freedom of this country.
The second point I wish to mention is the grant for housing given to allottees. Allottees are at present given a grant of £160 and an advance of £40 for the building of out-offices. The Land Commission hold that in giving this £160 grant they are giving a sum equal to the cost of materials. It is said that it is a fine thing to give that amount to an allottee. But if the allottee is given no more than that sum, Deputies will find that it is a considerable  set-back if he has at the commencement to put his hand in his pocket and provide £40 additional to have his house completed.
The best thing, and the right thing, would be to give a sufficient grant so that with the advance he would not have to raise any part of the money himself. The allottee provides the unskilled labour himself. Then there is the matter of the gravel, which is not always convenient to the site. Sometimes it has to be carted seven or eight miles. I think even if the tenant had to pay more in his rent it would be better to give him, by way of grant, what would fully complete the house and out-offices rather than the amount that is given at present. The grants given at present are not adequate to build the house and out-offices without a considerable sum being added. In conclusion, I wish to state that the Land Commission officials, as far as the County Galway is concerned, are doing their work well. I am satisfied there is no political bias displayed in the dividing of the land. The biggest thing we are up against is that people through the country tell us that of those who are getting the land the great majority are supporters of the Opposition. On that matter I want to say that before Fianna Fáil came into office the present Ceann Comhairle, who was then a candidate for County Galway, told the people from every platform off which he spoke that if Fianna Fáil got into power the supporters of Fianna Fáil would not get all the jobs and that all the land would not be distributed to Fianna Fáil supporters.
Minister for Lands (Mr. Connolly): There has been so much said in the course of this debate, some of it worth while but most of it rather rambling, that I do not know at what point to begin. I would like during the portion of the night that remains, and before we adjourn, to deal with one or two specific points. I would like, first of all, to contradict Deputy Belton with regard to the statement he has made in connection with the Athboy colony and the Gaeltacht migrants. If he has  any justification for making suggestions like that, then these should take the form of definite charges. I think it is an outrage in this House that a responsible Deputy, or a supposedly responsible Deputy, should insinuate, on the basis of having heard rumours, that the Irish-speaking migrants in Athboy, people who have come from the Western Gaeltacht, sleep until 1 o'clock in the day and devote themselves to making poteen. Sometimes when these migrants are being discussed one might get the feeling that they were neither Irish nor native, that they were not our own people, that they were something we had adopted as a sort of Red Cross work.
What has happened is that these migrants have surrendered holdings for the relief of congestion. They surrendered their own holdings, and they have been provided with alternative holdings, with certain facilities for making good. They are not anybody's child. I would like to make that clear before the statements made in this House to-day appear in the Press to-morrow morning. Another thing I would like to make clear before we go to press is this—I want to contradict the reiterated statement that we have deflated the price of land. There were many causes that might have brought about deflation in the price of land. There were many activities on the part of many people, of whom Deputy Belton is one, that might have caused deflation.
Mr. Connolly: His contact with certain organisations which might have caused general unrest in the country. What are the facts? The facts are that land prices are improving. I can give the House figures to indicate that improvement. I would not like to have statements made here, as have been made to-day, going to the public without indicating that the statements are wrong. The price of land to-day compares more than favourably with the price some years ago.
Mr. Connolly: It does not knock me off in the slightest. I took the precaution of getting the figures of the average price of land for a number of years past. The figures are not my figures; they are an analysis of the sales of land both by voluntary sale and the price fixed on appeal. We find that for the year ended 31st of March, 1929, the average price paid by the Land Commission for land was £8.2 per acre. The price after appeal was £9.2 per acre. For the year ending 1929-1930 the price of land as bought by the Land Commission was £3.5 per acre, and the price as fixed on appeal was £4.5 per acre. In 1930-31 the average price was £4 per acre, and on appeal the price was £5 an acre. In 1931-32 the price was £10.7 per acre. In 1932-33 the price was £5.8 per acre, and in 1934-35 that price increased to £6.3, and on appeal to £6.5. In 1935-36, which is the year we are discussing now, the year that is just finished, the price was £7.7, and on appeal £9.6 per acre. If anyone argues that the present procedure and activities of the Land Commission or the present economic state of the country are depressing the price of land, then he is arguing against the facts. I think the Land Commission is the real test of the value.
Mr. Belton: Will the Minister give the price paid for land with a poor law valuation of £100 in one year, and compare that with land with £100 poor law valuation in another year, so that we will have some basic figure of comparison?
Mr. Connolly: I am giving the only fair basic comparison possible out of the statistics of the Land Commission. I am not going to enter into a petty controversy. If the Deputy wants any statistics which the Land Commission can supply and puts down a question he will get all the information the Land Commission can supply. I cannot be fairer than that.
Mr. Connolly: You can do what you like as regards that. I should like to deal with some of the statements made by Deputy Fitzgerald-Kenney last night. The Deputy discussed the functions of the Minister, and he took a rather clever line of argument. I might say, if I wanted to say it, that it was rather a mean line of argument, because he diverted a very well-earned  tribute which I endeavoured to pay to my staff for the work done last year— I do not like to use the word “twist,” but he certainly construed it as though I indicated that I had no responsibility for the results, and therefore no responsibility for the work. That was entirely too naïve, but it was too obvious. I take full responsibility for all sections of the work, except those matters which are specifically and deliberately excepted from my survey by legislation. Deputy Fitzgerald-Kenney knows the matters that were excluded from the Minister's domain, just as well as I do, or any other Deputy.
There are certain functions in which the Minister does not interfere. That was provided for in the Act of 1933, and it carried on a tradition which existed before that Act passed. It is interesting to recall that when the Act of 1933 was being put through I was the Minister for Lands, but it so happened that for about seven months of that time I was out of this country. My opinion was sought, as the Minister coming in to take up responsibility for the working of the Act, as to how I felt with regard to the functions of the Minister. I was asked whether control should be exercised by the Minister over certain things, and I said: “No, all matters in connection with the acquisition and the allotment of land must not be in the hands of the Minister because if that were the case the Minister's life would be unbearable.” I took that line deliberately, and I am satisfied that it was the right line. I am satisfied that no Minister could possibly carry on if he had to make himself responsible and explain or apologise for every ten acres of land that he, as the responsible person, would be distributing. The acquisition of land and the selection of allottees are entirely out of my hands. Deputy Fitzgerald-Kenney, and other Deputies indicated that they had grave suspicion that interference took place. I can only give them my word for what it is worth, that I did not interfere, and I will not interfere while I am in the Land Commission.
I think there is a worse implication, namely, that the six commissioners,  the six responsible people who have been put into that position are being charged with complicity, that acting for me they would lend themselves to any such conduct. I do not mind being charged, or I do not mind Deputy Fitzgerald-Kenney even refusing to take my word. That does not interest me. But it does interest me to know that he is attacking the six commissioners. If he attacks me successfully on that issue, then he is attacking the six commissioners on the basis that they are lending themselves to abuse of the privileged position in which they are acting. I can assure the House that no such interference took place, and that no such interference will take place.
Am I ever approached about land —do I receive recommendations? I do. I receive recommendations regularly from Deputies on all sides of the House. What is my line of conduct? Those recommendations are put there the same as all recommendations and my invariable stamp on them is, “To be considered on their merits.” Recommendations may come from different people in country, towns, villages, and districts, from parish priests and other ministers of religion, and from all sorts of people. These go through and it is not a matter for me. It is a matter for the commissioners. They act on reports, and their decision is the only thing that operates.
Mr. Connolly: Deputy Fitzgerald-Kenney raised a considerable fuss about what has become known in Land Commission history as the Wexford case. The first I heard about that case was when the Minister for Agriculture came to me and asked what my Department meant by sending out these notices. As I had not heard of it until then and did not know anything of the activity, I got an investigation made, and I found that an error had been made by a junior official in sending out the wrong forms. That is the truth of the matter. I am surprised that the Deputy had not the decency to accept that statement when it was made. He has brought this matter up three or four times. That is the position. These forms are stereotyped and stacked up side by side with other forms. What happened was that a junior official took the forms from the wrong stack. I am satisfied that that is true. If any Deputy here including Deputy Fitzgerald-Kenney, is not satisfied, that the official made a mistake, and if he is not satisfied with my word— and he is quite right if he likes, not to accept my word—he can have an opportunity of coming to the Land Commission, making a personal investigation, and he can have an interview with the junior official——
Mr. Connolly: It may be asked, what happened to this junior official. Nothing at all. I recognise these officials are hard-worked people, and, like ourselves, are human beings, and are liable to make mistakes. Even Deputies make mistakes; even Ministers make mistakes frequently.
Mr. Connolly: I thought that would get the Deputy. We have a number  of phrases used by Deputies opposite in these matters such as: “We have very grave doubts,” and “pressure is being brought to bear on officials” and so on. I make this offer to any Deputy here: If any Deputy can find any official in the whole of the Land Commission—and we have upwards of a thousand of such officials—that I tried to influence in regard to the acquisition of land, or the allotment of land, I am prepared to admit it, and get out of my office.
Mr. Connolly: Civil servants must be protected and will be protected. I would deal with any civil servant, in my Department, if he does wrong, but I shall see that he gets fair play in this House if he does his job honestly. Deputy Fitzgerald-Kenney's next case was that of a doctor and two teachers. He says that he knows the doctor was a canvasser to Fianna Fáil. There, at all events, the Deputy has an advantage of me. I do not know the doctor, and I never heard of the case until a Parliamentary question was put down on the subject. But it is interesting to find, as I found this morning, after I had investigated and consulted the files, that the chief sponsor of those people was a reverend gentleman who, I understand, is Deputy Fitzgerald-Kenney's chairman at all his political meetings. All I can say is, I have no knowledge of these cases. I have something else to do besides poking about the offices of the Land Commission and rummaging among papers. I  may say, quite frankly, that if I was acting on this scheme, and was asked to give my views, or if I was a commissioner, I would have ruled these applicants out. I make that statement quite frankly, but it is not my function to decide. The commissioners made this decision, and they are prepared to stand over it on the equity of the case, on the merits of the case, on the circumstances of the case, and on the legality of the case.
Deputy Fitzgerald-Kenney referred to a migrant from Roscommon to Hollywood. I went to some pains to get details, because it would be rather hard on our officials and inspectors if these things were allowed to go by default. This man surrendered a small holding, and took over a house, with adjacent land, which was more residential than otherwise, and would not suit a congest at all. Deputies know we have this kind of house occasionally falling into our hands. This was one of them and we tried to dispose of it. The alternative would be to have it knocked down. It is not a house that could be given to a migrant. This particular house was advertised for sale and we could not find a market for it. We found a man in a congested area who was willing to surrender his holding, and we disposed of this house and land to him, and made what I consider a useful deal in disposing of the house to him instead of having to destroy it. Deputy Fitzgerald-Kenney, also, made a good deal of capital out of the case of a man named John Moran who occupied a gate lodge. I investigated this case and I found that John Moran was not an employee on the estate. He was a timber feller, employed by a Mr. O'Hare who had bought the timber on this estate and who lives in Castlebar. This man was not an employee of the estate, nor of the owner of the estate, and he was merely allowed to use the gate lodge, under a caretaker's agreement, while cutting timber on the estate.
It is well known that timber fellers are sent long distances from their place of abode when engaged at their work. As a matter of fact, a very ordinary thing is to keep, as one of the stock instruments of a timber merchant's business, a sleeping-van. The  men may have to travel 10 or 12 miles from their base in the course of their work in cutting down timber. That is what happened here. This man was convenienced by the owner by giving him a house and he remains in the herd's house. I am quite satisfied that no injustice has been done in the case of Mr. Moran.
Deputy Nally referred to various matters but I will leave him for the moment. Deputy Fitzgerald-Kenney is labouring under an illusion when he says that allottees are putting up their holdings for auction, and leaving us high and dry. That is not the case. They cannot do it until the lands are vested, and they are not vested for at least seven years after allotment. In other words, we try to find out, and get to know, whether the allottee is endeavouring to make good use of the land, and, if not, the holding can be taken from him. That is the sole reason for the delay in vesting.
Mr. Connolly: Deputy Fitzgerald-Kenney referred to other matters. He attacked the Land Commission on account of all the activities of the sheriffs and the issue of distress warrants. If there was any excuse for any Deputy raising this matter in the form in which Deputy Fitzgerald-Kenney raised it, that excuse could not be offered for the Deputy. Assuming that he knew what was going on in his Department during the time he was Minister for Justice, that excuse would not hold good in his case. It is the Minister for Justice who has control of this service. We have no control over  it and have nothing to do with it. We cannot indicate any particular course to the sheriffs. Deputy Fitzgerald-Kenney discussed reclamation on the acre-by-acre basis—a very intelligent method of reclamation, in my opinion, and one I should like to see developed. It is being developed under the care of the Department of Agriculture. I notice that the Minister for Agriculture has a much increased amount for that purpose in his estimates for the present year. One other point before I leave Deputy Fitzgerald-Kenney. This applies to a great many other Deputies who made the suggestion that we take land only from people who are in the opposite camp. I should like to know how these Deputies explain the taking of certain lands in County Mayo and County Tipperary. I took land from a man who has been a colleague of mine in the Seanad for eight years. He objected very much to the taking of that land and he had been fighting against the taking of it for a number of years. I said: “That land has got to be taken by the Commissioners and nothing but the ordinary rule is going to apply.” It did apply. We took land from Senator MacEllin. Not alone did we do that but we took land from his brother. It was not a pleasing thing for me to do but it had to be done. The same thing applied to the case of Senator Quirke, of Tipperary. I should like to get it across to the House not only in the interest of the present Government but for all time that there cannot be any peace, order, discipline or machinery of government unless, when we go into our Departments, we realise that we are acting there not for a political party, but for the State, and that every citizen has equal rights. The Deputy may sneer and groan. If the Deputy's opinion mattered to me, I might worry about it but it does not. I should like to feel that I had, at least, as clean hands as the Deputy opposite.
Certain Mayo Deputies raised the question of the merits of the landless man as against the congest. Deputy Fitzgerald-Kenney referred rather sneeringly to my visit to Mayo. May I be quite frank as to the reason  I went to Mayo? I went there deliberately and brought with me the chief inspector and his assistant, the divisional inspector of that area, and the senior inspector of the area, to see what we could do to clean up four agricultural slums. We visited an area called Midfield in which there are three sections. We also visited Rathleckin. I do not know the politics of the people of those areas and I do not care what their politics are. But there are four agricultural slums there that I want to see cleaned up. The Deputy has been so curious about my visit to Mayo that I want to let him know the reason. Deputy Nally made a number of suggestions regarding this question of congests versus landless men. So far as my experience has gone, I favour, on the whole, the idea of dealing with the congests. I should like to see all the congests in Mayo made economic holders, though I do not think that is possible. I should like to see money spent in the congested areas of Mayo, Galway, Donegal and Kerry in order to put the people into some sort of reasonable way of living, and, above all and at any cost, to give them decent houses in which to live. It is argued that if we are going to give land to landless men, we shall still have the Congested Districts Board work left on our hands and the land will be gone. I think that there is a good deal in that argument. That will, in turn, link up next year with the amount of untenanted land which may be divided. Why do I say that? Let me confess quite frankly that there has been concentration on untenanted lands and to some extent that has been at the expense of the Congested Districts Board estates and congested areas.
Our trouble is not the getting of staff. Our trouble is to get experienced and trained staff. We can only assimilate and train properly a limited number of men with our existing organisation. You may bring a man in to the Land Commission who has engineering or other degrees. No matter what degrees he has, he has got to learn the routine of the business. If we take in 20 men, they take up so much of the time of trained inspectors that, instead of  being a help, they are for the first, six, nine or 12 months a handicap. We are assimilating new staff gradually, as speedily as we can, but we are keeping in mind the future of the work and how long it is likely to last. We would have a certain responsibility in taking on staff and having that staff on our hands afterwards. All these factors count. Coming back to the point as to the landless men and congests my outlook is all swung to the idea of settling uneconomic holders and dealing with the congests in preference to the landless men.
Deputy Nally raised a question as to the estate of Lord Oranmore and Browne and the estate of Lord Sligo. As the Deputy knows, this is not the first time that this question has arisen. It is a question which has given us a great deal of thought. The problem there is as to how far division of these estates would benefit the people. If these lands are divided, the people who are at present employed on these estates will lose their employment. They will, of course, be provided with holdings. I have a very open mind on the matter. I should like guidance, help and direction from those in that area who know the situation more intimately than I do. The position in respect of these two estates is that those who are working on the estates as employees do not want the lands disturbed. Naturally, those who are not working on the estates want them divided. What we have to consider is what the resulting effects would be.
Mr. Connolly: I am coming to that if you will allow me. The principle on which we work is one which is pretty well-known and hardly needs explanation. There was talk here last night of “confiscation.” The principle on which we proceed is that if lands are being properly worked and are giving an adequate amount of employment, the commissioners will not intervene. That is, so far as I can see, the policy which has been pursued by the Land Commission in  this case. Deputy Nally raised a question about the Lambert estate. The position is that Colonel Lambert sold the lands to a number of persons and the Land Commission have instituted proceedings for the acquisition of seven of these holdings containing about 214 acres. The price has been fixed, and draft schemes, prepared for  the division of the land, are at present before the commissioners for consideration.
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