Tuesday, 31 May 1955
Dáil Éireann Debate
Mr. Derrig: With reference to the sub-heads in the Vote, the Minister indicated an increase of £7,000 in subhead H (3). In order to elicit information which may be of interest to others as well as myself, I would ask him when replying to be good enough to state the number of holdings, if it is the case that the whole of the £7,000 increase is attributable to a number of holdings recently set up, and the total expenditure of the Land Commission on those holdings and what proportion is likely to be recovered.
As regards the 19,000 acres of mountain land, old Congested Districts Board cases, which the Minister said had been disposed of amongst small sheep farmers in the West and in respect of which I understand there were only a comparatively small number, 30 or 40, allottees——
Mr. Derrig: ——I was rather interested to know whether by any chance the Forestry Branch may be interested in these lands, whether the transfer to the allottees had anything to do with any future operations. I asked the Minister, in regard to his statement that the intake of land for the relief of congestion, in his view, will remain static for some years to come, if he could tell us the figures in regard to the amount of land in the machine and in respect of which schemes have been lodged and proceedings generally are in operation.
My remarks were intended to impress the problem upon the House and to endeavour to get a more active consideration in the Department and in the Government of the problem that arises by reason of the fact that due  to the necessarily slow operations— many Deputies will disagree with the word “necessarily” in that connection; however, I say necessarily slow operations—of the Land Commission, it will take very many years before many of these thousands of congested holdings which the Minister describes as being of the worst type of congestion—“many thousands of cases of the worst type of congestion still exist”—are settled. When you put against that the progress that has been made, good and bad as it is, in regard to migration and rearrangement, the question naturally arises whether in the foreseeable future or the next few years, say, at the end of a further period of three years perhaps, the situation will be such that we can say that this hard core of the problem which should now be well on the way to alleviation, if not solution, will have been eliminated.
I ask the Minister to try to give to the House some more detailed information in regard to classification of these intermixed and rundale holdings, believing that in certain of the larger estates where conditions undoubtedly are very bad but where due to lack of a sufficient pool of land to enable the commissioners to relieve the situation, there is no more likelihood now than there has been for some years past that some of these large estates will be dealt with during the coming years. I quite realise, as I have explained already, that the Land Commission had not that experience when they took over all this rundale and rearrangement problem that the old Congested Districts Board had, but in recent years apart from the fact that the inspectors in the West must be thoroughly competent now to undertake whatever schemes are necessary, the younger inspectors, I think, after a fairly short period of experience of the conditions, ought to know what exactly can be done. I have been wondering whether, judging by my own experience, if one were to ask these younger inspectors just what they thought the prospects were and whether they were satisfied that the work that was being done was the best possible and was likely to have the best general results in raising the  economic level and the standard of living of the people in the West, what their answer would be. It is quite clear at any rate that a great deal remains to be done and I think we ought to get clear in our minds what exactly it is expected can be done. We can then judge, when a programme is mapped out, how long it will take and what the probabilities are that such a programme can be brought to completion in a reasonable period.
There is undoubtedly impatience with the lengthy procedure. The results are not always to be seen. I do not know what the solution of that may be, but it is rather discouraging that Deputies from the areas that seem to be most affected by Land Commission work and where undoubtedly heavy expenditure has been carried on for very many years, are constantly expressing dissatisfaction that, in their view, nothing is being done. We know that a certain amount—some might think a good deal—has been done, but we have to admit that progress is slow. I would like to ask the Minister whether he is satisfied that the delays which exist in regard to resumption and acquisition generally have been reduced to the minimum? They cannot, I suppose, be eliminated completely, but what we have been asking the Minister for many years to see to is that such delays, if unavoidable, are reduced to the minimum possible.
The Minister also referred to cases of obstruction in connection with rearrangement and suggested that the commissioners may have to exercise their compulsory powers to have rearrangement schemes brought into operation in certain cases. I do not know whether there are many of these cases, but it simply confirms my view that you may have a situation where some of our inspectors in the Land Commission may not be having their time fully occupied or occupied to the best advantage, if they have to be waiting about over a long period while A, B, or C is going to make up his mind whether he will fall in with his neighbour or not in accepting the scheme that the inspectors have prepared.
As regards the work of the Land  Commission generally, I suggest we should have a review of the situation having regard to the altered circumstances. Many public persons have called attention to the drift of emigration which continues on a large scale. Unfortunately, it concerns the younger people in these areas. The holdings may still be occupied by the old couples but in a very great number of cases you have these derelict or unoccupied holdings. The question is bound to be asked whether, if that state of affairs is continuing, it is not a sign that we are not succeeding as we should in connection with the Land Commission work. The Land Commission can hardly be expected, in relation to the rearrangement of rundale holdings—if we take that to be their chief function in the western counties —to contribute in a serious and lasting way to the stoppage of emigration. More will be necessary.
There is the fact that socially we are losing these communities, and I am afraid we will continue to lose them until we can evolve some scheme or schemes by which greater hope will be given to the younger people and more encouragement to settle down and remain at home. It has been stated by members of the Administration that emigration is not entirely an economic question. When some of us suggested that some years ago, of course, we were laughed to scorn by certain eminent personages in this House.
The fact is, as I have said, that the pull from Birmingham and other English cities is similar now to the pull from Boston and Philadelphia 30 years ago and more, and unless there is a change in the psychology and in the attitude of our young people in these western areas, until they are made to feel that in this country their future lies, that they have reasonably good prospects in it and that, after all, it is their country and it is their duty to build it up, it is fruitless and unfair to attack the Land Commission or, for that matter, any other body or institution for not being able to stem emigration.
In relation to agriculture, I think it  can be suggested—I have had experience of it myself—that, even in regard to holdings which were improved or added to by the operations of the Land Commission, we were not getting anything like the production, although it may be limited, that even the State and the community could reasonably expect in the light of the heavy expenditure incurred. The position was, some years ago at any rate, that the proportion of tillage on some of these holdings in the most fertile parts of the West was very disappointing indeed. If we are to justify the expenditure we would have to follow up in some way, at least through inquiries through the inspectorial staff, as to how the persons who are receiving land are acquitting themselves. I know that in a great many cases they have acquitted themselves satisfactorily and it can be said that setting them up has been justified. But the question is whether, in view of the urgent need to increase our agricultural output, enough is being done and whether, when the situation is reached that the Land Commission has to withdraw its assistance and let these landholders go ahead, we will be getting a sufficient response.
The inspectorate has special knowledge and special experience of rural conditions in the West and I am rather doubtful whether we are doing the best thing in regard to this whole problem of the congested areas in keeping our younger inspectors solely on this work of rearrangement and whatever other ancillary work is necessary. I suggest we should seek the opinion of these young men, some of whom have been working on the land scheme and under local authorities and some of them outside the country. In spite of the fact that they have not the mature wisdom of the older men, perhaps, they are nevertheless more in touch with the problem from the present day point of view. They are more anxious—I suppose it would be the case with young graduates coming into the service generally—to try to get on and show actual results.
When the Congested Districts Board was started, the emphasis was on fishing and housing. I would like the  younger inspectors to get opportunities to see what is being done elsewhere, to see what is being done under Bord na Móna, under the forestry scheme, and so on, and to give the Minister and the commissioners the benefit of their advice in suggesting what further steps might be taken to increase employment and production in these areas.
Having regard to the history of the Congested Districts Board, the Land Commission operations in the West and the functions they have carried out for so many years, if we are reexamining the position, the question to which we must address ourselves is what is the best contribution the Land Commission and its staff, particularly the outdoor staff, can make in the altered circumstances of the present time to improve conditions in the congested areas and, as has been emphasised, to help the people to help themselves.
The clearing up of rundale holdings is, I think, only part of what must be aimed at and it is because I believe that the work of the Land Commission ought to be more closely integrated with the agricultural development schemes and with the application of modern technical knowledge and methods to raise the output of our land substantially in these areas that I would urge for a reconsideration of Land Commission policy so that greater steps, and new schemes, if necessary, might be undertaken which would be likely to give more speedy, more fruitful and, I hope, more lasting results.
I may be told that this work of reclamation is the function of another Department. I see very large sums of money placed at the disposal of that Department and I wonder how the western counties are likely to fare if the Land Commission and its staff, with their experience, are not brought into the picture. I wonder whether they are just to be confined to this work of resumption, migratory arrangements and so on, and whether or not they will have any say in the greater problem of providing further land. That land, I think, can be provided, not alone for reafforestation,  but for agricultural purposes through large scale reclamation, and if it is to be successful and economically feasible I think it would have to be done on a large scale.
Therefore, I would suggest that pilot schemes, at any rate, should be operated in each of the congested district counties. We have the advantages that the staffs of the Land Commission and of the land scheme are, really, to a certain extent, interchangeable, and I should like to see the position where we would not have to set up a land utilisation authority, which would be a new body, but where we would have the support of the senior officers of the Land Commission, in consultation with the Department of Agriculture, Forestry Branch, and Bord na Móna who would make their plans to take over all these mountain areas—areas of mountain grazing which are most important from the afforestation point of view. But for whatever purpose the lands may be taken over, whether for reclamation and addition to uneconomic holdings or for the establishment upon them of new holdings, even in an experimental way, or whether these lands should be used for other purposes also, I think it is certainly worthy of consideration when it is so difficult to provide a solution for emigration from the western areas and when we have had the commission, which recently reported on emigration and population problems, referring to the advisability of providing additional employment by way of additional acquisition of land for afforestation and so on.
It seems to me that as regards housing in the rural areas and rearrangement, we do not seem to be making any great contribution to the problem. We do not seem to be able to hold the people in the areas in which the Land Commission is working to improve their conditions and it is my opinion that new schemes are necessary. I should like, therefore, that the Land Commission, with its experience and its knowledge, and with the very fine officials it has on its staff, should be associated with that work. I am afraid that since the Land Commission is taken up with legal procedure, necessarily,  and since Deputies of the House seem, as I have said, to be mainly and solely concerned with acquiring land, we have not been able to stand back from this problem for a long period and view it as it really is.
I should like the Minister to let us know how exactly he feels about the thousands of rundale holdings and what improvement he thinks may be made in the position during the coming years. Are there not considerable areas and very large numbers of these holdings where, in fact, very little, if anything, has or is likely to be done? If that is so, if the Land Commission is to justify itself in the eyes of the public and have the satisfaction of feeling that it is really making a good contribution to building up a better future for the people in the congested areas, I think that an examination and a survey of the possibilities of these bog and mountain areas and waste land must be undertaken so that we shall have knowledge from the experts of the potentialities of the particular area and what that particular area would be most suitable for.
Whatever may be decided, I think these lands ought to be acquired and utilised and that every possible advantage should be taken of the modern technical knowledge that we can get and of the modern methods available to us. I think that the young inspectors of whom I have spoken, who are possibly being kept on this rearrangement scheme to a large extent, could be diverted with profit so that in conjunction with the afforestation branch and the other bodies I mentioned, which are engaged in reclamation work and the exploiting of land, they could examine the position pending the carrying out of the survey I mentioned. The Land Commission inspectors have special knowledge and generally they have more experience of dealing with the farming community than some of the others. I think that if there was a general drive to acquire all these derelict or waste lands we would be able to get further on the road, we would be able to indicate  to the young people who are emigrating that big work is coming on, that substantial improvement is likely to come along also, and that instead of merely continuing, as we have been continuing over so many years, we in this House are determined that for the next few years we shall not alone continue the good work that has been done but that we shall examine what further possibilities exist.
In that particular connection I should like the Minister to tell the House whether any further advance has been made in dealing with the vexed question of the acquisition of commonages. There is a general anxiety that more should be done, particularly in the western areas, so that these commonages, if they can be acquired and exploited, as has been suggested, might give a very high return and valuable employment in one way or another. I understand the land commissioners have the power to take over these commonages and if a substantial proportion of the holders of commonages can be got to see the value of handing over their lands to the State for development, I would strongly urge upon the Minister to go ahead and try to take them all over.
Mr. McQuillan: I had not anticipated this Estimate coming on so soon but, now that it has come up for discussion, I cannot let the opportunity go without saying a few words on the administration of the Department of Lands and commenting, in a somewhat repetitious manner, if you like, on the general policy of this Government and former Governments in relation to the important objective for which the Land Commission was primarily set up, namely, the relief of congestion and the establishment of as many economic holdings as possible.
It is my personal opinion that, next in importance to the Estimate on Education, comes the Estimate on the Department of Lands. In normal times I do not believe this Estimate either would or could assume the importance it has to-day; but, remembering that the most important industry in the country is agriculture, the expansion  we all desire to see in agriculture cannot be achieved unless the problems relating to land are first solved. So important is this problem of congestion and uneconomic holdings, that reference is actually made to it even in our Constitution; and, until we solve congestion and bring our uneconomic holdings up to an economic standard, we can never hope to achieve that expansion in agriculture so essential for our progressive development as a nation.
The work of the Land Commission should be mainly directed towards the ending of congestion and towards the setting up of as many economic holdings as possible. Therefore, the main function of the Land Commission is to acquire and redistribute land. Remembering that is the main function with which that big body is charged, let us examine for a moment the facilities at its disposal in relation to both staff and finances for the purpose of achieving that objective.
It is my intention now to draw some comparison between the Land Commission and other Departments in relation to the number of employees and in relation to the amount of money available. In this year's Estimates the sum of £7,400,000 odd is allotted for expenditure by the Department of Agriculture. Of that figure, a sum of £438,000 goes on salaries, and the number of officials employed is 713. In the Department of Industry and Commerce the Estimate for the current year is £8,057,000 odd. Out of that the sum of £334,354 goes on salaries to officials; the number of officials involved, ranging from the Minister down, is 568. I could give other examples of other Departments but I think those two give a fair comparison.
Let us look now at the Estimate for the Department of Lands. According to the Minister's opening statement the gross Estimate is a little over £2,000,000. Of that £2,000,000 the sum of £588,000 goes on salaries alone and the number of officials involved is 1,091. If we take the percentage figures of the total Estimate in relation to salaries in these Departments, they are roughly as follows: in the Department of Local Government the  salaries amount to 4.4 per cent. of the total Estimate; in the Department of Agriculture the salaries amount to 5.7 per cent. of the total Estimate; in the Department of Industry and Commerce the salaries amount to 4.1 per cent. of the total Estimate; and in the Department of Lands the figure for salaries alone out of the total Estimate is over 30 per cent. of the expenditure involved.
But that is not the worst aspect of this matter. As I said, the main function of the Land Commission in my opinion, and in the opinion of others, is to relieve congestion and to establish as many economic holdings as possible. In order to set up these economic holdings and provide the necessary land for the relief of congestion it is obviously essential that a large sum of money should first of all be made available for the purchase of the necessary land. That is a reasonable proposition; that is a reasonable achievement to expect on the part of the Land Commission.
What do we find when we examine the figures and ponder on the amount of money made available for the purchase of land for the relief of congestion? This year a provisional figure of £400,442 is being provided for the purchase of land for the relief of congestion. In order to expend that sum of £400,000 we are paying salaries to the tune of £588,010. That is the comparative figure. Now let us break that down a little further. Let us start at the top with the Minister's own office; it costs £11,290 to administer the Minister's own office. The Minister himself receives the not inconsiderable sum of £2,125 out of this £11,290, and he receives that sum for acting as the mouthpiece or the scapegoat, whichever one likes, for the Department of Lands. The sum expended on his office alone is £11,290 for the sole purpose of carrying into effect decisions taken by the commissioners; in other words, the Minister and his office staff are nothing but rubber stamps. At a later stage I propose to make a suggestion as to the steps that should be taken with regard to the office of Minister for Lands and his office staff.
 I have stated that the Land Commission employs 1,091 officials ranging from the commissioners down to shorthand typists and that the salaries of these 1,091 officials alone come to £588,010. To that we must add the figure of £34,000 for travelling expenses. I presume, as I am sure other Deputies do, that the travelling expenses involved are mainly concerned with the visits of inspectors and other important people to localities where farms are up for sale or where it is necessary to visit small holdings in connection with the redistribution of land and the solving of the rundale problem. Therefore, if we take the figure for salaries and expenses in the Department of Lands, it amounts in all to a sum of £622,000. For an expenditure of £622,000 on salaries and travelling expenses, we turn round and spend, or intend to spend this year, only £400,000 on the purchase of land for the relief of congestion. I do not know of any Department of State where the figures are so top heavy in relation to salaries as compared with the functions the paid staff should carry out. Generally, in any business undertaking, very careful attention is paid to what percentage of the total turnover goes into salaries, especially in relation to the management end.
In the Department of Lands there is not one penny piece of provision made for the payment of gangers, officials or labouring men employed on improvement works and I am dealing now solely with the clerical expenses involved from the Minister down to the shorthand typist; the sum involved for salaries alone for all these people is £588,000 and all that host of officials will spend on the purchase of land to solve the most acute problem in the country this year is only £400,000.
Now I want to make it quite clear that it is not the officials I am criticising. In the Land Commission there is a group of the best-trained officials in the State and the State should be glad to have their services. The tragedy is that there are over 1,000 skilful people employed in the Land Commission  killing time while in other Departments the officials are responsible for six to seven times the amount of money that is made available to the Land Commission. I do not blame the officials; I blame the Government. That applies to every Government we have had up to this which has permitted a situation to arise wherein there are first-class officials prepared to carry out certain work but whose efforts are stultified for the simple reason that the finances are not made available to them to do the work.
A number of people have asked time and again whether this and former Governments are serious in relation to solving the problem of congestion. Personally I do not believe that the present Minister is a bit serious about relieving congestion. It is perhaps somewhat regrettable that I should have to make such a personal criticism, but there is nothing like facing facts. The present Minister and his predecessor nibbled at this very acute problem. I propose to support my argument here with figures taken from the Minister's own Estimates and with information given here from time to time in reply to questions. It is on these I must make my case; otherwise, I could not expect Deputies to accept what I am saying.
Is the present Government serious about the purchase of land for the relief of congestion? I say it is not. Let us consider some examples in relation to the amount of money spent in the last 15 or 20 years on the purchase of land. In 1937, when the Land Commission was properly geared up, a sum of £536,218 was spent on the purchase of land for the relief of congestion. In 1938, that figure went up to £617,174. The war intervened and many of the staff in the Land Commission were diverted to other important work and I do not propose, therefore, to take any figure during the war years because that would be unfair.
From 1946 onwards there was plenty of opportunity for Ministers, be they Fianna Fáil or inter-Party, to get the Land Commission once more geared up so that the problem of purchasing land for the relief of congestion could be dealt with properly. They earliest  figure I propose to give since the end of the war is that for 1953. I do not think I can be described as unreasonable in going back only to 1953. Surely after the three years of dynamic pressure exerted by the present Minister for Lands when he was a Minister in the inter-Party Government that gearing-up process should have been put into operation.
In 1953 the amount of money spent on the purchase of land for the relief of congestion was £400,212. In 1954— mark you, the first year the present Minister returned to office—that figure fell to £336,447. Now there may be a genuine excuse for that actual drop in the amount of money available. I understand one of the reasons was that, due to certain decisions in the courts, there was a hold-up in the actual acquisition of land in 1954; but in 1955 we are back again to the figure of £400,000 for the purchase of land for the relief of congestion.
If it was considered desirable in 1938 to spend £617,174 on the purchase of land for the relief of congestion, surely we have reason to complain that in 1955 an expenditure of only £400,000 for a similar purpose is totally inadequate. There are a number of reasons why it is inadequate. Let us dwell for a moment on the value of the £ in 1938 and the value of the £ in 1953. On that basis alone if we wanted to purchase the same amount of land in 1955 as was purchased in 1938 we should now be expending three times the 1938 figure. Apart from the fall in the value of the £ we must also take into consideration another important factor, and that is the increase in the value of land in the last five years; the value of land since 1946 has doubled in many instances.
We have had two factors since 1938. The value of the £ went down and the value of land went up, and yet, in spite of all that, we are spending £200,000 less this year on the purchase of land for the relief of congestion than we did in 1937-38. That is the only way I can put it: that, in comparison with 1937-38, we are now only spending a fraction of the money that we then spent on the purchase of land for  the relief of congestion. We have now a Minister who comes from a congested area. He came into this House because he was from the congested areas, and his election to this House was to ensure that, in so far as it lay within his power, steps would be taken to solve that problem within a period of years. The figures which I have given cannot be contradicted, that we are now spending less money on the purchase of land for the relief of congestion than we did in pre-war years.
I have said that I do not believe this Government has a bit of interest in land division. Naturally enough, the major Party in the Government group, Fine Gael, shy away from the division of land because their support is mainly gathered from the rancher and those generally who produce the bullocks, and from the big men in the Midlands with farms of from 300 acres up. It is too bad, therefore, that they are able to impose the landlord policy on a Party that comes from the West of Ireland—that is Clann na Talmhan.
Last year, the suggestion was made that the Department of Lands could not expend all the money available to it on the purchase of land because a decision made in the Supreme Court slowed up the Land Commission in its work of acquisition. They are never short of an excuse. I am sure that can be looked upon by the general public as a reasonable excuse, and I am sure it was a godsend to the Government to be able to hold back so much money from expenditure on land. They can use that decision of the Supreme Court as an excuse for slowing up land division.
There was another method by which that money could have been spent and it was not necessary to try that bluff on the public—that it was a decision of the Supreme Court that was holding up the acquisition of land. There was another method by which land could have been acquired or obtained. I refer now to sub-head R in the Estimate. The purchase of land in the open market could be achieved under that sub-head. The section that deals with the purchase of land in the open market was brought in under the 1950  Land Act. The present Minister for Lands happens to be that Minister who brought that Bill before the House in 1950. Many of us who were members of the House then supported him in the belief that the Land Commission would take full advantage of that section. It enables them to go into the open market and purchase existing holdings on which suitable migrants or congests could then be placed, thus helping to relieve the problem of congestion.
It is quite true that an amount of land comes on the market each year which could be purchased under that section. There is not a day in the week on which we do not see advertisements in the provincial newspapers giving particulars of farms of land ranging from 30 acres to 50 acres which are being offered for sale. It is very seldom that we hear of the representatives of the Land Commission going to a public auction to purchase these suitable holdings, although that power to purchase is there. It is a power that was given specifically to the Land Commission under the 1950 Land Act.
During the last few years, under that sub-head in the Estimate, we have seen a figure of £20,000 set out for the purchase of suitable holdings, but in no year so far has that sum of £20,000 been expended. I think I am correct in saying that not even half that sum was spent in any a particular year, and yet that was one of the Acts that was brought in by the present Minister in order to show the congests and the smallholders in the West of Ireland that he was serious about ending congestion. The proof of that is that the amount of money which is being spent under that section of the Land Act is negligible. It is an insult to the people in the West of Ireland to suggest that it was ever intended as a help to relieve their problems.
I want to repeat that quite a large number of holdings come on the market every year which would be suitable for purchase by the Land Commission, but the one controlling influence which prevents the Land Commission from exercising their powers under the 1950 Lands Act is the purse-strings held by  the Minister for Finance, and as long as the Minister for Finance, or any other member of his Party, has control of the purse-strings, then there will be no money made available, or as little as possible, for the relief of congestion. If the Minister were to go down on his two knees to-morrow morning to the Minister for Finance he would be spurned and told to go away and not be annoying him as there was no money available. This thing has to be exposed to the public because this delusion has gone on for years.
There are thousands of congested holdings all over the West of Ireland, and in other counties throughout the State. On them you have the finest of our people living. They are living there from year to year in the hope that some Government will carry out its promise of solving the congestion problem. It has to be made quite clear now that this Government has no intention of solving their problems for them, and that the people living on those holdings will have to solve their own problems as they have been solving them all over the years, and that is by leaving on the boats that will take them to the land of John Bull in order to seek employment there.
I have often said that we blamed the British in the past for many of the evils that beset this country, and rightly so. It may be unpalatable, however, to suggest in this House to certain people that, within the last 30 years, more of our people had to leave this country, due to economic circumstances, than had ever left it in any similar period under the British régime, with the exception of the famine years. I have time and again stated in this House that it was economic conditions which had forced our people across the Shannon to seek a livelihood in England and America.
Certain other things may have attracted a number of them to go, such as those that were referred to in another debate by Deputy O'Donovan, Parliamentary Secretary to the Government. In other words, when people leave the congested areas in the West of Ireland and go to England, the fact that a number of them do well naturally attracts their former comrades and  the folk at home to go after them, but I suggest that the main reason which comples our people to leave home are the economic circumstances under which they have to exist.
I have often referred to the fact that the congested areas in Ireland can only be compared to the slums in Dublin. They are rural slums and the conditions in them can be compared to the conditions that existed in Dublin some years ago. Let us see what Dublin and other cities did about their slums. In Dublin, those slum areas where people were living in condemned houses, were given priority by the responsible authority dealing with the problem. The slums were dealt with on a priority basis and to-day we see the fruits of that priority in the new towns that have sprung up all around Dublin. We have new towns with new houses, suitable amenities and sewerage and water facilities available to those families. There are playgrounds available for their children, while libraries and shops are made available for the people taken out of the slum areas. That is priority of the right kind.
“For the benefit of Deputies who are not familiar with such rural conditions, perhaps I should say that throughout the congested districts there still exist thousands of cases of the worst possible type of congestion, namely, intermixed and rundale holdings. These cases are the rural equivalent of the city slums. Because there are great difficulties in relieving these acutely congested districts, they have been left over for attention until recent times. But the Land Commission are now tackling them energetically to the limit of their resources.”
In the cities, priority was given to the problem of the slum areas but in the rural areas, which the Minister represents, that problem had to be left over because it was a difficult one and it is  only now that the Land Commission is tackling it to the limit of its resources. I have already pointed out the resources available to the Land Commission and it might be no harm to emphasise this matter again at this particular point in the debate. The Minister says that the Land Commission is now tackling this problem cuergetically to the limit of its resources. This would lead us to presume that the commission is going to have plenty of money to purchase the necessary lands. Yet we find in a reply given to me to a question put down in this House that in the year 1955 the provisional amount laid out for the purchase of land for the relief of congestion is only £400,442.
That is the limit of the Land Commission's resources and yet, in 1936 and 1937, there was almost £200,000 more spent in each of those years on the same problem. We now find that the Land Commission is utilising its full resources and we find that the full resources amount only to £400,000. Does the Minister think that the people are fools? If the Minister wants help or pressure to get money for the relief of congestion, can he not come into this House where he will get plenty of help from Deputies on all sides and not allow the vested interests that exist to prejudice and hold up this very necessary and desirable work?
I want to refer again to remarks made by the Minister in his opening statement on this Estimate. Going on from that very hopeful picture he has painted as to the work the Land Commission is doing for the relief of congestion, he points out that he has placed in the main hall of this House two maps showing the position before and after rearrangement in a typical congested district. In column 269, Volume 151, he goes on to tell us of the great work done in this particular district and tells Deputies that they should go and look at what has happened in that particular district. He goes on to say:—
“By various proceedings, including acquisition, resumption, migration, turbary development, housing, fencing and other improvement works, the Land Commission,  in rearranging the four townlands concerned, raised the 84 small holdings from an average of £5 rateable valuation to an average of £10 and made available £45,000 for expenditure on improvement works.”
Any Deputy in this House need not be an expert on land to know that a £10 holding in that type of land is not an economic holding and it would be a far better proposition for the people if the Minister, instead of improving, in a slight way, the 84 holdings concerned halved the number of holdings and made 42 decent holdings of them.
This particular outlook on the part of the powers that be and the increase in size of a few holdings such as this is supposed to keep the dog from barking for the next couple of years. That is the mentality behind this. By the few examples given to this House, we find the Land Commission in the act of creating congested holdings themselves. This is one of the cases in which the Land Commission can be charged with the improper use of public funds and the Minister himself ought to be indicted in relation to that action. I make that as a very serious statement. If any Deputy tells me that any holding of £10 valuation can be looked on as an economic holding, I would like him to show it to me.
It would be better to have 42 of these 84 holdings fixed up as economic holdings, on any of which a young man could live and rear a family. All that has happened now as a result of the work done by the Land Commission is that the occupier of that £10 holding, instead of having to work four months out of the year for the county council, need now only work three months of the year to enable him to exist and keep his family going. That man has not been given an economic holding. He is still depending on the extra bit of work that he can get either from the county council, the special employment office or from forestry work.
There you have a typical example of what is being done by the Land Commission towards the relief of congestion where they have tried to fit 84 men with families into a congested area and given them holdings with a  rateable valuation of £10, while perhaps 50 miles away, in County Westmeath, County Kildare or one of these counties, enough land is available in the hands of one man to solve all the problems in these townlands. But who carries the most weight when it comes to Government policy? Is it the poor congest or the big fellow with the 700 acres around Mullingar?
I was attracted by certain remarks which the former Minister made in connection with the co-operation that should exist between the Land Commission and other bodies. There we have a typical example of a case in which there should be co-operation. These people need instruction and education in co-operative matters. That is the only way they can ever hope to live now. Before leaving that area, the Land Commission should have secured the means of purchasing machinery on a co-operative basis and they should have ensured that fertilisers were made available to these people. Under the system in Italy, where land division takes place, the work of the Land Commission is integrated with the work of the Department of Agriculture, but in this country they are two separate and watertight compartments—“My right hand does not know what my left hand is doing” type of things. I intend to deal at a later stage with improvement works generally—so called improvement works —carried out by the Land Commission.
In order to get a clear picture, if a clear picture can be got, of the work of the Land Commission in the past 34 or 35 years, I think it is essential that the House should get certain figures, because, before the end of this debate, Deputies will get up here— some of them briefed—to give stunning figures of the amount of land acquired by the Land Commission since 1931, and before these Deputies get up, I want to give certain facts so that the House can judge whether or not the claims that will be made at a later stage by these Deputies are exaggerated or otherwise.
According to a reply given recently by the Minister, the Land Commission established 13,000 new holdings in the  country between 1931 and 1953. They established or created 13,000 new holdings of an average area of 23 acres. That information was given to me as the result of a parliamentary question and in that question I asked for information as to the average valuation of these holdings. The reply by the Minister in the course of a letter to me was that the average valuation was not available in the Department. What an extraordinary state of affairs it is that he was able to give me the average acreage of the holdings but was unable to give me the average valuation. That is what I want to bring home to Deputies—that you can never judge the work of the Land Commission by acreage alone. You must always take into consideration in a big way the valuation of the land they acquire and divide. It will be found that, whenever an attempt is made in this House to get the valuations in connection with matters like this, every obstacle will be put in the way of the particular Deputy. I will deal later on with the valuations.
I want to deal first with these 13,000 holdings established by the Land Commission. In addition to establishing these 13,000 holdings, the Land Commission enlarged some 30,000 existing small holdings and when they had finished their activities with these small holdings, the average size of the holdings was 21 acres. Again, I could not get any figures for the average valuations of these small holdings improved by the Land Commission. During the same period, 1931 to 1953, the number of holdings between 15 and 30 acres decreased by 3,381. While the Land Commission was creating these small holdings of an average area of 23 acres, the number of holdings between 15 and 30 acres decreased by 3,381.
Let us take then the next category —holdings between 30 and 50 acres. Most Deputies will agree that a reasonable holding on which a man can live and have a hope of rearing a family in some comfort is in the region from 30 to 50 acres, but during the period 1931 to 1939 the number of holdings within that range increased by the large number of 186 and—and this is the significant  part of it—that increase was confined almost entirely to the province of Connacht. In the Midlands, in the counties where the land is available, in that period, there was no increase in the number of holdings between 30 and 50 acres.
Here again I want to refer to the importance of the valuation basis. The Minister is an expert at this business of telling us the wonderful work done by the Land Commission and at patting himself and ex-Ministers, as well as the Department, on the back for the tremendous acreage of land acquired since 1931 and redistributed amongst smallholders. It is quite possible that I will not be able to get my figures across to the public, but it is well known that in the past the Department and the particular Ministers involved have got across to the public what are not and never were facts. It is easy to blind the public with figures given by experts in the various Departments, and if we are to accept the Land Commission idea that we can gauge their work purely on the acreage of land they acquire, we are wasting our time here. We have to examine, in conjunction with acreage, the valuation of the land to get a real test of the work done by the Land Commission.
The Minister and some ex-Ministers may think that because the actual figures for land division, the figures of acreages, look big, great work has been done, but I ask the Minister and Deputies concerned here to check up on the valuation of the land acquired. It is a well-known fact that wherever possible the Land Commission went for the poorest valued land. They were not interested in getting the best land for the relief of congestion: they were interested in getting the land that was as lightly valued as possible. You could get 25 to 30 acres of land very lightly valued. It would be poor land but, so far as the statistics are concerned, it looks big when brought in with all the other 25-acre holdings.
The idea of the Land Commission is to buy the cheapest land possible. I suppose that idea came about, naturally enough, because the amount of  money at their disposal was limited. That was one reason. The other reason, of course, was that those people who lived on the best land, whether they used it or not—those people who lived on the large holdings and spent their time at race meetings and did no tillage or any other useful work on the land—were vocal enough and were able to bring whatever pressure was necessary to bear on whatever Government might be in office to ensure that that good land would not be divided.
I propose to give some figures to bear out my contention in connection with the importance of valuation when we are dealing with land and land distribution. According to the figures returned by the Department, we have approximately 380,000 holdings in Ireland of which we have 280,000 with a total area of 6,000,000 acres land a total poor law valuation of £2,000,000. We have 11,600 holdings of land, apart from that 280,000, with a total area of 2,750,000 acres and a poor law valuation of £2,250,000. I can put that in a simpler way. The 280,000 holdings I have mentioned represent approximately 70 per cent. of the holdings in the country and, for that 70 per cent. of the holdings in Ireland, the poor law valuation is £2,000,000. The 11,600 holdings I have mentioned represent 3 per cent. of the holdings in Ireland and for that 3 per cent. the total poor law valuation is £2,250,000. Therefore, for that 3 per cent. of the holdings in Ireland the valuation is £250,000 more than the valuation in respect of the 70 per cent. of the holdings of Ireland.
What can we read from that except that there are too many people on one type of land and too few people on the good land? As the man said, there is something rotten in the State of Denmark when something like that is allowed to exist in a Christian country: at any rate, we call ourselves Christians. What I am saying here are not just my beliefs alone. Many people who have a higher standing than I have outside this House have agreed with the figures I have given. I am glad to be in the company of some of those people because, if I were not, I  should be described to-morrow morning as a rip-roaring Communist by reason of the statements I am about to make in this House.
I do not know how many Deputies went to the trouble of reading the report of the Commission on Emigration. The majority report is a very excellent volume and it is full of very interesting factual matter. When it came to the point of reaching certain conclusions as to what steps should be taken in connection with problems in rural areas, in my opinion the signatories of the majority report were rather lukewarm in their recommendations but, lukewarm and all as they were, they admitted that increased activity by the Land Commission was essential in the Midlands. That is a recommendation in the majority report. They recommended the acquisition and division of the large holdings that are not being properly utilised to-day. Then there is the minority report by Dr. Lucey. Dr. Lucey has not put a tooth in it with regard to the action he believes should be taken in the Midlands and elsewhere.
Dr. Lucey's argument—and I agree with it—is that the big problem in rural Ireland is the maldistribution of the population as between the West of Ireland and the rich Midlands. The remedy, according to Dr. Lucey, as can be read on page 30 of the minority report, lies in the break-up of the large holdings in the Midlands into family sized farms. That is not an unreasonable suggestion and I hope the Minister will give serious consideration to it. Dr. Lucey, who comes from Cork, is familiar with the problems of the congested areas and the Minister in charge of the Department of Lands comes from County Mayo, a congested area. Any man who comes from these areas should understand the problem and should not allow himself to be hoodwinked by people whose sole interest is the maintenance of the large landlord system in this country, especially in the Midland areas.
I think it is an admitted fact that, in the Midlands, the bullock is monarch of all he surveys. The human element does not count except in so far as the  bullocks are owned by certain individuals who are reaping the full benefits of the first-class market available in Britain to-day. The mentality of certain sections of the community is that these lands should not be interfered with and that if the larger farms in the Midlands are broken up it will upset our economy—it will upset the present system of cattle rearing and the cattle export business. The moment any attempt is made to enlighten the public as to the desirability of breaking up these farms, the big stick is immediately waved that you will harm the cattle trade. Of course, that is pure nonsense—but they are let get away with it.
Other experts—so-called experts— maintain that the pool of land for the relief of congestion has dried up and that the land is not available. I heard Deputy de Valera, the Leader of the Opposition, state that here some couple of years ago, and I have heard the present Minister saying practically the same thing. It seems to be a rather accepted fact now that the work of the Land Commission is slowing down and that we will soon be at a full stop, on the ground that the pool of land is drying up. Into that pool there should be a constant flow of new land, if the proper steps are taken to make that new land available. If no attempt is made to replenish the pool with the lands that are available, then it can reasonably be argued that the pool has dried up.
What is essential is that a vigorous and inspired policy of land division must be got under way. I do not know whether the present Minister is strong enough to cope with the vested interests, whether he is strong enough to cut the red tape, whether he is strong enough to ensure that finance is made available and that no financial difficulties will stand in his way of solving this problem during his term of office. Dr. Lucey and other public people have stated their view that in order to reach some definite policy with regard to land division, there must be a ceiling put on the amount of land available to any particular farmer. So far I have heard no Minister  or ex-Minister and no Government statement to the effect that they believe there should be a ceiling or a limitation imposed on the size of a holding.
It would be a courageous thing for some particular Party here to make its views quite clear on that, whether or not they believe that a man who has 700 acres is entitled to purchase another 700 if he feels like it, as is happening to-day all over the country. Is that accepted policy? When I question a thing like that here, the Minister will reply: “I have no function in the matter; that is the responsibility of the Land Commission.” Has the Land Commission been given any direction as to the amount of land that any man should have or as to when they should step in and say: “You have 300 acres; you are not going to be allowed to purchase another 100 in any part of Ireland.” Is there any Government policy in that respect? Was there any Government policy in that respect or will there be in the future? It is a thorny problem, one that no Government likes to face; but as long as they do not face it the problem will go on for all time.
I am one of those people who believe a limit should be imposed on the amount of land that any man should have in this country, but I am not expert enough to be able to state what exactly that figure should be. That is where the question of valuation comes in. I believe that it is a matter that should be decided by the Government and let the Opposition then say whether or not they agree with it. If any Government were serious about ending congestion, doing away with rundale and setting up as many economic holdings as possible, in accord with the directive principles in the Constitution, I believe it would be possible to set up another 50,000 holdings. It is possible to establish 50,000 new holdings of land each with a minimum area of 30 acres. I want to pursue that a bit further and I want to repeat it. I believe that it is possible to establish 50,000 new holdings with a minimum area of 30 acres, without interfering with any holding of 200  acres or less which is at present being properly utilised.
If we take the figures since 1931, that the Land Commission have created only 13,000 new holdings with an average area of 23 acres and if I suggest now that another 50,000 could be made available with the minimum area of 30 acres without touching any holding in the country to-day with 200 acres or less that is being properly utilised, that is a statement that I make in this House, a Leas-Cheann Comhairle, and that I will stand over as being possible of achievement if this Minister or any other Minister is serious about the problem. No matter how much the pool may be drying up at the moment, that pool can be refilled from these farms I have mentioned, these large farms, and the statistics are there to prove that, from the amount of land in the hands of these people, ranging from 300 acres up. I am advocating that as a line of policy to the Minister—and I am not alone in doing so. Again I refer you to the minority report of Dr. Lucey, who has advocated that line of approach.
I do not know whether or not my words will sink into the Minister's head and give him a bit of courage. It is necessary to say these things here, in the hope that the Minister will gain a bit of courage and not be discrediting the Front Bench of the House, as if he were a member of the Fine Gael Party instead of being a member of Clann na Talmhan which came into this House to solve congestion. He can rest assured that as long as I have the opportunity I will be behind him in every sense of the word, to ensure that he does not neglect his first duty, that is, to the smallholders. Any help I can give him, whether it is in a critical form or otherwise, will be for the purpose of ensuring that he is not submerged by these vested interests that believe the bullock should rule this country as he ruled it for the last 12 months.
I have heard various Deputies inside the House and outside it pointing out the tremendous chance made available to the people on these small holdings  at the present time to make the holdings economic. Reference is made to the land project and similar schemes made available by different Departments. To the man living on a congested holding the land project is of little benefit. It is of little benefit to a man to drain the few acres of bog-land or light land that he has, as the accrued benefit would not give him anything like sufficient for a livelihood for himself and his family. However, it is one of the arguments used against speeding up the acquisition of land in other areas. The land project is a desirable thing, but no matter how desirable it is the people who reap the most benefit from it are the bigger people—the bigger they are the more benefit they get from the land project.
There is no good in suggesting, as some Deputies have done, that the fact that there is such a great price for cattle is of benefit to those small holdings in the West of Ireland. That is more of the nonsense that is talked. The bullock could never give employment in the West of Ireland, because the land is not there to feed him. The result of the increased price for our cattle in England is of little benefit to the small congested holder in the West of Ireland. The only means by which he can hope to earn an existence to-day is by pig production and poultry—and those things are not there. I wonder can the Minister hold out any hope that the conditions that exist in his own area and in the areas of Roscommon of people who have been congests for the last 50 years can be changed?
I would like to bring the minds of older Deputies back to the times when they took a very active interest in freeing this part of our country from British domination. I am sure that I will bring back memories of the feeling at the time that not alone were they going to free Ireland in the physical sense as far as the flag and our Government are concerned, but that the land of Ireland would, in so far as it was possible for them to do so, be returned to the people.
I have here a copy of an announcement that was plastered or placarded in Ballaghaderreen, very near the  present Minister's home place, during the last week of February, 1918, and this placard states that Sinn Féin was out to promote tillage and satisfy the land-hungry men of the West. “The Sinn Féin Club of Ballaghaderreen and district will secure for tillage purposes to labourers and farmers having ten acres or under the use at £4 per acre of the lands situated at the following townlands—Castlemaine, Brook-lawn, Colebrooke, Edmondstown,” and others. It went on to state that “the owners of available land in the aforementioned districts have been asked to co-operate with the Sinn Féin Club in allotting the lands. The work of allotting would begin at 10 a.m. on Tuesday, 26th, and would be carried on in the districts in the order mentioned.”
Mr. McQuillan: Would you allow me to finish it, a Leas-Cheann Comhairle? “Every person entitled to receive an allotment must be present when the division is being made. The men affected are requested to bring implements and the work will be carried out in the name of the Irish Republic. By order of the committee, J. Shouldice, secretary, Ballaghaderreen Sinn Féin Club.”
This is how I propose to make it relevant. There has been no change in the economic circumstances of those people since 1918. At that time a few acres around Ballaghaderreen were taken on the conacre system in order to help those smallholders to make a livelihood, and those same congests or uneconomic holders are still depending on a few acres of conacre in the locality. Since 1918 a lot of water has flown in the Lung river and the Shannon and the other rivers, and while that water was flowing many a man and woman, boy and girl in the Ballaghaderreen district fled out of this country to try to make a living in England because of the fact that the Land Commission failed in its duty to make economic holdings available in some other part of this country for those people.
 A lot of people maintain that the status quo is the safest way to have conditions in Ireland. They tell you that the pool of land, on the one hand, has dried up, that it is not available for the relief of congestion, and that it would be a dangerous thing to divide up those large farms in the Midlands and allow people as well as bullocks to live on the land.
There is another important aspect to which I want to draw the attention of this House and that is a section in our Aliens Act which gives the same right to the non-national to purchase the best land of this country and own it on the very same terms as a national. In dealing with this matter I want to except, to leave out very specifically, those people who are our relatives and our friends in America, Irish people who went to America. I have no intention of trying to debar those people from coming home and purchasing a piece of land where they left earlier or from which their fathers left. I am concerned with the loophole that is there in an Act of Parliament which will allow any type of undesirable alien to come in here and purchase the finest land in this country.
Mr. McQuillan: May I point out, a Leas-Cheann Comhairle, that I raised this matter some months ago and was informed that it did not need legislation? As a matter of fact, I received a long lecture from a legal gentleman in this House to the effect that there was no need whatever for legislation to block those purchases of land by undesirables. Consequently, with your permission, I propose to refer to it in a little more detail.
While the picture in the West is of people leaving the small holdings and going to England to work in factories or in mines, and, as far as girls are concerned, to work at domestic service or, if they have a little bit of education, as nurses—while that is going on we are allowing undesirable non-nationals to purchase the finest land in this country. I have already given a  figure that has not been challenged, of 150,000 acres of the finest land in Ireland having passed into the hands of aliens since 1945. I think that 150,000 acres would be a very desirable addition to this pool of land for the relief of congestion but I have little hope that this Minister or any other one of them will take the necessary steps. It was extraordinary to see the row that was kicked up in this House recently by the Minister for Justice at the idea of non-nationals coming in here and setting up slot-machines and playing Pongo. It was looked on with horror that these people should be allowed to do that, but when it comes to buying up our land and our business-houses there is not a word about it. People like myself are accused of trying to open old sores and disturb things in this country.
Mr. McQuillan: I will deal with that in a minute. I will just in a brief way mention the fact that some years ago a prominent man in the Land Commission made a statement in Galway that in the last few years, prior to 1949, 100,000 acres of land had up to then passed into the hands of aliens. He said that it was the finest land in the Midlands. This man, after making that statement, was silenced by the Minister for Lands within a very short space of time for doing what he believed to be his duty, speaking in Galway and exposing the situation that existed.
I ask the Minister did he agree that what that man said was true, that it had happened? Is it on record that he stated that it was true, but that the commissioner should not have made that statement as a judge? That does not in any way take away from the fact that the Minister admitted that the commissioner's statement was true. What steps have been taken since to acquire that land? As far as I know, no steps whatever. We have a lot of talk in this House, bluffing the public that the purchase of land by non-nationals has not been on a serious or widespread scale.
 I want to refer to another aspect in connection with land division. Here recently after a motion of mine dealing with non-nationals purchasing land had been discussed in the House and a denial made by the prominent Ministers involved to the effect that this was not a problem at all, the week after we had the Minister for Agriculture coming into this House and telling us he had to reduce the price of wheat because of the wheat speculators and because of the fact that wheat was now being ranched in the Midlands by speculators, by aliens and other undesirables. Here was the Minister for Agriculture admitting in this House that a racket existed in the Midlands whereby aliens purchased land for the growing of wheat and that where they had not actually purchased the land they were allowed to take large acreages on the conacre system. It was only when that motion on the wheat price came up that the Minister for Agriculture let down the Minister for Lands and the Minister for External Affairs who had stated that there was no problem at all about speculators and aliens purchasing land. But the Minister for Agriculture, when he was anxious to get a rattle at the wheat price, used these people as a very good lever in order to reduce it.
I was present when the Minister for Agriculture gave us the low-down on these wheat ranchers. In the course of his speech I asked him could he give us any idea as to the number of these people who had taken land in the Midlands for the growing of wheat and of the acreage involved. He was kind enough to give the figures. He read out a list that in Dublin alone 22 individuals had 10,000 acres between them on the conacre system; that in Kildare 25 individuals or limited companies had 7,000 acres; in Louth, ten individuals had 3,000 acres; in Meath, 12 individuals had 4,000 acres; in Kilkenny, 23 individuals had 7,000 acres; in Tipperary, five individuals had 1,500 acres; in Carlow, eight individuals had 2,500 acres. He mentioned that in all, between individuals, limited liability companies and non-nationals, a number of 105 had a total of 40,000 acres of land taken between them on the conacre system.
When that discovery was made, I asked the Minister for Lands shortly afterwards whether his attention had been drawn to the fact that this pool of land existed and that this land should be acquired by the Land Commission for the setting up of economic holdings. He told me the Land Commission were inquiring into it but I am willing to lay a wager that of that 40,000 acres mentioned by the Minister for Agriculture, not one acre has been acquired or will be acquired by the Minister for Lands for the relief of congestion or for the setting up of economic holdings.
If it is possible that aliens could purchase 150,000 acres of good land since 1945, if only a limited number of wheat speculators have 40,000 acres between them in the Midlands as well, surely if that amount was pooled, we would be able to make available at least 1,400 to 1,500 new holdings with the minimum of 30 acres to suitable migrants from the West. Each year there is a clap on the back for the Minister, and the Irish Press and the Irish Independent show photographs when 70 or 80 migrants are taken up from the West of Ireland. You would think the whole western seaboard had moved up to the Midlands and were pushing out the unfortunate people in Meath and Westmeath. As I say, the total figure per year is around 80 although we know the number of congests who should be looked after is between 15,000 and 22,000. There will be queer old beards on a number of grandchildren of the present holders by the time their photographs are taken as moving up to Meath and Westmeath.
 I will have to refer again to the Minister's statement on this particular matter because I deplore the fact that there is division created in this House between Deputies in rural areas with regard to the land problem. I want to say to Deputy Tully and other Deputies in the Labour Party that I am prepared to co-operate in any way possible on the question of land division. I am not concerned so much with trying to get people in the West established as to get established the largest number of economic holdings, no matter who may get those holdings, and to see those big ranches broken up into family-size holdings. So long as division of opinion between members of the Labour Party and others is there to be used as an excuse, no Department will divide this land.
A statement in the Minister's opening speech pointed out how many Meath people got land, that of all the land divided in the Midlands 80 per cent. went to the local people and only 20 per cent. to the West, and that it was unfair, therefore, for Deputies like the Midland Deputies to criticise the migrant scheme. I think Deputies from the Midlands need never worry their heads because the rate of transfer from the West is such that it will be a long time before there is any serious damage done in the Midlands on the big ranches there, and it will be a long time before any harm is done to the people whom Deputy Tully represents.
I have said that if this land that is available for wheat ranching, as it is described, and for purchase by aliens, was put into this pool, we would within 12 months be able to say: “Here are 1,400 new holdings with 30 acres each for suitable applicants.” We have heard talk in this House by the Minister for Agriculture to the effect that our agriculture is expanding and I think members of the Opposition were more or less in agreement. The only expansion I see taking place in that most important aspect of our economy is in the cattle trade and let no one in this House try to take Party credit for something that the British housewife must be thanked for. We have nearly reached the stage in this  country when political Parties are taking credit if the sun shines for six out of 24 hours. Let them not try to kid the public that this expansion in the cattle business has come about as a result of the action of any Government here, but because of the present demand of the British housewife.
Mr. McQuillan: I shall show my reason for introducing this matter. I say that if we are to depend on this gentleman, the bullock, for our future expansion in agriculture, we shall lose. We need tillage, and if we are to have profitable tillage, we must have suitably-sized holdings. It is a wellknown fact that it is on the medium holdings and the small holdings that most of the tillage is done and if we are to have a proper economy we must create as many as possible of these medium and small holdings.
We all know that it is on the medium and small farms that the real farming —the mixed farming—is done, and it cannot be denied that these are the most suitable farms. I hope the Leas-Cheann Comhairle does not pull me up before I finish drawing this comparison. Many of us are criticised in this House and outside it for comparing conditions here with those in Denmark, England and elsewhere, but I think it is only fair to emphasise that whereas only 15 per cent. of our arable land is under tillage, it is 70 per cent. in Denmark, and 45 per cent. in Britain. A lot of that is due to the fact that the holdings here are either too big or too small.
I am afraid we have not given sufficient consideration to the size of holding which would be best suited to tillage. The bigger the farm the less tillage will be done. In Denmark, where so much tillage is done, there is no whining or crying that the land is being exhausted as a result. Cromwell  started this policy about banishing the Irish in a big way. He was the first gentleman to do it on a ruthless scale. He put most of the people across the Shannon into Connacht. That policy is being followed to-day by different Governments. Though Cromwell drove our people across the Shannon in order that they might die, he did not succeed. They lived and went to England and Canada and New Zealand and America and the land that was rightfully theirs was left to the big ranchers of the Midlands. I am not suggesting that any of those people are not first class and I am not suggesting that all of them do not till their land or put it to the best use, but it is a well-known fact that the majority of those farms, which range from 300 acres upwards, are not being properly utilised and are not being exploited in the best interests of the nation.
The argument will be put forward by the Minister and by a lot like him that inside his fences a man is his own boss. If we take that to its logical conclusion it means that no man in this country need do one day's tillage in the year.
Mr. McQuillan: I want to show that if these large farms were divided there is no question in the world about the use the land would then be put to and it is in order to make that argument that I have dealt with these side issues so that I should leave no stone unturned in drawing attention to the desirability of bringing about the division of the land in the Midlands on a large scale. The position as I see it to-day is that aliens with plenty of paper money are getting the fertile land while, for our young folk, there is the emigrant ship.
I think I have dealt with most of the points I wanted to raise in a general way, but before I conclude I want to make some specific references to conditions in my own constituency. I think I have been fair enough so far  in that I dealt in general terms but I do wish to say to the Minister that I am not satisfied with the rate of progress being made by the Land Commission in connection with the relief of congestion in my own constituency of Roscommon.
At this stage I can tell the Minister that the problems that I have brought to his attention here over the last six years in connection with congestion are as bad as they were six years ago for the very simple reason that the people in those areas are solving the congestion problem by emigration. The problem of migration has a more serious aspect. It is a question now of the people taking up bag and baggage and of whole families moving out of the congested areas to work and live in England and in my area in Roscommon there are houses closed up and doors and windows barred where a few years ago there were happy families. At least they were happy in the sense that they were together and that they lived in peace with their neighbours in the rural areas. Many of them have fled to England because they felt there was no longer any object in asking the Land Commission to solve their problems.
I do not like to dwell too long on this because I feel too strongly on it and I would possibly say things that would hurt people if I let myself go too far upon it. I ask the Minister to deal specifically with two very congested areas, one in the Cloonfad-Ballaghaderreen area and the other in the Rooskey-Strokestown area. The number of houses in these two localities would run to 700. The average size holdings range from £3 to £5 valuation. Those people need good houses, but they are precluded from taking advantage of the local government housing grant and the county council grant because they cannot afford to put up the extra amount of money involved. Consequently, we have people living in the worst possible types of condemned houses as a result of the negligence of the Land Commission. I want to see these areas properly tackled so that in the next two or three years the congestion that exists in them will be remedied.
 I want to remind the Minister that the time is over-ripe when the policy with regard to the building of houses by the Land Commission should be reinvestigated. I thought until recently that the Minister and his Department had decided to build decent houses in which would be provided necessary sanitary accommodation—bathrooms and so forth—but I was horrified to discover that no effort whatever is being made to give these very necessary amenities and facilities to the people. The Land Commission comes out very badly when you compare the facilities provided by them with those provided by the county councils and the Department of Local Government.
Wherever county councils nowadays erect cottages or houses they provide all these modern amenities. The farmer in the rural area or the businessman in the town who wants to build a house gets a grant towards a bathroom or water supply. Why cannot the Land Commission, when building these houses, provide these things? It is very hard for the people in the city areas to realise that all the Land Commission does, as far as housing is concerned, is to put up the four walls and the roof. That would be about the best description of it I could give this House.
I shall not enter into a detailed criticism of the improvement works they carry out because I am sure other Deputies who are as familiar as I am with the matter will deal with it in detail and speak of the mess the Land Commission has made of the roads for which they are responsible. In various areas all the Land Commission is anxious to do is to get the signatures of the tenants, half-do the roads and disappear. Once the signatures are obtained the responsibility no longer lies on the Land Commission. I think it is better not to do a job at all than to half-do it, as the roads done by the Land Commission are half-done. I suppose the reason for that is lack of money. I think that is the main reason and that the Land Commission was trying to make £1 go as far as £2 and it ended by doing a job that did not satisfy the people for whom it was being done and consequently there was a lot of money wasted.
 I believe that there are two courses open to the Minister. One is to provide the money for the Land Commission for the purchase of land for the relief of congestion so that instead of the £400,000 that is being made available this year, a figure would be given that would compare with the amount made available in 1938. If the Minister finds that he is not able to get this money from the Government then I would suggest to the Minister that he should inform the Government that it was his wish that they should abolish both himself and the Land Commission. I know that it would be impossible to ask the Minister himself to vanish—the physical consideration would enter into it—but I do think those are the only alternatives left to him and that he should urge on the Government the desirability—the necessity of making sufficient money available starting this coming year so that the problem of congestion can be solved within a period of five years. If he is not able to get that money from the Government then he should do the decent thing which would earn him the respect of the people of his own constituency and of mine for all time—resign as Minister and show the people in the West that he is really sincere.
Mr. Blowick: Before the next speaker begins I would like to make a correction of figures that were given in the early portion of the speech of Deputy McQuillan. Deputy McQuillan made a comparison of staffs between the Department of Agriculture and the Land Commission and just for the sake of the accuracy of the record of this House, I want to say that the comparison was wrong by 100 per cent.
Mr. Blowick: You stopped halfway through the Vote for Agriculture. You gave a figure of 713 for the staff. You only went halfway through the Agriculture Vote and I could not allow such a glaring inaccuracy to pass.
Mr. James Tully: I do not want to be caught between the crossfire of two  western Deputies but it may have been appropriate that this should have happened, because I would probably have been under fire from western Deputies before this, if it had not. The other speakers from the West who spoke on this Estimate so far seemed to be inclined to give the impression that the only congestion in this country occurs in the West of Ireland and that so far as land division is concerned there is some kind of an El Dorado in the Midlands and that all western congests should be brought into it as quickly as possible. Let me say that, so far as the people of Meath are concerned, we have no quarrel at all with our fellow-Irishmen in the West or in any other part of Ireland, and neither are we trying to interfere with them when they are brought in as congests, but we do think it terribly unfair that when land is being divided, no matter what the Land Commission or the Minister may say, the people of Meath at the present time and for the last few years seem to be completely ignored.
I was very interested to get the Minister's figures given in his opening speech the other day on this Estimate, when he said that all the land divided in Meath with the exception of 20 per cent. went to Meath men. That is very interesting, particularly when over the last few years I know from personal contact with the people affected that far from the 20 per cent. being the migrants, the 20 per cent. were not even Meath men. As far as I can gather from 95 to 100 per cent. of all the land divided in County Meath in the last few years has gone to migrants.
Deputy McQuillan made a very good case in which I was very interested, and if conditions are so bad in the West it may be said that it is only fair that these people should get preference, but let us approach the matter from the Meath man's point of view. We agree that there is an awful lot of land in Meath that is not being used at all. When I hear people talking of uneconomic holdings, I often wonder if the Land Commission consider a farm to be uneconomic because of its being too large as well as being too small. Take the case of a man  in County Meath who has anything between 500 or 1,500 or sometimes 2,000 acres and who has nothing but cattle on that farm with maybe one or two people working—do they consider that that is an uneconomic holding as far as the country in general is concerned? It is not, for on these farms we occasionally find people with enough Christian principle to give the grass of a cow.
We sometimes find nine or ten people around such holdings getting the grass of a cow in each case and then the Land Commission comes along and very rightly takes over most of the land. What happens? As happened last year or the year before, the Land Commission say that they can make no provision for the people who have cows grazing on the land and the unfortunate grazier, the cottier in many cases, has to sell his cow, because the Land Commission will not consider him at all and will bring in migrants and give the land to them. If the local people are unfortunate enough to approach any of these migrants for the grass of a cow they are told: “We have not enough for ourselves.” I think that is a situation which should not be allowed to continue.
We know quite well that the Land Commission have a very awkward—I think that would be the correct word— task to carry out. It is hard to please everybody, but I think their policy now is that the easiest way out of it is not to try to please anybody. That is being proved by the fact that when a farm is divided we who live in County Meath can go out as sightseers and see the buses and the cars coming from the West of Ireland with prospective emigrants coming to look at the land and walk it just as if they were going to pay £5,000 or £6,000 for it, and if they do not like it they say: “It is not good enough; we will wait for the next one.” I wonder how much of that applies——
Mr. James Tully: No, they returned. I think that if a farm is being divided and if the Land Commission decide to give it to certain migrants, and if they do not take it surely the commission knows there are hundreds of people in the neighbourhood who would be glad to take it even though it is not good enough for the migrants who are brought in.
We have this question also of the cow plots and I would be grateful if the Minister would make some statement on it when replying because I understand the Land Commission has hardened its heart against giving cow plots in County Meath, the reason being that when they had them 30 or 40 years ago they were not used.
Mr. James Tully: Yes, I agree, but, surely, times have changed a lot. If the Minister considers the period during which the cow plots fell into disuse, I am sure he will find good reason to ask the Land Commission to change their mind about giving cow plots now. If somebody who is interested would give the names of 20 or 30 people who want to put cows on a cow plot surely the Minister should ask the Land Commission to allow cow plots to be put in that area.
Quite recently, we had a case where a farm was divided at Spiddal, Nobber, County Meath, and people were very anxious to have a cow plot there but the Land Commission apparently decided that they did not need a cow plot. They also apparently decided that there were only two uneconomic holdings in the area. I believe they are building houses and that two migrants will be put into the farms that are being allotted there. I am sure that anybody who knows that area will agree that a cow plot is very badly needed because of the fact that the  plot which was there for over 100 years and which originally belonged to the O'Carolan, the Bard, and was up to very recently looked after by a descendant of the O'Carolan was sold by the Gormanstown Estate with the result that some nine or ten people in that area have no cow plots and these cows will have to go on the “long acre” or be sold. Surely that should be sufficient reason for the Land Commission to provide a cow plot on that estate.
You have this question, then, of what is an uneconomic holding. Apparently the Land Commission inspectors—I do not know any of them, and maybe I am lucky—when they go to inspect prospective tenants, or a farm that is to be divided, have certain standard rules to guide them as to what is an uneconomic holding and what is not. According to their rules, from what we are told, a man who is getting any income at all from outside his farm is not an uneconomic holder.
We find places where a man may have two or five or ten acres and is trying to rear a family. If he got an extension he could probably make a living, but what happens is that the Land Commission decides that the man, if he is earning a shilling at all through being employed as a carter by the county council or as a labourer, is not an uneconomic holder within the meaning of the Act and, therefore, in nine cases out of ten he is ruled out of consideration for a plot. I think that is unfair and should be changed as quickly as possible.
We also have the question of the man in the vested cottage. To all intents and purposes he has a house and one acre of land and is asking for an extension to that one acre. I can see no good reason why the Land Commission could not at least consider him for an accommodation holding of around five acres if they are not prepared to give him a decent holding. He does not even require a house because he has already got a house and therefore the Land Commission would not be put to the expense of building a house if the holding is given to him.
 The case of the landless man also arises. We have heard a good deal, particularly from Deputy McQuillan, in whose remarks I was very interested, about the case for the congests who, we are told, are living in rural slums. Does anybody consider that the working man who has three or four, or in some cases as many as six sons, living with him, is in any better position than the migrant? If a farm is divided in the area and if migrants are brought in there with big families who are looking for work will the sons in the cottage be in any better position? It is a moral certainty that when they come in the position will be a good deal worse and from what I have seen of the migrants, through no fault of theirs, the Meath people are moving out not because they do not like the migrants but because of the scarcity of work when more people are looking for it.
Something should be done to give a better balance in consideration of Meath men for land. We have Meath County Council employing in peak periods up to 1,450 men. A few years ago their peak was 600 or 700. During the war years when a lot of men were required for turf work and for tillage the young men growing up did not emigrate with the result that we now have 1,450 employed by Meath County Council at times. That cannot continue. I think there is a very good case for consideration by the Land Commission that some of these men should be given holdings so that they will be taken off the labour market and will eventually solve their own employment problem in that area.
I entirely agree with Deputy McQuillan when he says that a farm of under 30 acres is entirely out of the question so far as making a living on it is concerned. Even in the County Meath, I consider that a man, if he had a fairly large family, could hardly be expected to make a living out of a 30-acre farm. I suggest that the Minister should give consideration to that.
What I strongly object to is the system that is at present in operation whereby certain selected people, no matter whether they have given up a farm of 6,000 acres or six acres in the West of Ireland, can come to Meath  and are given, in many cases, over 100 acres of the best land, while a couple of thousand pounds has to be spent on erecting houses and out-offices for them. I do not think that is right, and I do not think that the Land Commission should do it. If the Minister doubts my word about that, I can produce evidence to show that such a thing is happening. Further, if someone gets a farm and a house and is not using either, there is one way of dealing with him. That should be done whether the person concerned is a Meath man or a migrant.
I do not think the excuse should be taken that the person concerned has given up two or three acres of land in the West in order to relieve congestion there. In my opinion he should not be allowed to come to Meath and to hold on to a house or farm, a house in which, perhaps, he has never lived. He may have moved off to England. I suggest that what should apply to a migrant in a case like that should also apply to a Meath man. I am sorry to say that there have been one or two cases of Meath men who got farms and houses and who have never lived in the houses. They were given these allotments, perhaps, because of their political opinions. It is wrong, I think, that cases of that kind should be allowed.
I think that, when the Minister has considered this whole matter, he should be able to give some direction or advice to the Land Commission, certainly on some of the points which I have raised. We hear an awful lot about the Minister for Lands being a figurehead. I do not mean any offence when I say that. I felt rather embarrassed on a number of occasions here in asking him some questions, as I knew that he had very little responsibility. I think the Minister should make it clear that if he is a figurehead or if his predecessor was a figurehead, then it was this House, down through the years, which was responsible for that through the instructions and authority which it has given to the Land Commission.
That is what, I suggest, made the Ministers figureheads. There is no use in people trying to single out individual Deputies and saying that they  were responsible for making the Minister for Lands a figurehead. Let us be quite honest about this, and let there be no hypocrisy. The fact is that the Land Commission was set up to do things, and are able to do them, which we object to. If I had my way, although I do not suppose I shall ever have that much authority, I would change the entire personnel of the Land Commission, because I think that those in authority there are hamstrung by their own regulations.
The position, as far as the Land Commission are concerned, is that they have been getting into a groove. In my opinion, it will take something bigger than our present system to get them out of that groove. I do not mean any offence to those people, but what I speak of has been going on for so many years that the Paddy-go-easy system is in operation.
The people in control to-day found that was how things were done by their predecessors and they are going to continue it whether it is right or wrong. We do not want to be offensive to people who are brother Irishmen and come to Meath, but we do expect that the Land Commission would go into the matters which I have raised, fully and fairly. If they do, they can rest assured that they will get full cooperation from us.
We think that the uneconomic landholder, and the smallholder in the County Meath, is as much entitled to land in the County Meath as the man from the West. I think that the case of our landless men in County Meath should be considered. If land is being divided, then I think that cow plots at least should be provided for people in the County Meath without any objection from the Land Commission. If land is given to a County Meath man, and if it is not being properly managed, the Land Commission have their own way of dealing with that.
Mr. James Tully: It arises in this way, I submit, that among the greatest offenders in that respect were the Land Commission. They set land, which they had taken for the relief of congestion, for wheat growing. I do not think it is right that that should be allowed. The Minister should put his foot down on it. When land is taken over for division it should be divided, and nobody should be allowed to turn it into a “dust-bowl” as Deputy Giles on one occasion described it. If the land is worn out and left in that condition, how is any unfortunate man to be expected to make a living out of it if it is allotted to him later under a Land Commission scheme?
Recently the Minister announced that in North Meath there were 1,300 acres of land which it was proposed to divide. I hope that when the Land Commission come to divide it they will give full consideration to the fact that, as far as congestion is concerned, this is one of the most congested areas in the State, outside the West of Ireland. I hope that, in dividing that land, the Land Commission will not act on the principle that some particular person knows everything about that area. I want the Land Commission to send down an inspector who will make a full investigation himself on the spot and who will check the details. I do not want him to go into a person's house and there make inquiries about the next-door neighbour. That happened in one or two cases. These people may not be on good terms because there may have been trouble about children some years ago.
The Land Commission inspector should go around and make the inquiries himself, and should not consider whether an applicant is a member of a Fianna Fáil Club, a Fine Gael Club or any other club. From his own personal inquiries, he should satisfy himself as to the people who are most in need, and on that basis make a fair report to the Land Commission. If that is done, I think there will be no quarrel amongst the people in the area. On the other hand, if it is not done, there may be cause for serious quarrel.
Twelve months ago I referred to  fruit growing in East Meath. Recently, when land was being divided there, the fruit growers were entirely ignored. They did not want a lot but expected that they would have got some land. If they had been given a share, it would be a source of encouragement to them in the building up of their industry in that area. I understand that some more land is to be divided in that area soon. Therefore, I would appeal to the Minister to see that the Land Commission will give serious consideration to the wants and the needs of the fruit growers in that area when land is being divided.
I would like to refer to the case of a farm and house where possession was not taken up by a migrant. I asked a question about this last week. I was told that £40 would have to be spent on repairs to the house before any migrant would take it. The house had not been occupied for years. It can be shown, I think, that numerous people from outside had inspected that farm and were not prepared to take it. The Deputies for the Country Meath could produce at least 100 people from that district who would have been glad of an offer of that farm, but did not get it. I think it is most unfair that we should have a situation like that in County Meath or anywhere else. I should also like to refer to the division of some land in South Meath about two years ago. I am sure Deputy Giles can bear me out in this. There were numerous people in that area who had cows grazing on estates there. They had to sell the cows because of the fact that they would not be given land on which to graze them. Neither would they get a cow plot from the Land Commission. I am sure Deputies will agree that that was most unfair.
I should like also to refer to the building of houses and out-offices on estates by the Land Commission. Up to recently, most of that work in the County Meath was done by a direct labour squad under the Land Commission. I do not think anybody could quarrel with the work which they were doing. But overnight the system was changed and a new type of contractor was brought in. I do not think he has  to work on a time and material basis. The system of contract is something like this, that he had to have a cement mixer and be able to show that he was employing a certain number of men. These, I understand, were the circumstances in which he was given the contract to carry out this work.
I think that where direct labour was found to be suitable and where the Land Commission found that this work was being done properly, the new system should not have been introduced. Where a contractor is being brought in it means that somebody else has to get a little profit out of it because he is not doing the work for the love of the Land Commission or the people who are going into the houses. If the job was being properly done by direct labour it should continue to be done by direct labour.
I was very interested when I heard over the last few days that the Minister for Agriculture and Deputy Derrig appeared to agree on one thing and that is that the cause of emigration is not conditions in the rural areas but the Irishman's wandering foot.
Mr. James Tully: As the Minister for Agriculture would say, I think it is all my foot. I think that the conditions in the rural areas are responsible for emigration and that these conditions can be put right if the Land Commission will give the land to the right people and not be fooling around with it as they are at the present time.
I was glad to hear the Minister announce that the number of farms remaining to be vested in the County Meath is getting very small. I hope that within the next 12 months all the farms will be attended to and the people will be more settled in their holdings. I think the whole kernel of the problem is whether or not we are satisfied with the present form of land division. It is all right for people who are in their holdings for a long time, and who are vested, and I understand also that a cottier who is vested in his cottage has some form of protection,  but when I hear talk of the annual amount of land taken up, I know quite well that in County Meath we still have an immense amount of land which could be taken over by the Land Commission and given to deserving people.
I also know that, over the years, we have more and more of those sham stud farms operating in County Meath. They are being taken over as stud farms, and it may be a miracle, but all the horses on these farms wear horns. We know it is a sham and it should be stopped. I have no fault to find with the genuine stud farms or racing stables because they are giving a lot of employment, but people who buy land for a stud farm and then use it as a cattle ranch should get no encouragement from this House or from the Minister for Lands. If the matter was investigated it would be found that there is a lot of land which could be taken over by the Land Commission.
Then we have the question of the big estates with the walls around them. Apparently the entailed estates cannot be touched by the Land Commission although originally the people who got that land got it from someone who had neither right nor title to give them the land. They have it now and the Government cannot take it from them.
Mr. James Tully: Yes, the walls are too high. We have quite a number of these estates in County Meath and I am quite sure that the Land Commission is aware of them. Some of them are owned by people who give no employment whatever and some of them by people whom nobody knows at all, because they are managed by agents and nobody knows who owns them. I am glad to hear the Minister say that the Land Commission has authority  over these places if they wish to take them over.
The question of acquiring land in the open market has also been referred to by Deputy McQuillan. On a few occasions I have brought to the attention of the Minister farms that were in danger of being bought by aliens and in only one case did the Land Commission step in and do anything about it. I think that, no matter what the cost, those farms should not be allowed to get out of the hands of Irish people into the hands of aliens. The argument may be put up that there is a good price being paid for them, but I have heard an old man of 80 years of age describe the price being paid as being like fairy gold. Something could happen to sterling and then the money paid for this land would be just like so many leaves.
The land is there and there are people like my two colleagues here who fought to put the British out of this country who now find them coming in the back door. I think the Land Commission is seriously at fault in these cases. They are the people who should see to it that the land of Ireland should not fall into foreign hands.
The operations of the Land Commission are not usually connected with speed and nobody can accuse the Land Commission of moving too fast. There was one estate in South Meath where a small amount of turbary was to be divided. It was divided but quite a number of the people did not bother working it. Within the last 18 months I drew the attention of the Minister to the fact that this turbary was wanted by other people who would use it if it was given to them. I mentioned it again 12 months ago and several times since then.
I will say this for the Minister and the Land Commission, that they never gave me a hard answer. A few months ago I was told that certain steps would be taken about the matter in the very near future. Up to to-day nothing has happened and it looks as if another turf season will go by before anything is done. It is not a very long journey from Dublin, about 30 or 40 miles, and I think an inspector of the Land Commission  could have struggled down there within the last 18 months.
These are minor matters, but they are matters which do bring inspectors of the Land Commission more or less into disrepute and they should try to do something to carry out all the promises made by the people who are their superiors either in this House or elsewhere.
I should like to touch on one other point and that is the question of the employees of an estate when it is being divided. Recently I have had a few cases of people who were working on an estate for many years and when it was being divided the Land Commission inspector decided that they were not suitable applicants for land. As a result they were paid a very small sum in compensation. The sum ranged from £70 to £130. With the price of land at present, would anybody offer such a sum—even up to £130—to somebody as compensation for the loss of a farm? Would anybody suggest that he could buy even an acre of good land in some of the places where these farms were divided for £130? It could not be done and it was an insult to offer that amount.
In some cases, the people who were treated in that way were very decent people and people who would make admirable farmers, if given the land. In one case, in a place called Shallon, near Julianstown, beside the estate which I mentioned earlier as having been left for two years without a tenant, the man had quite a lot of stock which he saved up to buy and which he had been rearing over the years. He had them grazing with the man who owned the farm from whom the estate was taken and it was hard to find that that man did not get one inch of land, that he was left out completely, while migrants were brought down there who had not got, as he told me himself, a cat, not to talk of a cow or a bullock. Yet this man was left without any farm and he had eventually to sell the stock. He did succeed in getting one of his migrant labourers to take some of his stock in and he has them with him yet.
There is another case of a man who was given a small holding over at Dunshaughlin.  The Minister is aware of the case. He got a holding of about ten acres, but, although he had been working for a long number of years on an estate, people who had not worked on the estate and who were no more entitled to a farm than he was got decent land. One field of rushes—a “rushy bottom” as we call it in Meath —was given to this man. I do not know why the Land Commission decided to do that. It was most unfair treatment.
There is a further case of a man who had been for about 40 years in charge of an estate. I grant that he was getting on in years, but he had a young family growing up. He was offered seven and a half acres, while migrants brought in there got around 30 acres— more luck to them—although there were two or three farms which were not given to anybody and as far as I know have not been given to anybody yet. That is unfair discrimination against these people and the only reason it was done was that they came from County Meath. There does not seem to be any other reason for it. The Minister should have matters like that investigated and should see to it that the Land Commission do not use their powers to discriminate as between one class of person and another, on the basis of the area in which people live.
Finally, there is one other matter which I think requires some explanation from the Minister. In his opening remarks, he referred to a change in the system of fencing. Maybe the present system of fencing is not the ideal one, but I am sure that the system which is being suggested will not be the ideal one either. What is worrying me is the fact that the new system of fencing will cut out almost entirely the work involved in the erection of these fences. The post and wire fence, as suggested now, will have a very low labour content, and I should like to know from the Minister if the cost of that fence is anywhere near the cost of the present fence, because, if it is costing anything like the same, I can see no very big improvement and I suggest that the change should not be made, because it will mean less work, even though it is only a small amount of work, in the erection of these fences.
 Land Commission employment is welcomed in an area and it is about the only thing the Meath fellows get. They usually get a job when fencing and road-making are being done and more often than not if migrants come in before the job has been completed they lose the job and the migrants take over. I feel that the conditions under which they are employed could be improved somewhat. There is the problem of wet time. The Minister may possibly tell me that, as in the case of the Forestry Section, it is a local affair, but we sometimes find men being employed, particularly in bad wintry weather, erecting fences and making roads, with no shelter, and being given the option of working all day, even in bad weather when heavy showers come, or going home and losing their time. That should not be allowed and some temporary shelters should be erected by the Land Commission for the protection of these men.
Mr. James Tully: I will take the Minister's word that that is the position, but that is not the way it is administered. I am very glad that he has put it on record that that is the true position. There should be some kind of temporary shelter erected for the protection of these men during really bad weather, even if only a temporary cessation of work is involved.
An Ceann Comhairle: I understood that the Minister corrected some statement in respect of employees of the Department of Agriculture. The Deputy can make his personal explanation in respect of the figures only.
Mr. McQuillan: According to the Book of Estimates, Vote 27, for the Department of Agriculture, the figure for salaries, wages and allowances  which I quoted is £438,135 and the figure given for the total number of employees is 730, excluding research stations and schools. The amount of money involved in the over-all Estimate is £7,405,760 which compares unfavourably with the total over-all figure in the case of Lands of £2,100,000 odd. I drew a percentage comparison of 5.7 per cent. spent on administration in Agriculture as against 30 per cent. in the case of Lands. I wish to say that the figure for administration in Agriculture should be 12 per cent. and not 5.7 per cent., which still leaves 18 per cent. more in respect of administration in the case of Lands than in the case of Agriculture.
Mr. Blowick: For the sake of accuracy, the actual figures are 2,127, according to the Book of Estimates, for the Department of Agriculture and 1,091, for the Department of Lands. The reason I corrected Deputy McQuillan was that he gave completely wrong figures in the opening portion of his statement.
Mr. Rooney: Very few Deputies who take part in this debate say that they are satisfied with the manner in which the Land Commission do the job allocated to them as a statutory body. I am one more Deputy who feels that the administration, the machine, is rather cumbersome and inefficient. I feel it is unsatisfactory from the point of view of a person desiring to get results. We have seen the Irish Land Commission in operation now for a very long time. It is a very large machine and I presume we cannot blame those who operate it. The machine is there and apparently, in a general way, people are not satisfied with the manner in which it deals with the problem of land acquisition and division. We have examples of something near to confiscation when it comes to taking land from people in certain circumstances. Then we have the blind eye when land ought to be acquired: when it is pointed out to the Land Commission, for one reason or another they are not interested in it.
 The one thing that strikes me about the Land Commission is that they are set a job of acquiring and dividing land. When they have divided a farm and given it out, I believe they are supposed to take an interest in the management of that land which, of course, is a State gift in many cases to those who get it. Apparently they do not follow up the manner in which the land is used. Frequently a holding becomes derelict. The person who got the land gets into debt. He has not, maybe, paid the ordinary annuities. In the long run, he may have succeeded in getting that farm vested. Then he can go to the auctioneer, having failed at the job, and get money for that land and put it in his pocket—after getting that gift from the State. In my view it is a failure on the part of the Land Commission that, having chosen a person whom they consider suitable for the management of a farm, they do not follow up the manner in which the land is used.
There is usually a period of years between the time a man gets a holding and the date of vesting. That is regarded as a trial period. When that period has elapsed, apparently no particular attention is given to the manner in which the holding has been managed in the meantime because very frequently persons succeed in getting their holdings vested although they have been a complete failure. As such a holding is, as I call it, a State gift, I feel it is the duty of the Land Commission to resume that holding and once more select a family who, they consider, would be fit to manage it as an agricultural holding and manage it in an economic way. There are some cases where holdings are taken back from persons who fail but a very much larger number of persons fail and yet the land is left to them and vested and then they sell it and put the money in their pockets. I feel there should be stronger ties attached to these holdings when they are allocated, considering that the general taxpayers contribute so much towards the cost of acquiring a holding before it is given to a family selected by the Land Commission.
I am not satisfied, either, that the  Land Commission avail fully of their powers to participate in the open market for the purchase of suitable agricultural holdings capable of division. The power is there, but they appear reluctant to avail of it. We have had examples of holdings that could be acquired by the Land Commission and divided without hurting anybody and that are allowed to go under the hammer of the auctioneer whereas a neighbouring farm might almost be confiscated by the Land Commission for the purpose of dividing it amongst uneconomic holders. The Land Commission should appreciate the hardships they impose on many people when they decide to take land from them instead of going, like anybody else, to bid for a farm on the open market and buying it at a public auction. It may be said that there might be abuses. As far as that goes, there can be abuses in anything, and therefore I do not think that argument has much substance.
When land is taken from people it sometimes happens that three or four years elapse before they are paid—and then they are paid in bonds. Of course, a certain amount of cash is made available each year for people whose names are drawn out of a hat. They are paid cash for the farm and their bonds are redeemed. I feel more cash should be paid to the people because when a man is given a chance of selling his land under an auctioneer's hammer he will get cash, but when the Land Commission refuse to let him sell his land under the hammer he is given bonds. They might be good security in a bank but their value fluctuates and the holder of bonds cannot say definitely what the real value of the bonds will be at the end of a certain period although I may say that legislation in recent years has had the effect of putting such bondholders into a more secure position.
I cannot understand, either, why the Land Commission hold farms for years and years and let them out in conacre one year after another instead of making a proper effort to divide such farms in the ordinary way. If a private individual were dealing with such a  matter surely he would make his arrangements and decisions instead of allowing the case to drag on from one year to another? I feel that, when a Land Commission holding is allocated, a certain amount of agricultural policy should be dictated to the person coming into it. Give him some idea of the manner in which the Land Commission expect him to manage his farm, instead of allowing it to grow into a wilderness as happens in some cases. We have examples of persons who get holdings from the Land Commission— persons who cannot go quickly enough to the auctioneer to give him instructions to let out that land in conacre. There are holders of these Land Commission holdings—gifts from the State —who are getting as much as £30 per arce conacre from more industrious neighbours who are prepared to come in and work that land for them. These are some of the abuses I feel the Land Commission should set about remedying.
There are many problems which the Land Commission can tackle. Certainly, I am not satisfied with the general manner in which the Land Commission is functioning. It was established to take over the functions of the old Congested Districts Board. People who are in a position to remember say that the old Congested Districts Board was more efficient, performed its functions more rapidly and gave better satisfaction. I have in mind a case in County Dublin of a man who is not in good health and who has 52 acres of land. He has rented 40 acres of that land to a dairyman who has something like 200 cows supplying the Infant Aid Society and other groups in this city with Grade A milk. Those 40 acres of land are doing their part in supplying this valuable milk to Dublin City. The man I have in mind has a bad heart; he cannot work on the farm manually. For the past 20 years, he was obliged to rent that farm, which is his own holding— it is not a gift from the State, it is not a Land Commission farm, it is his own land—and he has rented it to this dairyman. He got notice recently from the Land Commission that they intend  to take the 40 acres from him for the purpose of dividing it in the area.
When you look at the large farms going up for sale under the auctioneer's hammer, free for anybody to buy, including the Land Commission, and when you look at the large estates which are being purchased by foreigners here and being sanctioned and approved by the Land Commission, you wonder if there is any justice when you see them trying to take 40 acres from a man who owns a total of 52 acres. That is the kind of cumbersome administration which does not always give justice and merit where merit and justice are due.
That is the kind of problem that is constantly being created in various areas. It makes one wonder whether the Land Commission in its present form is really worthy of continuance as such, or whether it should be reformed and made into a more modern machine to meet our modern problems, including the problems of acquisition and of payment for acquired holdings. We have seen also the very good work that the Irish Land Commission has done in many cases and we have seen that they have allocated land to very deserving applicants, persons who are a credit to themselves, a credit to the nation and a credit to the Land Commission which in the first instance selected them to manage these holdings.
I heard someone mention that nothing less than 30 acres would be economic. I do not agree with that. I believe that a holding can be economic regardless of its size, according to the purpose for which it is to be used. There are many people engaged in a class of agriculture and the management of the land who can make a very good living out of five acres. If a demonstration is necessary, anybody interested can go to Rush and see there the manner in which they have operated six-acre holdings and see what the cash value of the turnover from these six-acre holdings per annum is and compare the cash value of that turnover from these six acres with the 22 or 30 acres which might be allocated to another tenant elsewhere. That is why I say it depends really on the purpose for which the land is going to be used  the local tradition and the locality in which it is situated, what the size of the holding ought to be. There are plenty of people glad to get six acres of land, they would be very pleased to get more if they could but they have made a good job of the small holdings that they got and they are worthy of getting larger holdings if possible.
I feel that the Irish Land Commission are not performing their functions properly when they do not ensure that the holdings given out are managed properly and when they facilitate the holders by vesting the land, which enables them to sell those holdings and put the cash in their pockets. It would be better for the Land Commission, when they found that they had given land to some useless person, to take it back and choose another family, in the hope of getting a person worthy of such a valuable gift from the State.
Mr. Cunningham: To my mind, in this country there are three main types of persons who are interested in land—the economic landholders, those who own economic holdings; secondly, the owners of uneconomic holdings; and the third class—and unlike others who have spoken to-day and in other debates here, I do not refer to this third class as “landless men”—is the class I would call “conacre farmers”. The Land Commission has power under the various Land Acts to acquire land for the purpose of division amongst a number of different classes of persons. One of these classes is the congest or the uneconomic landholder. It must be remembered that he belongs to only one class provided for in the Act and that at stages further down there are other classes who can be granted holdings. It is admitted that the relief of congestion is a problem that requires to be tackled and a problem that has been tackled by various Governments; but in providing land for the uneconomic man the other classes specified in the Act should not be forgotten completely.
One of the classes set out in the Act is the conacre farmer. It would be wrong for the Minister or the Department  to draw up any rule and apply it to the country as a whole, as there are varying conditions which would make good procedure in one part of the country completely useless in another part. Therefore, I would suggest that there should be a certain amount of elasticity in land division. We have in Donegal a position which requires different methods from those being adopted by the Land Commission generally. In East Donegal we have large farms owned by a small number of persons. These farms are worked in the main by agricultural workers— four, five, six or more per farm. With the advent of higher agricultural wages and improved agricultural machinery, the number of such persons has dwindled over the last ten years, the result being that for the first time in history we have in East Donegal emigration and unemployment amongst the farm labourer community.
It has been traditional over the years that while these farm labourers were employed on the land they also, being a hard-working and industrious type of people, were in the habit—as were their fathers before them—of taking conacre on some of the derelict farms owned by absentee landlords and let annually. So had their fathers before them. The result was that over the years a type of farmer grew up there who, unless he was very lucky, could not ever hope to purchase any of the farms which were put up for sale for the reason that when the plantation of Ulster took place it was seen to that the farms allocated were fairly large and to the present day they remain of the 200 to 300-acre class. The result is that no conacre farmer can purchase one of these.
While these farms are being let they have the use of them by taking them in conacre for the growing of various crops ranging from flax, sugar beet, potatoes and oats to wheat. I know very many conacre farmers or, as other Deputies have called them, landless men, who own anything from five to a dozen head of cattle. None of them own tractors and all the machinery which goes with tractors. When the Land Commission takes over they are forgotten. When the Land Commission  takes over an estate, the second position of these men is worse than the first. While the estate was being let by an absentee landlord or by an owner who did not live on the land, these people had the benefit of the use of that land.
I know families who have been taking the same farm in conacre for periods as long as 20 years, year after year. Then the Land Commission comes in, acquires the land and, of course, lets it for a number of years in conacre to these people, and during the period while that land is being let by the Land Commission efforts are made to find migrants. The migrants in Donegal come in the main from West Donegal, and for a number of years past are reluctant to leave their holdings there, with the result that in East Donegal there are farms which have been divided into holdings, houses have been built on them, and they have been left there for as long as six years without a tenant.
They are let to these conacre farmers but will not be given to them although there is a precedent for it, and both the last Minister, Deputy Derrig, and the present Minister while in office previously admitted that there were circumstances operating in the Lagan Valley which would warrant the granting of land to the type of persons I have mentioned. However, in the last few years, there has been a hardening of attitude in this respect. I have pointed out to the Land Commission cases where conacre farmers, otherwise known as landless men in other parts of the country, have taken anything from 50 to 100 acres of conacre per year. They have worked it well and paid fairly high prices in some places for that land. Yet the Land Commission regard them as being unsuitable persons to be given holdings.
It is true to say that in the past some conacre farmers have been granted holdings. The Minister, if he makes inquiries, will find that these holdings have been very well worked. I can quote him two examples in the parish in which I live where about four or five years ago, during the term of office  of the present Minister, an estate was divided.
There were five holdings on the estate and three of them were granted to landless men. That was about 1948 or 1949. Since then two of these persons who were allocated holdings have built new five- or six-roomed houses much superior to anything that the Land Commission had built. They are working the land. They have excellent crops of oats, wheat and potatoes, with the usual amount of cattle which goes with mixed farming.
They should be an example to the Land Commission, and on that the Land Commission should decide that this policy they have adopted over the last couple of years, of cutting out conacre farmers completely, is a very unwise one. Actually, of the other two holdings still remaining on this particular estate, one was granted to a migrant. The fifth holding has been let over the past five or six years. This year the only people who bid on the holding were not the migrant, but the other persons, local conacre farmers, landless men, who five or four and a half years ago were granted holdings. Not alone were they able to work satisfactorily the holdings they were given, but when the auction of the fifth holding which has not yet been allocated was going on, they came in and took that holding as well.
If the Land Commission do not decide to change the present system, then my advice to them would be to leave the derelict farms in the Lagan alone and let the conacre farmers have the use of them on the 11-months system. They are using them as a means of livelihood. Due to the cutting down of the numbers of farm labourers employed, these men who have been working on farms for all their days are taking the conacre. If it is not available, if the Land Commission comes in and takes it over, then there remains nothing but emigration for those people, and we have emigration there for the first time in history.
There is no great inclination amongst congests in West Donegal to come to take these holdings. There are several of them lying vacant for a  number of years despite the fact that the local office is doing its best to make known in various parts of the west of the county that such holdings are available for them if they want to give up their little plots. Each year over a number of years announcements have been made in the churches and elsewhere concerning these holdings which are going but very few want to avail of a transfer to East Donegal. In view of that and seeing that the Minister admitted previously that there is a special case to be met there, I suggest that the way in which he should meet that is, as was done in 1948, to give at least half the holdings in any estate that is acquired to local landless men.
The fact that migrants from West Donegal are not anxious to take holdings from the Land Commission means eventually that the work of the Land Commission, as far as land acquisition and sub-division are concerned in Donegal, must slow down and completely stop. That is not a situation which should be allowed to develop. We are told by Ministers that the pool of land available is not enough to go around. If the demand for such land taken over by the commission drops, as it is doing, and has done in Donegal, then naturally the activity of the Land Commission in regard to land acquisition will cease.
In East Donegal while we have a very large number of substantial farmers who do utilise their land to the very best advantage, still we have absentees and others who will not work the land with the result that we have very fine farms being neglected and left for years on end without any proper attention or proper manuring. I must say the Land Commission is just as bad an offender as any in that respect because I can give the name of a holding in Donegal which was let a few months ago where, due to continual letting since it was taken over in 1945 or 1946, the quality of the land has deteriorated so that the total sum realised from letting this year was a great deal less than the amount of the rates and rent. The result is that, when rates, rent, the cost of upkeep of fences, and so on, are added  together, the Land Commission will show a heavy loss on that, a loss which has to be borne by the taxpayer and which has been brought about by the fact that the Land Commission have carried on continual lettings over a long number of years.
There are, as I have said, large farms in Donegal which could be taken over for the benefit of persons who will work and crop this land, and we have plenty of those people. Such land, of course, will come from absentee landlords and others who came in during the war to invest their money here as a safe deposit and who, now that the war is over, have no use for it except as a means of getting a few hundred pounds in lettings each year.
The Minister for Agriculture and other Ministers and Deputies have talked about the wheat ranchers, those foreigners who came in not to purchase land but to take land by conacre. They were howled down here during the debate and were called many unmentionable names just because they were a good lever wherewith to lower the price of wheat. It was a very good argument, or at least it sounded like a good argument to the ordinary man in the street, to say that that action was taken because of foreigners coming in to take this conacre land in Meath and Dublin to grow wheat on it. What about the foreigners who came in and are coming in not to take land by conacre but to buy out farms lock, stock and barrel and not even to put them to a useful purpose like growing wheat but to turn them over to grazing ranching and so on? Whether it be in Donegal, Kerry or elsewhere, I think that when that happens it should be dealt with and land which is not utilised to produce crops and to sustain a family should be taken over.
There is another matter with which I want to deal, and that is the question of the drainage of what are known as the sloblands stretching from Burnfoot to Newtowncunningham. That land is owned by the Land Commission. It was originally reclaimed from the sea and contained 5,000 or 6,000 acres of the best alluvial soil in Ireland. Due to neglect by the Land Commission of sluicegates, floodgates and embankments,  that land has been allowed to deteriorate with the result that some families living on that land have had to evacuate this year, and part of that stretch which, up to now, had been giving excellent crops, has had to be abandoned as regards tillage.
The Land Commission, I understand, have a fund of £7,000, the interest of which goes to doing drainage work. That may have been sufficient for a number of years after these embankments were built, but the position is reached now where, due to the lapse of time, a major scheme must be undertaken. It will not be money badly spent if a large sum is spent on reclamation and on the repair of sluicegates, floodgates, the building up of embankments and, if necessary, the erection of a pump. The person who reclaimed that land years ago did all these things I have mentioned, including the pump. Surely what one private individual did is not outside the reach of the Land Commission who now are responsible for drainage, and so on.
I would suggest something like £50,000. That does look like a large sum but, after all, it is only £10 per acre, and I understand that the Department of Agriculture, under the provisions of the land reclamation scheme, can give £40 per acre for reclaiming land—for draining and so on. I am not asking that £40 an acre be spent here. I suggest that an average of £10 an acre be spent on this work. It would not be an experiment, because an example was set up 50 or 60 or more years ago by a private individual. What was done by him is possible of repetition. It is a reconstruction job rather than a new project. I suggest that from £10 to £15 per acre be spent and if this is done it will provide for the dredging of the outlet, the repair of sluices and floodgates, the building up of embankments and the clearing of smaller waterways leading into the main stream and, if necessary, the erection of a pump.
A good deal of that could be done at a cost of £50,000 or, as I say, £10 per acre. I think it would be money well spent. The result would be that all  that land would benefit and, over and above that, outside farms, the drainage of which is the responsibility of the Land Commission, would also benefit. It is a scheme that I strongly recommend to the Minister. To back my argument still more strongly I have been informed by the Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister for Finance, who is here, that representations have been made to the Board of Works by the authorities in the Six Counties that they intend to clean and drain the upper reaches of the Lagan which flows through this land, that they intend to do that as far as the Border but that its usefulness will be conditional on the authorities here undertaking the cleaning of that river further down.
All of that river is not within the bounds of the territory for which the Land Commission is responsible but most of it is. I would suggest that we would get going with the scheme on that if only for the reason that the people across the Border would not then be in a position to say: “Look at those fellows across; they are holding us up and we cannot get on with the cleaning of that river.” It is bad enough for us Deputies here to come in and criticise the Land Commission but if there is a further attack from the Six Counties it will put the tin hat on it altogether. I agree with Deputy McQuillan who says that a holding of £10 valuation is not an economic holding. I would not go so far as he did in blaming the Minister for bringing these rundale farms up to £10 valuation holdings only. Though we have very few of these in County Donegal I still know the position and it is a good thing, I think, to have gathered all these plots together for the purposes of creating larger stretches. But it should be made clear that they are still not economic holdings although they are improvements on the situation which existed beforehand.
If it were proposed to increase these to 20-acre holdings we would have the problem of getting 50 per cent. of the land owners to go. Most of them would not decide to go. The Land Commission themselves have admitted that a holding of £10 valuation is not  economic. Neither is a holding of £20 valuation. The procedure some ten to 15 years ago when land was being divided was that £15 to £20 valuation holdings were granted to these people. I am very glad to note that a change for the better has taken place since—that any holdings allocated now, whether to migrants or to others, are holdings of £30 valuation and over. I think that is a step in the right direction. Under modern conditions of farming it does not pay a man to spend all his time working a £20 valuation holding unless he had some intensive methods—unless he went in for tomatoes or something like that. For general, all-round agricultural economy a £20 valuation holding is too small; at least it is too small in the Lagan area where it represents about 20 acres of arable land.
Another problem which was touched on by one of the Deputies who spoke was that of bogs, bog roads and bog division. The Minister should know that during the emergency the county councils of several counties took over large stretches of virgin bog, built very fine roadways into these bogs, put up banks into suitable sizes and worked them for a few years, thereby doing a very useful service to this country in the way of fuel during the emergency. It is ten years or over since that took place; the roads have fallen into disrepair, the bogs laid out by the councils at that time are almost run out as they say and further virgin bog requires to be opened, developed, drained and to have roads built into it. I would urge the Land Commission to get on with that job and to take it as an urgent matter. We know what the coal situation is at the moment. There were shortages last winter due to increased demand because of the bad fuel season here. Now the price of coal has gone up by 12/6 a ton. Had this rail strike taken place during the winter it would have aggravated the position further.
It is to our advantage now to make use for fuel purposes of the virgin bogs which are still undeveloped. In order to utilise those bogs new roads will have to be made and something will have to be done by the Land Commission  similar to what was done by the county council ten to 15 years ago. After the county council left, the tenants went in and were glad to have these bogs already opened, with roads built into them and so on. Those bogs have been very useful to those tenants since then. But that day has passed and now new bogs must be opened and I advise and urge the Land Commission to give the development of bogs top priority.
I am glad to note that in parts of Donegal, especially in the Inishowen peninsula, over the last couple of years the Land Commission have made excellent strides with the vesting of holdings. That is an important feature of Land Commission work. It is something that in present circumstances helps tenants and owners of these lands because most of the loans for houses, for farm machinery and so on depend on the applicant being the vested owner or registered owner of his holding. The fact that this stride in vesting and registration has continued with such speed is welcome and I urge that in any outstanding areas which have still to be done the work of vesting should be tackled immediately. It saves the tenant a lot of trouble and it makes these loans available to him.
To summarise, I want the Minister to regard the conacre farmers in Donegal as a special case. We have a situation there which is unlike anything which exists in any other part of the country. The Minister will find that good use will be made of any of the derelict estates taken over by the Land Commission.
Captain Giles: This Estimate, like the Estimate for the Department of Agriculture, is one of the most important that comes before the House. The Land Commission holds in its hands the possibility of changing the face of the country for good or ill. Over the last 30 years a vast amount of good has been done in the allocation of land and one must compliment the Land Commission on that work. In the past I was a severe critic, and rightly so, of the operations of the Land Commission. On many occasions I made different Ministers' ears burn and I  made them feel hot around the collar, but I stand over everything I said.
With the passing of time and the passage of the last two Land Acts we cannot now say the Minister is to blame. These Acts, although they have done a certain amount of harm in the area I represent, have nevertheless done a vast amount of good by removing from this House the political playacting that went on at one time. There was a time when every Tom, Dick and Harry who joined a club could put his name down for land, even though he might be on home assistance, and he would get the land. That did happen for a short period in the early days of Fianna Fáil. Ultimately they realised that type of policy was bad and they reverted to the policy operated by their predecessors; and that is more or less the policy that operates to-day. I give them credit for doing that. When they found it was bad they stopped.
The Land Commission has got many kicks and the kicks have got them into shape. The situation is reasonably satisfactory now as a result of that and the overall picture of land division over the last 30 years is a good one. The face of the country has changed since 1922. In the course of the next ten or 15 years the Land Commission should more or less come to an end of its usefulness and we hope that we will then find the country well balanced, with fair sized economic holdings and a good type of person planted on the land.
Deputies in the eastern counties have many problems to contend with because it is to these counties that the migrations from the North and West take place. We feel we deserve the sympathy of the House for the hard knocks we take both from our supporters and our opponents, because some of them think we have nothing to do but hand out parcels of land to every Tom, Dick and Harry who wants them. Fortunately, the day of political pull has gone and people are now getting land on merit within the provisions of the Acts.
There is a dispute as to whether or not the Meath men are getting their  fair share of what is going. The Minister's statement a few weeks ago that 75 per cent. of all the land divided in the eastern counties goes to applicants —if that is true, and I accept it as true —does away without our local grumble. We cannot complain if 25 per cent. of the land goes to the relief of congestion in areas like Donegal and the West generally. We are realists and we know the Government has a big problem in relation to land division and the relief of congestion. We know that the West of Ireland is more congested than any other part of the country.
I went to see these areas in the West myself. I went through Clare, Connemara, Mayo and some other counties for no other purpose except to see what the position was for myself. Apart from enjoying the holiday, I would not live for 24 hours in any of these counties; and the people who live in them and get their living out of them have the hardest task of anybody in this country. I do not blame them for flying out of the country. I do not blame them for going to Britain. I cannot understand how they could make a living out of four or five acres of craggy land, and it is the duty of the Government to relieve that congestion.
In the past it was a case of “to hell or to Connacht.” It is only since we got our own Government that the land is being replanted with our own people. I am in the happy position of living in the middle of that replanting effort. I give credit where credit is due. It is a grand work. In the area in which I live, mine was the first house built there 30 or 40 years ago. To-day there are hundreds of houses springing up all round and the land is being allocated and divided amongst our own people. For those who fought, it is grand to see our own people back on the land. I hope that work will be intensified until it reaches a satisfactory conclusion and most of the old estates will have been earmarked and divided up and we will have a thrifty economy in the country as a whole.
I urge on the Minister the importance now of reviewing the situation before it goes too far. The Leinster counties are, whether we like it or not, the gateway to the world markets as far as the live-stock trade is concerned.  For that reason I would not like a too intensive division of land in those areas because that would destroy the economy as a whole. The economy of Leinster is the counterpart of the economy of the West and South because the store cattle, the calves and the sheep from those areas ultimately find their way into Westmeath, Meath, Dublin and Kildare. I would ask the Minister and the Land Commission to take particular stock of that because one can change an economy too far and put all of us in the position that we would be producing small stock and have no one to finish it. We have land in those areas which, thank God, can finish stock and put good quality animals on the world market which will command the respect of that market. Nevertheless, I would say that for the next ten years we should be most careful.
The Minister can do much in County Meath still. There are very large estates of 1,000 or 1,500 acres of land— not many, but some—and I cannot understand why the Land Commission will not clip some of these estates. I can say that of the 1,000 or 1,200 acres at least 500 acres are semi-wilderness and I do not say that from hearsay but because I have seen it myself as a man who goes out with a gun and a dog. The owners of these did not clear out dykes for maybe 50 years, not since the time of the clearances, and the drains are choked with scrub and sedge grass and rushes. Those people can live quite comfortably without worrying about the 500 acres at the tail-end of their estates that have gone wild. The Minister should be more concerned about these and should not be looking for the small holdings. At present, I find the Land Commission entering on small holdings in such cases as where a man has 100 acres with another small holding of 30 acres, five or six miles away. The Land Commission seems to be doing everything they can to take that holding from the man.
I ask the Minister to realise that these are hard-working, thrifty farmers and what they have they are entitled to hold. They are people who got it the hard way. I would not like the  Land Commission, coming to the closing stages of land division, to go too hard on those people. Similarly, there are widows down the country whom the Land Commission is harrying in cases perhaps where there is a small holding not side by side with the holding where the owner lives. The few pounds the Land Commission gives these people by way of compensation is very little help to them for the remainder of their lives. Therefore, I ask the Minister to be more concerned with clipping down the large holdings because there is a fair amount of them still and particularly in my county.
The Minister should remove the bone of contention which becomes evident in County Meath where a large holding of, say, 600 or 700 acres is taken over. I think we should be more realistic and bring in a scheme which would meet the needs of the farmers' sons in that area. A farmer with 40 or 50 acres who has three or four sons to rear has to do it the hard way and is not in a position to buy a farm for even one of his sons, let alone the other three or four. I would suggest the Minister should introduce a scheme whereby an estate of, say, 200 acres could be divided into, say, five holdings and put up for sale by the Land Commission so that the local farmers' sons would have a chance of getting them, even by part purchase. Where there is a landless man of a good type in the area and when it is known that he would be a credit to the country if he got the holding but was not able to buy it himself, if he comes along and is able to put down £400 or £500, he should get the holding.
It is not fair to see the grand type of people who, at present, are depending on conacre—although the conacre system is practically a thing of the past in County Meath—left with no alternative but to emigrate in a few years' time when there is no more conacre. A scheme such as I have suggested would, I think, be a good thing and would give these people a chance of acquiring land by part purchase. I do not suggest that the Minister should go into that business wholesale but only in cases where  there is a fair number of large estates to be divided. Deputy Hilliard sees that as I do, and he knows that if some of these fine thrifty men got the chance of acquiring a small holding it would be a good thing for the country. I would ask the Minister, when replying, to speak on this because it is well worth thinking about.
I heard Deputy Tully go all round Meath and Westmeath and back again, the whole circuit—I did it myself ten years ago and since then—but the longer one spends in this House the wiser one becomes. The most dangerous thing a Deputy can do is to fool his own people down the country——
Captain Giles: I am not suggesting that at all, but I say that it is a dangerous thing to let the people of a county or an area think that a lot of things can be done for them whereas nothing can be done under the Land Acts as they stand. Deputy Hilliard and Deputy Tully and perhaps Deputy Dunne and myself are concerned with changing that situation, but if we were to try to bring in a new Land Act we would be smothered in votes against us. I would not like people down the country to be under the impression that we could do all sorts of things because unless we can get these Acts changed those people will be in the same position to-morrow as they have been in for the last ten years. I do not want men to be coming to my house and believing I can do a whole lot for them. Deputy Hilliard or Deputy Tully can do as much as I can and, to tell the truth, the three of us can do damn all. Maybe that is just as well because it is a good thing that political pull should be gone.
In South Meath recently I watched the division of land, and on one estate I was perfectly satisfied that if I were the Minister or the Land Commission I could not do it better. I saw an estate divided between, I think, seven uneconomic holders who had 12 or 15 acres and who got another 15 or  20 acres each. It was the grandest bit of land division that I ever saw and brought perfect contentment and happiness to the people living in the locality. Before that, these people were neither farmers nor labourers and if they looked for work on the roads they would be told: “Go away; there are enough of us here already”. They got 15 or 20 acres each and in four or five years they will be completely settled down and will never want for a living. The same thing has taken place in my own area. I saw some migrants coming in and they got nice holdings and I saw some uneconomic holders who should have got a holding, getting it. I did see a few uneconomic holders whom I thought might get a holding, but they did not get it, but that is not my business. The Larkhill Estate may be divided in a year or two and I expect the same thing to happen there.
There is also the Kelly Estate at Summerhill where we have a fair number of uneconomic holdings. I would ask the Minister to see that uneconomic holders get first preference all the time. In most cases I can say they do get such preference.
I must agree that there has been a speeding up in the vesting of holdings since 1948. I think that in future, when land is allocated to a man, that not longer than seven years should be allowed to pass until the holding is vested in him. The Minister knows, and we all know, that a man with an unvested holding cannot get money from a bank or anywhere else. If he succeeds in getting through the fine sieve of the Agricultural Credit Corporation he may get some credit. But a man in that position is severely handicapped in raising money to enable him to stock his land. The man with a vested holding, on the other hand, is an independent man. He has his title deeds in his pocket and can go to a bank and get whatever accommodation he requires. I know men whose holdings are unvested even though they have been in occupation for 27 years. The result is that they are no one's children. They got a poor start and during all those years had to struggle in rearing young families. They could never get the money they required to stock their holdings. I  think the Minister should see to it that when a man has been in possession of a holding for seven years it should then be vested in him.
Another important aspect of land division is concerned with roads. I would ask the Minister and the Land Commission to be very careful as regards the making of roads. In the County Meath, we have embarked on a fairly big scheme, the aim of which is to meet the people half-way who have had Land Commission roads given over to them. At the time they were handed over many of those roads were in fairly good shape, but after a few years, through no fault of the Land Commission, they had become a quagmire. I suggest to the Minister that it is very important, when these Land Commission roads are being made, that there should be consultation with the county engineer. The county council should be told whether these roads are going to connect with main or secondary roads.
There was very little co-operation in that regard up to a year or two ago. I think there is co-operation now, and I am asking that there should be more of it. The Land Commission would be wise, when making these roads, to consult with the county engineer in regard to their width and so on. The county councils want very few roads that are under 14 or 15 feet wide, and that have little twists or turns. I think that if it meant giving one man 40 acres of land and another 30 acres in order to be able to run a good straight road through an estate, it would be better than to have roads with turns and twists in order that each man should have an equal amount of land. I hope that steps will be taken to carry out my suggestion.
As regards the size of holdings, I think the Land Commission have learned their lesson. It was foolish, at the start, for the Land Commission to be allotting farms of 22 or 18 statute acres. That provided a thorny problem in my county. Migrants were brought up from Clare, Kerry and Mayo and were given 22 acres of poor miserable land at a fairly high rent. I think that was bad work. These men  are now neither farmers nor labourers. No man in the County Kildare or the County Meath could make a living out of 22 statute acres. Some of them went into the milk business, but they had not enough land to graze their cows or have meadows. They could not make a living on a holding of that size. Many of them had to take a few acres of land on the 11-months system.
I am very glad indeed that the Land Commission have now stepped up the size of the holdings to 35 and 37 statute acres. I am satisfied that is good work. I should like to see the area stepped up to 50 acres, but that is not possible as the land is not there. The man who gets a good house, two good out-offices and 37 acres of land has nothing to complain of. If he finds that he requires more land, he can go on the open market and purchase it. He has already got a good foundation to make a living for himself and his family, and should thank God for it.
A water supply on a holding is also of the utmost importance. I think that, in the early days, the Land Commission acted very stupidly in this regard. No matter what one may say, a water supply on a farm is almost as valuable as the land which the farmer holds. It is miserable to see farmers with a bucket and a rope trying to draw a supply of muddy, dirty water out of a well to give to their cattle and horses. It is hard and unnecessary work. I think that the Land Commission should take steps to provide a good water supply on a holding whether the land is being given to a migrant or to local people. The Land Commission generally sink a pump near some of those holdings. When they are sunk to a depth of 22 or 30 feet they may show a certain amount of water, but the fact is that except for a few months of the winter there is no water in them. Water is a problem in the County Meath. The majority of those Land Commission pumps are dry from June to October. Steps should be taken to sink the pumps deep enough so as to ensure an all the year round supply. On the whole, I consider that as the years go by the Land Commission are improving.
 I would like the Land Commission to take notice of one case that I am aware of. It is that of a man with 35 acres, a nice house and two out-offices. I never saw, however, more rushes on a farm of land than I saw on that man's farm. I do not blame the Land Commission for that, but I think the land rehabilitation project should have been brought in and operated on that farm. The land should have been drained before anyone was put to live on it. The land is full of rushes. Ninety per cent. of the farm is under water for practically six months of the year. If that man was to get any sort of a reasonable chance, work under the land rehabilitation project should have been undertaken on that land. I do not believe that the present occupier will ever be able to make a start in life. I believe that after a number of years, when the holding is vested in him, he will sell the farm and try to buy one elsewhere. These are some of the snags, and they are snags which should be fixed up.
I heard Deputy Tully speaking earlier to-day about stud farms in County Meath, and I am quite in agreement with what he said. That is a thing that grew up during the war. There was a certain number of people who never put a plough to a sod of land during that time. These places used to be cattle ranches, but when they were bought as stud farms it was said that they were too valuable to the country and no Government could touch them. There is one place I know where there was a clearance very like what Cromwell made. It is a place stretching almost from Navan to Dunshaughlin, and the whole countryside was taken over by one big syndicate. I will mention no names. Small holdings in the area were put up for sale and this big syndicate bought them out. They built a few grooms' houses and people thought that there were going to be wonderful things done in that area. What is it to-day? It is a cattle ranch, where thousands of Whitehead four year old bullocks can roam around winter and summer. There are a few stallions and mares there for the sake of appearances, but it was a clearance  such as Cromwell made a couple of hundred years ago.
The Minister should inquire into these things. I see beside me where some big lord or pasha from India bought a vast farm. He bought it by telephone, came there once and was never seen again. There was a bit of tillage done there during the war, but now it is back under Whitehead bullocks, with the least possible number of men employed there. There is another case of between 300 and 400 Irish acres of land put up for sale a few years ago. I pressed to have it divided, and in all justice it should have been divided, but it was not. It was bought for a vast amount of money by some big lord, some big Catholic prince, from the North of Ireland. At the time he bought it three men were working on it. There was a herd, a workman and another who was an invalid and who was on half-pay. When it was bought the last two men were let go and the herd was forced to do the whole work himself, and he is doing it to-day.
I think that is a crying shame in face of the fact that this country's population is being denuded day in day out. I would ask for inspections of estates such as this. If that land was divided there could be six or seven farmers' houses built on it and I would not care whether migrants or locals got it. At the present moment a man is there working night and day to herd and fence the land and if he opens his mouth he is sacked and someone else is put in instead of him. That sort of thing is happening all over County Meath. These big people come in and buy up big areas of land because they have the money and are able to offer a higher price than the Land Commission.
North Meath has been a bone of contention and I hold that the Minister should take particular stock of it. There is vast congestion there and two houses are now being built in the Nobber area where we were trying to get a cow park for the local people. A deputation called on the Minister and we got a fairly good hearing from him and left under the impression that we were going to get the cow park.  Going home that evening we saw an advertisement that the Land Commission was going to build an additional two houses there. We had been told that a full inquiry would have been given into the matter but then we found out that there were two new houses going to be built. They do not build new houses for Meath men. When you see new houses going up you always know that a migrant is coming in and there is no room for migrants in the Nobber area. There are people there who have two cows to milk and those new houses should never have been built there. These are some of the burning questions as far as my county is concerned.
I will not be as critical this year as I have been in other years. There was one occasion on which the late Josie Mongan, Lord rest him, jumped up here about some of the things that I said about the first migrants who came to County Meath and I thought he was going to choke me. What I said was perfectly true. They brought up a type of man who did not understand land and did not understand the Meath mentality. For years we had rows in every public house in the area, with black eyes and broken noses and you could not get a hold on the men when you looked for them because you were told that they had gone to England.
These migrants, when they saw what I had said about them, wanted to know what kind of man this Giles was that he said such terrible things. I have nothing to say about decent migrants because I live amongst them. They are thrifty, hard-working, good people and are all good Meath people to-day, but there was a huge mistake made when the first migrants were brought in. On that occasion 400 or 500 Meath men marched four deep out to meet these people and welcome them. There was a tar barrel burning and turf blazing on forks in the procession to meet these people. However, the men who led that procession had black eyes before a week or two from the men they had received. That is the kind of people they were and I was accused of being a terrible man for what I said, but I told the truth.
 The people who stayed on in that colony got married and settled down. They have got to know the Meath people and how to work the land and they are decent people to-day. There was no use in bringing a colony like that into any particular county without somebody coming along and paving the way first. You know what it is to bring people into a strange area because the local people may resent them. These new people coming in think that everybody is their enemy. They look to the left of them and to the right of them and say to themselves: “That fellow there would break my neck if he could”. The thing was very badly done at the time but at the present moment there is very little of that.
The Minister should make sure that uneconomic holdings are not allowed to grow up in my county and he should make some effort in regard to vested cottages on large estates. There is an estate beside me with three vested cottages on it and I am told that these men have a little land. They are family men who have worked hard and have a little capital and if these three people cannot be given an economic plot of land they should be given a full holding. They live within the boundary wall of that estate.
I am satisfied that the overall position is that land division is doing good and that, as it goes on, it will do more good, but I ask the Minister to concentrate on taking the tails of the large estates in Meath and, above all, to make sure that all the land of Meath is not divided into small farms, because Meath must have its 100-acre farm, its 200-acre farm and its 70-acre farm. That is the economy of that county. If you want the West, the South and the North to sell their little stores to the Midlands and the eastern counties, do not tear up all the land there, but get after the large estates and tear them up.
Mr. O'Hara: I was very pleased to hear Deputies Giles and Tully expressing the views they expressed when they said publicly here that people who have emigrated from the West of Ireland to Meath and other eastern counties  are a credit to the country, and, in particular, to hear them say that these migrants are very welcome and are getting on very well. To be quite honest, before I entered the House, I read many of the speeches of Deputy Giles and heard lots of his criticism. Like many others of my neighbours, I had a rather peculiar idea about the man. I thought he was a terribly severe critic and had something terrible against our western folk. Knowing the man now personally for some years, I am quite convinced that he is a reasonable man with an honest-to-God approach to every subject, that he is fearless in what he says and that whether it is unpopular or not, he is prepared to say it.
I agree with him that when the first group of people were taken from the West of Ireland, the Land Commission made serious mistakes, because many of the people taken up from the West were taken from sea-fishing areas and they had very little knowledge of land. They were accustomed to migrating to England and going back and forth. Some of them had holdings of two, three and fives acres of rocky mountain land and had very little knowledge of agriculture or of the type of farming the Meath people engaged in. That being so, it was a mistake to send these people up there at all.
Deputies Giles and Tully also said that the people who have migrated up there in recent times are a far better type—a hardworking type, with more experience of land who are doing far better than the people who went up there previously. That is very good news. I do not agree with these Deputies, however, that the progress made by the Land Commission is up to the standard we would like to see and though I must be critical of my own Minister, if you like, and of the Land Commission, it is good and healthy that I should be.
Any Deputy from the West of Ireland, when this Estimate comes before the House, will always express the viewpoint that things are not being done quickly enough. I happened to be in a part of Deputy Lindsay's area in  recent times and also in Keel, Achill and Ballycroy, and he knows as well as I know that there are hundreds of small uneconomic holdings in these areas. I was told by a reliable person in one village recently that there are anything from 25 to 30 houses vacant. These are slated dwellings, comfortable homes, provided there was the wherewithal to keep them in existence. The people who lived in these houses have gone to England. Why? They have been forced to go because the income from such holdings is so small that it is absolutely impossible for the father of a family to maintain his wife and children in any reasonable degree of comfort on them.
Deputy Giles said he had visited West Clare, Mayo and other counties, and he admits here openly that he would not stay there himself for 24 hours. What suits him, I suppose, suits quite a lot of our people. They feel that when they can get £10, £15 and up to £20 a week in England, or in America or Canada, the best thing they can do is to clear out. While I fully appreciate the problem of the Land Commission and of the Minister —his position is really one of the most difficult of all—at the same time, I would like to see something done towards speeding up land acquisition, land division and land rearrangement.
Deputy Giles and Deputy Tully have told the House that foreigners are coming into counties like Meath and buying land over the telephone, that they are prepared to pay vast sums of money for such holdings, that they pretend they have stud farms and that they are getting away with it with the Land Commission. I think that is a very serious matter. I accept it from Deputy Tully and Deputy Giles that it has happened and it is a terrible thing if it has, but I feel that it is the responsibility of the Minister and the Land Commission to round up these people, to see that this land, if at all possible, is acquired from these people again and given to either the smallholder in Meath or some such county or to our people in County Mayo and other congested counties.
It is a terrible thing if foreigners are coming in and buying up 1,000  or 2,000 acres of land and using that land in such a way. The land of Ireland, it is generally appreciated, is the real wealth of the country, and, if that wealth is abused, there will be very serious repercussions on the State as a whole. It is no wonder our youth are fleeing from the country to earn a livelihood in England and elsewhere and I would ask the Minister forthwith to investigate the complaints made here by these responsible Deputies with a view to having the position corrected at the earliest possible date.
On the question of the size of holdings, I am glad that, in recent years, the policy of the Land Commission has changed somewhat, and that, in allotting holdings to migrants, an increased acreage has been made available. That is a most desirable thing and if it were possible to increase these holdings to 40 or 45 acres or up to 50 acres, if we had sufficient land in the pool, I should be glad to see it done, but it must be appreciated that the pool of land is not so big. The aim therefore must be to try to make do, perhaps, and while the holdings are not as big as we would like to see them, it is heartening that they are being stepped up from 25 to 35 acres, and, in some cases, to 37 acres.
I agree with Deputy Giles on the other matter to which he refers. If one of our migrants or any Meath man, any congest in Meath, has a holding of the type described by him—poor quality land, growing rushes—that is not fair to that particular individual. He has already got a burden on his back that is too heavy for him. I suggest that, in such cases, something be done for him. Perhaps it would be possible for the land project section of the Department of Agriculture to help him.
In such circumstances, the Land Commission should make representations to the land project section of the Department of Agriculture to see that something is done for him. Quite obviously, that man's land requires to be drained and in all probability he needs lime, phosphates, and so forth, to bring it up to a reasonable standard. From the word “go”, that man is  working at a serious handicap because, despite the best efforts of the Land Commission, the Department of Agriculture and of the farmer himself I think it would take years before he would get his land into good heart. If he finds that the load is too heavy for him to carry unaided then, naturally, he will do what Deputy Giles suggested, that is, he will pack up and clear out of the country as quickly as possible. I suggest this matter should be looked into with a view to helping such people.
I must be critical of Land Commission houses generally. While I do not expect that the Land Commission would provide a palace for a person migrating from the West, I often think that, for the sake of an expenditure of perhaps an extra £100, a much nicer type of house could be erected by the Land Commission. We are all familiar with the stereotype Land Commission house. There is the tiled roof, the concrete building, rooms of the same dimensions, and so forth. I feel the Land Commission should have a little variety in these houses. Furthermore, the provision of hot and cold water is not so very expensive at the present time. I am not asking the Land Commission to put down carpets for those people when they arrive but I should like to see an improvement in the matter of housing. It would have the effect of improving the appearance of our countryside and it would be nice to know that we have not just the one type of house.
Surely it will be admitted that there is room for improvement in that respect and, even if it involves the expenditure of a few extra pounds, it will be worth it. I realise that the individual farmer can, later on, improve things perhaps at his own expense and it is possible that that is the policy of the Land Commission. However, in the matter of architecture generally, I think that Government Departments and semi-State bodies such as county councils, borough councils and urban district councils should show a good example. After all, a house built, say, this year will last for 100 or 150 years and it will be either a credit or a discredit  to those who erected it for all that length of time. Housing should be improved as there is room for improvement in that direction.
Deputies from the eastern counties who have spoken referred to the 600 and the 1,000-acre holdings. They say that the Land Commission, when acquiring holdings, usually concentrate on the smaller type of farm. They say that the type of individual the Land Commission pursue all over the place is the man with a farm of perhaps 50 or 100 acres while a man with 600 acres, 1,000 and 2,000 acres is ignored in many instances. I strongly urge that the Minister and his Department should concentrate on the 600-acre, the 1,000 and the 2,000-acre holding. I suggest that if they concentrate on the larger type of farm they will be able to provide a greater number of holdings suitable for our migrants.
It must always be borne in mind that the man with 1,000 or 2,000 acres of land does not, in many instances, see part of that land except, maybe, once in five years if he happens to drive into a side road in his motor car or if he goes out on his horse and takes a quick look round. The fact is that, because he has too much, quite a lot of his land is not giving the return to this State which it would give if it were divided up into smaller holdings. There would be more extensive tillage if the land were divided because, naturally, every small-holder would know every perch of his land and there would not be a square yard of it that would not be tilled and well cared for.
There are many people who have very large acreages of land and who derive such a large income from it that they can afford to ignore perhaps 100 or 200 acres and allow that amount of land to become almost useless. I suggest that those are the people whom the Land Commission should bear in mind when they are considering acquiring land. Thanks to the present Minister for Lands and his 1950 Land Act, there is provision for market value. My colleague, Deputy Lindsay, will agree that there are flaws and defects in practically every piece of legislation  and that though the 1950 Land Act may not be the last word in legislation there are hundreds of people who have benefited as a result of that Act in which provision was made for market value. It made extra money available for land that could be made available at a later date for division.
It will be appreciated that the value of land has increased very considerably in recent years. If we have continued along the old road then we should have reached a stage where we could acquire no more land and then we could not make those most desirable changes to which my colleague referred a short while ago. I want to repeat that it should be the policy of the Land Commission to concentrate on the large landowner rather than on the smallholder. So long as the small-holders till and look after their land properly they should be left alone and not be annoyed by any Government Department. It is important to concentrate on the larger areas of land and the bigger holdings. Such a policy would have the most desirable result of making additional holdings available for our people in the western areas.
I said in the begining that I am not satisfied with the speed of the Land Commission in many respects but, at the same time, I am prepared to concede that a lot of progress has been made. Furthermore, it is much easier to stand up here and criticise any Minister of any Department than to sit in the saddle and cope with all the difficulties. I feel and the people whom I represent feel that there is not enough speed in dealing with the whole question of land acquisition and land rearrangement.
On the subject of land rearrangement, I am well aware that without ever going to Meath, Kildare or anywhere else in this country, there is still a lot of work to be done in our own county by the Land Commission in the matter of the rearrangement of holdings. Many of them are there from four to six or even eight to ten years. The Minister is as well aware of these facts as I am. He also knows that while you might get a most brilliant man from a university or anywhere else  and send him down to the West to try to solve this problem of land rearrangement, and other Land Commission problems—while the man might be a genius so far as university degrees and so forth are concerned— when it comes to rearranging holdings, and so forth, we in the West always feel that it was your father's field or your grandfather's field, and so forth. If somebody from the Land Commission comes sticking his nose around the place, he is more or less looked upon as one of the landlords of old. Unless you send the seasoned type of inspector who knows that aspect and who knows and appreciates that mentality of our people, the first thing he would be confronted with is a hayfork and he would be run from the place, and that sort of thing leaves a sting after it that it would not be easy to get over.
When our forefathers were driven “to hell or to Connacht”, as Deputy Giles admits they were, to these small holdings, they had to go into the mountainsides to reclaim the poorer lands and it is natural that they would have a love and affection for the old holdings. It is a problem to get the type of inspector who can secure the co-operation of these tenants, which is the first essential, and get them to agree to a plan that will be suitable for all concerned. I would urge on the Minister that, even in our own county and in the adjacent counties of Sligo and Mayo and wherever congestion exists, everything humanly possible should be done to rearrange the holdings and increase the valuations of the people who depend on them and accordingly increase their incomes.
Deputy Tully described the Land Commission as a “Paddy-go-easy” group. I do not care to be so critical. We have not had a native Government for so long and I am one who appreciates the work of the previous Governments. I appreciate that mistakes were made—it is an old saying that “the man who never made mistakes never made anything.” The fact that they gained certain experience in acquisition and rearrangement made it possible for the inspectors to acquire knowledge and become competent in  the task. They have gained a lot of knowledge and we are reaching a stage when the thing is on the mend. Though I am not fully satisfied that we are going full speed ahead, it is understandable.
I do not know if it would be relevant for me to suggest that if the Minister could devise schemes of employment in the western areas—on Land Commission works, fishery works or any other works—quite a lot of people who to-day are looking for holdings in Meath and Westmeath would never ask to get out of their present holdings. The reason why they want to get out of them at present is that they cannot possibly make a living there. I do not want to develop the point of providing industry, as that would be more relevant to another debate. This process of migrating people from the West to the Midlands is most expensive. It costs between £3,000 and £5,000 to migrate one individual. So far as I am concerned I would stand up here any time and say the game is worth the candle, that you are dealing with human beings and if you can establish one happy homestead for £5,000 any day in the week it can always be justified.
At the same time, we know very well there is another aspect. I can see it in towns like Kilcock. I had to go along that road for the past 25 years, two or three times a week, before I ever came in here, with lorry loads of goods, and I often discussed their problems with Meath men, Westmeath men and Kildare men, and I know their mentality. I know that the business people of Kilcock and other towns have benefited immensely as a result of our people coming up, and I am saying as a business man that it is our loss. They were hard-headed and hard workers, never afraid to take off their coats and earn a pound. Of course, they were not all saints; we are not all saints in this House. In the main, they were a hard-working group of people who believed in earning their living by the sweat of their brow, they reared large families in the West of Ireland. The fact remains that you could have too much migration from the West. Under the Minister's control, it may be possible to provide employment for  some of those people in their own neighbourhood.
I was told no later than yesterday evening, not 24 hours ago, in a congested village, that the people of that area did not want to leave, that not one person wanted to leave. It is a beautiful seaside area where the holdings are only four or five acres. They have good slated dwellings and would not leave if there were a cash income to maintain them at home. It would be good from the national point of view, it would be good business for the State and good for the West of Ireland generally, if instead of migrating the people in big numbers an eye were also kept to the fact that we must keep a certain population in the West of Ireland. I think we need never worry or get anxious about the Land Commission draining all our people away on buses or trains. At the present or previous rate of progress, I do not think they will do that overnight. I hope the Minister and his officials will pardon me for being a bit critical. It is healthy that we should be critical and that any suggestions or criticism we have should be offered in an honest and sincere way.
Some years ago the Land Commission provided small plots of land for uneconomic holders in my neighbourhood, some miles away from the main holdings. That practice of providing an acre or two some three or four miles away has been discontinued by the Land Commission. It was good policy to discontinue it. A man had to put a horse to a cart and prepare a meal or snack he could have away in the meadow field and spend half the day going there and half coming back and if it were haytime and the weather came wet the day went by and he got nothing done. That policy was a daft one and it was a good job it was discontinued.
In some of those areas you find that, although the Land Commission gave the right of way into these holdings and although there may be 50 or 60 tenants concerned, they have not even a road to go into those meadows. It  was very mean of the Land Commission to treat people in such a way. Now we have a state of affairs where people try to go in. I have in mind a place called Clongee above Foxford. In the term of office of the last Government and previously, prominent people in Fianna Fáil made representations to the then Minister about it. I made repeated representations to the present Minister and to the Land Commission on the subject and spoke about it here some two or three years ago. Not a thing has been done about the Clongee meadow road. The same thing applies in another road outside Foxford, Shraighgarve. These are things which should be looked into. For the sake of an expenditure of £300 or £400, it is only fair that a road should be provided.
When they divide land like that it is only fair and proper that they should provide a road to get into it. But there are too many cases where people are entirely at the mercy of the weather as to whether they can get their crops out. Bog roads seem to be the same type of problem, particularly in areas where you have not a big number of registered unemployed. I see the Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister for Finance is here and I say to him that his Department does not always look after the bog road question to the fullest extent. Neither does the Land Commission. I feel that in areas where you have rather high valuations—and we have those in pockets in North Mayo, people with £15 or £20 valuation, with very few registered unemployed—in those areas——
Mr. O'Hara: With respect, I suggest that the Land Commission do undertake road work schemes to my knowledge in certain areas, but my regret is that in many instances where a number of tenants may have up to 200 or 300 acres they have fallen down on their job and failed to provide any road. I can mention one particular Land Commission scheme where engineers and gangers and their men were engaged on such work and I respectfully submit that it is relevant to this debate.
There is also the question of drainage of bogs. In my immediate neighbourhood there is a scarcity of turbary lots. Some tenants have to go up to ten miles to get fuel. You find side by side the same question arising as arises on the question of land division, that some people have bog that will last them for 200 or 300 or 400 years and are actually engaged in fencing it off. Whether they are entitled to do so I am not sure, but they claim it as their own and charge people whose own bog is all cut away, and who have now no turbary plots, exorbitant rents. That is a matter that should engage the attention of the Minister, to provide that the law should step in there, I do not suggest with guns, revolvers, explosives or anything like that, but in a reasonable way try to provide for the small-holding sufficient turbary to keep the occupant's house warm during the summer and particularly during the winter months.
It is part of the economy of these holdings that fuel should be provided. If small-holders such as I refer to have to pay £40, £50 or £60 for fuel they find it impossible to do so because the income from the small-holding is not able to provide the ready cash to purchase that turf supply. Therefore, I appeal to the Minister to go into this question of turbary rights and see that as far as he can influence the Irish Land Commission in this direction they will provide for every small-holder in the West of Ireland a reasonable area of bog land suitable for household needs in the matter of fuel.
 With these few remarks I think it is only fair to say that, like Deputy Giles, Deputy Tully and the others who have spoken, I feel that the former Minister Deputy Derrig and the present Minister have been doing their best with a difficult task. Deputy Derrig was not very critical of the present Minister or the Land Commission and the Department generally. It is easy for a junior politician like myself to get up and point out all the errors and mistakes of the past and present administration and so forth, but perhaps if, like the two Deputies, the former Minister and the present Minster, I happened to be in that position myself I might find that things were not so easily done.
“County Meath Deputies seem to think that the Land Commission are determined to give no land to Meath people. If I give them some figures I hope it will help to disabuse their minds of that. Seventy-five per cent. of the total land that has been acquired for the relief of congestion in County Meath since the passing of the 1923 Act has been given to Meath allottees.
That is a fact, and the Minister reiterated that statement in introducing his Estimate here on this occasion, he has given a ratio of land for local people as against that given to migrants. Most of that land that was given to the local people was given according to the main Act of 1923 and the amending Act of 1933, which permitted the Land Commission to acquire land for the relief of congestion and to give that land to certain classes of people specified in the Act. Most of that land was divided in the term during which this Party was in office, and it was the policy of the Government at  that time after the passing of the 1933 Act when group migration was first introduced to try to get a feeling of goodwill in the Midland counties for this policy of group migration.
To create that goodwill it was the policy of the Government at the time to see that certain classes of local people got a fair share of the land that was being divided. At that time also it was the practice of the Land Commission to give land to the employees on estates that were taken over. In some cases there were numbers of employees. It was not so difficult to get land then as it is now. Many of those large landowners were anxious to facilitate the Land Commission and were even calling into the Land Commission and offering their estates at ridiculously low prices. At that time it was the practice of certain Fine Gael and other Deputies in this House to make the accusation that the Government of the day were politically dividing land, that Fianna Fáil clubs had a right to acquire land and name the allottees.
Since the change in Government in 1948 those people have been brought to realise that that was not the case, and that under the 1933 Act and before this policy of group migration was proceeded with, before land was given in such large amounts to local landless men, the Government of the day made it a reserved matter for the Land Commission to acquire land and to select allottees. We have general agreement on that now, and hardly a Deputy will stand up now and accuse the Minister or any Minister of unduly interfering in the allocation or acquisition of land.
Mr. Hilliard: The Minister has reiterated the truth of that on several occasions in the House. On every occasion that the question has been put to him he has referred to the fact that it was a reserved matter in so far as the Land Commission were concerned.
The policy of the State in regard to the acquisition and the division of land  over the last ten or 15 years is fairly well defined and is fairly well known. The idea is to eradicate for all time the social evil that exists in the congested counties that are named under the old Congested District Board Acts and the few other places in which congestion exists. That evil has been left to us from the long number of years of our occupation and the Government of the new State would be failing in its duty if it did not take the necessary steps to deal with it.
The initial steps were taken in 1923 when the Land Act of that time was brought in. Anybody who wishes to get a fair knowledge of the policy that is behind this matter, if they take the Land Commission Report for 1948 they will find a concise summing up of the situation in regard to the various Land Acts passed, both those in the British Parliament and those passed since this State was established. There is no excuse for any Deputy, whether it be Deputy James Tully from Meath or any other Deputy, not to be fully acquainted with the fundamental principles that are involved in this question of land acquisition.
Listening to Deputy Tully, Deputy Giles and other Deputies, one would think that you had land on a shelf or a rack, as the businessman or the shopkeeper has his goods in his shop, and that the Land Commission had nothing to do but stretch up, take it down, cut off a farm and give it to a migrant or somebody else. But all the land of the country is in private ownership and whether the owner is an Irishman or a person who came into the country and happened to buy it last year or ten or 20 years ago, the fact is that private ownership is protected in law and the Land Commission cannot acquire land without going through the legal process. The law being made in the Oireachtas, the Land Commission administer the law as they find it and the individual landowner has certain rights under the law.
Since land became dear and since it became valuable the owners in all cases are taking advantage of the law and are demanding their rights. The Minister in his introductory statement made reference to a particular case in which,  as a result of a decision given in the courts, the Land Commission have to be very wary and have to go in a nicer way about this job of acquiring land. When they go into court seeking to acquire land they have to satisfy the court that they want the land for the relief of congestion, and when they get the land they must put it to that use. There is no use complaining in this House or asking questions about the dilly-dallying of the Land Commission in regard to the acquisition of a holding.
It took the Land Commission from three to five years to take land from a County Meath holder. We all saw a report of the case in the newspapers and that the owner appealed on two or three separate grounds on two or three different occasions. The Land Commission had just to sit there and take their medicine. They had to wait until the court decided whether they would give the Land Commission possession of the man's land or not. I do not know whether we agree with the individual or not—that does not enter into the matter at all—but every man who owns land in this country has that right.
It has been preached from the housetops that the farmer or the owner of land in this country has the right to do whatever he likes with his land. I have heard it stated by political leaders and by other less political leaders that they resented very much the activity of the Fianna Fáil Government, when they asked farmers to till their land and sent inspectors in to see that they did it, as owners of land should be free to do what they liked with it. Now when we come to a debate on the Land Commission activities, of course, we look upon it in a different way. We say: “The Land Commission should not take so long. They should acquire the land no matter how they get it.”
In my opinion that is not a policy and should not be a policy. There is an excuse inasmuch as the person outside looking in has not the same amount of information on this matter as a person who is inside looking out. It can readily be understood that anybody who has not been in this House  and who has not gone to the trouble of making himself acquainted with the Land Commission activities or the fundamental principles on which the Land Acts are based, could appeal to the public and say that if they had the opportunity they would make the welkin ring in this House and they would see that landless men got land, that the land would be taken from every Tom, Dick and Harry who had land and was not using it according to their interpretation of what was proper. But that cannot happen in this State and it is not likely to happen.
The Government policy which is supported here and which is very well known is much the same as the policy of the preceding Fianna Fáil Government, that is, prior to 1948. If you consult the reports of the Land Commission since 1948 you will find that, in the main, about 15 landless men got holdings each year; it was 18 in one year, 13 in another, and so on. Therefore, we can very well say that the landless man has no hope of obtaining land from the Land Commission until the problem, the social evil of congestion is eradicated. I know myself that down the years from the very beginning of land division the Land Commission have been very careful in regard to the provision of land for the local uneconomic holder.
I have never found a case of an uneconomic holder to whom they did not give an addition of land where it was possible except where it might happen that they would be waiting to give the uneconomic holder part of an estate of which they thought they might obtain possession in the very near future, and a short time after they had the other farm divided, it transpired that the Land Commission could not get possession. In such an event the particular uneconomic holder would be unlucky to be passed over.
I want to make a case for the people who live in the pockets of uneconomic holdings in the County Meath. There are various such pockets of uneconomic holdings in both Meath and Kildare but not so many in County Kildare, apparently, because they were a little bit tougher in County Meath and held on there and if you go through these  areas in County Meath you will find the same terminology as in the West of Ireland; you will not find them referring to a “farm” but to Tommy So-and-So's “place”. It is not called a farm but the place in which the family had lived for hundreds of years. Of the 90 people who are transferred out of these holdings in Meath the Land Commission in their report had no complaint to make of their methods of husbandry or work. Any of the Land Commission inspectors to whom I have spoken told me that they were first class as users of their land.
The case I am making is that these pockets of uneconomic holders—I would not call them congests—should be migrated and their bits of land given to their neighbours. Some such remedy should be found for the situation. Then I should be quite satisfied. Let us now take the operations of the Land Commission under Section 29 of the 1950 Land Act which deals with displaced employees on an acquired estate—the man who has no further work on an estate after the Land Commission has acquired it. There have been many of these cases and the payment of compensation to them has been a reserved matter under the Land Act of 1950 for which the Labour Party voted here along with Fine Gael and the Party to which the Minister belongs.
That Act has become the law of the country. When it was a Bill going through the House I drew attention to the matter and said I was anxious to learn how the amount of compensation was to be arrived at. I did not get a satisfactory explanation at the time but I am not complaining about that because when new legislation is being passed it is difficult for a Minister to lay down a hard and fast rule. But under every section of an Act there are regulations made and I presume there are regulations under this section governing the question of what entitles such men to compensation—on how many years of service compensation is estimated and the rest of it. I never saw a copy of these regulations and I should like the Minister to make them available in the Library so that we may  study the situation and get to know exactly what the principle is under which this system is operated.
Mr. Hilliard: We shall buy them then. I notice that in the Minister's Estimate there has been an increase under that sub-head this year of £1,250. I thought that that extra sum might have been necessary in order to increase the amount of compensation payable to those people but I find in the Minister's statement that it is not accounted for by an increase in compensation but because the Minister expects to have more of those people to deal with. In Volume 151, No. 2 of the Official Report the Minister is reported as saying at column 265:—
“It is expected that during the current year there will be an increase in the number of new estates acquired and that this will lead directly to the payment of more gratuities to employees. The Estimate under the sub-head has, therefore, been increased by £1,250 to £4,000.”
That means of course that very few of these employees will get any land and the complaint has been made by Deputy James Tully that these people should get land and that they should get paid compensation on the same basis as compensation was payable up to this year. In my opinion the amount of compensation that these people get is not sufficient. I raised the question when the Bill was going through in 1950; I thought, I said, that these people would not be paid a sufficient amount.
I still think the amount is not sufficient. The increase the Minister proposes to make is not so very much and I think there should be a different approach altogether to this matter. When power was taken to deal with these people in a different manner than heretofore—to dispense with the practice of giving land—and when power was taken instead to give them compensation, I think that that compensation should be adequate; it  should be much more than it is at the moment.
All types of suggestions were made to the Minister as to the classes of people to whom land should be given in the County Meath. These suggestions have been made to Ministers for the past 20 years—for a much longer number of years than I have been a member of this House.
Mr. Hilliard: These suggestions, particularly concerning fruit growers, are being made since the State was established and I have come to the conclusion that the Land Commission which is charged with the responsibility of creating agricultural holdings have come to regard an agricultural holding as one upon which only the ordinary everyday activity of agriculture is carried on. They do not regard fruit growing as a method of living on an agricultural holding. I have come to that conclusion from observations I have made; I believe that the commissioners regard it as their business to see that a family farm is created upon which a rotational cropping system should be carried on and on which a certain number of live stock can be kept and upon which fowl and pigs and so forth can be reared. They do not regard fruit-growing as an agricultural activity that should have the same prominence in the agricultural life of the country. I gave up asking them many years ago even to consider the matter because I knew they were just not going to listen to what I or anybody else might say on the matter. They continue to do that regardless of the advice they get from Captain Giles or Deputy James Tully, myself or the two or three Deputies who preceded us.
Much has been said here about the 600 or the 800 acre holdings. It has been suggested that they should all be taken over. I should like to point out that County Meath is not as large as people think. I do not know how many of these 600 or 800 acre holdings there are but I would not say the number is very large, but I would say that sometimes the 200 and 300  acre farmers and the much larger ones are performing a useful job from the point of view of the State and that they comply fully with the policy of the State.
We have been told by no less an authority than the Minister for Agriculture, Deputy Dillon, that we are dependent almost entirely on our exports of live stock in order to pay for our imports. If we are to continue the policy of live-stock production and the export of live stock we will have to leave the land to the people who are engaged in that particular aspect of our agriculture. If we do not do that, then we shall be compelled to make up our minds to bring about some radical change in our agricultural policy. We seem to be working in two different directions. We are dividing up the land into smaller units and we are, at the same time, telling ourselves that we will have to stimulate production.
While I agree to some extent with that policy, it is neither right nor proper that we should divide up all holdings of 600 or 800 acres. Apart from the importance of such holdings in our economy, they are an attraction to many people from the scenic point of view. They are an attraction from the point of view of tourism and from the point of view of other activities upon the development of which the Government is spending large sums.
I do not, of course, believe in leaving large tracts of land to people who do not use the land or who let it on the 11 months' system. That is a different matter altogether. If the land is not being used properly the State has every right to intervene for the public good. I know several very good agriculturists who are doing a magnificent job of work; they have large tracts of land and they employ a lot of labour. I do not think anyone should interfere with such people. I know it is not the practice of the Land Commission to interfere with them at all, but it suits some people very well to make certain suggestions in a local paper, perhaps.
Mr. Hilliard: I have not mentioned the Deputy's name. It suits some  people to make all kinds of suggestions. It sometimes makes the other fellow look a bit foolish because people think perhaps he is not doing his job. I want to deal with this in an objective way. I want to put it as I see the position in my daily journeyings through my constituency and the general knowledge I have acquired by reading up on these matters and acquainting myself with the actual situation.
Now the Land Commission issues a report regularly. Possibly the suggestion I am now about to make might mean that too much work would be put on the staff of the Land Commission; it might mean that men engaged in other work would be taken off that more useful work in order to implement the suggestion I am about to make. I would like to see a production report issued by the Land Commission. The present report is satisfactory inasmuch as it explains the activity of the Land Commission under the Acts, the amount of land acquired, the number of holdings created, the price of the land, the cost of making the holdings and everything else. At one period there was a limited report in relation to one particular estate which was divided up by the Land Commission.
I think the time has now come when Deputies and the public generally should be fully acquainted with the activities of those who have got land from the Land Commission, migrants and others. I think it is important that we should inform the public generally as to what the occupation of land by these people has meant generally to the economic condition of the country as a whole, particularly in relation to increased production and in relation to the benefits they have conferred on the local areas in which they live. Deputy O'Hara made some reference to this matter. Land division has wrought a tremendous change in the face of the countryside. It has livened up the countryside. There was a time when County Meath was like the Sahara Desert; the rolling plains were there but there was no one living on them.
It is not absolutely correct to say  that the west and south are dependent on this land in County Meath for the feeding of cattle. That is an exaggeration of the position. We feed a certain amount of cattle from the west and south but the west and south are not absolutely dependent on the limited amount of land in the Midlands for that purpose. We all know that thousands of cattle are shipped direct from the south and west and fed and fattened in England.
I appeal to the Minister to consider the suggestion I have made in relation to this report. Such a report would be an education for our people and it would be a good thing if even the members of this House knew exactly what benefits Land Commission activity has brought to the nation. Deputy O'Hara referred to the fact that land acquisition and migration are a costly business. We know that is so. We know there is a serious financial loss on each new holding that is created. What the tenant is asked to pay is a good deal less than what it costs the State to set the tenant up. That loss, however, is lessened because of the value of the holding surrendered by the migrant. Indeed, it might not be a loss at all if we were fully acquainted with all the facts through this production report. It might be shown that it is money well spent, a capital investment well worthwhile to the nation. But the public know there is a loss; the taxpayer knows there is a loss; it would be as well to let them know exactly how they stand in this regard.
Mr. Lindsay: Permit me at the beginning of my intervention in this debate to swap courtesies with Deputy Giles, who says he would not live for 24 hours under the conditions in which we have to live in the West of Ireland. Every man to his own taste, but I want to tell Deputy Giles that I would not exchange the bloom on the heather in the West of Ireland or the breeze from Blacksod Bay for all the land in Meath, including that of Deputy Giles.
Mr. Lindsay: I thought I would find the real Deputy Giles by making that remark; he says he wished he heard more saying that. After that preliminary, I want to say that I think no debate on the Estimate for the Department of Lands could be adequately contributed to or adequately completed without a wholehearted tribute being paid by everybody to the officials of the Irish Land Commission. In my opinion, it must be the most harassed Department in this State. When I say that, I am not alone referring to the officials in the various sections in the Department of Lands here, but to that hard-working body of men, the Land Commission inspectors and their assistants throughout the country.
When one thinks of the huge areas which these men have to survey and over which their jurisdiction extends, the great responsibility they have to undertake in arriving at decisions which must at all times— and invariably are, indeed —just decisions one cannot help wondering if the Land Commission's slowness, of which people are inclined to complain at great length, could not be eradicated to a very great extent by giving the men in the country more assistants, by reducing the area for each particular inspector and/or giving each inspector a greater number of men to help him. I know, of course, that means adding to the administrative costs of the Land Commission but while you would have added to the costs you would have the resultant benefit of speedier work and earlier activity on the part of the people who would ultimately get the land either as migrants or by rearranging.
Deputy O'Hara has invited me to criticise the Land Act of 1950. I think he probably knew from listening to me from time to time that I intended to criticise it and indeed I have done so in private conversation with the Minister for Lands. It is on one or two aspects that I wish to criticise it and the first of these deals with market value. The Land Act of 1950 purported to give the market value and there is no necessity for anybody to go into the witness box except the  valuer and possibly the person whose lands were subject to appeal against price. In the ordinary conception of the law of evidence once there is evidence which is not contradicted, even though that evidence may not be believed by the presiding judge or chairman of any tribunal, he must accept it; and I see no reason why the evidence of a competent valuer, whose integrity is beyond question, and is not questioned, cannot be accepted forthwith.
So much for the market value which in my opinion is in some cases being given and in others not being given depending entirely on the assessor chosen or on the method of calculation. But there is a much more serious aspect of the provisions of the Land Act of 1950 to which I, not alone as a parliamentary representative but as a lawyer, take serious exception. It is the provision which allows the Land Commission the one-sided privilege of saying when they hear the price fixed by the land judge or by the land judge in conjunction with the assessor, “It is too dear; we will not take it”. That decision might well come after two or three years of negotiation, first of all with the owner, secondly, the acquisition proceedings and thirdly the appeal against price, with in very many cases the delay resultant in reserved judgment. The Land Commission can then come along and say: “We do not want it. It is too dear. It is not economic for us”.
I think that any provision that gives to any body such as the Land Commission, or even to a private individual the right to say in a one-sided way: “I will not take it” is wrong. It does not give the right to the owner of the land to say: “I will not give it because the price offered to me is not in my opinion adequate and not the market value.” Why should the Land Commission be given any greater privilege in the acquisition of the land or in its efforts to acquire land than the person who owns the land?
Again, while human nature is what it is, there is the danger of approaches being made to people in high places. That danger is always present, sometimes possible, very infrequently probable.  That particular aspect of the 1950 Act can be used by an owner who has lost all the way up, lost in the ordinary court, before the commissioners, who have found that his land must be acquired by reason of the fact that very serious congestion exists beside him. When he is offered a price he appeals against the price—it may or may not be the market value but, nevertheless, it is fixed—and then it is, in my opinion, possible for somebody on behalf of the owner to approach somebody else who would have the ear of the authorities in this to use the power that is given to them under the provisions of the 1950 Land Act to say:
“We will not take it; it is uneconomic and it is too dear.” I think that is a danger that should be eradicated at the earliest possible opportunity that the Minister would have either to amend the 1950 Act or introduce fresh legislation. I sincerely hope that if there is to be fresh legislation it would not merely mean a new approach but would also mean the codification of the Land Acts from the very beginning so that these would be brought right up to date.
I know that the fundamental principle governing the acquisition of land is that it be used for the relief of congestion, but there is, however, a provision in a sub-paragraph of the 1931 Act which deals with the different classes of people to whom lands should be given, which says in concluding the list of such people “... any other person who, in the opinion of the Land Commission, should get land”. I think there is nothing as wide in scope as that provision, and that the assertion that the fundamental principle is the relief of congestion means that only congests should get it. The definition of “congest” might be a very wide one if it were not too strictly interpreted but it would not go to putting forward that provision of the Land Act of 1931 which says “... any other person who, in the opinion of the Land Commission, should get land”.
I would make the case for people living in small towns who have been in the habit for years back—and their  fathers before them—of having land on conacre or on the 11 months' system from the local landlord, now that the Land Commission has acquired or is acquiring such lands around these small towns. These are men in towns who have no other land and who have been in the position of being tenants in the most limited sense of the word to the landlords and I think they should be given consideration when lands are being allotted in the neighbourhood of the town or village.
Very often, you come across a person in a small town who had land in this fashion from a larger holding outside. It may be only a field, but it is something. I know of cases where people have land of that kind and who supply a considerable amount of milk to the local town. I think that, in the distribution of those lands, if it were convenient and were not interfering in an outrageously unjust manner with somebody else, that the people placed in such a position are worthy of the best consideration of the Land Commission in the distribution of those lands.
Sometimes, when the Land Commission are moving migrants from a congested area to a holding that has been divided up, you may have the case of a man who, on the night before he is due to go, decides that he will not go. It may not be his decision; it may be his wife's decision, sometimes it may be due to something in connection with one of the children, but he says “I will not go”. It may be that two or three days later, or perhaps a week later, he changes his mind. Then he gets in touch, I would say, with all the Deputies in the constituency, irrespective of their political affiliations and asks them to make a common united charge on the Land Commission in an effort to get them to reinstate him in the holding which has been allotted to him. We are invariably told that that cannot be done, that the land has been let on the 11 months and that he will not be considered.
I think that is a harsh sort of approach. Mind you, I do not say that the man has not got long enough notice. He may have had a year's or  more notice that he is going and, therefore, should not change his mind at the last minute. However, an awful lot of us change our minds, but fortunately we are able to change them back again without any great resulting loss to ourselves.
I think that the policy of the Land Commission in that respect might well be reviewed in order to give a sort of breathing space: for instance, if a man were due to go to a new holding on, say, the 1st March that there should be a breathing space let us say up to the 1st April—a breathing space of three weeks or a month in which the Land Commission would not make any allocation of the land so that if he did change his mind he still could go. I am making that representation very urgently and very sincerely to the Minister on the simple concept of justice that I think every man is entitled not merely to another chance, but that every man is entitled to a last chance.
Sometimes we are told that the Land Commission are interested in a holding, that they have not so much relinquished their interest in the acquisition of that holding but have postponed it. In the meantime, during the course of that postponement and until some further review is made, some change takes place on that land. A building is erected. There is a place outside the town of Ballina which is causing considerable local agitation at the moment. The Minister is, I think, acquainted with the facts in relation to it. People locally, some of them having as little as four acres surrounding this particular holding have been agitating, not only during the year that this Government has been in office, but they have been agitating for 20 years in respect of that land, and possibly longer, but for some reason or other, it has never seemed feasible to the Land Commission to acquire this land. Protest meetings are held to which, for some reason or other, I have never been invited, and accordingly I am free to speak on this.
Mr. Lindsay: I have not been invited to any protest meeting in connection  with the land at Coolcran outside Ballina, but as a result of the attendance on the Minister of Deputy Calleary and Deputy O'Hara, who both asked me to attend with them on the 3rd March last, we were told some short time afterwards that the Land Commission were interested in this farm, but had found that the lands had been sold and that they had ruled that the case would be reviewed again at the end of the year.
In the meantime, the purchaser has started to build. At the end of the year, if the decision is to acquire these lands and if it were successful before a court of the lay commission of the Land Commission that would mean demolishing the house which is now going up as rapidly as it can possibly go. I think that when a matter of such importance as this, where agitation prevails, is being postponed for a year or for any length of time, that the basis of the postponement, and the reason for it, should be given unequivocally to the people who are interested.
You have got to approach the problem of the congested districts in two ways. One is, if there is land locally which can satisfy the need, and if not, one must look around for some place where the land is. I have discussed this matter with people all over my constituency from time to time, long before I ever came into this House, and their views are, to say the least of it, mixed. Some of them, before I ever became their representative said: “Oh, we want to get to Meath, Westmeath or Kildare.” Others did not want to go so far away. Then there is another group of people who have, I think, a most interesting suggestion to make to the Land Commission. They say: “Why do they not break up the large tracts of bog lands which they acquire from various owners from time to time and put us there a little bit away from where we are now, where we will still be left in the environment and conditions to which we are accustomed?” There is a huge tract of land so near their homes that three families, over the last week-end, have expressed the view that, if some of it were broken up for them, they would prefer to go to that type of holding, rather than go to Meath,  Kildare or Westmeath or any of the richer counties.
I said in reply to one or two: “Would not the question of the reclamation of the land provide a big difficulty in that respect? You would not expect the Land Commission to go into places like that, root up foundations and build houses and leave you in the heart of a bog.” One man's reply to me is, I think, worthy of some consideration. He said: “Look around you here. Every field and every garden that you can see for miles back has all been reclaimed with three-rivet spades by one man or possibly two men with their families working bit by bit and year by year. Surely now, with all the advances in modern machinery, with calf-dozers and bull-dozers and rotovators that can be put into a bog the Land Commission ought to be able to achieve a holding with which I would be satisfied instead of having to provide me with one in Meath or Kildare or Dublin.”
That is the suggestion given to me by a man who has been offered, at some time in the not too distant future, a transfer to an eastern county. It is a suggestion which I would like to ask the Minister to examine and about which I would be able to give him all the local assistance which he might possibly require. I would also be able to give that assistance to his inspector locally.
I think it was my friend Deputy O'Hara who said it was a mistake to send people from fishing villages to County Meath. Certainly, if these people lived by fishing alone it would be a mistake, but I do not know of any part of our constituency where a fisherman is not also a small-holder. The fishing is seasonal and he can attend to his fishing and to his holding alternately.
I am happy to say and to know that people from my home village who came to County Meath upwards of 20 years ago have been so successful that many of them have now been able to purchase additional land and now have much larger holdings and are engaged in dairy farming and have become  more regal in their farming outlook than the people of Meath themselves.
On the question of rearrangement, I think it was the subject of a question some time ago as to whether the Land Commission was prepared to deal rather peremptorily where there would be one or two people holding up a rearrangement scheme in some particular area. I would suggest to the Minister that some machinery to this effect should be put into operation. I do not see why the common good should be jeopardised by one particular person or by two at the most. I think that action should be taken and taken swiftly where unreasonable people are holding up the work of the Land Commission. A considerable amount of time is wasted by such people. A Land Commission inspector reaches a stage of near finality and then one or two people say that they are not satisfied with the arrangement. The inspector goes back to his office probably in disgust and then he has to wait there until one or two people come in to sign. Then he will find that they want some other kind of rearrangement and the whole scheme is further delayed. Action should be taken in such cases.
The question of employment on the smaller holdings in the west is a matter of some concern. The Land Commission makes roads and fences and on the question of fencing I want to say that I have come across a few cases where the Land Commission has merely log-splitted certain places and left them in that condition. The result is that the local District Courts are kept busy by cases of rows arising from trespass on these lands. I do not know why the Land Commission will log-split in some places and fence others. This is a matter to which attention should be paid.
I do not subscribe to the view for one minute that Land Commission inspectors and officials, as I know them and know of them, could ever be made the agents of any political group. It may be possible from time to time, to press one man's claim more than another but I would like to know what test is applied in the selection of a migrant. I would like to know if the  inspector takes not of how the proposed migrant is using the bit of land he has. What is the basis of selection? Take the case of men with families of six, with the same kind of little holding and the usual rundale hardships and the same amount of stock. What is the basis on which selection is made? I think it would be a good thing if the Minister would prepare some kind of statement to make when closing the debate and that he would refer to this matter in it—that he would tell us what is the basis of selection and so dispel from the minds of the people the idea that these selections can be made by appealing to one or other of the political Parties.
I would like to see a settled and definite principle stated with regard to that matter. It would certainly relieve the Land Commission of having to send out what we here know as “regrets”. Having regard to the correspondence I have and the number of “regrets” and acknowledgments I receive I would say that there must be some one person alone employed in the Land Commission dealing with me alone and sending out “regrets” and acknowledgments to me. I think that the salary of that person would easily repay the interest and principal investment on a holding that would be far from uneconomic.
These are the suggestions, Sir, which I have to make. I do not know whether I have been in any way constructive but if I have been constructive in any little thing I will regard my intervention in the debate as being justified in some way.
I would like to ask the Minister to have regard to the limitations in the 1950 Act whereby the Land Commission is empowered to say “The land is too dear, we will not take it”. I will ask the Minister to introduce, if possible amending legislation so as to have the whole of the land code brought up to date so that everybody will be in a better position to know exactly where he or she stands and when he or she would be most entitled to the land of the country.
In conclusion, I wish to say that I have the deepest sympathy with the Minister for Lands and the Land  Commission and its officials, because the demand for land by people all over the country is so great that it must be obvious to everybody—even to the people who apply from time to time— that that demand cannot be met, that the land is not there. I sympathise, too, with Deputy Hilliard's point of view that people who are working larger holdings and making a contribution to the national wealth should not be disturbed. I might add that it might ease the position for the Land Commission if they considered this view, that, where small economic holdings are available within a county and are put up for sale, the congest who would be willing to bid and to bid normally in an open market should be given facilities by the Land Commission, thereby taking one more congest out of the list and easing their anxiety as to where to place him.
Mr. Bartley: Deputy Hilliard made the suggestion that it would be a good thing if a progress report could be produced by the Land Commission in respect of production on migrants' holdings. Such a report, he suggested, would possibly give critics of migration a more reasoned and reasonable viewpoint about the merits of migrating smallholders from the west to the east. The Land Commission did, in fact, produce such a report before the world war and the statistics which it contained of agricultural production by comparison with what was possible and what in fact they produced on the holdings they left was most gratifying indeed. Every type of crop which good land can produce was shown to have been produced, and produced well and profitably, on these small holdings which had been given to them in County Meath.
I think that the difference to which reference was made by Deputy Hilliard between the capital cost of the new settlement and the charge to the migrant himself in respect of it can very easily be justified by anybody who examines the report of the production to which I have referred. It would, I think, be very useful to do again what was done before and what is now suggested by Deputy Hilliard, that an up-to-date progress report  might be provided in respect of recent years and I feel confident, as a representative of many of these migrants in the places from which they came, that they have kept up the good work which they began under, I must say, favourable auspices created by the Land Commission.
If the work of migrating them has been expensive, I think it would be unfair not to accord to the Land Commission officials in charge of that very difficult job, particularly in its pioneer days away back in 1934 and 1935, the praise to which they are entitled for the good results the work produced. It was new to them at the time and the human element entered much more into the question, in view of the distance of the migration, than would have been the case in local migration and it is gratifying to know that a very small percentage of those migrated left the new holdings.
I was surprised to hear some Deputies speak as if they were unacquainted with the practices of the Land Commission in respect of various matters which are commonplace to the Land Commission and pretty well known to Deputies of any considerable standing. As a matter of fact, I do not think one requires to be a member of this House—if he is interested at all in the affairs of his neighbours, it would be no great difficulty to him to find out exactly how the Land Commission proceeds. Take, for instance, the selection of migrants. One does not have to engage in any very detailed research to find out that Land Commission officials do look for worthwhile holdings when they want to migrate a person from a locality. It is quite obvious that a holding of, say, £20 valuation would be a much better proposition for the Land Commission to take and to migrate its occupier than to take a holding of £5 valuation. That is what, in practice, they do. It is, of course, necessary in certain of the congested districts to take out a £5 man and possibly a man of lesser valuation because they cannot rearrange unless they reduce the numbers of the residents in the district and I think that the people living in  these districts are pretty generally acquainted with what the practice of the Land Commission is.
There are one or two matters which concern my own constituency, although they are, possibly, matters that apply to Land Commission administration all over the congested districts, to which I wish to refer. I should like to say to the Minister that I personally am disappointed, in view not of what I believed myself when the 1950 Act was being debated, but of what the Minister said in respect of the provision to acquire land in the competitive market, by the result which he has achieved in relation to the acquisition of land in that way. I put a question to the Minister some time ago asking for particulars, and he informed me:—
“Under Section 27 of the Land Act, 1950, six holdings have been purchased by private treaty and one at auction in County Galway. The area of these holdings is 195 acres, the rateable valuation £75 and the cost £3,562. In all counties, 22 holdings have been purchased by private treaty and three at auction. The total area involved is 735 acres, the rateable valuation £323 and the cost £20,604.”
That reply was given to me on the 15th December, 1954, to Question No. 43. The position may be better since then and the reason I have read out the reply is that the figure of £20,000, representing the cost of the total acquisitions under this section, is the figure now reproduced in the Estimate.
It seems to me that the Minister is not sanguine of acquiring more land by this method in the future than has happened in the past. I think he must admit that the criticism which we had of this particular machinery when he was enacting it here—we were in opposition then—was quite constructive. We expressed doubts about its efficacy. However, we in the Fianna Fáil Party were always pressing on whatever Minister for Lands was in office that holdings that came on the market from time to time in congested districts should be acquired. Before the passing of the 1950 Act we were always informed that the Land Commission could not acquire land by that particular method.
 I am not so sure but that the present Minister for Lands may have been one of the Deputies in those days who used to press on the attention of the Minister and the Land Commission the desirability of acquiring holdings which came on the market from time to time by a public auction or private treaty. In so far as the Minister meant to acquire as many of these holdings by this method as possible, I think it is only fair to give him due credit for his intention, but I think he will now have to admit that the doubts expressed on this side of the House as to the efficacy of that particular method were pretty well-founded. That is not to say that I believe that method of acquiring land to be a complete failure or nearly a complete failure.
I think the Land Commission might make better use of the provision during the coming year than has happened for the past few years. There is not a congested district in any constituency in Ireland in which holdings coming on the market in this way are not brought to the attention of local representatives and of the local Land Commission inspectors. However, the functions and the instructions which the local Land Commission inspectors have received and exercised in this particular respect are not, I think, known to Deputies. I doubt if any very clear-cut or precise instructions have, in fact, been given to the inspectors down the country in the matter.
If it is intended on the part of headquarters that local inspectors should not exercise this particular function, perhaps the Minister would tell us when he is replying if there is any officer or section in his Department at headquarters with a set responsibility in respect of this matter and kept continuously informed—by reference to auctioneer's notices in local papers, and so forth—of how much land is coming on the market in this way. While we on this side of the House were not too hopeful as to the result, we certainly thought it was an experiment that would be very interesting. It does not please me, representing a congested district, that only six holdings have been acquired in County Galway.  I think that even by a very haphazard application of this particular power, a better result than that might have been obtained.
These are just a few matters to which I wished to draw the attention of the Minister and they are practically all of application in my constituency although, of course, they are of general interest in all the congested districts such as the one to which I have been referring.
I should like if the Minister would tell us very definitely the practice of the Land Commission since the termination of the war in relation to the provision of houses where they are rearranging congested estates. Where the site of a man's house was transferred, it used to be the practice that the Land Commission would build the house for him and the charges he had to meet were incorporated in his Land Commission annuity. It seems to me now that it is only in the rarest of cases, if at all, that the Land Commission take the entire cost of the building of a house where they are rearranging land. This does inflict hardship in certain types of cases. It is a hardship, for instance, if the family help is not sufficiently grown up to be of any use in the building of the house or where the man's means are so slender that he cannot make any substantial contribution to the initial cost. I think it would be wise if the Land Commission would examine the family means very closely when it comes to the provision of houses where they are carrying out this very useful work of rearrangement and where it is necessary to shift a household or households from their existing location to some other new site on the rearranged holdings.
To seek the types of holdings which the Land Commission inspectors are now seeking—the better class holding and the larger holding—so that they will get something of real value for the holdings acquired elsewhere by the migrant is a very logical course and one cannot complain about it. However, as I remarked, there are exceptions and in my constituency there is a very notable exception—as badly congested an estate as I think will be  found in any of the congested districts. It is known as the Blake Minors Estate and once I mention its name I am quite certain that the Land Commission—even the headquarters here in Dublin—will not have to make any great search for particulars or to lay their hands on the necessary records.
The Blake Minors Estate must have been the subject of as much correspondence with the Land Commission as any estate in Ireland. Here is a place where the exception must be applied. The Land Commission cannot hope— with the possible exception of one or two holdings—to get any holding of any real consequence in exchange. Nevertheless, the number of sub-tenancies is so large in it and the problem is so complex that I think the Land Commission will have to forego their quest for substantial holdings and offer exchanges to holders or sub-holders of little or no land but whose agricultural status is recognised by the Land Commission because of their long standing.
If I mention one estate to the exclusion of all others, I do so because this problem is a very large one in my constituency and has had the effect of preventing people from getting suitable housing. That has been the greatest drawback experienced by the congests in my constituency. It is not really the increased value of the rearranged holding, while that is of itself considerable; the big advantage is that they now qualify to get housing assistance, which is denied them until the rearrangement is carried out. If I stress the need for rearrangement in any of these estates, I do so with my mind concentrated on that first and essential need, the provision of a good and wholesome house for the large families which usually are to be found there. I would, therefore, before I pass from it, make a special reference to the need for doing something in this particular estate, which I may point out—I am sure the Minister knows it already—is entirely in the Fíor-Ghaeltacht. They are all native Irish speakers and use the Irish language daily.
I notice that this year we are getting only 12 migrants in the West Galway constituency as against 42 in each of  the previous two years. It may be that the Land Commission considers that we were treated well in getting 42 in the previous years and it may be also that some area that had a lesser number previously is now being stepped up and that West Galway is now being reduced but in view of the very large number of people who want to go and in view of the great need there is to remove a considerable number more before proper rearrangement can be carried out, I think that while the going is good in relation to this matter of migration—when I say the going is good I mean that the Land Commission machinery has developed a momentum in the matter and that they have acquired a great deal of experience—and that while the iron is hot they should strike it hard and try to get rid of this aspect of the problem anyway—while the mood is on them, if I may put it that way—and so proceed regarding the obstacles which prevent the remaining estates and villages from getting houses, that the work will be completed as quickly as possible. We know that even when that is done we will not have given the people there economic holdings. The other Deputies who spoke have drawn attention to that and I do not want to stress that now. My main desire is to see that the people get the houses first. It is the first step, to give the people a little bit of hope to work harder and better to help themselves. It is very difficult for the parents of a young family badly housed to put their best effort forward.
The main problem, not from the point of view of its extent but from its immediate urgency, to which I wished to draw the Minister's attention is the question of migrating a small number of islanders off the west coast of Galway. I have had correspondence with the Land Commission, I have had some questions down to the Minister here and I know that the Land Commission gave me an answer which is in consonance with their duty in relation to the relief of congestion and that they could not in the ordinary routine give me a different reply unless the Government, at the instigation of the Minister, will make a special case. Now, the necessity for the special case  is this, that it is not a case of congestion that I want dealt with. In this particular matter, quite the reverse is the position. The community in the particular island I have in mind, Inishark, has fallen so low in numbers that there is scarcely now enough ablebodied men to do the minimum essential work of the community.
When one considers that in this island, as in some others, there are no land-locked or safe harbours and that boats have to be drawn up, one will appreciate immediately the constant need there is for the presence of men who are more than ordinarily ablebodied, because it requires men of both skill and strength to do a job of boat hauling. When one finds a community reduced to eight houses with no suitable harbour and where the boats have to be pulled up, I think that the Minister for Lands should give special attention to the problem.
I know he can say that the Land Commission do not deal with that type of problem and I know he can suggest that I should go to some other Department such as Oifig na Gaeltachta agus na gCeantar gCúng.
I know he can point to the fact that that office dealt with a similar problem in the Blaskets, but the Minister himself represents a congested district and I would feel that, even if it is not strictly within the letter of the code administered by the Land Commission, he would use his good offices as the Minister responsible to Parliament and the country for land settlement— and this is a problem of land settlement, anyway—and that he would himself become the instigator of whatever efforts are necessary to see that this problem will be tackled and a solution found for it.
Just like the people in other parts of the country referred to by other Deputies to-night these people do not want to leave either. They are attached to their native rocks and they would stay there if there was any sort of adequate community life. But they realise better than anybody else that the time is past when they can hope to get the young people to settle down and raise new families there, and  very much against their will they have been requesting that an exchange of land and holdings should be provided for them where there is ordinary community life, schools, churches, etc. I do not think I need dwell on that much longer. The Minister is already acquainted with it and he might, if he comes to deal with it, take into account some other smaller islands that are around the coast where possibly a problem similar to but not quite so acute as it exists in this particular island is also to be met with.
We are having erected in Connemara a new station for the consumption of hand-won turf for the production of electricity. That directs attention almost automatically to the question of turbary. I think it was Deputy O'Hara who referred to the enclosing of large areas of turbary by people whose right to do so he seemed to question. We do not have that taking place down in my constituency to any considerable extent, but I think the Land Commission ought in any event to direct their officials to inform those people who are seeking information locally whenever they come to them what the position is in regard to turbary ownership and the rights of the allottee in respect of turbary, and what the public right is as exercised by the Land Commission.
I know that people very often try to monopolise the turbary as well as the grazing though they know from the agreements they have made with the Land Commission that they have not any right to do so and that the Land Commission can give turbary rights even where the grazing has been allotted to or vested in a tenant. But the question of the right of the Land Commission to dispose of turbary in these areas has become one of the first importance because of the necessity to have turbary available for the production of hand-won turf to feed this new station.
That also gives rise to the question of the provision of roads. Whether the Land Commission or the Special Employment Schemes Office or perhaps both in co-operation would have to meet this problem of roads I do not know, but as the Minister knows the  depth of the Western bogs is not nearly as great as that of the inland bogs and, therefore, the necessity for road-making is much greater because you have to be continually extending these roads so that further turbary becomes available. That problem will be greater as the demand for turf increases, and straight away from the time this station goes into operation there will be an added demand for 30,000 tons which I understand is the estimated annual requirement. The station was provided so that two objectives might be achieved. One of the objectives was to provide a market for hand-won turf which slumped after the war, and the other was to add something in any event to the total pool of electricity production in the country.
I would say that the Government that made the decision was influenced as much by one as by the other of the two objectives but they are certainly important. I am aware that the Land Commission has not been entirely ignorant or neglectful of attention to this particular matter, but it is perhaps desirable on this annual stocktaking to draw attention to it as a major problem in my constituency. The close co-operation between the E.S.B., the Special Employment Schemes Office and the Land Commission in these related matters will produce good results, in any event, the best possible results. The question of turbary and its ownership and the right to allocate it is a matter of the first importance, and should not be left to any sort of haphazard treatment by the people who happen to live near it.
I used to be a great critic of the dilatoriness of the Land Commission in relation to dealing with striping, as we call it—the rearrangement of rundale holdings. But I do know that the Land Commission, like all other bodies and like every individual, naturally will do the work which can produce the best and quickest results. Just as the Forestry Department will direct their attention to the land which can produce the best trees in the shortest time where the land is most easily capable of acquisition, so the Land Commission  avoid the very thorny problems of rearrangement and restriping where work which is not so complex in its character and which produces quicker results is available and can get preference.
They have in recent years been getting down to this question of rearranging the holdings, and I am satisfied in regard to all the representations made to them that while we may have felt irritated that we did not get quicker results, they never put them away out of sight and that the problem was always present to their minds. A considerable amount of work has been done in recent years in this rearrangement problem. All I ask for is that that would be continued. I would myself like an increased effort but I think that if we get the progress that has been taking place in recent years, the black core of this problem, the one which prevented the people from getting houses, will have been dealt with in the course of a few years. A great deal of other rearrangement work will still require to be done, but if we once reached the stage where everybody had a decent house then the edge would be taken off our clamour.
All I will say to the Minister is that I recognise, as every Deputy apparently does now, judging from the speeches I have heard here this evening, that the Minister by Act of Parliament is merely a presiding chairman nowadays and that nobody expects him to wield any real power. If he is simply to allow himself to be used as a channel for representations Deputies will be quite satisfied, and I am prepared to fall into line with the chorus of harmony which apparently is now obvious. Deputies who used to be very critical on this side of the House, apparently do see things now through different glasses or from a different slant.
If we find that the amount of complaint and the nature of the complaint from that side and from this side of the House are much the same, and that the number of matters about which we can agree and be harmonious also bears a great deal of similarity, the Minister can, perhaps, preen himself that his job as a channel of representation will be a good deal easier than otherwise it might be.
 It is apparently now accepted by all sides of the House—and what is more gratifying still, it is accepted by the Deputies of the more favoured counties —that congestion is and must be acknowledged by all Deputies to be the paramount problem. It is also pleasing to hear Deputies from the fat lands of County Meath pointing out that there is a real welcome before these congests when they come up to counties like Meath I must say I was not alone gratified but surprised to hear Deputy Giles say that the Meath men had, in fact, come out with torches to welcome one of the earliest bands of these migrants that came to his county. I was disappointed afterwards to hear him say that their welcome was ill-returned by some of those migrants and that some black eyes resulted.
What I would say to Deputy Giles in that respect is that even in County Meath I am sure you will get a black sheep or two in any bunch and he will find that the people of the Gaeltacht are not to be assessed by the conduct of the people who make the most noise on a fair day, and that those of them who come from the Fíor-Ghaeltacht will bring up to County Meath something in addition to their ability to work hard on the land. They will bring the Irish language with them and they will bring a willingness to spread that language to their children in County Meath.
I was pleasantly surprised on one of my visits down to Rathcarne to find County Meath men, adults who had never spent any considerable time in the Gaeltacht, using the Irish language fluently. I had a long conversation with one or two of them and we did not use any English the whole time. I am not mentioning that as being what could be described as typical of the general experience, but it was good, in any event, to meet in a casual way one or two of those people who had acquired the Irish language.
I know of people who have spent scores of years in the Fíor-Ghaeltacht itself and who have never acquired a word of the Irish language. Whether they were not interested in learning to speak it or whether it was a linguistic  impossibility for them, I do not know, but it was a striking contrast to meet with a person in County Meath who had no acquaintance at all with Irish as a live language and to find that he had absorbed it. This man happened to be friendly with one of the migrants and his family and what seems to have happened is that he simply absorbed the language. He did not have to bother about blackboards, books or teachers. While he may have been exceptionally apt in regard to languages he did not strike me as being such.
If an interest in the language could be developed in County Meath these new Gaeltacht colonists and group migrants offer the people there an opportunity of Gaelicising themselves before a great many places that are quite close to the Fíor-Ghaeltacht. I would like to tell Deputy Hilliard, who asked for a progress report, that if he ever gets the Minister or the Land Commission to produce such a progress report—and we did have one as I pointed out before—along with setting forth in it the number of sheep, cattle, wheat, oats, potatoes, etc., that he should also have a little corner in it for the cultural account.
Mr. Maguire: The praise given from various benches in this House this evening on the Vote for Lands is rather unique. For many years in the Dáil the land question always was of primary importance and was discussed at great length and often with great heat. The Minister this evening seemed to be able to pour oil on troubled waters and from every bench he received a large measure, if not entirely of praise, of explanation and excuse for the things the Land Commission had not done and the things they would like to have done. I do not know what the reason for all this was.
I am afraid the term “Minister for Lands” is a misnomer. The only time I realise in a practical way that there is a Land Commission operating in this country is when the Estimates come up for discussion each year, but for the rest of the year there is hardly  a sound of their voice. One thing we must bear in mind, and of which I would like to remind the Minister, is that he is Minister for Lands not for a few selected counties here or there, but for the whole of the Republic, and he is bound, by a sense of honour in any case, to answer fully any questions put as regards the administration of his Department, the amount of money spent, how it is spent and what are the results.
I had occasion recently to put down a question asking the Minister to give me particulars of the acreage of land that he had made available for distribution among migrants from different counties. He refused to give that information and he told me that he did not think it would be good in the interests of social living to give information which might show that one part of the community was getting a better share than another.
I want to point out to the Minister to-night that his action in refusing to give me the information I sought was not the action of a responsible Minister in a democratic State. The simplest member, not of this Dáil, but of the whole community, is entitled to know from the Minister how the money has been spent or how it is planned to spend it, and to decide according to his own judgment whether that is good or bad. If that answer is deliberately withheld by the Minister on an Estimate for such a big sum as we are asked to vote here to-night, and for such an important aspect of our economy, then I say that Minister is not discharging his duty as a Minister of State should and I say, further, that in view of the discussion here to-night, which to me sounded alarming, it is disgraceful to find Deputies on all sides of the House indulging in a chorus of cooing the praises of the Minister. That Minister refused to give me an answer that it was his duty to give even from the point of view of the most elementary good manners. He was in honour, if not duty, bound, to give me a reply.
I have charged the Minister for Lands with not being a democratic  Minister. I say again now that he is a dictator who is afraid to admit or disclose how he is administering his Department. Deputy Bartley a few minutes ago made casual reference to the fact that something like 30 or 40 West Galway migrants had been accommodated. My God! The Minister refused to give me that information to-night. Does the House know how many migrants from Sligo-Leitrim have been fixed up during the past seven years? He did not take ten of them away.
Mr. Maguire: If the Minister conducts himself I shall address the Chair. In view of the Minister's attitude, I ask the members of the House, in the interests of democracy, justice and fair administration, to call on him to answer my question straightly and in a manly way, not in the evasive way that he has adopted when he says it would not be in the general interest of the country to give  me a reply. He has given holdings to 38 migrants from West Galway.
Mr. Maguire: You have not taken ten migrants from Sligo-Leitrim in three years. What is the explanation for that? The Minister is no longer a novice at his job. He is a Minister now for a number of years and any man in his position should be able to see that an examination would be made of the entire land available for distribution. He should have a plan ready, and if he had such a plan there is no reason at all why he should not be able to answer the question I have put to him. Many congests throughout the country have applied for migration. Their applications were received in the Land Commission and were acknowledged by a note, by an official printed form. Those people have hung on year after year in the hope that if not this year then next year this Minister or the next Minister will facilitate them with economic holdings.
Is it not the duty of a man in the Minister's position—a man in charge of an important Department—to have a plan prepared, having found out the acreage of land we have available for migrants, telling how the land was to be distributed and eventually coming to the stage where no more land was available and being able to tell applicants that such a position had been reached and that they themselves must make provision for their families in future?
The Minister, and to some extent his predecessor, have been responsible for injuring the progress of families in this country. I know families in the West of Ireland who have been awaiting a definite answer for the past ten or 12 years. Years ago they made their plans on the basis that they would be able to migrate, but no decision has been notified to them over the years; their repeated applications have met with the same type of acknowledgments—printed forms.
Can the Minister not deal fairly with these families; can he not deal with them in a way that would require only elementary decency and courtesy? He  deliberately refused to account to me. He refused on previous occasions and again to-night and then he tried to justify his actions. It is an atrocious situation and I am appealing to the Deputies not to give any support to a Minister who insists on ignoring Deputies' questions and who continues to withhold information that is essential to the Deputy who asks for it.
Are you a Minister for Lands at all? As far as I can see you are only Minister for Forests, so far as we are concerned. The Minister had not the pluck to come forward and tell me he does not propose to do anything for the Sligo-Leitrim people. Yet in an underground way he writes to them and asks them if they have any land for sale for forestry purposes.
Mr. Maguire: I am aware of that, but I made that reference in passing. If he does not tell me his policy, I am telling him now what his policy is. He should not have these things coming out in bits and scraps; he should have a decent plan for the relief of congestion. Is the Minister being serious at all? He was responsible for putting through a Bill here some years ago to enable him to purchase lands wherever they were offered for the purpose of relieving congestion. He was all anxiety then about the position of the congests and he got the Dáil to pass legislation enabling him to pay what might be regarded as high prices for land, but at that time no price was too great in order that the poor congests might be relieved. He got that Bill through and we know the volume of land that has been acquired since.
It is a pity he is not as anxious to improve the conditions of congests as he is to plant trees. Why not send out to these people and ask them if they have land to offer for the relief of congestion instead of tree planting? It is all hypocrisy. All the Minister is planning to do is to get rid of the people from the West of Ireland with the least trouble. It is not his plan  to give them economic holdings but to force them out and let them find their own solution and their own salvation anywhere they like.
To my mind the Minister is interested in the position of the people in the congested areas only to the extent that politically it may be of interest to him and if he were a decent man it would injure him to carry that mentality around with him. Let him come forward and tell me in a manly straight way what are his plans. Will he tell me what are his plans for dealing with congestion in Sligo-Leitrim?  I can tell him at a later date what he is planning to do. I have asked him to be straight about the thing and to tell us what area of land he has measured our as available for acquisition and what area of that land he proposes to utilise towards the relief of congestion. I move to report progress.
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