Thursday, 3 July 1958
Dáil Éireann Debate
That a sum not exceeding £1,147,410 be granted to complete the sum necessary to defray the charge which will come in course of payment during the year ending on the 31st day of March, 1959, for Salaries and Expenses of the Offices of the Minister for Lands and of the Irish Land Commission (44 & 45 Vict., c. 49, sec. 46, and c. 71, sec. 4; 48 & 49 Vict., c. 73, secs, 17, 18 and 20; 54 & 55 Vict., c. 48; 3 Edw. 7, c. 37; 7 Edw. 7, c. 38 and c. 56; 9 Edw. 7, c. 42; Nos. 27 and 42 of 1923; No. 25 of 1925; No. 11 of 1926; No. 19 of 1927; No. 31 of 1929; No. 11 of 1931; Nos. 33 and 38 of 1933; No. 11 of 1934; No. 41 of 1936; No. 26 of 1939; No. 12 of 1946; No. 25 of 1949; No. 16 of 1950; No. 18 of 1953; and No. 21 of 1954).
Mr. Killilea: I was referring to the delay in the Land Commission taking over turbary in areas where a number of people are without any turbary. I would ask the Minister to pay reasonable attention to representations I have already made to the Land Commission in connection with a number of those so that the matter would be speeded up.
It was rather interesting to listen to Deputy Lindsay's speech in which there was a little bit of jealousy. I did think that a former Minister would be a hardened individual who would not be hurt by some of the small, petty things that Deputies may try to have done for their constituents.
Mr. Killilea: Deputy Doherty was trying to fix up a grievance between two of his constituents. It is the Deputy's duty, if he can, to try to stop the Land Commission from bringing the full powers of the State on top of such people. I think a Deputy does a good day's work if he tries to stop all that labour and expense and, if the Land Commission will listen to such efforts to straighten things out, nobody should try to put a stop to such a practice. Deputy Lindsay apparently does not see much of his constituency and does not know much of the worries that exist in it. That is a sample of the things we all have to do from day to day.
Mr. Killilea: No, but you will always get people who will try to fix up a grievance between two other people and the Land Commission will always meet one half way in a matter of that sort. I have got people to accept responsibility for the payment of an annuity where an individual had left the country temporarily. I hope the Land Commission will continue to meet us half way in matters like this when we try to fix up any such grievances. It would make things very much easier for the tenants concerned and would save considerable expense where the Land Commission might otherwise have to put in a sheriff's officer.
Mr. Killilea: As Deputy Dillon would probably do. The Land Commission are right in meeting Deputies half way in matters of this nature. Our duty is to try to relieve the worries and troubles of our constituents if we can do so and there is no reason why we should not make every effort to iron out grievances of that kind.
I would again stress the urgency and importance of dealing with lands put up for sale. I do not see any reason why the Land Commission should not become more active and take a greater interest in the purchase of such holdings for division amongst congests in areas where no other land is available and where there is no hope of  solving the uneconomic land problem. It has come to our notice that in different areas a man having 50 acres can purchase another 50 and again, some time later, purchase another 50. The poor people cannot look at that land. Somebody must come to their rescue and the only body in whom they have confidence is the Land Commission.
On a number of occasions, I have almost had rows with the Minister himself and with the Land Commission because they did not travel in the direction I thought they should have travelled. There were occasions in which I was afterwards proven right and they were wrong. There is the case of the Newell estate in Newgarden. I made strong representations to the Minister and to the Land Commission for the acquisition of that land. They told me other lands would be available in the area, but now it has turned out that these other lands are not available, as I knew they would not, when they first told me that. Any Deputy who knows his constituency fairly well knows the conditions that exist in it and knows what lands are available for the Land Commission. It is up to that Deputy to make representations to the Commission, and it is the duty of the Land Commission to take cognisance of those representations. The Land Commission should not take heed of fake reports sent into them from time to time.
On the subject of bogs, I have in mind one bog on the Boora estate in north Galway. For 15 years, I have been endeavouring to get the Land Commission to take over that bog. At the same time, there have been certain turbaries on the Clonbroonagh estate, on the Purcell estate, at Clanbricka and Glenaneem. There is not a sod of turf there, but there are 100 acres of bog adjoining but we cannot get an acre of turbary. That is something which could be easily rectified by the Land Commission in a very short time. There is also the McDonald estate outside Tuam, where at the moment we have not got turf, where there is no hope of getting turf except at enormous expense and yet this bog remains undivided.
 I know it is not the fault of the local officials that things are not being done. I believe that in County Galway we have got the best type of officials one could find in any part of Ireland, men who are prepared to go a long way to try to remedy any grievances amongst Land Commission tenants, and I compliment them on the very huge job of work they are doing and trust they will continue on those lines.
Mr. Jones: This Estimate is one in which people outside the House take a great interest because the Land Commission is associated very much with the question of land in the country and, in the eyes of the people, is responsible for the acquisition and division of land. In regard to the division of land, the Land Commission have been pursuing their policy of rearranging and acquisition over the years. In connection with the applications which they receive, and the way in which these applications are dealt with, I think there is too much rigidity in regard to the distance limit within which applicants are considered. I know that as a general rule the limit laid down is a statute mile for smallholders. They must be within a mile radius of the estate to be divided and very often there are deserving cases just a short distance outside that mile limit. I know it will be said that if the limit is extended by one-tenth of a mile, then it can be extended by two-tenths, and so on, but it is a fact that very often in cases where estates are being divided, young married farmers who happen to be outside the mile limit find they will not be considered for land division.
Another limitation which I think is not desirable is that a single man, who owns an uneconomic portion of land, is not looked upon with such favour as a married applicant. The argument against that limitation is that such a man might very well leave the country. In a good many of these cases, young men own small portions of uneconomic land, due to the tradition of the system of land tenure in this country. They have only ten, 12 or 15 acres of land and would be unable to marry and settle down at the present time, unless there was a prospect of their obtaining an additional ten or 15 acres.
 The third class of people referred to is that class which is known as landless. The stock answer of the Land Commission in dealing with people in that class has been for a long period: “We can do nothing for them.” Down through the years, small farmers in this country have raised large families and there will be a great many cases referred to by Deputies here to-day of young farmers who have been brought up on the land, who have served their apprenticeship to land management, who are excellent in regard to management and the use that could be made of land, but who, because they have not got land at the present time, are not considered for a holding. Because of that, there is no hope for a very large number of people who would be able and willing to work land well. We see them leaving the country, or, as has been mentioned already, going to the cities to take up work there, though they are far better suited to work on the land.
I should like the Minister to deal with the problem of delay in allotting lands. I have heard other Deputies refer to the number of estates in the hands of the Land Commission. I addressed a question to the Minister previously in regard to an estate in my constituency and the very large number of people expecting some consideration with regard to portion of those lands. An industrial concern got a farm in another part of the county, but, having got it, they exchanged it with the Land Commission and secured an area of land contiguous to the City of Limerick. People there had been looking forward to portion of that division and, at the present time, there is still a portion of that estate unallotted. I think it has been in the hands of the Land Commission for upwards of five years and perhaps the Minister would be able to indicate if the remaining portion of that estate will be made available in the near future for the enlargement of uneconomic holdings and for division among suitable applicants in the area.
There was also another holding which I cannot say was offered to the Land Commission, but of which the Land Commission has been aware for practically  12 months. It is between Askeaton and Rathkeale, an estate on the Langford lands, in an area which is very congested. Admittedly, the land is not good. It is perhaps stony and craggy, and not the kind of land which the Land Commission would ordinarily feel inclined to take, but it is just as good as the land which the people have there at the moment, and on which families have been reared for generations. This land has been let for years and I do not think there would be any difficulty in acquiring it and dividing it amongst people there. It would benefit them very much and would raise the standard of living of the people in the area.
The Minister made a statement to-day in regard to leases. It was something I was not aware of and I think it is a very useful thing. Perhaps the Minister would give us an indication of how long these leases might run for. There have been in the past, there are at the present time and there will be in the future, people who take land for dairying and for working in the cattle business and over the years these people have been paying rental on the 11 months' system. In one case a family engaged in dairying for over 20 years. Last year the farm was sold and these people, who had spent years on it and had paid a large sum annually, were classed as landless. They had not the money to buy the tract of land or portion of it. It was felt that the Land Commission might acquire the lands. They did not and these people were left without a living and had to move elsewhere.
There are people who have taken land for grazing on the 11 months' system. It would be of great advantage to them if they knew that they could acquire lands on a long lease. That would enable them to make a long-term arrangement in regard to their problems of housing and so on.
Last year I approached the Minister about the question of the banks on the Lower Maigue. The Minister met me very readily and assisted farmers in that area. The banks were inclined to give way. The Minister on that occasion said that he would do something.  There are some lands along the Lower Maigue which are still in the possession of the Land Commission. Where the Lower Maigue enters the Shannon, the river becomes silted up and when the waters reach the main embankment they are held there. There is often flooding in that area after rain and the people suffer great hardship and inconvenience. I know that the funds available to the Land Commission are very inadequate for the job that has to be done. There is a promise that the embankments will eventually be transferred to the Office of Public Works. Until that is done, the Minister should consider what he would be able to do to alleviate the postion of farmers in the area.
With regard to the portions of lands in the hands of the Land Commission, I am glad to hear the Minister say that an attempt is being made to get rid of those lands as soon as possible. Where lands are held for a time and are let year after year, two things happen in regard to them. First and foremost, the people who feel that they may have a chance of acquiring portion of the land are inclined to bid rather heavily for lettings. Secondly, the longer the lands are kept the more discontent there will eventually be and, of course, the less value the land will be.
Dr. Esmonde: I want to make one point at the outset. It is a point that I made on the Estimate last year and possibly the year before. If a Deputy writes a letter to a Department, other than the Department of Lands and the Department of Social Welfare, he will receive an interim reply. One of the main purposes a Deputy has is to serve the interests of his constituents. I have never been able to understand why the Department of Lands cannot do the same as any other Department. It is freely accepted that, if you make representations with regard to any matter concerning lands, it may take a considerable time for the case to be investigated. It is only fair to a Deputy, if he does make representations in writing, that he should get a proper acknowledgment to that effect. What the Deputy gets is a small slip of paper saying that the letter has been received. He would get that if he  were not a Deputy. If a Deputy has any particular function in making representations to this Department, I fail to see why they should not send a proper interim reply. They have a wholly unenviable record with the Department of Social Welfare in this respect.
As far as I know, these two Departments are the only State Departments who do not reply. It may be answered that if one writes to the Minister's office one will get a reply. That is perfectly true. I do not see why the Minister's Private Secretary should be bothered every time a Deputy wishes to make representations. There is staff in the Department to deal with such matters. They have a big enough staff there.
Mr. Childers: I wish the Deputy would send me particulars because, as far as I know, in the ordinary way, interim replies are sent. I should be glad to investigate the matter if the Deputy would send me particulars.
Dr. Esmonde: I shall answer the Minister straightway, that I have never received an interim reply from the Department of Lands yet, except a small bit of paper saying that they have got the letter, a communication which the ordinary man in the street would get. That is the answer to that. I can say that I never had an interim reply to any letter that I ever wrote to the Land Commission. I get a reply eventually, when investigations are carried out, which may be a month later, when one has nearly forgotten what it is about, except that you have the name of the person concerned to whom you can send it. I am glad the Minister has intervened and I hope that in future when I or any other Deputy writes to the Secretary of the Department they will have the courtesy to reply.
Dr. Esmonde: Yes. You get that even if you are not a Deputy. Deputy Corish may not want an acknowledgment that he can send to the person concerned to indicate that the matter  is being investigated. Normally speaking, it takes a month for the Land Commission to investigate. I do not think any the worse of them for that because these things are often very complicated.
I also regret that I have to refer again to the Courtown estate, to which I referred on the Forestry Estimate, as a public utility. Although this estate belongs to the Forestry Division, I crave the indulgence of the Chair in bringing it up on the Land Commission Estimate. The reason I do so is that when the Minister was replying to the forestry debate on the 26th June— Volume 169, No. 6, column 889—he said:—
“Deputy Dr. Esmonde referred to the Courtown estate, and I reply to him by saying that on 27th February, it was intended to offer parts of the estate which are arable or semi-arable for sale by public tender. The total area involved was 77 acres and the Land Commission have informed the Forestry Division that they are not interested in the land. It would be difficult for me to discuss a Land Commission question on a forestry debate because, as I have often indicated, I must leave these matters to the Land Commission.
I raise this matter now purely for the purpose of giving the Minister the opportunity of replying in the Land Commission debate to the matters to which I referred as a public utility. I will not weary the House by detailing all that went on over the Courtown estate, where there are still 77 acres of arable land of which the Forestry Division or the Land Commission or somebody has possession but which is not to be divided among the numerous smallholders in that district.
Therefore it rather surprised me when the Minister in his statement made a long reference to the acquisition of land, the amount of land that is available and how he would like to raise the valuation of land he is to distribute among smallholders. One must have every sympathy with the Minister in that matter, but it is hard to be sympathetic when you know that parcels of arable land have repeatedly  been offered to the Minister's Department and they will not take them. It does not make sense. We all know there is a shortage of arable land and of the great desire to get it for the Department so that they may accommodate as many smallholders as possible and make uneconomic holdings economic. Seeing that the Minister is in charge of both land and forestry, I cannot understand why, if the forestry section say to the Land Commission that they have so many acres of arable land, the Land Commission cannot take it.
Sometimes in Wexford you have a belt of arable land in a forest. I regret to say in some cases it has been planted, but I am not concerned with that in this Estimate. Some machinery should be contrived whereby that arable land can be transferred to the Department of Lands and divided amongst smallholders. Perhaps the Minister would indicate what machinery exists in his Department and how many officials are concerned in this transfer. It takes weeks and months before an inspector comes to look at the land, and when he does come to look at it another long period elapses while the matter goes through the hands of another half dozen civil servants. I am not blaming civil servants. They are doing their duty in carrying out this feudal system that has existed for years in this Department. Somehow a system has grown up of spending sixpence to try to save a penny.
The only person who can redress that system is the Minister himself. I am not suggesting that the system is peculiar to the Minister's period of office. Ever since I have been in public life, it has been there. If you go to the Land Commission it takes you a long time even to discover who is dealing with the particular matter and, when you do discover that, you find that nothing definite has been done one way or the other. I think that is the experience of a great many Deputies. I cannot imagine that there are any great legal problems involved which cause the delay between these two Departments under the one Minister,  although I believe they have different systems of finance.
I asked the Minister a couple of months ago how many estates in County Wexford were in the hands of the Land Commission. I know there is one estate in their hands since the 9th December, 1955. I asked him about another estate, the Bolger estate, as to whether it was proposed to divide it or not. There are smallholders surrounding this estate, or if not immediately adjacent to it they are within a few miles of it. It is a rich tract of arable land which was offered freely to the Land Commission on that date in 1955. Having taken over that land the Land Commission relet it and I am informed it is relet again this year. What is the purpose of the Land Commission acquiring that land, as they did, on a free market if they will not divide it amongst people around it who are willing to take land there? It is nearly three years now since this land was taken over.
Dr. Esmonde: I read the Minister's speech. That is why I am raising these points to make it clear that there is something wrong in my constituency. It is my function to come in here to speak on such a subject as this, to get land divided.
There is another estate in South Wexford, the Dean Estate, consisting of 227 acres of land. I know the matter is being examined. I do not know for certain but I imagine a scheme must have been submitted in that case for quite a considerable time. I also know that there is a family there who recently have had their house burned down and as far as I can understand, they have been advised that they will  get a holding of land there and have a house built for them. They were expecting this scheme to come through this year and that they would be able to get a house built in order that they would have a roof over their heads. The same answer is given to every parliamentary question: “Proceedings are there; the scheme is being prepared”, and so forth, but nothing has happened. The Department have had that estate less than a month after the one I have just mentioned, 4th January, 1956. There is nothing to prevent that land being divided.
The place is bristling with smallholders but the land is let again this year and I am told it is very doubtful if it will be divided at all before the end of this year. In fact it has no chance of being divided before next spring. Therefore in spite of what the Minister says in his cheery optimism in his opening address about trying to divide that land as quickly as possible and trying to get more land, and so forth, it does not seem to me that the scheme is moving as it should move. I can only give the position as I see it myself, and even though we are told here that schemes are being pushed forward, that these matters are under consideration, I have a suspicion that many of these estates have not even got as far as the commissioners. I have a feeling that this very complicated machinery folds them up on the way through as otherwise smallholders would not have to wait three years for something to happen.
One of the things which I think rather militates against the Department in procuring land is that, very often, for some reason or other, when the Department buy land, they do not pay auctioneer's fees. The normal procedure with land now is that when it is put on the open market, the Land Commission buy it on the open market. When farmers put land up for auction, the Land Commission put a bid on it without interfering in any way with the sale, which is correct. That is free sale. That is what people fought for, for generations—the right to do what they like with their land and to abolish the old system.
If the Land Commission acted like a  normal buyer and paid auctioneer's fees, they would be able to get land more easily. Naturally, an auctioneer will try to sell land where he can get fees rather than hand it over to the Land Commission from whom he will get nothing. I do not see why they should not behave like ordinary people when buying land.
The Department of Lands have given up acquiring land in Wexford. I would never be keen on the Department of Lands acquiring land if anybody was actually dependent on it. I have in mind, for example, an elderly widow or somebody who might be dependent on the rent from a farm. It is only fair to leave it there during her time, for instance. However, there are cases of people who do not live in this country drawing rents from farms. There are even some people in the United States who are renting the land here. They are no benefit to the country, one way or another. That is a normal case— particularly if there are no kith or kin in this country to inherit the land. I think that would be a suitable instance in which the Department should take the land.
So far as I know, there has been no acquisition of land for the past 12 months or so due to some order. In his opening statement, the Minister said they are not acquiring any land now as they are trying to divide the land they already have. I believe they are not dividing it as quickly as they ought to. There is a very big staff in the Land Commission. There is a considerable financial provision for the Land Commission in this Estimate. Is it necessary to have such a big staff there? At times, I wonder if it is necessary for the Land Commission to exist at all. We might get on just as well if we had a Finance Department to cover it. We could still have the commissioner system to see that land is fairly divided and I suppose we would require a few people to inspect land on behalf of the Department.
With so much land already divided, as time goes on, there will be less work for the Land Commission. Therefore, I do not see why we require this enormous Department. The Minister  pointed out in his introductory speech that the staff has been reduced by 33 in the past 12 months: it has been reduced by a couple of hundred in the past ten years. In view of the fact that some annuities must now be paid off on farms which were once the property of the Land Commission, in view of the fact that the amount of property under their control is growing less and less, as less land is available for division, one would expect some reduction or diminution in the numbers in the Department. I do not suggest putting people with families dependent on them out of employment, but the Minister should see to it that there will not be an increase in the staff and that the numbers will be kept down as much as possible.
The Minister spoke about speeding-up the division of lands. Saying a thing does not actually achieve it. He should give us some indication of how he proposes to speed up the division of land. We might not then have so many parliamentary questions from infuriated Deputies asking why land is held for so long and not divided.
The system of land division in North Tipperary has been very unfair to cottage holders and landless men for a good many years past. They are people who should receive a certain amount of the land that is being divided. The present Minister and the former Minister will tell us there is nothing in the land Acts to debar landless men or cottage holders from getting land. If you follow up the matter closely, you find that landless men and cottage holders are the very last on the list of persons qualified to get land. If any land is left over after every section of the people has been catered for, the landless men and the cottage holders will then qualify for a portion of an estate. Surely that is unfair.
Under the system operating in this country for a long number of years, the Land Commission do not acquire a farm unless it is not being properly  worked. Take, for example, a farm of 200 or 300 acres. In the good times, the owner was able to employ five or six men. As times became harder and harder, he had to lay them off until he had perhaps only one man or two. Someone notified the Land Commission who then stepped in and told the owner he was not working his land to the best advantage and acquired his farm.
Under the law, the one workman or the two workmen in occupation and working with that owner may possibly qualify for a certain amount of the land, but the other men who had worked on it for one, two or three years do not qualify. That is very unfair. In all those estates, you have people and small farmers' sons who marry and, having no holding to get at home, apply for cottages and get them built on the estates. Yet, when the estates are being divided, they do not qualify for a portion of the land. They may qualify if land is available over and above what everybody else wants. It is obvious that the present system of land division is completely wrong.
If we are to keep people in rural Ireland and help them to rear a family in healthy conditions there, every cottage-holder living on every estate being divided should qualify, as they did some years ago, to get five, six or seven acres of the land in question, that is, if they qualify to the extent of being in a position to work and to stock those seven or eight acres. When I say “stock,” I mean to have a cow or two, which will help them to rear a young family. Under present milk regulations in the country, 90 per cent. of the farmers are not allowed to sell milk and in rural Ireland we have the position that agricultural labourers are finding it very difficult to get supplies of milk, because if a farmer supplies them he can, under certain regulations, be brought to court. The Minister should try to change this position and give those landless men five or six acres on which they can keep a cow and which will help to make them a little more industrious. If they have a cow, it means that they can have a calf and also that they will have milk for  the family. That would help to stem the rush from the land.
In North Tipperary, we have a vast number of small farmers with perhaps a valuation of £12 or £13 and who have four, five or six sons but none of those will qualify to get conacre, because it is the owner of the farm who has to qualify, and if he has a valuation anywhere around £12 or £13, he gets no land at all. The result is that agricultural labourers and farmers' sons have to emigrate. There is nothing to keep them at home and they have no interest in the land. Since I became a member of this House, I have put down questions regarding the Land Commission and when I was a Senator, I also made inquiries about their activities. The Minister tells us that he has no control over the Land Commission. It is very wrong if a Deputy cannot get a reply from the Minister regarding the activities of that body.
I do not know how this House can accept responsibility for providing a vast amount of money, year after year, for the Land Commission, over which we have no direct control. I am not advocating that the Minister should have complete control, nor am I suggesting that he should have control in the sense that he could direct their activities, but I am suggesting that any member of this House should be in a position to ask the Minister about the activities of the Land Commission, in any part of the State. That is very important because we see things going on, and I do not mean in North Tipperary alone, about which we should be able to ask questions. When we hear things about the Land Commission, we do not know whether they are actually true or not.
In North Tipperary, we find that the Land Commission are very backward. They are not so backward in the matter of acquiring farms but in the matter of dividing them. We find that they also take over a farm from a farmer because he is not working that land to their satisfaction. I have a case in mind where a man was not farming his farm to the Land Commission's satisfaction. He was setting it in conacre and had been so setting it for about three years. The commission came  along and, after acquiring the farm, they set it for another three years. There was no question of title because the man from whom they had acquired it had bought it only three years previously and the title was completely in order. This case was in Lower Ormond, North Tipperary, 90 per cent. of which comprises tillage land.
Anyone who takes conacre has no interest in it except what he can get out of it. He is not going to put fertilisers on the land over and above the amount he may get from the crop which he grows on it. The commission came along and set this land as low as £1 an acre. The land became so poor that the people would not take it at even £1 or £2 an acre. After setting it back for the last couple of years, they proceeded, a fortnight ago, to hand it over and the people who have got it are now burdened with 12, 13 and even 20 acres of stubble ground, which will not grow a crop for at least the next ten to 12 years.
I would like to ask the Minister what is the position. You buy a farm of 100 acres for £1,000, or maybe £1,600 or even £2,000 and you start to set that every year. Is it possible to get back the purchase price paid to the previous owner, before he hands it over to the small tenants, who are getting land which gives them no return for a long number of years?
This position may not actually occur in other counties, but it does occur in areas where tillage is predominant, such as in Lower Ormond. Provided that the title and such matters are in order, I hope the Minister will do his best to get these farms which the Land Commission take over divided out amongst the people who want to get some benefit out of them. The people will have to pay rent and rates on the portion of land which they get, and it will be ten to 12 years before they get a return of one penny. I am not blaming this Minister for that position. No matter what Government is in power, I think it is very unfair that a farm is acquired and the Land Commission then set it and keep setting it, in an effort to get back all the money, or threequarters of the money which they have paid for it
 With regard to pumps erected by the Land Commission, I find that I can get no reply from any official of the Land Commission when I ask them who is responsible for the repair of those pumps which are put up on farms. The same applies to the roads which they have built in my area. No one seems to have any responsibility for them. The Land Commission are not responsible; the tenants say they are not responsible; and the county council in my area refuses to take over a Land Commission road. I raised the matter at North Tipperary County Council and the manager rightly pointed out that those roads are not made up to the standard required for a county council road and that it would be a terrible burden on them to acquire them. I would ask the Minister to try to put those roads in the required good order and then make it compulsory on the county council to take them over.
I want to raise the question of drainage by the Land Commission. Within the last couple of weeks, I had occasion to get in touch with the Land Commission in regard to drainage carried out by them in North Tipperary. In the subdividing of an estate in my area, the Land Commission cleaned a vast amount of bog, with the result that it flooded three or four farmers on good arable land at the lower end. This has been going on for a long time. The three farmers did everything humanly possible to get the Land Commission to finish out their drains in order to get an outlet for the surface water brought down but nothing has been done.
The Land Commission went so far as to offer one of the tenants a farm in another part of North Tipperary. His land was so badly flooded that he agreed to remove to this farm. After giving his consent to the removal, he found that the Land Commission changed their mind and said: “No, we cannot give you this farm in North Tipperary, but we will give you one in Laois-Offaly.” He refused to go to Laois-Offaly and, because of that, he is left there now. A fortnight ago, he told me that nothing could be done because he had refused a farm in Laois-Offaly.
 If the Minister does not mind my saying so, I think there should be a little more common sense in the activities of the Land Commission. This House votes a vast amount of money to the Land Commission. When we try to get answers to certain things, we are told the Minister has no responsibility for the work of the Land Commission. It is a wrong system that the House which votes the money has no power to see whether it is spent wisely or not. I should like the Minister to make some statement about the rights of all Deputies in this matter. I am not blaming this Minister alone; the other people were just as bad.
I know there is nothing in the Land Acts which debars a landless man or a cottage holder from getting land. It is like telling a working man he will not be debarred from going into the Gresham Hotel. The only thing that will debar him is the amount of money in his pocket. A landless man can get land only when everyone else in the locality has been completely satisfied. In other words, you can bring a man from £5 up to £12 and then bring him from £12 up to £20, and still leave the landless man out. I think we are all interested in keeping our people on the land. If the Minister is interested— and he may be more interested than many people—he should make it clear that when any estate is being divided cottage holders or landless men living on or adjoining the estate will get at least six or seven acres.
Mr. Crotty: I do not usually get in on this Estimate, but I felt I would not be doing my duty to my constituents if I did not speak on this occasion. During the past year, we had an extraordinary case in Carlow. It concerned two estates, one of them called Browns Hill and the other Oak Park. Browns Hill had been purchased by an Englishman some six years ago for the sole purpose, not of carrying on good husbandry, but of just working out the land by tillage, and, after that had been done, after the land had been stripped of all its goodness and fertility, selling the land again.
After carrying that on for six years, the person concerned bought another estate put up, Oak Park, consisting of  1,500 acres. The normal person in this country could not possibly buy that estate. It was an ideal opportunity for the Land Commission to come in and buy it. The estate surrounds the town of Carlow. The former owner carried on very good husbandry there and kept a very large number of cows, between 110 and 120, I am informed. The people of Carlow brought this matter to the Minister's attention, but he made no effort whatever. He said that if there was agitation, he would not touch it at all.
In his opening statement to-day—I gathered from one sentence—the Minister said he would not interfere with the normal practice of land sale. I quite agree that is a proper attitude to take, but is this not an abnormal land sale in this area—the sale of 1,500 acres? That does not come on the market week after week or month after month in Ireland. It was an ideal opportunity. People badly off for land and the Minister just would not raise his hand to do anything in that case. As a matter of fact, I was asked by the local people to go on a deputation to the Minister. I went with some of the other Deputies on that deputation. The Minister was very good to receive us, but he pointed out he was not going to interfere in the matter.
As Deputy Tierney said, we had a case where a man purchased a farm and, because he put most of it into tillage for three years, the inspectors went down and the farm was taken over by the Land Commission. Here is an estate of 700 acres owned by a person who does not reside there, who has no roots whatever in this country, who just comes over here from London, Surrey, or wherever he lives, stops a night or two in the local hotel and moves back again when he sees everything is going all right. In the first case, because the land was put under tillage constantly for three years, the Land Commission felt they were justified in taking it over. In the other case, the land was five years under corn crops and one year under beet. There was no provision for rotation for six years. Whatever the cause, the Minister did not move.
The Minister also mentioned in his  opening statement that the demand for land is beyond the capacity of the Land Commission to satisfy. Is that right—with 1,500 acres coming on the market and the Minister having no intention of taking it over? The Minister is not doing his job as Minister for Lands. When he went in first, we heard a lot about his being young and energetic and it was said there would be a big change. Instead of that, as far as we down the country see, he has done nothing. These people have been under grave aggravation, but have remained very quiet. They have asked me to bring this question up here, as they felt this was the proper place to have it ventilated. The previous owner kept a considerable number of cows and sheep and generally carried on proper husbandry.
This man has 900 acres now under tillage and is completely taking away the fertility of the soil. After that, he may sell it to some people around the area. This is an ideal place, surrounding the Town of Carlow and it could provide 30 or 40 new farms. It would be a great help to the town to have those new families settled around it. The Minister does not seem to think it is an extraordinarily large holding for any one man, but no ordinary person in the country would agree with him. If this man had his roots here, there would be something to be said for allowing him to purchase a large estate, especially if he were going to work it in the normal way; but he is working this solely and simply as one might work a factory, taking out what is there, crop after crop, without putting any fertility back.
For the past fortnight, the Minister for Finance has been putting a Bill through the House to deal principally with dividend stripping. A fortnight has been spent on that debate and the Minister had to bring in a special Bill. The present Minister does not require any special Bill to prevent fertility stripping. These people are actually stripping the fertility of the farms there.
Now that the purchase of that farm is all over, I would ask the Minister to consider sending down his inspectors.  When we put up that case during the interview, he said he had no inspectors to spare, that they were all engaged in dividing the land at present held by the Land Commission. On the other hand, I was here when Deputy Giles raised a question about a certain farm in Meath and the Minister said that, if he got the name, he would send inspectors down immediately. Deputy Giles gets that promise, whereas three Deputies on a deputation are told he has no inspectors to spare. It is hard to know why the Minister will not interfere with the taking over of this farm. Now that matters have cooled down, I would ask him to take it over and divide it into 30 or 40 decent farms which would be of great help to those who would get them and which would be an addition to the town of Carlow.
In regard to estates which have been divided already in Kilkenny, I should like to mention again the question of Land Commission roads. Several people who were allotted land on these newly divided estates, having handed up their farms in other areas to provide for uneconomic holders, have found the roads in very bad condition. They come to me, a member of the county council, and ask that the county council should take them over. I went to the county surveyor and he told me that if the Land Commission put the roads in reasonable condition he would recommend to the county council to take them over and be responsible for them in the future, but he says that these roads have been left by the Land Commission in very poor condition and he is not prepared to remake them before taking them over. If the Land Commission would put them in reasonable repair, he would take them over. I think that is a fair request from the local authority. When the Land Commission are doing a job, they should do it properly.
On the question of rights of way, the Land Commission inspectors and engineers should make up proper rights of way when they are dividing farms. Absence of that provision causes litigation, and, even worse, ill-feeling between neighbours. If there were proper rights of way, these people  would live in harmony; but when they are not mapped out and people do not know where they are, there is friction, often resulting in assaults and litigation. It is only proper that a Department of State, when dividing an estate, would leave it in such a way that the people can live in harmony on it. As regards fencing, there should be proper boundary fencing set down when these new estates are being dealt with.
I hope my appeal is not falling on deaf ears. If the Minister fails to deal with the estate I have mentioned, he is not carrying out his job as Minister for Lands. He should take over that estate in Carlow and divide it, so as to make it available for 30 or 40 Irish families.
Mr. Dillon: Sir, when we left office in 1957, I understood that the Land Commission was carrying out an inquiry with a view to determining whether an equitable system could be worked out whereunder the sons of farmers should have farms made available for rent. I do not know whether that inquiry has progressed or not. There seems to be a demand in the country for something which may be of value. The problem is that, in the case of a good farmer in rural Ireland who has two or three sons, it may be proposed to leave the home farm to the eldest boy, and one or both of the others may wish to be farmers also. If they have been reared on a farm and have been sent to an agricultural college, they have before them the alternative of looking for a job. Up to now, there were jobs for pretty nearly every agricultural graduate available. It is only in the last 18 months that the agricultural graduates have had to emigrate to Rhodesia and Canada to look for work, because the present Government simply will not employ them.
Rather than let them go to Rhodesia and Canada to exercise their talents there, I think we might with advantage consider a scheme whereunder such young men would be offered the opportunity to lease holdings of land from the Land Commission. It could be made a condition that the operation of the land under the lease would be carried on in consultation with the parish agent or the county instructor. The young man, who presumably would  have from his parents some start in life in the form of stock and machinery, would pay an equitable rent. Quite apart from the social aspect of making it possible for such young men to stay in the country, there is the great advantage that these parcels of land would involve no charge at all on the Exchequer. If the young man were paying an economic rent and operating the land prudently and in accordance with a good system of husbandry, at the end of the term of the lease the land would revert to the Land Commission in as good a condition or better than it was in when the lessee took it, and in the meantime the lessee would pay an economic rent.
At present, if land is allotted by way of purchase annuity to an allottee, the allottee gets the land at one-half its economic value, because, the fair rent having been fixed, it is cut in half by the 1933 Land Act and he gets a present of half the value of the land. That procedure may be practicable with smallholdings for the time being, but I do not think anyone would be so daft as to offer to endow people with a holding of 100 or 200 acres and then give them a present of one-half the value of the estate. Yet it does seem to be a desirable thing, if the necessity exists and I believe it does, to make it possible for enterprising young men to rent holdings of that kind. I think that could be undertaken in connection with Macra Na Feirme and with the Department of Agriculture which would be glad to help through the parish agent service and with technical advice which is so abundantly available there. Extensive educational facilities are also available through the Department and could be used in a scheme of that kind.
I think that over and above the obvious advantage of doing this for the good of the lessees or the young farmers themselves an additional purpose would be served because these farms would become, if the scheme operated in collaboration with the advisory services provided by the Department of Agriculture, real demonstration farms and, goodness knows, in rural Ireland that is something we badly want. We do not want farms operated by the Land Commission  or by the Department of Agriculture because the average farmer in rural Ireland says of such farms that they are operated with unlimited capital, with the whole Treasury behind them. What we want are farms operated by farmers who make a living out of them so that their neighbours can see how land properly used can provide a decent livelihood for the man who lives on it.
I think the Minister for Lands, according to his opening statement, is going off the rails and doing so, in my opinion, in an extremely dangerous way, because it appears to me from what he said that he wants to encourage the leasing of land by private owners. If we are to encourage that, let us get right back to Clanrickarde and Barrymore and the landlords whom we chased out of this country 60 years ago. It does not matter whether the landlord's name is Murphy or Barrymore, he can be just as oppressive and just as troublesome in 1958 as in 1858. Let us not forget that Lord Clanrickarde's name was Burke and that one of the worst landlords in Ireland was a parish priest in County Mayo and that it was on his estate we started the Land War in 1879. The first branch of the Irish National Land League was established on a parish priest's estate in County Mayo at the village of Irishtown.
It was not the individuals who were landlords that the Land War was fought against; it was fought against the system of landlordism. I think the Minister would make a very great mistake if he thinks he can foist on our people in 1958 what our fathers put an end to from 1858 down to 1909 and 1923 when the first Land Purchase Act of this Republic was passed and under which every acre of tenanted land passed out of the landlords' hands and into that of the Land Commission for distribution to tenant proprietors.
I would urge on the Minister most strenuously that he should avoid the mistake of reviving landlordism. If he does revive it, he is buying the seeds of sorrow, not so much for himself as for those who will come after him. At the same time, he should not be diverted by our instinctive reluctance  to sanction a reappearance of landlordism from trying to meet legitimate aspirations of young farmers who want a stake in the country, in a farm of land, who are wholly unable to put down the purchase price of that land but who are ready and willing to pay out of profits they can make on that holding a fair and economic rent to the Land Commission if land is made available to them by way of lease.
I know that such a project contains many difficulties and problems and it was for that reason that the Government of which I was a member asked the most experienced officials of the Land Commission to take this under review and make a report on the matter.
Mr. Childers: When the Deputy referred a few moments ago to my initiating landlordism, all I was trying to do was to give some chance to people to acquire some of the 750,000 acres that are now let for a period just long enough to enable them to make enough money to buy a farm. There is nothing sinister in that.
Mr. Dillon: Nothing sinister, but Hell is paved with good intentions, and I am trying to warn the Minister before he winds up sitting on a hot brick in Hades. One of the ways of getting to Hades in this country is to revive landlordism. I see his point, and I am offering him an alternative——
Mr. Dillon: This is not conacre. I have lived in the country for a long time and I know the difference between conacre and leasehold land. The evil of conacre is that you take it for 11 months and take out of it all you can get and then drop it like a hot brick. You take the upper part of the field first and when you have got all you can out of that, taken the heart and soul out of it, you then take the lower half  and do likewise. Then you move on to a neighbour's field and knock hell out of that. You take another part of that land for 11 months and do the same thing and if you can find another fool to let you do the same, you do it again and you go on doing it until you have half the land of the parish devastated. Then perhaps, you will be able to pick it up cheap if the fellow was vested in the meantime and you manure it and make a good thing out of it. That is conacre.
It is a bad thing because it is a standing inducement to anyone who takes it to mine the land, draw all its fertility out of it and then discard it, but if you lease land to a man for a period of 20 years, it is no use his trying to mine it because if he does so for the first three years, he has to sit on it for the other 17. He must pay rent for it and make the rent out of it for every one of the 20 years for which he signs the lease. The only way he can make the rent is to farm the land to the limit of its capacity to yield and that can only be done by keeping the land in good heart.
I should not have to explain these elementary facts to the Minister. He has plenty of technical advice in the Land Commission to tell him all that. In his zeal to achieve the goal of making land available to promising young farmers, he should avoid the awful pitfall of sponsoring a re-creation of landlordism in Ireland. That is a weed that can grow rapidly and there are quite a number of boys who would buy 1,000 acres of land, if they thought they could set themselves up as landlords. Irish land is a good investment, if you can lease it to good tenants. It is the knowledge that you cannot do that without creating a tenant right for your tenants which can be converted into tenant purchase agreements which prevents people from setting themselves up as landlords. I understand that if you let land for a protracted period, the tenant can set up tenant rights.
Mr. Dillon: That is a question that I would not answer straight off the cuff. If I were Minister, I would look more carefully into it and see if  you can set land for a protracted period without creating a tenant right for your tenant, of a character calculated to embarrass the owner of the land. I do not know the exact extent of that right, but I do know that no landowner can set land for a protracted period without taking very careful precautions to avoid creating a tenant right for his tenant.
I want to raise another matter. I put down a parliamentary question recently concerning the publication of the names of allottees of land on an estate in County Monaghan. The Minister expressed himself shocked at the question and hoped that I would not press the inquiry and was dismayed when I did so. I consider that I did the right thing and I would press the Minister, not only to provide that information in answer to questions, but to make the information available by publishing it in Iris Oifigiúil.
I think it is most undesirable and objectionable to be holding meetings at every crossroads in the constituency for the purpose of dividing up lands. I have been asked, since I first represented County Monaghan, to come down to branch meetings of my organisation to discuss the division of lands. I am sure I have been asked to do that 100 times and on every occasion I answered that I would do nothing of the kind. I have said that I have no power to influence the division of lands and, for that reason, that I utterly avoid the discussion of the division of lands.
I am frequently told that my colleague, Deputy Mooney, is holding meetings at every crossroads and is dividing every acre of land around the countryside. Rumour has spread that, unless you attend these meetings, your prospect of getting land is very remote. I have been 20 years listening to that from Deputy Mooney and the former Deputy Rice and all the others and I have gone on my weary way, but I am obliged to say that, since the salad days of the Fianna Fáil Party in the early thirties, I think the allocation of land, on the whole, is done substantially on an equitable basis.
We all remember the times when we were first teaching the present incumbents  to be Ministers. That was not the only thing we had to teach them. They did not know how to sit on those benches over there and Deputy MacEoin and myself spent a lot of time in teaching them how to do that and many other things. They thought, when they went into the Land Commission, that they were tigers and that they were distributing land to every street corner lounger in the country. We weaned them away from that after the first five or six years, but they did do it.
There were lands parcelled out in County Meath on which a human foot was never put and there were houses built into which a human foot was never put. These lands were rented on the day they were allocated, the windows were boarded up and a system of intelligence was operated so that if an inspector was in the neighbourhood a charitable woman dashed around from house to house putting a sod of wet turf smoking on every hearth so that it could be said that there was smoke coming from the chimney. That day, I think, has passed since the early thirties and poor Senator Moylan brought in an Act to throw out from these holdings the early Fianna Fáil allottees. He was a straightforward kind of man and I remember him saying that we all had our salad days and that we had to put them out in due course. That he did.
There was a great deal of scandalous conduct carried on in those days, but in recent years the allocation of land is done on the basis of the best judgment of the inspector. Sometimes that judgment is very bad, but we are all human and I believe they do their best. I feel that these fraudulent meetings which are being conducted by Deputies are most objectionable and the Minister is perfectly right in saying that he has nothing whatever to do with the division of land, but that any representations made to him will be given due consideration by the Land Commission when the scheme for allottees is being constructed. I think he is perfectly right and I hope he will keep on doing that.
It would be silly and childish to forget that there is always the greatest  interest abroad when there is the question of an estate coming up for division. That subject is always the foundation of rumour and it frequently leads to utterly fantastic allegations. The best way to put an end to that is to publish the truth and the best way to make the truth universally available is to publish it in Iris Oifigiúil. Then nobody can ask an inspired parliamentary question and then go back to his constituency waving the parliamentary reply and saying: “This is what the Minister has done and this is what I told him to do.” If it is published in Iris Oifigiúil, everybody will read it. It is a useful record and it will put an end to all anxiety in the rural areas. I believe that if the Minister consults experienced Deputies, they will agree with me that the earlier the names of allottes are published, the better it is for everybody.
I object to the whole system of asking parliamentary questions regarding the division of land. I think it is unhealthy and undesirable and is open to the worst kind of blackmail. There is no greater damage that you could do to a small farmer in County Monaghan than to ask the Minister if he intends to acquire the farm of AB. It causes him untold anxiety and if the Minister sends an inspector to make a preliminary examination, the whole family life of that man is disrupted for 12 months. It is true that the whole parish is down on the man and he has this hanging over him.
Mr. Dillon: I entirely agree with the Minister. I remember somebody trying to establish the rule that he would not accept a question of that kind and, so far as I was concerned, I was 100 per cent behind him. I entirely deprecate Deputy Tierney's point of view and I think he is talking through his hat when he says the Minister should have the ultimate discretion in relation to the acquisition of land. It would be a great disaster if that were so. It would  be a disaster of the worst kind and would completely undermine the whole security of tenure for which the land war was very substantially fought to achieve.
I have this suggestion to make to the Minister. The plain fact is that in the West of Ireland there is now beginning to appear a very considerable number of derelict farms, farms which are frequently owned by people who are living in America and England. These farms are grossly neglected. Sometimes some of them are let on a very tenuous kind of conacre arrangement but they are sadly neglected. Is there no machinery by which some of these holdings could be peaceably acquired and vested in suitable families who would work them? Deputy Blowick, when Minister for Lands, introduced the 1950 Act under which the Minister is free to purchase on the open market. While there is that provision there, I think that when land is substantially abandoned there ought to be someone who can clear the title so that land can pass into active ownership again.
The great difficulty of the abandoned farm is that nobody will touch it because almost inevitably you will find the last registered owner died leaving a family of so many boys and girls. The boys and girls have gradually filtered away, they have got married and the young fellow who was left on the farm turned the key in the door and went off to England leaving the land lying there, land which no one will touch because there is no one from whom it can be bought. There might be some procedure through the Land Commissioners and land registry office by which one could get a clear title, but, unfortunately, there is nobody resident at home and very frequently the person who is in England, the last owner and ratepayer on the property, will not bother to execute a conveyance of his estate in the property because what he will get for it would be small and he might prefer to continue to let it be rented. In addition, he cannot give a title because there are so many others interested. I believe there should be some machinery by which such a title could be acquired. rather than have the whole holding  remain a blot on the countryside and a source of demoralisation to other smallholders in the area. If it could be purchased in some peaceful way, and be given to somebody who would work it, it would be a great blessing.
The last thing I want to say to the Minister concerns a very important matter, but nobody gives a damn about it. Through the passage of years the Land Commission has become one of the greatest treasure houses of social history outside the British Registry of Deaths. We lost our record office in the Four Courts but there is a mountain of material in the Land Commission which is moulding away. Some day some new, green broom like the Minister will arrive in there and announce that he will have a great clearance, and there will go out in the ash cans muniments which nothing can replace. Is there no means of collaboration with the National Library to get that treasure house of documents preserved or at least microphotographed?
It was said, and said with substantial truth, that there were only two or three men left living who knew their way through the library of documents that existed in the Land Commission and the old Congested Districts Board which the Land Commission took over. I doubt if there is a man living, in the Land Commission now, who would not get lost in that library and the longer those documents lie there the more difficult it will be to examine them. It will be to the Minister's honour if he sees to it that valuable records of that kind should not perish and be neglected. Busy men engaged on administrative work, habitually handling documents of this kind, are inclined to overlook their historical significance.
I have gone into the Land Commission Office to inquire about certain matters and seen men turn up documents from the 15th and 16th centuries, and files away back to early Cromwellian, Stuart and Elizabethan times, and it seems to me it would be a  tragedy if this material were lost, There are certain lunatics in the country who consider that because these documents relate very largely to Elizabethan planters they are of on interest, in the same way as some lunatics would pull down a house just because it was built by a planter. Before such vandals are let loose on such valuable material, the Minister would serve the country well if he could get the National Library to collaborate with him and microphotograph this material for posterity. I suppose it is only fair I should give the Minister a chance of getting in and moving the Adjournment and, therefore, I accordingly propose to do so unless he be prevented by some other Deputy.
Mr. Childers: As in the case of Fisheries it would be impossible for me to reply fully before the Adjournment. I should like to commence by referring to some of the statements made by Deputy Blowick, whose criticism was constructive and whose observations were helpful. Deputy Blowick was worried because it appeared that during the last financial year the number of rearrangements and the number of migrations decreased. I should like to say that the average over the last eight years has been in the case of rearrangements 436, and that compares fairly well with the achievement of last year.
It is rather difficult to maintain the number of migrations at the same level every year. Special problems arise but I am glad to tell the House that we are very likely to do a fairly good job this year with migrations, particularly those out of the West, and that will help to compensate for the reduction that took place last year. I think the total results for the two years will be up to average.
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