Committee on Finance. - Vote 45—Lands.

Tuesday, 9 June 1959

Dáil Éireann Debate
Vol. 175 No. 10

First Page Previous Page Page of 29 Next Page Last Page

Minister for Lands (Mr. Childers): Information on Erskine Hamilton Childers  Zoom on Erskine Hamilton Childers  I move:—

That a sum not exceeding £1,188,080 be granted to complete the sum necessary to defray the charge which will come in course of [1107] payment during the year ending on the 31st day of March, 1960, for the 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 1930; 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).

At the outset, I would like to refer to the more important Sub-heads of the Estimate. I shall also describe in some detail the work done.

The provision for salaries, wages and allowances shows an increase of £14,723. Whilst a staff reduction of 11 was effected during the year, through progressive diminution in vesting work, the resultant saving is more than offset by the general increase in Civil Service remuneration and normal incremental advances. The staff reduction has certainly not affected the tempo of land settlement which has increased significantly in the past year.

Sub-heads H1 to H4 represent the taxpayers' annual recurring contribution towards the service of land purchase debt, incurred through the issue of land bonds since 1923. The aggregate of these four sub-heads amounts to £872,350 and is about 42% of the net total of the Estimate. The increase of £17,300 in this group of sub-heads, as compared with last year, arises almost entirely from the halving of annuities on new allotments. The amount required this year to make good deficiencies in the Land Bond Fund arising from the statutory revision of annuities in 1933 is approximately £737,000. The current Land Bond interest rate is 5½% and the current annuity rate is 5¾%.

The funds required to carry out improvements works on estates being divided in the course of land settlement [1108] are provided under Sub-head I, the proposed charge on which, that is to say, £639,605, represents about 30% of the net total of the Estimate. These improvement works, which are an essential feature of land settlement, include the provision of dwellinghouses and out-offices on new holdings and the construction of roads, fences and drains, as well as turbary development and embankment works, etc. Last year, a sum of £605.105 was originally provided for Sub-head I but was increased by £45,000 by the supplementary estimate in the revised figure of £650,105. For valid comparison, this is the figure to be set against the current estimate of £639,605—giving a decrease of £10,500. The actual expenditure on improvements last year was £648,161. There is no question of reducing the volume of improvement works. If the current estimate of £639,605 should prove inadequate, I would have no hesitation in putting forward revised expenditure proposals.

Sub-head R provides a limited amount of money to finance the purchase of land for cash in the open market pursuant to Section 27 of the Land Act, 1950. Application of the Section is confined to lands required for migrants or to facilitate re-arrangement of lands held in rundale or intermixed plots. When moving last year's Estimate, I drew attention to the fact that operations under this Sub-head were at a standstill, as an economy measure, between July, 1956, and March, 1958, and I stated that I had authorised the reopening of the business, on a trial basis, at about the same level of funds as had been formerly provided. I am glad to say that the results have been encouraging. During the year ended the 31st March last, the Land Commission reached agreement with vendors of land for the purchase for cash of 16 properties comprising 845 acres at an aggregate purchase price of £39,065. Possession of 7 of these properties, comprising 418 acres, purchased for £21,185, was obtained during the year. Possession of the other 9 properties comprising 427 acres is pending. From 1950 up to 31st March, 1959, possession has been obtained of [1109] 57 holdings comprising 2,327 acres and a total expenditure of £75,818 has been incurred under Section 27 of the Land Act, 1950. For the current year, a repeat of last year's provision of £25,000 has been included for Sub-head R.

Gratuities payable under Section 29 of the Land Act, 1950, to persons displaced from employment through land settlement operations, are provided under Sub-head S. Ex-employees capable of farming operations are eligible for holdings, and the total of these gratuities varies from year to year, depending on the type and volume of employment on the acreage being currently divided. Due to the speed-up in allotment of lands on hands, the amount originally provided last year, that is to say £1,500, proved inadequate and a supplementary £3,500 was voted. Expenditure under sub-head S last year amounted to £4,791 which provided gratuities for 43 displaced employees. A total of £19,434 has been paid by the Land Commission by way of gratuities to 180 ex-employees since the system of gratuities was first introduced in 1950.

The other sub-heads show little change from the previous year and it is scarcely necessary to comment on them individually at this stage. I should say, however, that this is probably the last occasion on which this Estimate will be presented in its current form. A simplified format for the Lands Estimate, reducing the number of sub-heads by half, has recently been settled with the Committee of Public Accounts.

After this financial outline, I shall now give the main land settlement statistics illustrating the exceptionally good progress made last year. Intake of land by the Land Commission was 33,000 acres—the second best since 1948/49 and 23% above the ten year average for 1948/49 to 1957/58, the average being 26,703 acres. Allotment of land totalled 57,000 acres—by far the largest acreage for ten years and 90% above the same ten year average. 650 re-arrangements were effected, the second best since 1948/49 and 78% above the ten year average. The number of migrants rose to 129 and was [1110] the third best since 1948/49 and 43% above the ten year period.

I pay a tribute to the Land Commission staff, whose numbers have not increased, for their splendid performance. The simplification of procedure in acquisition is, of course, contributing very considerably to the achievement. I should say that on the 31st March, 1957, there were 45,000 acres of arable land in the hands of the Land Commission, of which 22,000 acres were on hands for two years or over. On the 31st March, 1959, the corresponding figures were: arable land on hands 32,000 acres, of which 13,000 acres were in the possession of the Commission for two years or over. It is hoped to allocate all arable lands on hands for over two years by April, 1960, but another year may be required.

Altogether, over two thousand three hundred industrious uneconomic smallholder families have benefited last year, substantially and permanently, for the good not only of themselves, but of the general community. May I remind the House that the direct cost of land settlement to the taxpayer varies from £36 to £87 per acre and constitutes a very great gift to the beneficiaries? In any event, the false rumours spread by half a dozen trouble makers regarding my attitude to land settlement should be dispelled by this fine record.

Future activity depends on the available intake of badly worked or voluntarily offered land, and nobody can foresee the future. I should state that farm competence is steadily improving year by year. Migration itself is always difficult to ensure and in certain areas it is becoming more difficult to find migrants (a) who will make good use of land and (b) who, by their migration, will enable re-arrangement on a reasonably effective scale to be possible.

According to the latest estimate, there are now about 7,500 unvested intermixed holdings outstanding for re-arrangement, over 4,000 having been re-arranged since 1950. At the average output over the past five years, it would take about 14 years more to complete the re-arrangement of unvested holdings.

[1111] Land settlement operations are well under way for the current year and the present level of activity holds good prospects of continuing the impressive achievements.

On the tenanted land side, there was continued progress towards completion of land purchase by the revesting of tenanted holdings. Under the Land Acts, 1923-54, more than 112,000 tenanted holdings vested in the Land Commission for ultimate resale to the tenants. With the revesting of a further 1,029 holdings during the past year, the number of these cases awaiting final resale now stands at about 10,000 holdings, equivalent to a 9 per cent. residue. This important work of tenanted land-purchase has virtually concluded in fourteen counties, viz. Carlow, Cavan, Kildare, Kilkenny, Laois, Leitrim, Limerick, Longford, Louth, Meath, Monaghan, Westmeath, Wexford and Wicklow. In effect, this means that more than 90 per cent. of all tenanted holdings vested in the Land Commission under the Land Act, 1923, and subsequent Acts have now been resold to the sitting tenants. The 10,000 holdings outstanding under the Land Acts, 1923-54, to which must be added a residue of 3,500 holdings on estates of the former Congested Districts Board, together constitute the hard core of difficult tenanted land vested in the Land Commission and pending for resale to tenant-purchasers.

The re-arrangement of intermixed holdings, as a feature of land settlement, has been described so often in this House that there is scarcely any need for me at this stage to describe it in detail. But I want to repeat that success in re-arrangement work is entirely dependent on the fullest degree of co-operation among the tenants themselves and for this reason the number of holdings which can be re-arranged in any particular year is primarily within the control of the tenants. It is essential, therefore, that tenants should, in their own interest, co-operate fully with the Land Commission Inspectors in the preparation of re-arrangement schemes. I feel that the results achieved during the past year may be taken as an indication [1112] that the need for this co-operation and the benefits to be derived from it are now becoming more apparent to tenants and I look forward confidently to even better results in the future.

During the past year, 209 new dwellinghouses and 273 new out-offices were built by or with assistance from the Land Commission, the total expenditure on building construction amounting to approximately £279,000. At present, four prototype dwellinghouses to improved designs are under construction by direct labour. These dwellinghouses, when completed very soon, will be carefully examined with a view to determining the most suitabe designs for adoption by the Land Commission in future.

Other notable achievements during the year were the provision of 953 rights of turbary and the vesting of a total of 5,531 properties, comprising holdings, parcels and rights of turbary, in tenants and allottees.

I should make clear again the principles upon which the work of the Land Commission is based so that no one can have any false notions about the law that prevails. We disagree on many matters in this House but for many years there has been virtual unanimity on the fundamental principles of land settlement.

The Land Commission is the organ of government exercising land settlement functions within the Republic. It is a statutory body, operating under the Constitution, pursuant to the Land Acts passed by the Oireachtas. The proceedings of the Land Commission are analogous to the judicial process, being based on the principle of a fair hearing for all interests, whether existing landowners or applicants for land. Neither the Government nor the Minister for Lands will intervene against the impartial decisions of the Land Commission in any of the excepted matters, including acquisition and land division, which by the Land Acts of 1933 and 1950 have been placed by the Oireachtas within the jurisdiction of the Land Commissioners.

The object of the Land Commission is to settle in economic security as many families upon the land as practicable and within this context almost [1113] 1.5 million acres have been allotted since 1923 in some 95,000 allotments —a very remarkable achievement involving a tremendous volume of activity over the years.

I wish to pay tribute to the vast overwhelming majority of those interested in land division who recognise that the Land Commission works most expeditiously where there is no agitation and no tough pressure group of any kind. I know that Deputies point out the futility of all such action. The fact is that the Land Commission will not be coerced by any kind of agitation whatever—peaceful or otherwise. A notification by the Deputies or other interested persons of the local uneconomic land holders' views is sufficient to ensure the fullest consideration. As Deputies well know a threatening agitation will only bring about the cessation of Land Commission proceedings.

In relation to the Land Commission's work, a number of statements have been made with regard to the purchase of land by aliens. This whole question was investigated in 1950. Land Inspectors then reported that 50,000 acres of land, including only medium and large farms, had been bought during the previous decade—mostly in four counties—by 200 persons who by their names were believed to be aliens. Quite a number were, in fact, Irishmen returning from abroad. Much of this land has since been sold. Many of the properties are of residential type not distinctly suitable for land division but providing valuable employment. In the words of Deputy Blowick, when Minister, at the 1940-50 rate of purchase, it would take 2,400 years to reoccupy the country. The total for that 10 years came to less than the current year's land division. Since 1950, no evidence has come to hand that such purchases are significant.

The Government's policy is clear. There must be some reasonable reciprocity of privilege in regard to property purchase. If the purchase by aliens of land suitable for land division suddenly mounted, the Government would take action.

We cannot play a full part in the [1114] modern world, cannot attract tourists, new technical skills or industrial capital, unless we take a sane commonsense view of land ownership, particularly when it does not affect the general pattern of land tenure. Isolationism has no place in modern society and banging doors on people will achieve nothing. The attitude of the vast majority of our people in every area towards those who come here is eloquent testimony of what I have said.

Part of this undesirable propaganda arose from a single case of a farm bought by a foreign company where over 50 men are employed. In this case, it is well known that the entire money turnover remains in this country in wages, purchases and general outlay. No other representations whatever have been received from any part of Ireland that foreigners are buying land en masse. If occasional purchases are made, the local inhabitants obviously accept those arriving with general satisfaction.

Many proposals come forward from time to time involving radical changes in Land Commission policy. Most of them have been the subject of comment in the House from time to time and the Minister for Lands of the day has pointed out the objections. They include the limitation of the size of farms, wholesale bidding by the Land Commission at auctions irrespective of the owners' wishes and a variety of proposals involving compulsory purchase of well-worked land.

In relation to this type of proposal, the objections in the view of the Government are overwhelming. They would involve the following changes: first, the negation of the right of free sale; secondly, the segregation of the farming community into opposing groups; and thirdly, the discouragement of high output farms by limiting ambition.

Few Deputies in this House, faced with the urgent need for increasing production, have suggested that ambitious successful farmers may not invest in additional land and provide holdings for their children. Any artificial chessboarding of the country would impose a strait-jacket on the [1115] pattern of land tenure which is following upon traditional and world trends. Farmers, here as elsewhere, vary in competence and with this the pattern of land ownership changes.

To be distinguished from more radical proposals is the extension of the classes of persons to whom land may be allotted. While I acknowledge the merits of wide distribution of ownership, so long as this House accepts as the major objective the relief of intense congestion in the Western and in other areas, any extension in the classes of persons to whom land is in practice allotted will slow down the fulfilment of this objective. Of the thirteen thousand unvested holdings, there yet remain about 7,500 in intermixed plots waiting to be re-arranged and enlarged through the aid of essential migration schemes.

Western congestion is typified by one estate where 19 holdings comprised 257 intermixed strips of land, the average valuation per holding being only £3 15s. In general, unless a proportion of these small holders can be migrated, there is no hope of compacting and enlarging the remainder. This applies also to some Eastern pockets of congestion. Moreover, experience shows that, with some laudable exceptions, the existing smallholder is best qualified to be given land. The standard of competence required by the Land Commission from allottees has been raised.

In the past two years, there have been a few regrettable incidents of protest against migration. I trust that Deputies will continue to exercise their customary moderating influence by making clear the overriding unity of the country and the major objective of Land Commission policy.

Proposals for radical changes in land settlement policy have been briefly desscribed. They arise in some cases from a genuine idealistic belief in a fairly uniform small farm economy; other proposals are contrary to the spirit of the Constitution; still others arise because of local objections to certain types of land transactions which get publicity but are not representative [1116] of general land sales throughout the State. A few large farms getting larger are noticed but not the reverse process.

Administratively, if applied effectively, these proposals would involve vastly increasing the State machine while, at the same time, imposing heavy taxation burdens. All the proposals, extreme and moderate, have been mooted previously at one time or another; yet, general policy directives in the last ten years in regard to acquisition and distribution are in force with the knowledge of the Dáil as a whole.

Like my predecessors, I would welcome proposals that would facilitate the work of the Land Commission and which do not immediately raise insuperable problems of the kind referred to. I should point out, as have my predecessors, that the Land Commission's work would be far more difficult if there were contentious differences of policy in the House. I particularly welcome constructive criticism of the Land Commission Administration.

The operations of the Land Commission have been taking place at a time when irreversible changes in the rural economy have long been evident. Farms of under 30 acres have been steadily diminishing in number—long before the demand for labour in England was accentuated, long before the post-war movement to secure a near English standard of living reached its maximum phase. The Land Commission has contributed to this trend by enlargements in the case of the small farm.

For a considerable period, farms of from 30 to 150 acres or 200 acres have been steadily increasing in numbers. Total numbers on the land have been reduced steadily on all farms both here and in virtually all countries, leaving a very much higher income per head for those remaining. It may be interesting to point out that Ireland has not by any means the highest rate of exodus from the land. There are four other countries in Europe, namely, France, Sweden, Denmark and Norway where the exodus from the land has been more [1117] intense than here. The reduced number of female relatives left on the smaller farms and even medium sized farms reveals quite clearly one major cause for the continued growth in the number of medium sized farms.

Whenever we may be tempted to think of drastically altering the land pattern, the family farm income figures should be quoted because they have a fundamental importance. On the 15 to 30 acre farms the average family farm income in 1957 ranged from £9 9s. Od. to £17 6s. Od. per acre and, even reckoning the highest figures, it is perfectly obvious that the pressure is towards securing a much higher income per head to ensure a better standard of living.

The Farm Survey reveals a very wide differentiation in living standards. A proportion of 15-acre farms have the incomes of farmers with double the amount of land. More, we hope, will follow their example. Means are available to uneconomic holders for their social betterment. A considerable number have been doubling and trebling their means by applying modern methods to their husbandry.

The maintenance of the chief members of a family on a small farm, the strengthening of the smaller farm owners' economy can be assisted by the present schemes now in operation. If farm income grows, then more can be employed in farm services and in industry; this will, in turn, employ still more people providing goods and services for the additional industrial workers. Everyone hopes that a basic stability will be reached and we all hope that increased production will hasten the day.

The Land Commission each year makes a substantial contribution to land settlement, ensuring that badly worked land and voluntarily offered lands are brought to the aid of the small holders, thus preserving the largest number of rural families possible. Its very operations reduce the pool of badly worked land as many owners, when apprised of the Land Commission's interest, by one means or another improve the working of their lands.

[1118] The Land Commission derives its power from legislation passed in 1923 and 1933, with some amendments thereafter. Successive Ministers have maintained the policy whose object is to provide as many economic holdings as possible, always having regard to the good husbandry of the owners whose lands might be acquired and thus to relieve as much congestion as practicable. Moreover, in successive years, allowances have had to be made in cases where acquisition would cause extreme hardship.

The Land Commission has never attempted to prevent our farming community, living in a free Ireland, from changing the land pattern themselves through their efforts and industry. Any attempt to enforce an ideal pattern of land ownership or set limits upon a farmer's right to own land well worked would divide the farming community with disastrous results.

When introducing this Estimate last year, I referred to the arrears of acquisition inspections confronting the Land Commission at 1st April, 1957. Briefly, the position was that a total of 938 properties awaited inspection at 1st April, 1957, a number far in excess of what the Land Commission Inspectors could hope to deal with expeditiously, bearing in mind that there were 45,000 acres of arable lands on hands awaiting the preparation of allotment schemes.

I can now state that the arrears of acquisition inspections were entirely overtaken by November last and the temporary restriction on new inspections had then completely lapsed, with a reversion to normal acquisition activity throughout all districts. The temporary restriction did not apply at all to lands offered voluntarily to the Land Commission.

At this point I should like to refer briefly to the question of water supplies for allottees of Land Commission farms. The Land Commission are much concerned to ensure that allottees have satisfactory water supplies for farming and domestic purposes. Many rural Deputies know that the Land Commission have had their own well-boring machinery on this [1119] work for several years past. The first of these well-boring plants went into operation in 1948, a second in 1952 and two more in 1955. With these four machines, 300 wells have been completed up to 31st March last. While isolated cases of difficulty have occurred, results generally have been highly satisfactory. There has been an unavoidable time-lag in providing wells in some cases and, in an endeavour to speed up the programme, the Land Commission are now employing well-boring contractors in addition to the continued use of their own machinery.

When the question of Shannon flooding was before the Dáil last November, it was stated that examination of the many technical, legal and administrative problems involved in the Land Commission scheme was well advanced and that the Land Commission hoped to be in a position to commence work on the ground in the Spring of this year. I am glad to say that work has started on this scheme and good progress is being made. I would emphasise that the Land Commission scheme is not a scheme of flood-control. Its aim is to give relief from the hazards of flooding, so far as this can be done, by the provision of new buildings on safer sites together with secure stands for stock against the risk of abnormal floods. Reconstruction of some existing buildings and the raising of approach roads and yards are also involved.

In the four counties concerned, viz., Roscommon, Galway, Westmeath and Offaly, the scheme envisages the provision of a total of sixty new dwellinghouses and sixty-one new outoffices, as well as the reconstruction of fifteen existing dwellinghouses and twenty outoffices and the raising of approach roads and yards. In some cases the holdings contain safe sites for buildings but others do not. Negotiations are being carried out with the occupiers and erection of buildings will proceed as speedily as possible. Where holdings do not contain safe building sites and stands for stock, land re-settlement will be involved. In one district, negotiations with prospective migrants [1120] have concluded; in two districts suitable lands have recently been allotted to provide secure stands for stock, and in the remaining district enquiries for suitable land to facilitate re-siting of buildings are continuing and will be pressed to conclusion as speedily as possible. Several of the buildings will have to be constructed on concrete rafts because of foundation difficulties. The Land Commission Inspectors have consulted Bord na Móna experts and with their assistance—which is gratefully acknowledged — suitable rafts have been designed and taken to construction stage as a preliminary to seeking tenders for the erection of buildings.

It will be clear from this that the relief measures are well under way. It will also be obvious that a high degree of co-operation from the farmers concerned is vitally necessary if the scheme is to be brought to successful conclusion.

In September last, responsibility for the administration of the Game Preservation Act, 1930, and for the implementation of Government policy in regard to game preservation and promotion, passed from the Department of Justice to the Department of Lands and is being dealt with by the Land Commission. Even before this formal transfer, however, my Department, in view of its extensive holdings of shooting rights, had been actively associated with the movement for game promotion, in co-operation with Regional Game Councils sponsored by rural and sporting organisations under the aegis of the St. Hubert Club of Ireland. As the game resources of this country, allied to its fishing potentialities, comprise one of our major assets in the promotion of the tourist industry, development of the country's game potential is manifestly a matter of great importance for the national economy. This development may be helped considerably by the setting up of a National Game Authority and proposals to that end are under consideration.

When moving this Estimate last year, I referred to the scope which would be provided for progressive young landless farmers, seeking to [1121] establish themselves on the land, if landowners who found themselves obliged to let lands would consider making lettings for longer periods than the customary conacre and 11 months periods. At that time I stated that the Land Commission will readily grant approval to suitable letting contracts and I ensured that the matter was given wide Press and radio publicity. The response has been negligible.

The response during the past 12 months to the short educational courses for prospective migrants, which I described a year ago, although somewhat better than in the previous year —25 attending this year, compared with only eight the previous year—is still disappointing. These fortnightly courses, held at Athenry Agricultural School by arrangement with the Department of Agriculture and costing a nominal £2 a week per individual for maintenance, are designed to give prospective migrants an opportunity to extend their knowledge of modern farming methods with a view to ensuring full utilisation of their new holdings. In the final selection of migrants, preference is given to those who attend the courses. This year, in addition to providing short courses at Atherny for prospective migrants, the possibility of arranging a course there, after next harvest, for migrants already installed is being explored.

It might be as well at this stage if I mention a point which has previously arisen on this Estimate. Last year, reference was made to a difficulty of Land Commission tenants in obtaining water and sanitation grants from the Department of Local Government. This difficulty has since been remedied.

To conclude my observations on the remarkably successful operations of the Land Commission in 1958/59, I feel that I may draw the attention of the House to a significant anniversary. The May/June 1958 collection gale marked the completion of 25 years of the halving of annuities effected by the Land Act, 1933. It is appropriate, therefore, that I should conclude this review with a reference to the annuity position. I have had before me a full analysis of the payment record since [1122] 1933. Out of a collectable total of £61,925,475 for the 25 years since the November/December 1933 gale, the Land Commission have, in fact, collected £61,876,771 to the latest accounting date, that is 31st January, 1959, leaving arrears outstanding at that date of only £48,704 for the 25 year period. This represents a successful collection of 99.92 per cent., the arrears being less than one-twelfth of one per cent.

Counties in which the arrears is even less than .08 per cent. of the collectable are Carlow, Cavan, Cork, Dublin, Kildare, Kilkenny, Limerick, Longford, Meath, Monaghan, Offaly, Roscommon, Sligo, Tipperary, Westmeath and Wexford. This remarkably healthy state of annuity payment is one of which the farming community can well be proud. It is only right that I take this opportunity to pay a well-deserved tribute to the Irish farmers for the promptitude with which they have honoured their annuity obligations since 1933. It is hardly necessary to repeat that the halving of the land annuities in 1933, did not lengthen the repayment period.

Mr. Blowick: Information on Joseph Blowick  Zoom on Joseph Blowick  I cannot help reflecting that some years ago when I was in the Minister's place and when this Estimate came before the House, it seemed that a very lively interest was taken in the Land Commission. I noticed last year, and judging by the Fianna Fáil benches this year, no interest, or very little interest, is taken in it.

Mr. G. Boland: Information on Gerald Boland  Zoom on Gerald Boland  Look at the benches behind you.

Mr. Blowick: Information on Joseph Blowick  Zoom on Joseph Blowick  I suppose it was a compliment to myself that the House was so well attended——

Mr. Geoghegan: Information on John Geoghegan  Zoom on John Geoghegan  We do not need to, now that we have an active Minister.

Mr. Blowick: Information on Joseph Blowick  Zoom on Joseph Blowick  ——and that the Estimate for the Department of Lands drew such a stormy debate when I was on the Minister's side of the House. However, I want to say at the outset that this Estimate is very important for quite a large section of [1123] the people and for the poorer people, and I want to say that I fully appreciate the difficulties which the Minister and the Land Commission have to face in dealing with Land Commission work. It is not spectacular work. I have said before, but it will bear repeating, that it does not show the same results as forestry work and Local Government work because in those cases there is something to be seen. Most of the Land Commission work is a change of ownership which affects only those who enjoy the results of the change as the work goes on.

The Minister, I suppose, will get plenty of advice such as I had my predecessors used to get. He will probably be told to take land quickly, what to do with those who get land, and he will get various other recommendations because it seems to me that in a debate affecting farmers everyone sticks out his neck. Those who know little or nothing about how the farmers live at once proceed, in a debate like this, to lay down the law as to how the farmers should work their land and run their business. I have often noticed that these are the people who would not be seen dead on a farm or holding of land, but they have the cheek to think themselves the best judges as to how a farmer should run his business. I suppose, to take the proper view, it is their subconscious method of showing their contempt for the farmers and, in particular, the small farmers.

I was glad to hear the Minister say at the conclusion of his speech that the problem about the provision of water and sanitation for Land Commission houses has been remedied. I wonder would the Minister tell us when he is replying if they will now get the same benefits as the ordinary builder of a house gets from the Department of Local Government. I hope that no difficulties will be put in their way because they get the grants from the Land Commission instead of from the Department of Local Government.

The Minister has a good deal to be proud of, but in giving the figures for the acquisition of land he told us, I [1124] think, when this Estimate came before the House last year, that he had slowed down, or at least had decided not to bother with any further acquisition— excepting voluntary acquisition—until the arrears of insepctions had been cleared. I am afraid that will have a very disastrous effect on the work of the Land Commission in the next year or two.

Some time ago, I asked the Minister if he would tell us the area acquired or resumed and the area taken possession of from 1st April, 1958 to 31st March, 1959. The figures given in the reply were 18,165 acres acquired or resumed, and 33,361 acres taken possession of. I suppose in the case of at least 30,000 acres of the 33,361 acres taken possession of last year, proceedings were instituted at least two years back. If we take that as a headline or a pointer as to what is happening, it means that the acquisition and resumption figures next year will be 5,000 acres because that shows a very steady drop in the figures.

Land in hands is the raw material with which the Land Commission have to work. Even though there was a big back log of arrears of inspection and reports on suitability of price at the time he took office, nevertheless, the machine was working in top gear. I think there were something around 60,000 acres of land on hands when the Minister took over, and the Department was acquiring a pretty sizable amount, even though the number of bigger farms was decreasing. Most of them that were available had been taken up during the previous six, seven or eight years.

The Minister has shown a good return in the acreage of land allotted, but I should like to point out that much of this land was on hands when he took office two years ago. It is all very well for the Minister to clap himself on the back for all he has done or, at least, for all the Land Commission has done, but from the figures which the Minister gave me on 22nd April, I venture to say that the work of the Land Commission will be virtually at a standstill in 18 months' time.

Mr. Childers: Information on Erskine Hamilton Childers  Zoom on Erskine Hamilton Childers  That is not true.

[1125]Mr. Blowick: Information on Joseph Blowick  Zoom on Joseph Blowick  The Minister said, on page 6 of his brief:—

May I remind the House that the direct cost of land settlement to the taxpayer varies from £36 to £87 per acre and constitutes a very great gift to the beneficiaries?

I am sorry the Minister has taken that line. The so-called beneficiaries do not want a gift; they want only a means of livelihood. The Minister should take a broad view and dig deeper back into history. Uneconomic holdings and rundale have a very long history, going back over 300 years, and I do not think it was nice of the Minister to take that attitude, as if he were giving a gift to these people. It is as if we said old age pensioners are getting a gift, or that every person benefiting under the Health Acts, provided with free hospitalisation or medical care, is getting a gift. People who are in ill-health cannot be held responsible for being ill.

Mr. Childers: Information on Erskine Hamilton Childers  Zoom on Erskine Hamilton Childers  The taxpayer makes the gift; I do not.

Mr. Blowick: Information on Joseph Blowick  Zoom on Joseph Blowick  I agree, but like the person suffering from tuberculosis or some other disease, the small uneconomic landholder is not responsible for the fact that he has a small holding. He is not responsible for the fact that most of the land was given to 10,000 landlords during Cromwell's time, and he is not responsible for the tremendous upsurge in population that occurred from 1700 up to the time of the Famine, when the population of this country was at least trebled, and the disastrous subdivision of land took place that we are trying to remedy today. The Minister should take a more sympathetic view of those who have small holdings. It is not their fault.

Bearing in mind the fact that there are certain areas, certain pockets of congestion all over the country, which have not been attended to yet, the people in those areas are taking this matter in very good heart. They are taking it so lying down that in many cases whole households are clearing out who see no hope of the Land Commission coming to their aid. They [1126] are looking the doors of their homes and clearing over to England. There are other cases, however, like that recently in the Midlands where people have taken a stronger attitude and the only comment I have to make on that is that from my experience of farmers, and particularly of small farmers, there must be something radically wrong when people take the law into their own hands in so violent a fashion. While I would not condone taking forcible possession, or people taking the law into their own hands, I do not believe that applying the law too rigidly to the people involved is the best way to deal with the problem. It would be better to inquire into their grievance and remove the cause of such violence.

Deputies, particularly in rural areas where land is being acquired, are constantly bombarded with questions as to why the Land Commission does not pay for land acquired or resumed 10 or 15 years ago. I asked the Minister to make a statement which would explain to the ordinary man exactly where the hold-up takes place. I know the fault is not with the Land Commission but maybe with the Public Trustee who is custodian of the moneys. Such a statement would carry more weight from the Minister than it would from me. I made such a statement and it created some uneasiness, and I think the Minister should explain where the trouble lies in such cases. It is disgraceful that people whose land was taken from them, ten or 15 years ago, have not yet got the price of it. The fault is not that of the Land Commission and on the other hand, it certainly is not the fault of the vendors of land.

The Minister has told us that the number of holdings to be rearranged is about 7,500. He can correct me if I am wrong in that figure. He said that during the past eight years, 4,000 were rearranged, enlarged, and brought to a fairly good, if not, a proper, economic level. As time goes on, the larger farms are being bought up and more difficulty will be experienced by the Land Commission acquiring land in the old way by compulsory acquisition and compulsory resumption. The result is that the pool of land will not be as [1127] large as in years gone by. At present, the Minister has advantages which I had not when I was Minister for Lands. He has certain means of doing things that I had not, and I think he should spend a good deal of money in purchasing a fairly large number of holdings. He has said that at the present rate of the relief of congestion, the rate at which it has gone on for the past six or seven years, it will take another 14 years to complete arrangements regarding the 7,500 outstanding holdings. It would not be a good thing if the tail end of the job were to take 14 years to complete. There is a danger that violent changes might take place which might leave the greater number of these 7,500 tenants out in the cold, and might be the ultimate cause of their emigrating out of the country.

I should like the Minister to give his views on my suggestion that under Section 27 of the 1950 Act, he should purchase 500, 700, or 1,000 holdings each year and settle congestion in that way once and for all—in other words, to rush the remainder of the job, even though it is the smaller end of it. I suppose that the number of holdings left to be rearranged represents the hard core of the problem and perhaps that is the reason why they have been left to the end. In any event, I should like to hear the Minister's views on my suggestion that he purchase holdings on the open market on a large scale.

I see that the Minister has reopened the purchase of holdings under subhead R. That is a good step, but the £25,000 allotted this year is just enough to provide a trial. I suggest that he devote £1,000,000, £1,500,000 or £2,000,000 to that. It might be difficult to approach the Minister for Finance for such a sum, but it would pay in the long run. Staff would be released for other work and the problem would be ended. It cannot be denied that the whole problem causes uneasiness amongst many people in different parts of the country and, if the Minister would take that line, he would get every assistance from every member of this House.

The Minister did not mention what [1128] had become of activities under the 1946 Act, where certain allottees were supposed to be using their land incorrectly. If I remember correctly, around 1950. I suspended activities under the Act because I found that, though some complaints that came in —some of them anonymous—about allottees who got plots of land were genuine, the vast majority were the result of grudges, perhaps on the part of neighbours who thought they should get allotments themselves and had not got them. I should like the Minister to tell us has the need arisen to revive interest in that Act.

Mr. Childers: Information on Erskine Hamilton Childers  Zoom on Erskine Hamilton Childers  There is no change.

Mr. Blowick: Information on Joseph Blowick  Zoom on Joseph Blowick  I am glad of that because it shows that there is nothing seriously going wrong in regard to the allottees. My own experience in regard to the allotment of lands was that some of the small allotments were regarded as a gift. I know that every effort is made by the allottees to become vested in the allotments as early as possible. In the case of migrants and re-arranged tenants, I think the money which is being spent by the Land Commission is well spent. Both the migrants and the allottees in all cases definitely wanted the land because, in many cases, they changed the whole face of the country by removing old places and beautifying the new houses which the Land Commission built for them. I could cite several cases in my own constituency where the whole countryside has been changed from being a blot on the landscape to something that is very pleasing to the eye at the present time. The Minister did not tell us what number of holdings were re-arranged during the year.

Mr. Childers: Information on Erskine Hamilton Childers  Zoom on Erskine Hamilton Childers  Six hundred and fifty.

Mr. Blowick: Information on Joseph Blowick  Zoom on Joseph Blowick  Let us take a village where there were ten holdings. The Land Commission finds it necessary to migrate three. When the Minister says there are 650, does he mean that ten or seven are finally settled in that village?

Mr. Childers: Information on Erskine Hamilton Childers  Zoom on Erskine Hamilton Childers  Finally settled. The figures are comparable with those of previous years.

[1129]Mr. Blowick: Information on Joseph Blowick  Zoom on Joseph Blowick  In one year, it was over 1,200. I want to make allowance for the fact that since the Land Comission are getting inside the hard core they are finding it harder to deal with. I would not be very wrong if I said that the re-arranging of the 650 holdings probably involved as much hard work on the Land Commission as the 1,250 did in a certain year gone by.

There are some matters of purely local interest to which I should like to direct the Minister's attention. I want the Minister to let us know in regard to holdings that are vested whether these townlands are available for rearrangement. There was always a certain amount of difficulty in the Land Commission due to title in regard to that question. I can name a few tenants who in the past purchased their holdings under either the first or the second Ashbourne Acts. They became vested automatically when the purchase was completed. Some time ago, long before my time and long before the Minister came into the House, some decision was made. It was not made by any Minister. It was by the Land Commission and it was to the effect that vested holdings, no matter how small, were to be untouched until vested. Perhaps, there might be a certain amount of argument for that in days gone by. In the area west of Westport and on the O'Dowd estate, there are vested holdings as well as unvested holdings which badly need rearrangement, and also in the district around Knock in County Mayo. I should like to put a question to the Minister about 21 holdings there the valuations of which range from £3 10s., which is the highest, to the lowest which is £1 18s. There are a few villages there as well in the same condition.

The grandfathers of the present generation in those villages were up and doing and took advantage of the Ashbourne Acts in those days. It was a big step for them. Unfortunately, as the years went by and as Land Act succeeded Land Act, these people began to be left behind. I can quote the case of one village of 11 vested holdings, ten at least of which had new [1130] houses built with the assistance of state grants. Of these 11 houses, there are only three inhabited to-day. In all the other cases, the families have cleared out lock, stock and barrel to England—some never to come back.

The Minister should get details of that type of townland. He should devote the attention of the Land Commission to it. It does not matter whether they are vested or not. I do not think it is fair to victimise a man who was up and doing 70 years ago. He has never received anything from the State. It is not that he wants to beg anything from the State. You will not hold the man with land to the valuation of £2 or £3 in the country in the light of the attractive conditions which are to be had in England.

There is another point I want to bring to the notice of the Minister with regard to the price paid to those from whom bog is acquired. I understand the price is about £11 to £13 per acre. At the present time, in my own county, bog is becoming very scarce—so much so that turf as a fuel is on the way out. The price of £11 or £13 is a scandalous one at the present time. Many people pay £7, £8 and £9 for a bank of turf which provides a sufficient quantity of turf for 12 months. I know two cases of persons from whom bog was acquired for roughly £13 per acre. Before that bog was acquired, they were letting it in banks. They were getting £5 or £6 for half an English rood. I know that the Land Commission are justified in getting bog as cheaply as they can, but the man from whom the bog is acquired is also justified in getting the highest price. The sum of £13 per acre for bog is nothing short of scandalous.

I want the Minister to consider seriously not allowing the Land Commission to spend 14 years on the completion of the relief of congestion in respect of the 7,500 holdings. I am very glad the figure is down to that. It is not a bad achievement. I think that the work of the Land Commission, particularly since the passing of the 1923 Act, has never been fully [1131] appreciated. They have done a gigantic job of work, despite the fact that in certain places people are very discontented with the manner in which land is being divided. The first Irish Government was set up in 1922 and the Land Commission was only properly set up in August, 1923. We should not forget that even at that time, after various English Land Acts, if I may call them so, had been in operation for 20 years, there were still 10,000 landlords having on their estates 10,000 tenants. By one of the 1923 Land Acts, the Land Commission wiped out these landlords in one night. They handed over an avalanche of estates and tenanted holdings to the Land Commission to deal with. They have done a magnificent job of work, at least in making the majority of the Irish farmers secure in their ownership.

The Minister told us that only about 1,000 holdings were vested last year. What is the explanation for a such low figure? It represents a very big drop from my time. During the first years I was Minister, 15,000 and 16,000 holdings a year were vested. While he mentioned that a number of counties are now practically vested, or resold, as the Land Commission term is, a drop to 1,000 holdings seems to merit some information.

Mr. Childers: Information on Erskine Hamilton Childers  Zoom on Erskine Hamilton Childers  Perhaps I was reading too quickly. The figure is 5,000.

Mr. Blowick: Information on Joseph Blowick  Zoom on Joseph Blowick  I think the Minister said 1,020 or something like that. Are we to understand that all restrictions on acquisition and resumption are removed and that the Land Commission are free to forge ahead in the same way as was the case up to 1957?

Mr. Childers: Information on Erskine Hamilton Childers  Zoom on Erskine Hamilton Childers  I gave no indication of any change.

Mr. Blowick: Information on Joseph Blowick  Zoom on Joseph Blowick  Did the Minister not tell us shortly after he took office—and he has also told it to us in his introductory speech on this Estimate—that certain restrictions were put on acquisition and resumption because there was a big backlog of inspections to be completed?

[1132]Mr. Childers: Information on Erskine Hamilton Childers  Zoom on Erskine Hamilton Childers  All restrictions were removed in November last in order to get rid of the backlog.

Mr. Blowick: Information on Joseph Blowick  Zoom on Joseph Blowick  I do not think I am exaggerating when I say it will take at least 18 months or two years for the Land Commission to get back again into their stride after being off acquisition and resumption for that length of time.

Mr. Childers: Information on Erskine Hamilton Childers  Zoom on Erskine Hamilton Childers  The Deputy is being pessimistic.

Mr. Blowick: Information on Joseph Blowick  Zoom on Joseph Blowick  I am not. I am relying on the experience of the war years, when acquisition and resumption were absolutely shut down, except in very rare case. By the time the first inter-Party Government came into office in 1948, I found myself, when I took over in the Land Commission, without land and staff.

Mr. Childers: Information on Erskine Hamilton Childers  Zoom on Erskine Hamilton Childers  The acquisition procedure takes about half the time now.

Mr. Blowick: Information on Joseph Blowick  Zoom on Joseph Blowick  Even so, that will be two years. It was a mistake to shut down on acquisition during that time. It would have been much better to allow the machinery to go on, even if there were some arrears in certain places. If necessary, get extra staff for it. With regard to the relief of congestion, and rearrangement, the Minister mentioned that it will take about 14 years to complete the rearrangement——

Mr. Childers: Information on Erskine Hamilton Childers  Zoom on Erskine Hamilton Childers  I may have read the script too fast. In the first place, voluntary acquisition, which amounts to a considerable portion, is not closed down. Secondly, after a certain date, all estates above a certain valuation were examined. The Deputy evidently could not have understood the script.

Mr. Blowick: Information on Joseph Blowick  Zoom on Joseph Blowick  I did not misunderstand it. If the Minister thinks that, because voluntary acquisition was not closed down, the full volume of work in the Land Commission is still going ahead I may say that voluntary acquisition is a negligible portion of the work that comes into the Land Commission. If the Minister is relying on past figures, he is away up in the clouds. The figures he gave me are proof of it.

[1133] Possession was taken of 33,000 acres. The amount taken possession of and the amount acquired and resumed in any one year should almost tally if the speed of acquisition and resumption is not to be retarded. We are told that 18,000 acres were acquired and resumed last year against the 33,000 acres taken possession of, because of these 33,000 acres were acquired and resumed the year before. The decision to acquire and resume might have been taken nearly 18 months before. The Land Commission cannot take possession the day they acquire or resume land. The 18,000 acres show they are down to half. Next year, I forecast, it will be 9,000 or 10,000 acres, which will virtually be a closing-down of the Land Commission.

I would ask the Minister not to slacken speed in the relief of congestion. I am particularly interested in the relief of congestion and the enlargement of the small vested holdings. The fact that they are vested does not make them economic. It looks somewhat like irony that a tenant or his father who was up and doing 40 or 50 years ago and availed of the Ashbourne Acts and bought out his holding, should now be victimised because he is vested. Such a situation should not exist.

Mr. O.J. Flanagan: Information on Oliver J. Flanagan  Zoom on Oliver J. Flanagan  Wages, salaries and allowances are up in the Department of Lands to the extent of £14,723, if we consult the Book of Estimates. Travelling expenses are up by £2,000 and incidental expenses are up by £420. If we are to examine closely the amount of public money devoted towards the Land Commission, we see it is a very vast sum. I wonder if the taxpayer gets a fair return from the Land Commission for that amount of State expenditure? The Land Commission is a big body that moves very slowly. It was set up as a temporary institution and was never intended to be permanent. I feel that the Land Commission has outlived its usefulness. We are living in modern times, as the Minister for Lands states, and every country is making great strides and progress. I feel that the Land Commission is completely out of date. It is out of keeping with modern times, [1134] with modern development and with the conditions that prevail in the country in general.

The record of work which the Minister gave this House does not reflect any great credit on the Land Commission. We still have very great congestion. There were complaints here about congestion away back in 1927. There were complaints about congestion in this country and references were made to these problems in this House in 1925 and 1926. Serious cases of congestion were raised away back as far as the Third and Fourth Dáil. It would not be correct to say that something has not been done, but it is correct to say that we are a long way away from ending the congestion that exists in many parts of the country.

As Deputy Blowick correctly stated, there are some very small holders who are unable to exist on the acreage of land they have. They are expected to draw unemployment benefit, to draw social welfare benefits, to seek assistance from local authorities. In many cases, they are anxious to get work on the roads, on forestry or in other places where they can obtain it because they cannot live and rear their families on the land they have. It is quite true, as Deputy Blowick pointed out, that we have many cases of people padlocking their doors, nailing up their gates and leaving for England or elsewhere.

The Minister for Lands, whatever else may be said about him, is a man who likes statistics and who likes quoting figures. He has not given us any figures concerning the numbers of people living on very small holdings with large families in Mayo, Cork, any part of Tipperary, or even parts of the midlands, who could not find employment to supplement the small incomes from their holdings and who were forced to seek a decent and a better standard of living either beyond the Irish Sea or elsewhere. These people were forced to lock up their doors, wire up their gates and leave the country.

For the Minister to tell us that there is a limit to congestion, or that congestion is at an end, is not in [1135] accordance with the facts. I want to say that I feel one of the most dangerous steps that any Government can take is to interfere with the rights of ownership of land. God knows, there was a time in our history when, during the Land League days, a great effort had to be made by the people and their leaders to see that the farmers would have fixity of tenure. No Government should undermine the confidence which the farmer has in the right to own his own holdings, the right to work it as he likes without fear of compulsion, the right to sell it if he wants to sell it. These are all rights which the citizen should have and which should be protected by all the powers of the State. There is such a thing as fixity of tenure and free sale now and I hope that no Government will ever rule in this country which will interfere with the right of free sale. These are two of the most precious possessions of the people of this country; I utter these words with a full sense of responsibility as to their meaning.

I hope no farmers today are apprehensive lest any of our Land Acts are likely to dispossess them of their lands because I am convinced that the Land Commission will not act in any case in which a farmer is working his lands well, assisting in the production of food for man and beast, providing for himself and his family and, in addition, perhaps providing employment. In such cases I feel that there is no doubt that the farmer will not be molested by the Land Commission and will not experience any undue interference from them. The people to whom, I feel, the attention of the Land Commission should be directed are the extensive ranchers and there are many such in this country. The Minister for Lands is quite well aware of a few of them; there are some of them in his own constituency.

In the case of the Middleton Estate, the property of Body-Rochfort, it was stated by the Land Commission that that land was to be left to its owner and that it was not on the public market. It was to be left to the owner [1136] for his own uses in connection with horse breeding. Deputy MacEoin asked me to raise this matter in his absence and to point out that it was publicly stated—I cannot say that it was stated by the Minister himself, but it was certainly stated by the Land Commission—that it was not the intention of the Land Commission to acquire these lands in the Castletown-Geoghegan area because the owner wanted them for his own use. Deputy MacEoin has been informed that 200 acres of this property have been sold, that they were on the public market and that the Land Commission notified the local committee and the Deputies concerned. The Minister for Lands, who is a representative for that constituency, must have been well aware that the Boyd-Rochfort estate was on the market all the time and that the 200 acres of land which have been sold could have been acquired by the Land Commission and could have been divided amongst local, deserving applicants. I trust that the Minister will make a statement in this connection because he knows quite——

Mr. Childers: Information on Erskine Hamilton Childers  Zoom on Erskine Hamilton Childers  The Land Commission and the Forestry Department between them are buying about 667 acres.

Mr. O.J. Flanagan: Information on Oliver J. Flanagan  Zoom on Oliver J. Flanagan  The Forestry Department is one section and the acquisition section of the Land Commission is another. I am referring to local farmers who require additions to their existing holdings. There are many such people in the Castletown-Geoghegan area.

I want to refer to the manner in which the Minister for Lands deals with representations directed to him. It was the custom of all Ministers for Lands—Deputy Gerald Boland, the late Deputy Tom Derrig, the late Senator Seán Moylan and later still, the last speaker, Deputy Blowick—to receive Deputies, deputations from local committees and to hear the merits or demerits of the case which they had to put forward. I give credit to the former Minister for Lands, under the inter-Party Government, that at least he showed a certain [1137] amount of courtesy to public representatives. That is more than I could say for the present Minister for Lands, who not alone snubs Deputies and refuses to meet them, but refuses to meet important committees representative of the general public, of the clergy and of local public bodies. I think that is wrong.

A Minister is paid to do his job and, while he holds that job, he should at least show a certain amount of courtesy to the general public. Surely to goodness if the Minister cannot afford to show courtesy to the general public, the least that might be expected from him is that when four or five Deputies representing a constituency come together and ask to see him on an important Land Commission matter he should see them. The Minister for Lands is the link between this House and the Land Commission and his job is to convey the impressions of this House to the Land Commission. His job is also to convey to the Land Commission the views of any deputations which call to see him. It is nothing short of an insult to public representatives. The Minister for Lands has acted with great discourtesy, not alone to the general public but to members of the House. I wish to protest in the strongest possible terms.

By a letter of January 18th, 1958, the Minister refused a request from me to receive a deputation of all the Deputies for the constituency, including the Deputies of his own Party. He said he did not receive deputations to discuss land division, that it was none of his business and that he was not prepared to intervene. He said that as far as the Land Commission were concerned, he would not listen to any case put forward. A few days afterwards, however, a notice appeared in the papers saying that the Minister had received a deputation from Carlow-Kilkenny. The Minister received them because the Taoiseach made him receive them. Surely to goodness, if a group of Deputies want to see a Minister, they should not have to solicit the support of the Taoiseach before the Minister for Lands will open his door to hear their grievances and problems? The Minister for Lands is not a suitable [1138] person to hold the office. He may possess a great liking for figures and statistics but he lacks what is most important for a gentleman, a proper code of manners. That is the least qualification any Minister should possess.

The Minister's letter of the 18th January, 1958 stated:—

The fact is that the Minister has no function in the acquisition proceedings and in general in the selection of allottees, and he has been at pains to make that known. To receive a deputation on these subjects would serve no useful purpose.

We merely asked the Minister to hear the grievances pertaining to each area. We have not resources to the Land Commission; he has. He can call the Commissioners and the Secretary together and use his good offices as Minister to convey the views put forward by a deputation. That is his job. He has failed in it and neglected it. If the Minister wants the co-operation of Deputies, he should do what all Ministers for Lands before him did, and that is show courtesy to Deputies and receive them on deputations when they request him to do so.

I want to make special reference to a memorandum the Minister circulated to the Government on the 5th May, 1959, in which he mentions the name of a parish priest in my constituency, Very Rev. Fr. Fahy. This memorandum is headed: “Office of the Minister for Lands”——

Mr. Childers: Information on Erskine Hamilton Childers  Zoom on Erskine Hamilton Childers  Surely this is a private document, a Leas-Cheann Comhairle? I do not know what document the Deputy is referring to. I never issued a document officially to the Government on this matter.

Mr. O.J. Flanagan: Information on Oliver J. Flanagan  Zoom on Oliver J. Flanagan  I am referring to a memorandum on land agitation issued by the Minister for Lands to the members of the Government on the 5th May, 1959. It starts off in the first sentence by naming Very Rev. Fr. Fahy, the parish priest of Lusmagh, Offaly, and winds up in the last sentence by stating:—

The Minister for Justice will, no doubt, have observations to make [1139] on the law and order aspect of the agitation.

In accordance with this document the Minister issued to his colleagues in the Government——

Mr. Childers: Information on Erskine Hamilton Childers  Zoom on Erskine Hamilton Childers  This is purely private. I do not know what document the Deputy is referring to, but it was not my wish that any person's name should be brought into this debate at all, least of all the person referred to. I had no wish to have it discussed. It is a purely private matter and it seems to me most injudicious for the Deputy to bring it in at the present time. As far as I know, there are legal proceedings even pending indirectly in connection with this whole question——

Mr. O.J. Flanagan: Information on Oliver J. Flanagan  Zoom on Oliver J. Flanagan  I can assure the Minister there are no legal proceedings pending.

Mr. Childers: Information on Erskine Hamilton Childers  Zoom on Erskine Hamilton Childers  ——for which I have no responsibility.

Mr. O.J. Flanagan: Information on Oliver J. Flanagan  Zoom on Oliver J. Flanagan  Surely the Minister has responsibility for a memorandum to the Government dealing with land agitation? Am I not entitled to discuss a document——

Mr. Childers: Information on Erskine Hamilton Childers  Zoom on Erskine Hamilton Childers  No, because I did not circulate it to members of the public.

An Leas-Cheann Comhairle: Information on Cormac Breslin  Zoom on Cormac Breslin  It has always been the position that private documents are not read in the House without the permission of the person who issues the document.

Mr. O.J. Flanagan: Information on Oliver J. Flanagan  Zoom on Oliver J. Flanagan  If it is a private document, how did it come into my hands?

Mr. Childers: Information on Erskine Hamilton Childers  Zoom on Erskine Hamilton Childers  I do not know how the Deputy got it. I do know that the Minister in charge of a Department frequently refers to matters which in the interests of everybody concerned, including any person named in the document, are not intended to be published and never should be published. The Deputy is serving a very bad purpose by publishing whatever document he has got his hands on. I had no intention of mentioning it or [1140] dealing with any matters of that kind on the Estimate. I think the Deputy is entirely wrong and I would ask the Leas-Cheann Comhairle to rule——

Mr. O.J. Flanagan: Information on Oliver J. Flanagan  Zoom on Oliver J. Flanagan  Is it not a fact that in the course of his opening remarks the Minister dealt with questions relating to law and order and the agitation for land division?

Mr. Childers: Information on Erskine Hamilton Childers  Zoom on Erskine Hamilton Childers  I did not mention it in connection with any particular estate whatever.

Mr. O.J. Flanagan: Information on Oliver J. Flanagan  Zoom on Oliver J. Flanagan  I am not mentioning it in connection with any particular estate, but in general.

An Leas-Cheann Comhairle: Information on Cormac Breslin  Zoom on Cormac Breslin  The question of law and order does not arise. That is a matter for another Minister.

Mr. O.J. Flanagan: Information on Oliver J. Flanagan  Zoom on Oliver J. Flanagan  I object to the Minister for Lands asking the Minister for Justice to take certain action in regard to any of my constituents and the Minister for Lands has done so.

Mr. Childers: Information on Erskine Hamilton Childers  Zoom on Erskine Hamilton Childers  The Minister for Lands has given no instructions in regard to taking any proceedings. To the extent any action was taken, it was taken by the Commissioner of the Garda Síochána. I took no action at all.

Mr. O.J. Flanagan: Information on Oliver J. Flanagan  Zoom on Oliver J. Flanagan  May I direct the Minister's attention to No. 13 of his memorandum to the Government?

An Leas-Cheann Comhairle: Information on Cormac Breslin  Zoom on Cormac Breslin  I would again point out to Deputy Flanagan that it has not been the custom of this House to read out private documents here.

Mr. O.J. Flanagan: Information on Oliver J. Flanagan  Zoom on Oliver J. Flanagan  I submit this is not a private document. If it were, I would not have it.

Mr. Childers: Information on Erskine Hamilton Childers  Zoom on Erskine Hamilton Childers  No document whatever was put on the records of the Cabinet in regard to this incident. That is a fact.

Mr. O.J. Flanagan: Information on Oliver J. Flanagan  Zoom on Oliver J. Flanagan  Did the Minister not ask the advice of the Government on the steps required to deal with, for example, Lia Fáil when bringing his Estimate before the House?

[1141]Mr. Childers: Information on Erskine Hamilton Childers  Zoom on Erskine Hamilton Childers  If the Deputy wants me to deal with this question I am perfectly willing to deal with it in my answer to this Estimate, but I think it is extremely wrong for the Deputy to raise what is a purely private matter. The whole purpose behind bringing such matters before the Government is that one naturally wants to consult them about matters of public importance. It is very desirable not to bring before the public views, unofficial or official, with regard to particular matters which it is not in the public interest to disclose. The Deputy well understands the conduct of any Government in that regard and I would ask him to refrain from discussing a matter which it is not in the public interest to discuss.

Mr. O.J. Flanagan: Information on Oliver J. Flanagan  Zoom on Oliver J. Flanagan  I feel the Minister for Lands should make some statement when replying.

Mr. Childers: Information on Erskine Hamilton Childers  Zoom on Erskine Hamilton Childers  I am perfectly willing to make a statement.

Mr. O.J. Flanagan: Information on Oliver J. Flanagan  Zoom on Oliver J. Flanagan  The Minister ought to be courageous enough to admit that he was responsible for causing the Minister for Justice to direct the raiding of a certain parochial house in my constituency.

An Leas-Cheann Comhairle: Information on Cormac Breslin  Zoom on Cormac Breslin  That does not arise on this Estimate. It is a matter for another Minister.

Mr. O.J. Flanagan: Information on Oliver J. Flanagan  Zoom on Oliver J. Flanagan  I agree, but I see from this memorandum that the Minister for Lands, having circulated his colleagues in the Government on the matter, says that “the Minister for Justice will, no doubt, have observations to make on the law-and-order aspect of this agitation.”

An Leas-Cheann Comhairle: Information on Cormac Breslin  Zoom on Cormac Breslin  The Minister for Lands may have referred to that but it is still a matter for the Minister for Justice.

Mr. O.J. Flanagan: Information on Oliver J. Flanagan  Zoom on Oliver J. Flanagan  I am prepared to abide by the ruling of the Chair but the Minister has referred to the fact that there has been a certain amount of land agitation, and when public representatives and others try to bring about peace in a disturbed [1142] area and when commonsense is prevailing among all sections of the community in that area, the Minister for Lands comes in there for the purpose of opening a carnival and arousing ill-feeling again. The Minister knows quite well that on the morning on which he visited Banagher to open a carnival leaflets were being circulated and roads had been painted and there was a greater force of Gardaí listening to him opening the carnival than there was of the general public——

An Leas-Cheann Comhairle: Information on Cormac Breslin  Zoom on Cormac Breslin  The question of opening carnivals has no bearing on the Estimate before the House.

Mr. O.J. Flanagan: Information on Oliver J. Flanagan  Zoom on Oliver J. Flanagan  I submit that the Minister for Lands was responsible for a good deal of the disturbance in this area. When peace and order was being restored he appeared in another role to open a carnival and revive the disturbance. I shall go no further than that, but it would be a better day's work for the Minister for Lands and for everybody who wanted law and order restored, if the Minister had kept out of the district and had not endeavoured to revive hard feelings. Beyond saying that the Minister has not contributed in any way towards solving the very unpleasant problem that existed in that district—in my opinion he has done much more harm than good in appearing there—I shall not go any further.

It has been reported in the Press that the Government are considering the question of loans to buy land. I quote from a Sunday newspaper of April the 15th last:—

The Government is planning big changes in the system of land purchase. There is a scheme of State-backed loans to be made available for those who require it. Mr. Childers, Minister for Lands, has been making it clear of late that the pool of land which the Land Commission has, or can hope to get, is rapidly falling and it can be wound up at any moment by order of the Minister and that loans are to be made available to purchase land.

[1143] I would like to know if there is any truth in that report? If there is such a scheme it would be of very great value because the Land Commission does not seem to be coming to the assistance of the proper type of person. Many farmers' sons are at present landless men. They do not come within the scope of the work of the Land Commission and if they could be given financial assistance, either through the Department of Lands or some other Department, to enable them to purchase land, paying back the loan over a period of years, I believe it would be a great asset to the community. It would give some ray of hope to farmers' sons and others who find that the Land Commission, as at present operating, cannot offer any hope for the future.

I also want to refer, if I may, to the fact that in my constituency, as in others, there is a good deal of unworked land. Where such land is on the public market—I emphasise that— I feel the Land Commission should act. I think that in the case of the Brownshill Estate in Carlow the Commission acted most unreasonably and unwisely and that in the case of the list of large estates from Laois, and particularly from Offaly, that have been submitted to the Commission, they should have taken some steps to have them purchased from the owners. As the law stands, the Commission are entitled to pay full market value for such land. That is as it should be. No person's land should be taken from him or purchased under value, but when the law says the Land Commission may pay the full market value, I cannot understand why the Commission are not more alert when large tracts of land come on the market.

In my constituency there is a very extensive farm of land owned by the former Swiss Ambassador to Bulgaria. He comes there only once every second year for shooting and fishing and he gives very little employment. Local agitation for the division of this land has gone on for a number of years. Which is the more important to the State, the young men in the area, the local smallholders who must pay [1144] £25 to £28 for tillage land in conacre per year, or the former Swiss Ambassador to Bulgaria? The time has come for some Minister for Lands or some Government to review the working of the Land Commission because if the Commission allow that state of affairs to continue they must need additional powers which this House should give them. It should be the policy of the Government to see that if land in Ireland is available it should first be made available to the people of Ireland. If sufficient funds are not available to enable the people to obtain these lands a suitable scheme for the purchase of the lands should be introduced.

I do not want to make any reference to the unlimited funds which a certain organisation in this country has for the purchase of land. The Minister is more familiar with such an organisation than I am. There is an organisation buying up land in this country for certain sections of the community, and the sooner this House realises the seriousness of this the better. There are Deputies who do realise its seriousness. The activities of the Land Commission are being overshadowed by the activities of those people and I want to protest against it very strongly. I shall be protesting against it in another place but I think this is the proper place——

Mr. Childers: Information on Erskine Hamilton Childers  Zoom on Erskine Hamilton Childers  The Deputy should name the organisation.

Mr. O.J. Flanagan: Information on Oliver J. Flanagan  Zoom on Oliver J. Flanagan  I think the Minister is an officer of it.

Mr. Childers: Information on Erskine Hamilton Childers  Zoom on Erskine Hamilton Childers  The Minister is an officer of no such organisation——

Mr. O.J. Flanagan: Information on Oliver J. Flanagan  Zoom on Oliver J. Flanagan  If the Minister says “of no such organisation,” he must know the organisation.

Mr. Childers: Information on Erskine Hamilton Childers  Zoom on Erskine Hamilton Childers  No organisation connected with distribution of land. In fairness to the people, the Deputy should name the organisation so that they would have an opportunity of making a counterstatement. In the way the Deputy has mentioned it, it might be any one of several.

Mr. O.J. Flanagan: Information on Oliver J. Flanagan  Zoom on Oliver J. Flanagan  I shall let the Minister have details of such an organisation [1145] in writing. Not alone that, I shall give him the names and addresses of certain people who have purchased land, people of a certain persuasion which made it very easy for them to purchase land.

Mr. Childers: Information on Erskine Hamilton Childers  Zoom on Erskine Hamilton Childers  The Deputy should not make innuendoes against the Minister for Lands and suggest without proof that he belongs to an organisation with, apparently, land purchase powers. The Minister for Lands belongs to no organisation that has any connection with the wholesale purchasing of land as is alleged by the Deputy. Does the Deputy accept my statement that I have no connection with any organisation which indirectly or directly purchases large quantities of land?

Mr. O.J. Flanagan: Information on Oliver J. Flanagan  Zoom on Oliver J. Flanagan  The Minister may have a connection with a certain organisation that makes money available for the purchase of land.

Mr. Childers: Information on Erskine Hamilton Childers  Zoom on Erskine Hamilton Childers  On a point of order, I must ask the Deputy to withdraw the statement. I am not on any committee or any board of any organisation which the Deputy alleges purchases land in this country.

An Leas-Cheann Comhairle: Information on Cormac Breslin  Zoom on Cormac Breslin  It is the usual practice that disclaimers or denials made in the House are accepted.

Mr. O.J. Flanagan: Information on Oliver J. Flanagan  Zoom on Oliver J. Flanagan  Does the Minister deny he is a member of an organisation that makes money available to people of a certain interest for the purchase of land?

Mr. Childers: Information on Erskine Hamilton Childers  Zoom on Erskine Hamilton Childers  I certainly do.

Mr. O.J. Flanagan: Information on Oliver J. Flanagan  Zoom on Oliver J. Flanagan  Well, I do not accept that.

An Leas-Cheann Comhairle: Information on Cormac Breslin  Zoom on Cormac Breslin  It is usual for Deputies to accept such statements.

Mr. O.J. Flanagan: Information on Oliver J. Flanagan  Zoom on Oliver J. Flanagan  I shall not accept that because what I refer to is the Minister's own word to a third party outside this House.

Mr. Childers: Information on Erskine Hamilton Childers  Zoom on Erskine Hamilton Childers  The Deputy should not refer in the Dáil to what he hears third hand. Does the Deputy not know that in all matters connected with land one should never rely on third-hand [1146] sources? The Deputy should accept my word that I do not take part in the work of a committee or board which has any connection with the purchase of land on a large scale in this country. I am not in fact the director of any company.

Mr. O.J. Flanagan: Information on Oliver J. Flanagan  Zoom on Oliver J. Flanagan  I did not say the Minister was a director of any company.

Mr. Childers: Information on Erskine Hamilton Childers  Zoom on Erskine Hamilton Childers  I am not a director of any association. I am not on the board of any association or on the committee of any association one of whose objects is to purchase land. Will the Deputy accept that?

Mr. O.J. Flanagan: Information on Oliver J. Flanagan  Zoom on Oliver J. Flanagan  Is the Minister a member of any association, organisation or society which has money available to be given out to certain people highly recommended for such money for the purchase of land?

Mr. Childers: Information on Erskine Hamilton Childers  Zoom on Erskine Hamilton Childers  No.

Mr. O.J. Flanagan: Information on Oliver J. Flanagan  Zoom on Oliver J. Flanagan  Does the Minister say “No”?

Mr. Childers: Information on Erskine Hamilton Childers  Zoom on Erskine Hamilton Childers  Yes, the Minister says “No”.

Mr. O.J. Flanagan: Information on Oliver J. Flanagan  Zoom on Oliver J. Flanagan  And that will be in the records of the House. I hope to be in a position at a later date to compare that statement with the statement which the Minister has made to a distinguished man outside this House.

An Leas-Cheann Comhairle: Information on Cormac Breslin  Zoom on Cormac Breslin  It is not usual for statements made in that manner to be discussed in the House.

Mr. O.J. Flanagan: Information on Oliver J. Flanagan  Zoom on Oliver J. Flanagan  The Minister is a Minister who says one thing in the House and another thing outside. If the Minister is a member of a certain society he ought not be ashamed of it in the House if he can boast of it outside the House.

An Leas-Cheann Comhairle: Information on Cormac Breslin  Zoom on Cormac Breslin  The Minister has disclaimed any responsibility for making such a statement. The Deputy should accept that.

Mr. O.J. Flanagan: Information on Oliver J. Flanagan  Zoom on Oliver J. Flanagan  Surely the Chair is not suggesting a Deputy should accept a statement he knows and believes to be untrue?

[1147]An Leas-Cheann Comhairle: Information on Cormac Breslin  Zoom on Cormac Breslin  That is tantamount to calling the Minister a liar and I must ask the Deputy to withdraw that statement.

Mr. O.J. Flanagan: Information on Oliver J. Flanagan  Zoom on Oliver J. Flanagan  I certainly will not withdraw that statement. I shall leave the House rather than withdraw it. I am going on the words of the Minister to a distinguished person and I can prove the statement.

An Leas-Cheann Comhairle: Information on Cormac Breslin  Zoom on Cormac Breslin  The Deputy will please withdraw from the House.

Deputy O.J. Flanagan withdrew from the House.

Mr. G. Boland: Information on Gerald Boland  Zoom on Gerald Boland  I wish to congratulate the Land Commission on the work they have done in the last few years in dividing land. I approve of the decision taken to dispose of land vested and on hand before taking any more land. There is, of course, the difficulty of acquiring some small holdings available in congested areas which have been referred to already by two other Deputies. The Land Commission made attempts to buy some of these holdings but they found that the market value of the land was so high that they did not feel justified in proceeding with their efforts to acquire these holdings. I agree that when a person's land is for sale, he should get its full value but I can understand also that the State cannot be expected to supply much money if the amount of relief to be given is very limited. However, an enormous change is taking place especially in the West of Ireland. When I was Minister for Lands, before I was a week in office I decided that the size of the holding which would be given to an allottee should be increased beyond the figure which then obtained. I considered that 30 acres of arable land or its equivalent were the least that should be allotted but the most I could get the Government to agree to was 25 acres of arable land.

Mr. Blowick: Information on Joseph Blowick  Zoom on Joseph Blowick  Twenty-two.

Mr. G. Boland: Information on Gerald Boland  Zoom on Gerald Boland  In my time it would be 22 but I thought that at the very least it should be 30 acres. Since that period, I suppose, due to the fact [1148] that we have a Welfare State across the water with plenty of employment and big money to be earned, people are unfortunately closing their doors. It was all right when only the young people went away and left the old people at home. Now whole families are leaving. The Land Commission should look after these holdings and if they have to buy such land at the full price, I do not think the people to whom the additional land would be allotted would object to paying the full price for it. The State should drop the practice of halving the annuity in respect of the additional land. That would save them a lot of money and would justify their spending money to relieve local congestion. I am not suggesting that there should be any change as regards the parent holding but only as regards the additional land. In view of the increased value of land, very few allottees would object to that.

I was very disappointed in regard to a few cases in which I was interested. The Land Commission tried to buy holdings in congested areas, but they said they did not feel justified in asking the State to spend so much money because only a few people would benefit by the transaction. By dropping the halving of the annuities and letting the allottees pay the full annuity in respect of the added land, the Land Commission would get over that difficulty.

Mr. Dillon: Information on James Matthew Dillon  Zoom on James Matthew Dillon  May I ask the Deputy who bought the holdings?

Mr. G. Boland: Information on Gerald Boland  Zoom on Gerald Boland  That is another point. The unfortunate thing is—and this can be borne out—that people who are not working land at all, sometimes business people, people with plenty of money, are buying the land. Of course, if it were a small man in the area who was anxious to get it, that would be a different matter. It would be an economic holding for him. However, if it is a matter of expecting the small people in the area to compete with the “long purse” and the business man, that ought to be stopped by the method I have suggested.

There should be some effort to limit the size of holdings. I do not [1149] mean to take land from people who are working it properly but where there is a sufficiently large farm—this applies to Carlow and places like that —there is a case for not allowing one person to get as much land as he wants when there are other people who need land but cannot afford to compete with the prices offered.

To come to a local matter, I assume negotiations on the Rockingham estate broke down on the question of price. It was in the market recently and there was no sale. I hope the Land Commission will keep their eye on this estate. As everyone who knows anything about it will agree, it was always well conducted. I am a Deputy for Roscommon for 36 years and there was never any suggestion that that estate should be taken compulsorily. When it comes on the open market I hope the Land Commission, although they failed to agree with the owner about the price, will keep it in mind because there is considerable congestion in North Roscommon which can be relieved if that estate is taken over. However, if it is to be run as it has been in the past, I would not desire that it should be taken over at all. All I hope is that they will keep the matter under review and seize any opportunity that arises to make agreements for the acquisition of land at a fair price in order to relieve congestion.

Mr. McQuillan: Information on John McQuillan  Zoom on John McQuillan  I shall not take up much of the time of the House on this Estimate because I have discovered that it is a waste of time to discuss land problems in Leinster House. I must, however, say a few words in connection with the Estimate and make a few comments as to what should be done with the Land Commission.

The Minister has stated that he has no function, authority or power to interfere in the question of land acquisition, and so forth. Yet, he comes into the House and produces a document, five pages of which, at least, are rubbish, clapping himself on the back for what he has achieved over the last twelve months in the matter of land division. I cannot reconcile the Minister's statements outside this House with his attempt to-day to bluff the [1150] public that he, as Minister, has achieved in the matter of land acquisition something that has not been achieved for years. We are told in the Estimate that a total of 57,000 acres was allotted in the last twelve months and that the percentage increase in allotment over other years was startling. It is very easy to take credit for increasing allotment when over years past the amount of land divided was negligible. It is like starting with a minus quantity and taking credit for improving it.

Since 1946, the section of the Department of Lands which deals with acquisition has moved very slowly. The figure for last year compared with the figures for pre-war years, gives a true picture of the interest that is now being taken in land division. In any of the post-war years the figures for land acquisition and division are not comparable with the figures in pre-war years.

I was interested in Deputy Boland's comment as to the size of holdings and his statement as to what he, as Minister for Lands, recommended or directed. I am afraid his memory as to the actual size of the holdings over the period is not too good. I have a letter from the Minister dated 25th November, 1954, stating that the Land Commission had created 13,000 holdings between 1931 and 1953 and that the average area was, not 30 acres, but 23 acres.

It is wrong for people in this House to consider what land is worth purely on an acreage basis. There are a number of factors that must be taken into consideration. For instance, the poor law valuation must be considered, and the location. It is completely misleading to consider it merely from the acreage point of view.

I should like to hear Deputy Boland pursuing a little further his venture into the question of control of the amount of land held by any individual. The Deputy dipped his toes into that dangerous pool and more or less suggested that a limit should be set to the amount of land held by any individual. I am in full agreement with him but I know perfectly well that the Minister for Lands is not. It is not as Minister for [1151] Lands that I should describe him but as Minister for Landlords because his interest is in the landlord section and he is certainly not interested in the small farmers in the West of Ireland.

Any man who comes into this House as Minister and sneers at the congests by suggesting that they should be “good boys” now, get down on their knees and thank him because of the gifts he is making available to them, at a cost of £36 to £87 per acre, shows his contempt for, and lack of understanding of, the people in the congested areas. He does not take into consideration the history and background of congestion, the terrible conditions under which people in the congested areas were expected to live, the fact that in most cases parents depended on the steady flow of money from an emigrant son or daughter, which saved the State much more than has been expanded up to the present. To say that the taxpayer was giving a gift to the people in the congested areas is a disgraceful statement for a Minister for Lands to make. I wonder what the Minister thinks of the pseudo-industrialists in this country who get large grants, gifts, from the public, to start tinpot factories that in many cases are failures. Are they told to get down on their knees and be thankful for gifts from the Irish people? It is all right to refer to congests in sneering terms but these gentlemen friends of the Minister—his director friends and industrialists——

An Leas-Cheann Comhairle: Information on Cormac Breslin  Zoom on Cormac Breslin  The matter does not arise on this Estimate.

Mr. McQuillan: Information on John McQuillan  Zoom on John McQuillan  Of course it arises.

An Leas-Cheann Comhairle: Information on Cormac Breslin  Zoom on Cormac Breslin  The question of business directors does not arise.

Mr. McQuillan: Information on John McQuillan  Zoom on John McQuillan  I am making a comparison between the grants given to business directors and industrialists and alleged grants made available to congests.

An Leas-Cheann Comhairle: Information on Cormac Breslin  Zoom on Cormac Breslin  The Minister has no responsibility for grants given to directors of factories or other industrial concerns.

[1152]Mr. McQuillan: Information on John McQuillan  Zoom on John McQuillan  Surely I am entitled to draw a comparison if the Minister sneers at the congests?

Mr. Childers: Information on Erskine Hamilton Childers  Zoom on Erskine Hamilton Childers  On a point of explanation, I never sneered at the congests. I said, regardless of whatever we have to do to make up for a bad history, when the taxpayers pay out sums of money in order to make up for a bad history, they are, nevertheless, paying out their money and I was saying that the amount they paid out was considerable. I defended it.

Mr. McQuillan: Information on John McQuillan  Zoom on John McQuillan  Is this a point of order?

Mr. Childers: Information on Erskine Hamilton Childers  Zoom on Erskine Hamilton Childers  I said it was justified. I never sneered at small holders. It is a ridiculous suggestion.

Mr. McQuillan: Information on John McQuillan  Zoom on John McQuillan  The Minister is like a jack-in-the-box; he has been up and down every five minutes since this debate opened, trying to go back on statements made in the House. He spent 20 minutes trying to go back over statements with Deputy Flanagan. He spent another 10 minutes with Deputy Blowick. Now he wants to have a further explanation with me with regard to his opening statement. The Minister who comes in here and produces an introductory statement in which he sneers at the congests deserves nothing but contempt from this House. Remembering that the general public realise the type of man the Minister is, is it any wonder that there are disturbances today in different parts of the country? Is it any wonder that the small farmers and the congests are beginning to lose hope that their problems will ever be solved? The die is cast against them. The influence, the weight—everything is against them.

The Minister stated that he had had a record year with regard to the allocation of land. We know that work on the intake of land has practically ceased since he came into office. We are told that the idea behind the halt in the intake is in order to concentrate on getting rid of land on hands. I do not accept that point of view. I am satisfied that, as far as this Minister is concerned, nothing would suit [1153] him better than to finish land activity completely and to shut down on land activity completely, if he could get away with it. He is trying to do it by a side-wind, and the greatest condemnation of Fianna Fáil to-day, the Party that was always regarded as the Party representing the small farmers, is the fact that they selected Deputy Childers as Minister for Lands. That is a slur on the West of Ireland. It is a slur on people like the Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister for Finance, the Minister for the Gaeltacht and all the others who know rural Ireland and its problems. It is a slur upon them that a man who had no contact whatever with the small farmers should have been selected and put in charge of this Department. I have no objection to him as Minister for Posts and Telegraphs, or anything else. But take him to blazes out of Lands before he causes more trouble in the country.

On page 6 of his introductory statement—it is the most significant statement in the 22 pages of his speech—he says:—

Future activity depends on the available intake of badly worked or voluntarily offered land, and nobody can foresee the future.

In a nutshell, that is the Minister's policy. Later, he tells us that “farm competence is steadily improving”. He is giving us a hint, in other words, that the amount of badly-worked land is diminishing. He followed that up by saying that “in certain areas it is becoming more difficult to find migrants who will make good use of land.” Was there ever a more fantastic statement than that?

I can take the Minister to several areas in my own constituency where there is first-class material for migration. If he does not want to come to County Roscommon, there is plenty of first-class material in Mayo, Leitrim, Galway and other areas. He will find in these the finest type of men, very keen to get land, very keen to get enough land to give them an opportunity of living in reasonable comfort. But the Minister comes in here and says there is a shortage of suitable migrants. Again, he is trying [1154] to pull the wool over the eyes of the people in the congested areas.

Further on, he tells us that the question of non-nationals purchasing land is not a serious problem. It is an extraordinary thing that for the past ten years I have been asking questions here addressed to the Taoiseach, to the Minister for Finance and to the Minister for Lands in an effort to elicit the figures with regard to the purchase of land by non-nationals and they have never been able to find anything like accurate figures for me. Yet, today the present Minister blandly produces here his own set of figures. We must, I think, take his own set of figures with a grain of salt in the same way as we take his statement that it is difficult to get suitable migrants.

I have said here before that since the war at least 150,000 acres of fertile land have passed into the hands of non-nationals for the most part. To a great extent these purchases of land have taken place in Meath, in Westmeath—I emphasise Westmeath; it is the Minister's own constituency—in Tipperary, in Cork, and in Limerick. The list of purchasers comprises Dukes, Earls, adventurers, speculators, Fascists and Colonel Blimps retired from military service abroad. These are in every one of those counties. I do not think it can be challenged that the amount of land which has passed into the hands of undesirables is equal to the value of County Leitrim.

Yet, we are told that the pool of land for the relief of congestion is drying up. Let us take another aspect. Let us look at the figures for land let in conacre. Last year over 700,000 acres were let in conacre. A great deal of this land has been set for grazing. A great proportion of the land of Westmeath—the Minister's constituency—is let on the eleven-months system. I wonder is the Minister aware of that?

In certain instances I know there are deserving cases. I know this is a major problem. I also know, however, that a great deal of the lettings have led to the “mining” of the land. In many instances they have led to the telephone farmer, the man who wants to have the land for the growing of wheat, or, on a temporary basis, for feeding [1155] stock. Towards the end of his statement the Minister makes a casual reference to the efforts he is making to provide longer lettings. He has made no effort whatever to solve some of the major problems connected with the letting of land.

In my constituency I am more than aware of two men who at the moment hold 2,000 acres of land between them on the 11-months' system. Elsewhere, throughout the country, Dublin business people have taken land on the conacre system. If they grow wheat on that land, are they not subsidised? Are they not getting a gift, in other words, from the taxpayers? But the Minister does not sneer at these. He sneers at the congests who cannot even make a living. If the land is available for business people and speculators on the eleven-months' system, surely it should equally be available for the relief of congestion?

The mistake which has been made all down the years when people talk about congestion and the availability of land is that they suggest there is no land available where congestion obtains. To a great extent, that is true. If there was plenty of land available, congestion would solve itself. The aim of the Department should be to purchase the large tracts of land that are available in the non-congested areas and transfer the suitable migrants to them, instead of spending their time in congested townlands where they pick out two, three or five acre holdings.

What do we find wherever there is congestion? A few acres of land come on the market and they are sold at prices far and away above their real value because the competition is so keen among the unfortunate locals. The extraordinary part of the picture is that perhaps 15 miles away from such miserable farms, 100-acre farms will go practically as a gift. Some of the farms in the congested areas fetch £110 or £120 per acre, and large farms in non-congested areas are often sold at £20, £25 or £30 an acre. Would they not be a good buy for the Land Commission—large farms at that price— rather than spending their time messing around with high-priced small [1156] holdings stuck in between 10 or 12 other small holdings?

I think it is tragic to see, say, Pat Murphy from Cloonfad, County Roscommon, unable to make a living on his holding of £5 valuation, who after a wait of ten or 15 years, in despair, locks up, packs up, and goes to England to make a few pounds. He is no sooner gone—not for ever; he hopes always in his heart to come back —and working in England, than the word goes round to have his bit of land divided. Human nature being what it is, the neighbours see the bit of land and say: “We are in a bad way; we will try to get the land”, and the next thing is the inspectors are all round the place as busy as bees wasting their time on four or five acres. Then we are told the Land Commission is doing good work. It is not satisfying the poor unfortunate man in England who feels he has been betrayed in his absence, and it is not satisfying the people in the locality because it is not possible to do so with the amount of land left. It is a stupid performance on the part of the Land Commission and I find it very hard to restrain myself when dealing with some of the matters that come to my attention.

As I said at the beginning of my remarks, I do not intend to say anything like what I should say on this Estimate. I shall conclude by saying that the office of Minister for Lands should be abolished. The Department of Lands should be scrapped and the Land Commission should then be attached to the Department of Agriculture, but before that is done, a drastic overhaul of the Land Commission's acquisition powers should be made, and in future the policies of both Departments should be integrated. Then, once the Land Commission is integrated with the Department of Agriculture, a survey of our land should be made and targets should be set up in the acquisition field. There should be the closest possible cooperation then between the agricultural advisers in the Department of Agriculture——

Mr. Dillon: Information on James Matthew Dillon  Zoom on James Matthew Dillon  There are not any.

[1157]Mr. McQuillan: Information on John McQuillan  Zoom on John McQuillan  ——and the Land Commission officials on the size of the new holdings and on the question of proper courses for congests who are due to get holdings and there should be a completely new approach to the whole question of farm buildings and farm improvements. That, I think, is one of the approaches which will give hope to many people in rural Ireland that they are not being forgotten. Do not forget that the increase in the tempo of emigration from the congested areas is due to lack of hope. The people in the congested and poorer areas deserve tremendous admiration. They do not give up until the last moment. They have held on, year after year, in the hope that the Government would take steps to improve their lot. Their patience is unbelievable, but when they see a Government like the Fianna Fáil Government who have pretended over the years to have the interests of the small farmers and the congests at heart, putting into one of the most important positions—the Department of Lands—a Deputy like Deputy Childers whose interest is, has been, and always will be, in the wealthy and influential section—how can he have any interest in the small and neglected sections of the people——

An Leas-Cheann Comhairle: Information on Cormac Breslin  Zoom on Cormac Breslin  The Deputy has already said that on at least three occasions. Repetition is not in order.

Mr. McQuillan: Information on John McQuillan  Zoom on John McQuillan  I do not blame the Minister personally because he can fit into some other outfit, some other Department but I do blame his leader, the Taoiseach. I also blame the rural Fianna Fáil Deputies who represent Connacht, for being as meek as mice, as dumb as they possibly could be, when this appointment was being made. If the rural Deputies in the Fianna Fáil Party had the courage of their convictions, instead of mumbling behind the scenes about their discontent with the selection for this Ministry, they would have faced the facts openly at a Party meeting and said: “We want a man who is interested in the west of Ireland and in small farmers, and we will not [1158] accept this nomination”. The very fact that they did not is proof that they, too, are out of touch with the situation in the west of Ireland. It is a little late now for Deputy G. Boland to be getting qualms of conscience about houses in the west of Ireland and about people closing down their homes and entire families leaving after 30 or 35 years of native government.

Mr. Everett: Information on James Everett  Zoom on James Everett  I do not intend to delay the House very long because, in my time in the House, I have never taken the Land Commission to task if I could avoid doing so. I wish to draw the attention of the Minister to a serious problem in my own county. I know he will point out that he has not the right to interfere with the Land Commission, and I accept that, but I think if he reminded the Land Commission that he does not approve of what is taking place in the county, it might have the desired effect.

During the past three or four years, over 2,000 acres of land, within two miles of Wicklow town, in the ownership of people who looked on land as a sideline, have been sublet to large farmers. I would have no objection if they were small farmers because they could provide for their families or provide extra work. No wonder we have such a large number of men unemployed in rural areas when, within two miles of a town, over two thousand acres are sub-let to large farmers. They work it with modern machinery and combine harvesters and the result is that not one extra man is employed on that land, which causes serious discontent in the area. Like Deputy Boland, I do not want to interfere with the man who is tilling the land he has got. I know some men with very large acreages who are giving good employment, but here is the case of a vast area of land which has been taken by men who have residences elsewhere. In such a case, the Minister should put it up to the Government that where land is not being used to the benefit of the small farmers, it should be possible for the Land Commission to acquire it.

I know the case of one man who acquired land and, after nine or ten [1159] years, it had become practically derelict. The Land Commission took it over and, though they have it on hands for the past two or three years, only a very small number of local people have been allotted portions of it. I have no objection to the migrant or individual who comes from another area, so long as a very large number of local applicants are fairly treated, but in many cases small holders of uneconomic land have not been given allotments.

During my years as a public representative, I have never known an inspector of the Land Commission and have not influenced one of them in any way. I may send in an application for a deserving man, but all I want to do is avoid discontent and trouble in my own constituency in which a very large proportion, 75 per cent., of the land has not yet been allotted. I would ask the Minister to give special consideration to this area. Under the old system, a man who lost his employment, on the Land Commission acquiring land, was allotted portion of the land taken over, but in this case in the Carnew area the men disemployed have not been successful in their applications for portion of the land.

Again, I would ask the Minister to consider the case of the landless men, men living in labourers' cottages without land. In this area, all the milk is sent to Dublin and Wexford and where a man is employed by a farmer, he gets a ration of milk each day, a pint or a quart, but if he leaves that employment, he cannot get milk elsewhere. If we want to keep such men in their own areas, they should be given parcels of land to enable them to keep cows, to provide milk for their families and themselves. That is the position we have in County Wicklow and I wish to draw the Minister's attention to the fact that there is serious discontent in some of the places where men are waiting for the division of land. Where the land is being sub-let each year, the Land Commission should acquire it and that would bring great happiness into an area. It would provide land for the men living in the area and also for migrants brought in from other areas.

[1160] To my own knowledge, only a mile from where I live, where 40 men were employed, there are now only seven men employed on 2,000 acres of land. One man has 2,000 acres and part of his harvest was destroyed last year because he had not sufficient help to save the corn he sowed. That is a serious position, especially in an area where there are farmers with small uneconomic holdings. They see these thousands of acres of land around them and they see the best portions of them sub-let to other large farmers who already have 500 or 800 acres. In such a situation, naturally there will be discontent and trouble and you will have people taking advantage of this trouble to create further trouble.

I have no objection to migrants being brought in, provided the best proportion of the applicants in my area are favourably considered. The Minister says it is no function of his to interfere with the work of the Land Commission, but at least I should like him to express his views on conditions which would cause trouble in an area in which we do not want to have trouble. As I said, during my 35 years as a public representative, I have not known a single inspector, and I am bringing up this matter now, realising the serious problem that is facing us, only in order to avoid any trouble or discontent that may exist amongst men who state they may take certain action if their applications are not favourably considered. These are men who have been deprived of their livelihood and I say that 75 per cent. of them should be provided with land. If what happened with this 2,000 acres happened in other parts of the country, I know the row that would be created. Not one extra man has been employed and I would appeal to the Minister to reconsider his position in an effort to avoid many of the difficulties that exist in other areas.

Mr. Dillon: Information on James Matthew Dillon  Zoom on James Matthew Dillon  I am in favour of fixity of tenure, fair sale and fair rental. If the Minister says here that he disclaims any authority to intervene in the matter of the sale and acquisition of land, or its allocation to allottees, and that he refuses to be forced into the position of accepting [1161] responsibility for the decisions relating to these matters I shall support him. I think the acquisition of land and its allocation to allottees should never become, in this country, the function of the political head of the Department of Lands and, the day on which it does, fixity of tenure and free sale will vanish.

I know perfectly well you will find Deputies here, on every side of the House, who, in my judgment, go off the rails in this matter. So long as the Minister for Lands adheres firmly to the principle that the acquisition of land and its allocation under the Land Acts is a reserved service of the Land Commissioners, in which he exercises no discretion, I shall support him 100 per cent. but, if he says that, he must mean it. I suggest to him he should cross his heart and hope to die and ask himself has he ever influenced the Land Commissioners in the acquisition or allotment of land? If he is in a position to say “never,” then I am with him 100 per cent., but if he is obliged to say to his own conscience in the silent watches of the night “sometimes,” then he is worse, in my judgment, than the most irresponsible Deputy who clamours for him to preside over the allocation and acquisition of every acre of land.

I shall confine myself to that statement of general principle and my expression of readiness to support the Minister if he adheres strictly to that principle for the present. I think I am entitled to emphasise that that principle must be accepted rigidly and in its entirely, or else openly disavowed if the minimum requirements of honesty are to be accepted. Does the Minister ever realise the damage he does himself by a sentence like this: “In any event, the false rumours spread by half a dozen trouble-makers regarding my attitude to land settlement should be dispelled by this fine record?” That sentence, as it read, would be inoffensive but it is not becoming for a Minister of State to get up and say that he is lost in admiration at his own beauty. The Minister must not do that. He is responsible for what his officers do. If he says that his officers have a fine record, he invites me to start on the [1162] Secretary and go all the way down through principal Officers and so forth and say the fellow is lousy, but the Chair would not allow me. He would very properly say that the Minister's officers must not be called into question. I suggest that if the Minister wants to refer to his record he should leave it to his neighbour to do so.

The Deputy from Roscommon was terribly shocked about the paragraph which refers to the fact that the direct cost of land settlement to the taxpayer varies from £36 to £87 per acre. Deputy McQuillan seems to think that that goes back to the root of the land settlement in Ireland. He is quite wrong. That had its root in the most rotten land Act ever presented to this House by the Fianna Fáil Government in 1932 or 1933. If anyone can tell me what justification there is for the Land Commission buying land at £100 per acre, spending £20 to £30 per acre on its improvement and then selling it to the allottee for £50, I am blowed if I know. I have never heard it explained to me and I know of no justification for it. I regard it as quite insane and as the source of enduring land hunger in this country of a character which is quite inconsistent with the best interests of the people as a whole. If anybody does not like that, they can lump it. I think it is distorting the whole process of equitable land distribution in this country. It was one of the most rotten, detestable and dishonest outrages that Fianna Fáil injected into our lives. It is like the free beef. It is like so many of the rotten things they did when they were trying to purchase votes in the early stages.

Mr. Geoghegan: Information on John Geoghegan  Zoom on John Geoghegan  Did we not do anything good in our time?

Mr. Dillon: Information on James Matthew Dillon  Zoom on James Matthew Dillon  It would not take me long to discuss them. A half a page would do but I am sure that the Ceann Comhairle would not even bear with me for the 15 seconds in which I could recite the benefits conferred on us by Fianna Fáil. One of the things which irritate in regard to this Minister is that he knows his own Party did that. He knows why they did it and he is ashamed of it. He feels it is wrong and he pokes at it and he wriggles [1163] under it but when it comes down to the tin tacks of saying it is not just, he looks behind him and says “The boys already do not like me and if I say that they will hate me altogether and I have to live”. The plain truth is that there is no justification for it. I think it is creating a very grave problem for us because it is distorting the whole picture of land distribution.

I do not think you can undo what has been done. I do not think you should ever go back on bargains that have been made and settled between an individual and the community but I think you can look into the future and say that if, from a certain date in the future, an annual appropriation will be charged on the Exchequer for the improvement of estates, that will be the contribution to the settlement of tenants and that the full value of the land will thereafter be recovered by a suitable annuity, if necessary, over an extended period and longer, if necessary, than the existing period, to the Exchequer. That was the basis of all land purchase in Ireland up to 1932. Of course, it worked. Those who really wanted land and were prepared to work it got it and those who were trying to get land for the purpose of selling it to a neighbour did not get it.

When I think of how rotten all this was, when I think of the cheap little Fianna Fáil stooges in this country who got land under that Act and, the day it was vested in them, sold it to their neighbours and put the money in their pockets and went off to set up shops in the neighbouring towns, it makes me sick that such procedures were associated with the honourable dignity of the land settlement in this country. There is not one Fianna Fáil Deputy in this House who does not know what I am saying is true. The horrible thing is that it is a continuation of the detestable practices introduced into our society by Fianna Fáil. It makes the final resolution of many of our problems virtually impossible.

Will we ever see an end of pathological land hunger so long as the allocation of one acre of land involves a free gift of £86 to the man who gets it? There would be a hunger for old boots [1164] if we passed an Act of Parliament here that anyone who would get a pair of old boots under this scheme would get a cheque for £86 the day he got the pair of old boots. Then there would be a huge importation of old boots to meet the demand.

I would like to ask the Minister a question relative to his statement about the housing business. He speaks of the Land Commission erecting four new prototype dwelling houses of improved design. God knows, it would not be difficult to improve the design of the houses erected by the Land Commission. Long years ago, they were actuated mainly by purely utilitarian considerations and, in those days, the object was to get a house erected for the lowest possible money that would keep a family dry and warm. You can tell a Land Commission house a half mile away, from its appearance, sitting on the surface of the earth like a rather ill-constructed box. However, if we are to have a new prototype house, has the Minister employed architects? When we think of all the houses that have been built in this country in the past 40 years, both by the Land Commission and under various other schemes, and when we realise how hideous the architecture of most of them is, it makes one almost despair. Is it intended to employ architects?

Mr. Childers: Information on Erskine Hamilton Childers  Zoom on Erskine Hamilton Childers  We employ an architect.

Mr. Dillon: Information on James Matthew Dillon  Zoom on James Matthew Dillon  Is he a good architect?

Mr. Childers: Information on Erskine Hamilton Childers  Zoom on Erskine Hamilton Childers  I hope so.

Mr. Dillon: Information on James Matthew Dillon  Zoom on James Matthew Dillon  I shall be better able to agree or disagree with the Minister when I see the four prototype houses. Will he be allowed any margin for aesthetic considerations in the design of the houses?

Mr. Childers: Information on Erskine Hamilton Childers  Zoom on Erskine Hamilton Childers  I think so.

Mr. Dillon: Information on James Matthew Dillon  Zoom on James Matthew Dillon  I do not expect that, if the Minister provides that margin, he will get much thanks from the members of his own Party, but I suggest to him that he steel his heart and face that, because posterity will bless him even if his colleagues do not. That may be cold comfort to [1165] him, but when he attains his crown in Heaven he will be able to look down at some of the jewels he has left behind.

Mr. Childers: Information on Erskine Hamilton Childers  Zoom on Erskine Hamilton Childers  Why should Fianna Fáil not like nice looking houses?

Mr. Dillon: Information on James Matthew Dillon  Zoom on James Matthew Dillon  Because they are Fianna Fáil.

Mr. Childers: Information on Erskine Hamilton Childers  Zoom on Erskine Hamilton Childers  That is going too far.

Mr. Dillon: Information on James Matthew Dillon  Zoom on James Matthew Dillon  Perhaps a little too far, but not very much too far.

On page 19, the Minister says that several of the buildings in connection with the Shannon Scheme—that is, the Shannon Flooding Relief Scheme—are to be built on concrete rafts. Why on earth are these houses to be built on concrete rafts? I understood that our whole purpose was to move the people out of the winter bed of the Shannon, where they now are, and to bring them to higher land where the Shannon can never reach them. If it is intended to do that, why is it necessary to have concrete rafts? That suggests to me that the people are to be put back in the swamp. Has the Minister looked into that? What is the purpose of building houses on concrete rafts if the object is to move them on to permanently dry land? That puzzles me.

However, if the Minister is thinking of building them on concrete rafts— God only knows why—I think I should tell him that very extensive research has been done on that at Glenamoy. I would suggest to the Minister that, if it be necessary to employ this method of construction, he might with advantage consult the Department of Agriculture officers who have been concerned in the work of building substantial structures on bogland in Glenamoy. The whole question of this concrete raft construction was there very closely investigated and put into practice, in consultation with very reliable experts, and we had four or five years of experiment there which should be a useful guide. When the Minister is concluding, I think he should take it upon himself to tell us why he is going to build the houses on concrete rafts, if the whole object of the scheme is to lift the people above the high-water mark. I think [1166] that the money will be wasted if he is not going to lift the people out of the winter bed of the Shannon but move them from one part of the winter-bed to another.

The Minister speaks, on page 20, of longer lettings. I do not know whether the Minister understands rural conditions or not, but he ought to have by him advisers who will tell him that there is a long and deep-rooted conviction in rural Ireland, that if you let land for a period in excess of 11 months you create a title in the person who rents the land which he, under some Land Act, can convert into a title which gives him a right to the acquisition of the land under one of the Land Acts. So far as I know, that is the root of most of the 11 months' systems in rural Ireland. I remember the Minister on another occasion saying that that had been corrected under a Land Act of 1936, I think, and saying that an end was put to that system. That may be true, but I am sure—and I think the Minister and other Deputies on the Fianna Fáil Benches will say the same thing—that no one knows it.

The 11-months system goes back much further than that. I think it went back into the dim ages in the past, when it was thought—and there was even some truth in the suggestion— that a longer letting would create some kind of title of ownership or a tenancy which would be an enforceable tenancy in the old days. The Minister may make up his mind to this, that there is a deep-rooted tradition in rural Ireland that the 11 months' system is the only system on which it is safe to let land without losing seisin of the title in some degree to the person who takes land on conacre.

Personally, I would not agree with the Minister in this theory that we ought to facilitate the letting of land in Ireland. I think I am not wrong when I say he does not realise where he is going when he says that. That is the kind of thing which alarms me and I begin to ask whether Deputy McQuillan is right—is he completely ignorant of the morass into which he has put his foot? One can argue that it is a good thing, if a man has more land than he has capital to work, that [1167] he should let 50 or 100 acres to an enterprising young fellow who has the capital to stock it but who has not enough capital to purchase land and stock it at the same time. If you accept that principle, even with the best possible intention, the great danger is that it will be exploited by people who see in land, in an inflationary period, a desirable repository for capital.

These are extremely difficult matters to follow closely, but though it may not appear to be relevant immediately, there is a strict relevance between Mr. Clore's activity in trying to buy Watney's Brewery and the danger I foresee. Mr. Clore makes boots and you begin to ask what in the name of Providence makes him want to buy a brewery. Mr. Clore wants to buy the brewery because the brewery owns public houses. It is not the brewery and not the public houses he wants, but the land they stand on. Being primarily a financier, he has got it into his head that if you can buy a product which has a large quantity of land annexed to it, advantageously placed, whatever you lose on the brewery or the closing of the public houses will come back one-hundredfold in the appreciation of land values.

The great danger is that, with the best intention in the world, you will have people saying that if you buy one thousand acres or two thousand acres of land and divide it up into farms and set it to desirable and enterprising tenants, that will meet with common approval in Ireland. Before you know where you are, the Mr. Clores and what not, will come along and say: “Very well. All right. We are prepared to pay. Certainly. Glad to oblige. We will buy 10,000 acres. We will divide it up into 20-acre, 50-acre and 100-acre farms. We will set it out to the poor Irish. They are all poor, you know—peasants. They have not the money. We have. We can provide the land. They can provide the sweat and the labour.” Before you know where you are, Clanrickarde will be back, only, instead of having that man's name, you will have Mr. Clore or Mr. Silverstein arriving who may have begun his career either in boots or old clothes and who has [1168] now moved over to property. Why? Because he says to himself: “The best financial advice in the city of London and in Washington is that we are in an inflationary period——”

An Ceann Comhairle: Information on Patrick Hogan  Zoom on Patrick Hogan  I cannot see what the Minister for Lands——

Mr. Dillon: Information on James Matthew Dillon  Zoom on James Matthew Dillon  That is the whole game. He is advocating that people should set land. He says that if people are prepared to set their land, he does not see any reason why the Land Commission should act. I make the suggestion that it is a sound general principle to lay down that you can do anything you like with land in Ireland except to set it. You can work it any way you like. That is a matter for yourself. A principle inherent in fixity of tenure is that nobody will have a right to cross your ditch or your wall because he does not like the way you are working your land. But you must not set your land. If you are not able to work it yourself or get rid of part of it, sell it to a farmer or go to the Land Commission and ask them to take it over and convey it to a farmer-occupier but do not let us call back the tribe of landlords into existence in this country.

The great danger is that one generation, in its desire to concentrate its attention on the future, will completely forget the past. Those of us who have some knowledge of the past realise that, although the landlords in the past were natives of this country with names like Burke and O'Hara, we drove them out because we found in practice that the setting of land did not work in our circumstances. Beware lest you create a new race of landlords because it will not work at all. There may be a middle course.

It may be—and I think this is already happening—that if you have a number of young fellows who could advantageously rent land, who have enough capital available to stock it but cannot afford to purchase the land and the stock at the same time, the Land Commission should make farms available at economic rents to such persons. I suggest that lettings of that character should carry with them an option for the young farmer, if he makes a success [1169] of it, to convert his tenancy agreement into a purchase agreement, as any man in occupation of a labourer's cottage at present is free to do. That is an activity in which you will not find any potential landlord will be prepared to engage. He wants to retain the land value increment for himself and he will not give the tenant the option to purchase. His whole purpose is to get an annual income from the land whilst the inflationary land value increment accumulates his own wealth.

I think that if the Land Commission were doing the job it would have to be on the basis of an economic rent, convertible, at the option of the young farmer, into an annuity which would make him owner of the land but leaving the young man the option, if he found it did not pay or that he did not want to go on, at the end of his lease, whether it was for 10 years or 20 years, to surrender the land back to the Land Commission. But let us get this clear: If that problem deserves consideration and treatment, it ought to be dealt with by the Land Commission.

Let us not deceive ourselves. It is not a matter that can satisfactorily be resolved by calling back into existence a class and an interest in this country on which blood, sweat and tears were spilled in clearing them out of the country 40 short years ago.

Mr. Childers: Information on Erskine Hamilton Childers  Zoom on Erskine Hamilton Childers  I have no intention of doing such a thing.

Mr. Dillon: Information on James Matthew Dillon  Zoom on James Matthew Dillon  Hell is paved with good intentions. I am sure the Minister's intentions are uniformly good, but sometimes I see him staggering in general directions and suffering under temptations which I am afraid may lead him astray. Therefore, I find it necessary annually to administer this rebuke so as to keep him on the straight and narrow path.

On page 21, the Minister refers, rather not surprisingly, to another scheme inaugurated by me. He spoke of the fortnightly courses at the Athenry Agricultural College. Not infrequently, my successors misuse the admirable schemes which I inaugurated but this, by a simple adjustment, could be made to serve the purpose the [1170] Minister has in mind. He should have consulted me before he began to use this scheme because he clearly does not understand it.

The fortnightly courses were never intended for adults. They were designed for adolescents. You will not get a married man with a family to go down to do a fortnightly course in agriculture with a group of chaps, all of whom are young enough to be his sons. You must segregate them. These fortnightly courses are run in consultation with Macra na Feirme and are designed mainly for young men between the ages of 17 and 25 years. When these courses are over, you could very profitably invite groups of migrant tenants who would ordinarily be married men with families to do a course or semester after the short courses are over. But, to do that, the type of instruction would have to be quite different and the whole approach to the procedure would have to be quite different.

The appropriate attitude for running the course for young boys and even young men and which requires a degree of supervision and direction is not appropriate to married men. The whole attitude and indoctrination is quite different in the case of married men from that which is appropriate to youths and boys. The Minister will have no success if he tries to inject migrants into short courses which were designed by me for members of Macra na Feirme and which are a useful adjunct to agricultural education in that context.

It is a good principle, and one in which the Minister would get support from all reasonable elements in this House, that the Land Commission will not be influenced to acquire land, or in the distribution of land, by agitation. I do not think he will ever find that his hand will be weakened, or his position prejudiced if he resolutely and consistently adheres to that principle. It is a sound principle and one in which I would certainly support him continuously to show that the political head of the Land Commission has nothing whatever to do with the acquisition or the distribution of land. But to that good principle, so long as it is consistently and uniformly applied, [1171] there must be no exception, or if there are exceptions they must be declared in this House and reasons stated.

I often hear the Land Commission greatly abused and I often think that those who abuse them most understand least the complexities of their task. The Land Commission is dealing not only with land; it is dealing with people. Providentially they are heir to a long tradition of understanding and they are the servant of the people and not their master. The Land Commission could do their work very much more expeditiously, and perhaps to the greater satisfaction of Deputies, if they threw their weight about in rural Ireland, but those of us who have spent most of our lives in the congested areas will never ask them to do that. If their proceedings are somewhat dilatory, and that delay is due to their solicitude to persuade people rather than to compel them, then in my judgment the price we pay for delay is in no sense excessive.

No Department is perfect. By and large my feeling is—and I have had considerable experience of it—that the extremely difficult work the Land Commission have to do is generally well done. To every general statement of that kind exceptions will of course show themselves. If they do, I have never found any reluctance on the part of the Land Commission to investigate and put right whatever was wrong. On balance, I think it is fair and honest to say that, looking back over a long period in which the Land Commission have been engaged in probably the most difficult work undertaken by any Department in the State, their record is distinguished. Many of the difficulties that confront them have been manufactured by us in this House. It is only too common in my experience that we impose on Government Departments statutory duties and obligations and then cry out against them when we find them too constrained to conform to our direction. Only too often what the members of this House want is self-contradictory. They want expedition and yet they want due respect for the rights of simple people. [1172] These two things are very often irrconcilable and so long as the Land Commission err on the side of respecting the rights of the humble, rather than sacrifice them to secure the expedition which edifies the influential, I am on the side of the Land Commission.

So long as the Minister stands fast to the principle of the fixity of tenure and free sale I shall support him, and there may be difficult times to face in that respect. Perhaps the Parliamentary Secretary who has now taken the Minister's place will remind him of my sagacious advice about the improvident employment of encomiums upon himself. If he would forbear from that, he would get into much less trouble than he does.

Mr. Geoghegan: Information on John Geoghegan  Zoom on John Geoghegan  I should like to congratulate the Minister on his opening statement. I feel that since he took up office as Minister for Lands he has pushed things very much forward. I feel that he is energetic and that he will push matters forward still more. There are one or two complaints that I should like to make. One is in connection with the building of Land Commission houses. The houses built at present are all too small. I think a four-roomed house is too small, at this stage of our existence, for certain types of families who have been offered them.

In regard to people migrated from the West of Ireland something new has been started, at least in my constituency. The land which they left behind them has been auctioned on the 11 months system. I feel that if that is to continue it will not be the most deserving people will get the land but probably the land will fall into the hands of people living some miles away, who have more money to spend. That is very unfair to the people in surrounding areas. I also feel that the time of year at which people are migrated is a little bit late in the Spring. They should be migrated at least six weeks earlier than at present. A lot of the Spring work should be done at the time they are migrated. This year a course was started at Athenry for people who are being migrated. I think that is a [1173] very good scheme and I hope it will continue.

Two weeks ago I asked a question in connection with turbary rights, a very hot subject in parts of my constituency at present. The Land Commission are slow in taking over turbary rights where there are large tracts of bogland such as you have along the coast from Spiddal to Lettermullen. It is a most thickly populated area in which there are from 250 to 270 applicants without turbary rights. In such an area with large tracts of mountain adjoining, a certain amount of land should be acquired to give these people turbary rights. They have no way of getting turf and no turbary on which to cut turf. Yet they must have a fire. I hope that, in the coming year at least, some turbary rights will be acquired and the turbary allotted amongst those tenants.

Reference has been made to the fact that the houses built by the Land Commission are rather small. About a month ago I wrote to the Department in connection with a constituent of mine whose place is being rearranged at present. In that house there is a total of 12 people. To facilitate the Land Commission he is being moved from his present town-land, and they are offering him a four-roomed house. The Minister will admit that a four-roomed house for 12 people is much too small. I hope he will adjust that matter and make sure that the house will be at least a five-roomed one.

Mr. Sweetman: Information on Gerard Sweetman  Zoom on Gerard Sweetman  I want to say a word on two or three small points. First of all, I am glad to see that there is at least some acknowledgment of the fact that the type of Land Commission house being built throughout the country is not the last word and that there is considerable room for improvement. I suppose that whoever is Minister for Lands probably has to cut his cloth according to the money given him by the Minister for Finance of the day. But even apart from that, I think we could have got considerably better value for the money spent.

There is always the difficulty in considering the question of the allotment of holdings as to whether the purpose of the Land Commission is to be [1174] entirely a social one or whether the primary purpose will be greater production. I can appreciate the social difficulties there are in the congested areas of the West, but at the same time the smaller holdings in the Midlands have their needs also and greater attention should be paid to them. During the past year I have come across some cases in County Kildare where I found it difficult to follow the machinations of the Land Commission. I had understood it always was the policy to consider primarily the enlargement of holdings in an area up to standard size, that it was the parent holding size that was the fundamental basis upon which allotments were chosen. I have come across some evidence that that principle has been departed from and that, instead of considering the holding, personnel have been considered from time to time.

After all, the holding will be there when all of us are dead and gone. It would be much more important that a holding in an area would be brought up to a reasonable standard—if it is a 20-acre holding that it would be brought up to 35 acres—and that it would be there for all time rather than that the person who happens to be for the time being in charge of that holding should be the yardstick by which the Land Commission consider the desirability or otherwise of giving an enlargement.

In the past three months I came across one case in my constituency— a man, his wife and three children up from Deputy Geoghegan's constituency. He brought with him two cows, two calves, £40 in cash and he had absolutely nothing else of any sort, kind or description. His only previous experience of tillage was to till one acre with a spade. He had no implements. I cannot see for the life of me any possibility of such an allottee ever being able to make good. The man concerned is a hard-working man, extremely anxious to make good, but it seems to me that he is being given a burden far and away beyond what anyone could bear and that putting a man into that impossible situation will not solve any problem at all. It is quite beyond me how any body of reasonable [1175] men could consider that that man will have a chance of success.

In the early days of Fianna Fáil allotments were provided for landless men and many people were given land who had not the money to work it. Subsequently, there was pretty well universal acceptance of the proposition that to give a man land without the means to work it was putting a millstone around his neck from which he would never recover.

In the House the other day the Minister endeavoured to suggest, in reply to a question, that the allotment in a particular case was made by the inspector in charge. That is a highly undesirable line of argument. The statute, of course, is quite clear that the responsibility is vested, not in the Minister, but in the Commissioners alone; and to the extent that the Minister suggested that the inspector in charge—who is his servant and not the servant of the Commissioners—was the person entirely responsible for making the allotment, he did a great disservice to himself, to the Land Commission and to this House.

During the year, the Minister had transferred to him the enforcement of the game laws and I think it is on this Estimate rather than on Forestry that would arise. I am glad the Minister has restricted the opening season for duck shooting to 1st September. Doubtless, if we wish to do anything in regard to our shooting for tourists or for our own sporting clubs, 12th August was far too early to introduce duck-shooting. The Minister has made a very wise decision in putting back the opening of the season until 1st September and in cutting off at the other end of the season the time from 12th February to 31st January. One always sees wild duck, mallard, mating after 1st February and they become quite tame and during that twelve-day period considerable damage can be done to the breeding stock for the coming year.

I appreciate it would require legislation but, personally, I would prefer to see legislation to prevent the sale of [1176] game for a period of three or four days—perhaps seven days—after the opening of the season for any type of game. What happens at present is that decent people wait until the appropriate day to shoot the game, but somebody else goes out two or three days beforehand and because the game can be sold on the opening day of the season is able to get a market for the game. If game could not be sold, say, for seven days after the opening of the season, there would be no point in trying to jump the opening date because the game would not be saleable when it was legally permissible to sell it. I can see difficulties of enforcement arising, particularly with the advent of deep freeze and so on, but I think something like that must be done if we are to remedy the present position.

When the Minister was altering the previously appointed game preservation times, I am sorry he did not alter them at the other end as well—in relation to the species of migratory duck and in relation to plover. I think he made a mistake there. As I understand it, the position is that while the shooting season for mallard ends on 31st January, it also ends on the same day for widgeon, teal, tufted duck and other species of migratory duck. They do not come together in pairs in the same way as mallard and there is no reason why the season for them should not be extended up to 28th February. I think the Minister will find that everybody interested in shooting wild fowl will agree that the extension of the season up to the end of February would do no harm at all.

While congratulating the Minister on the change in relation to mallard, I am afraid I am unable to do so in regard to what I might call his “shooting ticket” speech. The scheme he adumbrated seemed to me to be “cracked”. The one thing that will cause the extermination of all sorts of game and cause them to go to other lands is not heavy shooting now and again, but continuous disturbance, and the Minister's suggested scheme, under which a person could go into land, day in, day out, because he was the possessor of a ticket, is one that would not work at all. To be fair to the [1177] Minister, I do not think he intended that, although he certainly said so; if he looks back on his words, he will see that they could bear no other interpretation. Such a scheme would have a most unsatisfactory result.

There is a great deal to be obtained in this country from shooting wild fowl, rough shooting. During the past year, we had some people from abroad here. There was a Frenchwoman here—I do not know who brought her here—but judging by what appeared in the paper, she was not very successful with her bag. Properly controlled and managed—and postponement of the duck season is the beginning of proper control—there might be a reasonable chance of developing such shooting into a worthwhile industry for tourists and our own people in years to come. We must not forget that if we develop something that keeps our people here for their holidays, rather than have them going abroad, it has exactly the same effect as bringing tourists in. It is the reverse procedure but from the national and economic point of view, it has exactly the same effect. The person who might go abroad for his holidays but instead stays at home and makes it a shooting holiday is contributing to balance of payments appreciation just as surely and as steadily as the tourist coming in.

When the Minister comes to make his Order next year, I hope he will restrict the mallard opening season back from 31st January to about the middle of January and that he will permit the shooting of migratory birds up to the end of February.

Mr. P.J. Burke: Information on Patrick J. Burke  Zoom on Patrick J. Burke  I was present this afternoon for quite a long time and I heard the Minister for Lands being accused of many things by an Opposition Deputy. Since the Minister became Minister for Lands, he interpreted the Land Acts as this House passed them and left it to the Land Commission to divide the land. One thing the Minister cannot be accused of is political corruption, so far as the allocation of land is concerned.

Mr. Blowick: Information on Joseph Blowick  Zoom on Joseph Blowick  Was he the first Minister to do that?

[1178]Mr. P.J. Burke: Information on Patrick J. Burke  Zoom on Patrick J. Burke  I am just dealing with that point. One of the things I have against the Minister is that when I tried to get him to interfere, he would not do so. I was rather shocked to hear some of the implications and innuendoes made here and I feel the day has almost come when the privileges should be withdrawn from certain Deputies who use this House for the purpose of personal abuse. I feel that if a Deputy has anything to say, at least he should not make statements in this House that he cannot substantiate outside. To do so is completely wrong, uncharitable and unworthy of the Irish people and of this Parliament. I was always opposed to such action and will always remain so.

The Minister has kept too strictly to the straight line, as far as the Land Commission is concerned. When I wanted him to intervene in a matter where I thought an injustice was done to one of my constituents, he told me by letter and in a personal interview that it was a matter for the Land Commission, which, of course, was perfectly true. The Minister was impartial and interpreted the law strictly.

Having said all that in the Minister's favour, I wish to make a few observations against the Land Commission. The constituency I represent, County Dublin, has hundreds of uneconomic holders. The farming community are second to none. Admittedly, they have the advantage of being near a good market but they make a good job of very small holdings. There is a certain type of farmer there, that is, the conacre farmer. He is nobody's darling because he is a landless man, within the meaning of the Land Acts. Notwithstanding that, his father and his grandfather worked on the land and he hopes his son will make a living by taking his own conacre in some part of the county.

When an estate is to be divided in the area and people like those to whom I refer apply, they are told they are ineligible because they are landless men. There should be no hard and fast rule in this connection. Each area [1179] should be considered separately. What will suit one area will not suit another area. The Land Commission have a huge task and they have done their job very well in trying to settle uneconomic holders all over the country, but there should be a more human approach in dealing with this problem.

In my constituency, a holding was divided in Garristown. This estate was taken over by the Land Commission on a long-term policy. They gave it to two people who, they thought, deserved it. I say good luck to the people who got it but some consideration should have been given to uneconomic holders or even to one or two conacre farmers who were just beside this holding. We had a lot of land agitation which was most embarrassing for Deputies. I went to the Minister who was very sympathetic but could do nothing. There again, I wish to refer to the Minister's impartiality. He decided it was a job for the Land Commission. I cannot say the Land Commission were unfair but they did not bring the human aspect into it.

The people in County Dublin are reasonable people. They are easy to deal with and, on the whole, law abiding. They expect that, when their public representatives approach the Land Commission, the Land Commission will consider their case fairly and from the human point of view, and that the people they have elected will have some little influence in seeing that justice is done. If I had the power to allocate a farm in my own area, I would have nothing to do with it because it would be just suicide for a man in public life, but I am asking the Land Commission, when they are allocating land in an area and bringing in migrants, to give consideration to the uneconomic holders adjacent to the estate and to the conacre farmer.

There is another bogey which should be dealt with in relation to the uneconomic holder. If he is one statute mile away from the land that is to be divided, he will not be considered. I am not blaming the Minister for that. The Act was there when he took over. I have put up this point to previous [1180] Ministers for Land, and have discussed it at great length. That is an outmoded provision which means that if an uneconomic holder with only five acres of land is a mile and one furlong away from the estate to be divided he is too far away and cannot get an allocation of land in that area.

Mr. Blowick: Information on Joseph Blowick  Zoom on Joseph Blowick  The Minister can change that with one stroke of the pen.

Mr. P.J. Burke: Information on Patrick J. Burke  Zoom on Patrick J. Burke  When Deputy Blowick was Minister, I discussed this on the other side of the House.

Mr. Blowick: Information on Joseph Blowick  Zoom on Joseph Blowick  It was I amended the mile and the Minister can change it, if he wishes.

Mr. P.J. Burke: Information on Patrick J. Burke  Zoom on Patrick J. Burke  Anyway, that was a matter I dealt with while Deputy Blowick was Minister for Lands. This is a problem I have in my own area and I suppose I have to speak of it here. I am delighted to see the Minister for Lands has decided to improve the Land Commission house. As a number of speakers have stated, this change should have been made long ago. The previous type of house was inadequate to meet the requirements of the people and the Minister is to be congratulated on this improvement.

The Minister has a very unpopular job dealing with the land and he has proved himself impartial and honest in the performance of his duties, and, where appropriate, he has left it to the Land Commission to carry out the work as this Dáil has given him power to do.

Captain Giles: Information on Captain Patrick Giles  Zoom on Captain Patrick Giles  I am glad that Deputy Burke, on the other side of the House, had the courage to speak against the wishes of his Party. I do hope he will not get into trouble at a later date. Deputies who represent eastern constituencies will be very critical of the Land Commission in many respects. Generally, there is an eastern approach and a western approach to the debate. Deputies who represent eastern constituencies expected to get more satisfaction in land division. We feel that western districts have got more than their share of satisfaction. Admittedly, there is congestion in the west of Ireland but [1181] that will not be relieved by moving a few people here and there, because the problem is a vast one. From what I learn of developments in the west of Ireland to reclaim the vast area of bogland, most of the people in the west can be contained there when the land is reclaimed. That land will then give a good return to the State. I would ask the Minister to concentrate on the migration of people in the west of Ireland to areas where land is reclaimed and so get this land, which has been lying waste for hundreds of years, into production.

The people of Meath have no apology to make to the Minister or the Land Commission for referring to the many abuses that have been happening in that county over many years but particularly in the last few years. We think the Minister is a Minister for the large landholders and does not give two hoots about the small holder. That view is based on the policy of the Land Commission in Meath.

I come from the county where Cromwell did his dirtiest work of confiscation. Most of that land is held in large holdings up to the present day and neither the Minister nor anybody else will make an effort to do justice to the ordinary people who were driven out of those lands and had to live on the boglands around them.

I do not want confiscation. I want the market value paid for those lands. I want justice done. We who live in the vicinity and who know from history and observation what has happened there consider that something should be done to adjust the situation. In Meath there are dozens of men who have for more land than they ever worked or will work and which is more or less idle. If the owners of 1,000-acre or 800-acre estates in Meath were to work 300 acres properly they would get a bigger return than they are getting now. It is the duty of the Land Commission to pare down these estates that are not giving a return to the country. The Minister should visit the area and see for himself the wanton waste that is taking place on these estates. There is no effort made [1182] to tidy up, to reclaim land or to cut away old fences that have existed for hundreds of years. Trees are left to rot and no one is allowed to remove a branch. The day is gone when that sort of thing should be tolerated.

The Minister should have a national approach to this matter and should pare down these estates. We shall do what they did not do; we shall give them the full market value. Many of them got the land for nothing and ought to be glad to get the full market value. They should be glad that the land should be divided and should communicate with the Land Commission with a view to having justice done to the Irish people and offer the tail-ends of their estates for division. These so-called gentry have too much say in this country. They absolutely control the powers of the Land Commission and the Minister. The Minister is playing up to that to too great an extent and, if he continues, he will have many Banaghers.

People are agitating, and rightly so, to have justice done. I do not want to see the law broken but I am proud of the fact that young men are fighting for their rights and demanding them. I do not want them to break the law— I suppose they will, periodically—but there will be many Banaghers if something is not done by the Land Commission.

I could speak critically here for a week because I see too many things happening in Meath that should not be allowed to happen. Foreigners of any type can come into this country and buy land overnight, privately or publicly, and the Land Commission make no effort to buy it. There are many estates there that have changed hands two or three times in the last ten years. Public representatives have communicated with the Land Commission and have called to the Land Commission and have asked them to make an effort to purchase those estates but they never made the slightest effort to do it. Near where I live there are three or four large estates that have changed hands in recent years. I put down a question to-day in regard to one of them. Land was sown in wheat for two or three years and then let go wild. [1183] The wheat was not completely taken out of it. The Minister allows that sort of thing to happen. I, certainly, could not remain silent while these things happen. There are lands which are not being worked to one-third of their capacity.

It is time that the Minister and his staff undertook a land division drive so that within five years land division would be completed. In the last 40 years the approach to the problem was too lackadaisical. I say that of all Governments. You could not do better than acquire idle lands and divide them amongst the people in holdings of 30 to 40 acres, with a substantial house and out-offices on each holding. In that way the Minister will get an immediate return. The owners of these large estates live on the pensions they have from other countries and foreign investments and do not give two hoots about the land so long as nobody can put a foot on it. They feel that they have inherited this land from their grandfathers and will not allow anybody to cut a branch of a tree. They are as impregnable as they were when Cromwell gave them the land and everybody is afraid to say “booh” to them. I would ask the Minister to show that he is earnest about land division and to pare down these old estates, in the interests of the national economy.

I mentioned several estates in past debates. Not the slightest effort has been made to deal with them. There are estates where there are 200 and 300 acres lying idle. Nothing is done about it while thousands of people are emigrating. There is not the slightest hope of a small farmer or a farmer's son being able to purchase land in Meath. The moment land is put up for sale, the price is four times too high for him. He has not the money and the banks will not facilitate him. The people who buy the land are outsiders and interlopers and they are not paying the purchase tax that we thought they were paying. They are forming limited companies. It is almost like a secret society. They buy land by telephone and they are facilitated in Dublin by solicitors of all types, and auctioneers. People are protesting to [1184] the Minister to do something about placing people on the land but nothing is done about it.

There is the McCann estate about four or five miles away from where I live. That was sold privately to a Kerryman. He lives in Kerry and he runs this estate as a ranch on which to fatten his cattle for a few months of the year. All he employs is a herd and a dog. That estate would have provided six or seven decent holdings for men who are hungry for land and who, if they got land, would work it economically and help our export trade.

A few years ago an Indian Prince bought a large estate near Meath. He bought it by telephone. It was to be a wonderful stud farm. The Aga Khan would only be trotting after him. What is the position today? He is trying to sell half and, on the other half, there are a few old brood mares and a few white-headed bullocks. Why will the Land Commission not buy that land? This man is anxious to sell. I suppose it will be bought by another individual by telephone and the Minister will say that no one has any right to interfere. It is all done by public and free sale.

I want something done about these estates. I am a farmer. I know what can be produced on that land. I know what is not produced on it now. If these estates were divided up, some return would be got from them. I do not want my county turned into a paradise for outsiders. It was a paradise long enough for the planters. I want it to be a paradise now for the ordinary people who were shoved into the bogs and on to the hills in another era of our history. We have no objection to migrants so long as we get satisfaction as well. The migrants who have come into Meath are good men. They give an excellent return, and I am proud of them.

No effort is being made to satisfy the needs of the Meath man. When an estate is being divided, we are told there are no uneconomic holders in the vicinity. We know that that is untrue. We know men who have been passed over because they have accommodation plots. Seemingly the idea is that they should be satisfied [1185] with these plots. Is a man with only 12 or 15 acres of land not an uneconomic holder? Why could his holding not get an additional acreage to bring him up to 40 acres, thereby putting him on the same footing as the migrant beside him? All we ask for is justice and fair play. I appeal to the Minister to review the situation and ensure that justice is given to all irrespective of class or creed. At the moment justice is not being done in my county.

I asked a question about the Olahan estate at Kells. That estate was offered to the Land Commission but apparently agreement could not be reached. Now it has been purchased by four men and, according to the Minister, they are entitled to it. Does the Minister realise that one of the four will get three-quarters of the land and the other three will divide the remander? One will get the lion's share and still another ranch will be built up in County Meath while the small man is trampled underfoot. There are plenty of uneconomic holders in Meath. There are plenty along the Cavan border. The Minister ought to realise that he is not thought much of in County Meath. He may be thought much of by the Deputies who sit behind him, but the vast majority of the people in Meath regard him as the ranchers' man. They would like to see the Minister down in Meath; they would wig his ears for him. They know he dines and wines in many of these large holdings.

An Leas-Cheann Comhairle: Information on Cormac Breslin  Zoom on Cormac Breslin  Where the Minister dines and wines is not relevant.

Captain Giles: Information on Captain Patrick Giles  Zoom on Captain Patrick Giles  I am not bringing it in.

An Leas-Cheann Comhairle: Information on Cormac Breslin  Zoom on Cormac Breslin  The Deputy made a specific reference.

Captain Giles: Information on Captain Patrick Giles  Zoom on Captain Patrick Giles  He dines and wines in many of the large holdings in County Meath. He shuts his eyes to the fact that an injustice is being done in County Meath and he makes no effort to rectify it. If you took four or five hundred acres off the man with the 1,000 and 1,500 acres you would really leave him a richer man and a [1186] more contented man in the end. But nothing will be done, of course, along the lines I suggest because we would be standing on someone's sore corns. Is it fair to stand on the ordinary person's corns?

The Land Commission have done some good work in Meath. Land division should have been completed 20 years ago. Instead, it goes on and on. Land is taken over and then let on the 11 months system. Ultimately it is sold to the biggest rancher that can be found. It is always the interloper and the rancher who come off best. It is never the small man. Is that justice? Is that what we fought for? Are we always to ape the big fellow here? I would appeal to the Minister to take steps now to redeem his name. He is in bad odour throughout the country. I admire him as a Minister for Fisheries. I believe he is making an excellent effort there. As Minister for Lands, I believe you are a total failure. It may not be your fault.

An Leas-Cheann Comhairle: Information on Cormac Breslin  Zoom on Cormac Breslin  The Deputy might use the third person.

Captain Giles: Information on Captain Patrick Giles  Zoom on Captain Patrick Giles  In this case I have got to give a jab here and there.

Mr. Childers: Information on Erskine Hamilton Childers  Zoom on Erskine Hamilton Childers  There is a good deal of personal abuse going on in this debate.

Captain Giles: Information on Captain Patrick Giles  Zoom on Captain Patrick Giles  I have my rights and, as long as I respect the Chair, I shall say anything I please. Take the case of the Crowley estate at Trim. It was set on the 11 months system for three years. Then the Minister for Agriculture wanted a nice farm for his T.B. cattle and the Land Commission gave him this estate. It did not matter about the scores of people who wanted a few acres of land. Close to the town of Trim there are all these T.B. cattle polluting the air and the water. I do not think these cattle should be kept in such close proximity to an area of rather dense population. They should be away out in the open where there would be no danger of people being jeopardised by their proximity.

An Leas-Cheann Comhairle: Information on Cormac Breslin  Zoom on Cormac Breslin  Surely the Minister for Lands has no responsibility for that?

[1187]Captain Giles: Information on Captain Patrick Giles  Zoom on Captain Patrick Giles  He could have refused to give the lands. These lands should have been divided amongst the people. The Magner estate has been on hands for the last eight or ten years. Now they do not know what they will do with it. One man comes there, has a look around and goes away again. Another man comes, has a look and goes away. There is no house on it. It is let on the 11 months system. The small man who would be glad to get it cannot get it. Then we are nationally minded and our outlook is broad and national! They are the greatest lot of “chancers” who ever lived, there is no question about that.

I would ask the Minister to have those questions which I put down investigated, and not to send us a letter from the Secretary of his Department saying that the Minister is not allowed to interfere in land division. I do not want the Minister to write to the Land Commission or the Department about land but he should not refuse to receive deputations. It is a glaring insult to Deputies who were elected, as he was elected, by the people to do our jobs. One of those jobs is to see that land is divided and given to the people, and it is our job to work, night, noon and morning, in the interest of the people. It is our bounden duty to write, phone and call on the Minister, and to write to the Secretary of his Department to make our case, and it is an insult for a letter like that to be sent out to a country Deputy. We refuse to take it. It is a disgrace to try to stop us from doing our public duty.

We are not politically interested in these matters. We want to be able to make our case to the Minister and the Department so that it can be investigated, and if the man is found to be above-board, he should be dealt with properly. The Minister should not think that he will put us under his heel and trample on us. We will not accept it from him. He should not have done it. That letter from the Minister saying that he could not interfere was an insult. He should know that this is a democratic country the people of which put us here to do a job, that job being to see that uneconomic holdings [1188] are made economic. In my county, there are thousands of acres to be taken over which should and can be taken over. In the case of the Olahan estate in Kells, the Land Commission slipped up. Land which was easy to divide was offered to them and they refused it——

An Leas-Cheann Comhairle: Information on Cormac Breslin  Zoom on Cormac Breslin  The Deputy has already gone over that.

Capt. Giles: Information on Captain Patrick Giles  Zoom on Captain Patrick Giles  It is no harm to repeat it.

An Leas-Cheann Comhairle: Information on Cormac Breslin  Zoom on Cormac Breslin  Repetition is not in order. The Deputy has said that twice.

Capt. Giles: Information on Captain Patrick Giles  Zoom on Captain Patrick Giles  I would ask the Minister to investigate the matter and see if what I am telling him is true, that four men are buying this land, one of whom has over 200 acres at the moment and he is getting the majority of that land.

An Leas-Cheann Comhairle: Information on Cormac Breslin  Zoom on Cormac Breslin  The Deputy, as I have already pointed out, has dealt with that.

Capt. Giles: Information on Captain Patrick Giles  Zoom on Captain Patrick Giles  I am asking the Minister to have an investigation made into it.

An Leas-Cheann Comhairle: Information on Cormac Breslin  Zoom on Cormac Breslin  The Deputy has already asked for that.

Capt. Giles: Information on Captain Patrick Giles  Zoom on Captain Patrick Giles  I shall obey your ruling, Sir, but I certainly think that I can repeat myself once or twice on a matter which is vastly important to my county. There is nothing wrong in that. I shall not repeat it three or four times, but if it does not sink in the first time, there is no reason why I should not try to ensure that it will sink in the second time.

An Leas-Cheann Comhairle: Information on Cormac Breslin  Zoom on Cormac Breslin  Other Deputies might feel it would take four repetitions.

Captain Giles: Information on Captain Patrick Giles  Zoom on Captain Patrick Giles  They certainly did so before I started and I said nothing about it.

An Leas-Cheann Comhairle: Information on Cormac Breslin  Zoom on Cormac Breslin  Repetition is out of order.

Capt. Giles: Information on Captain Patrick Giles  Zoom on Captain Patrick Giles  The abandonment of cow-plots for cottiers was a bad thing. The previous Minister did the [1189] same thing. It was mean, because, in my county, there are splendid cottiers with their acre of land, and with a cow or a few calves out with a neighbour. I do not see why a man like that should not get five, ten or 15 acres of land to give him a chance of having a balanced economy. They are completely wiped out, because in the past wasters got land. There is no doubt that it was a public disgrace in 1932 to 1935, when every Tom, Dick and Harry who joined a Fianna Fáil political club put in his name for land——

Mr. Moloney: Information on Daniel J. Moloney  Zoom on Daniel J. Moloney  What happened ten years before that? What club did they belong to?

Captain Giles: Information on Captain Patrick Giles  Zoom on Captain Patrick Giles  The men who did get it worked it well.

Mr. Fanning: Information on John Fanning  Zoom on John Fanning  Many people got land and sold it since.

Captain Giles: Information on Captain Patrick Giles  Zoom on Captain Patrick Giles  Every one of your people sold it.

Mr. Fanning: Information on John Fanning  Zoom on John Fanning  And many of the people you put in, too.

Captain Giles: Information on Captain Patrick Giles  Zoom on Captain Patrick Giles  They all failed, but because they were the wrong type, is everybody else to be condemned? It is a damned shame. There are farmers' sons in my county who will be refused a holding of any type just because they have no land. Their fathers could give them the means which would enable them to buy, but they are unable to buy it for them. The Land Commission should devise some scheme in which a large estate would be divided and three or four such farmers' sons offered a scheme of part payment. Suitable applicants like these farmers' sons could put up £300 or £400 to buy stock and settle on the land.

I would ask the Minister to explore every avenue to see that these farmers' sons are not excluded. It is the farmers, by tradition, who have kept the country going since 1922. They are the people who are running our economy. It is not the big farmers, or the small farmers, but the balanced middle-class farmer who in good health and in bad health stuck it out— I saw them going to the lowest ebb but holding on to their land—and who are [1190] the people we should foster and look after.

The Minister should devise some scheme whereby farmers' sons of suitable type will have some chance—I do not care what it is—by which they can get an opportunity of working the land, whether it is on a part payment basis, or on a lease basis, or anything else, so long as they can get a living in this country. It is terrible to see fine young people of 15, 16 or 17 years of age having to emigrate. When they emigrate, they never come back here except perhaps in 30 or 40 years, just to see the old home, and then they go back again.

There is no reason why, in a place like Meath, where the confiscations were so bad, and large tracts of land so badly worked, we should not be able to put these people there. I ask the Minister to reconsider the position and to redeem himself in the eyes of the people. I am not saying that for myself, but the people feel he is a ranchers' man and that there is no hope that he will provide land until he is edged to it.

An Leas-Cheann Comhairle: Information on Cormac Breslin  Zoom on Cormac Breslin  The Deputy has already referred to this matter and he should not repeat himself. Repetition is not in order.

Captain Giles: Information on Captain Patrick Giles  Zoom on Captain Patrick Giles  That is not very much repetition. It is very little. That is only the second time I said that and in this House I hear repetition after repetition and they get away with it. I do not know what is wrong that I cannot——

An Leas-Cheann Comhairle: Information on Cormac Breslin  Zoom on Cormac Breslin  Deputies do not get away with it, and the Deputy will not get away with it, either.

Captain Giles: Information on Captain Patrick Giles  Zoom on Captain Patrick Giles  I do not want to get away with it, but at least I have the same rights to repeat a thing once or twice——

An Leas-Cheann Comhairle: Information on Cormac Breslin  Zoom on Cormac Breslin  The Deputy will agree that repetition is not in order.

Capt. Giles: Information on Captain Patrick Giles  Zoom on Captain Patrick Giles  I certainly agree that what I have said to the Minister was needed. It will do the Minister and the Land Commission good if they realise that their policy is not working [1191] to the satisfaction of the people, and that land they have taken over should be divided immediately they take it over. Land which was divided in the past is a credit to the Land Commission, to the Minister and to past Ministers. It is a lovely thing to see land that was divided in the past now being worked on best husbandry lines. Men with holdings of 30 or 35 statute acres are getting a fairly good living and they are working hard. I want to see more of that. I want to see hundreds and thousands of farmers planted in Meath where they can have a balanced economy and where the land is worth something to the people. If a man of the right type gets 30 acres in Meath, marries and settles down and means to work, he will be a national asset and the people who me after him will be the same.

We do not want fly-by-night bucks coming in here, buying land by telephone, availing of every reclamation scheme they can possibly get—the bigger it is the more they like it— and when they have it all drained, in good fertility, and sown with seed, up it goes for public auction. They get £4,000, £5,000 or £6,000 more than they paid for it a few short years beforehand. That sort of thing has been going on for the last 12 years and nothing is being done about it. I do not think that these people should be allowed to come in and then swagger out with £10,000 or £12,000 of the Irish people's money and just laugh at us. That should not be tolerated. There should be a ceiling placed on the amount of land they can acquire.

Only a few years ago I knew a number of splendid holdings between Dunshaughlin and Navan. One man came in with a vast amount of money and offered such colossal prices to the owners of these holdings that he was able to buy them all out. He made a huge ranch, almost from the town of Dunshaughlin to the town of Navan. He made it into a cattle ranch although at the time he bought it he said he was going to have a stud farm on it. Stud farm, my granny! He did put a few old nags on it but bullocks were on it all the time.

[1192] I would ask the Minister to concentrate on finishing land division in Meath and, after taking over lands, to divide them with justice to the Meath people. If there is any more over for outsiders we have no objection as long as we get satisfaction first. I would also ask that any decent cottier within the vicinity of an estate should be provided with enough land on which to keep a cow. Nowadays there is no such thing as a man keeping a cow on the side of the road. The animal would not live for a day because of the passing motor traffic. Such people should get five or ten acres. I would ask the Minister to ensure that every uneconomic holder adjacent to an estate is granted sufficient land to make his holding economic.

Do not treat a man in that class as being a person who should be satisfied with an accommodation plot. That is the new way; it is said he has enough when he has an accommodation plot. As Deputy Sweetman said, it is not for the benefit of this man alone that the land is being given; it is for future generations. You are doing national work when you are doing that. We do not want to have conditions such as those in Banagher started all over the country. The people do not want that. They want the land of Ireland divided up amongst the people of Ireland in a fair and reasonable manner.

Mr. P. Brennan: Information on Patrick Brennan  Zoom on Patrick Brennan  First of all, I want to congratulate the Minister on the policy he is pursuing in the Land Commission in the speeding up of the division of estates. For too long we have had large farms in the possession of the Land Commission set on the 11 months' system, year in and year out. I think—and I am sure other Members who know anything at all about agriculture think so too—that it is not good, particularly in tillage areas, to have land tilled for three and four years in succession. That has been the policy of the Land Commission and I am glad to see there is a change in that respect. I sincerely hope the Minister will keep up pressure in that regard.

It was also satisfactory to me personally to see a farm acquired and [1193] divided within 12 months. That was certainly good work on the part of the Land Commission and it happened in my county during the last 12 months. In regard to the division of land generally there are one or two points I should like to make.

We find that the Land Commission, having acquired a farm, send down a number of inspectors to visit local uneconomic holders in the vicinity. It has been my experience that inspectors go to farmers who are living two or three miles away from an acquired farm and leave the people under the impression that they will get a holding when the estate is divided. If the policy of the Land Commission is to give land only to people living within a radius of one mile from an acquired farm an inspector should not go outside that mile radius and give people such an impression. I would sincerely ask the Minister to bring that to the notice of the Land Commission. It is bad policy and makes things difficult for public representatives who are approached by these people who say an inspector told them they should have a good chance of getting land from a particular estate. When the Land Commission have drawn up a scheme and come to allocate the land I have no complaints. As far as I know the people who live within a mile radius of estates, the people who have got allotments of land from the Land Commission in Wicklow, are all very deserving cases and I do not believe anyone has any complaint to make, good, bad or indifferent.

The only complaint we have is that not enough people within the mile radius are given land. It seems the Land Commission will not consider a man living within the one mile radius unless he has a holding of 10, 14 or 15 acres. I know of people in my own locality living within a certain radius of an estate, having five or six acres of land, actively concerned in agriculture, having to go into competition with other farmers on the 11 months system. As I said before, I have no complaints about people who got holdings. The only complaint we have is that more people within a mile radius did not get land. There was always [1194] some excuse made about the land they had being freehold. People with two, three, four or five acres, in the immediate vicinity of an estate about to be divided, should be considered. We should also consider the case of the cottier who has his cottage vested who, as Deputy Giles said, may have a cow or two. If he is industrious enough to have a cow or two the Land Commission should come to his assistance and provide him with enough land to keep the cows and their calves, as the case may be.

There is another point when the Land Commission is about to divide farms and make certain amounts available to local uneconomic holders. This division should be made at a certain time of the year. It is ridiculous to give a man 15 or 20 acres of land in the month of May. The Land Commission should be sufficiently organised to make land available to farmers in December so that they can plan their campaigns for the year ahead. I know a case in which land was divided some two weeks ago. That is not fair to the people who got the holdings because they could not be organised for this year, and every year is important so far as the small holder is concerned.

There is a big problem involved in the allocation of holdings and the setting up of holdings for migrants. I appreciate the problems which the Land Commission have in trying to relieve congestion along the western seaboard, but I think it would be well for them to consider the congestion we have in the eastern part of the country. In a county like mine, a mountainous county, we have many uneconomic holdings. They may be large in area. The holdings may consist of a couple of hundred acres of poor land but they are of very low valuation and it is almost impossible for farmers to exist on them. I know of cases where people are becoming despondent and are talking about packing up and getting out.

May I suggest that the Minister might in future consider giving a percentage of the new holdings created in any one county to people from that county to relieve congestion within the [1195] county where the land has been acquired? If that were done, it would help to meet the problem at home and you would still have a considerable number of holdings and a considerable amount of land to relieve congestion in the congested districts. I would ask the Minister, therefore, to draw the attention of the Land Commission to this matter of inspectors investigating the question of the one mile radius, particularly when they have no intention of looking after people outside that area.

Mr. Moloney: Information on Daniel J. Moloney  Zoom on Daniel J. Moloney  Every year during the debate on this Estimate, the policy of the Land Commission is subjected to a good deal of criticism. I am glad that the Minister has gone out of his way on this occasion to make the position quite clear in regard to the principles upon which the Land Commission works. I think it would be a very good thing for Deputies of all Parties if it could be clearly understood among the people of the country that in the allocation of land under Land Commission auspices, Deputies have little or no say.

It is high time that Deputies rid themselves of the responsibility which they more or less unconsciously accept in that regard. I am reasonably conversant with the general pattern of the policy of the Land Commission in making settlements of that kind. I must say that, by and large, I consider the policy of the Land Commission practicable, equitable and in every way reasonable in the circumstance. This problem of land settlement is one of extreme difficulty. It is a tradition among our people to be somewhat land hungry. That is more true when it applies to holders of fairly large tracts of land than to holders of small areas of land.

A number of good points were raised during the debate and one very important matter was raised. It is one to which I subscribe my approval. It concerns the allocation of land to local cottiers and very small holders when a pool of land is available in a district. There is also the question of the allocation of land in an area to the [1196] sons of farmers living in the area whose fathers' farms are not sufficiently large to make a sub-division practicable for the accommodation of the sons of the family.

Generally speaking, the final allocations of the lands in the matter of re-settlement made by the Land Commission are equitable and fair in every way. There is, however, the question of people who live outside a mile radius being ineligible. That, in itself, is probably understandable, but in regard to the distance clause, I do not think the present method of calculating the distance is quite a good one. It can happen that a property for division can be within 100 yards, divided by a river, for instance, from an applicant. The applicant would not qualify for a division in that case. As far as I can understand it, the measurement of the distance is carried out by ascertaining the exact distance by the nearest public roadway from the applicant's holding to where the holding for division is situated. That being the case at the moment, it gives rise very often to a good deal of local trouble and agitation. If the distance clause could be fixed by having the required measurement assessed on a basis different from that of the roadway measurement, the Minister would get himself out of quite a lot of trouble which he has to face under the existing arrangement. It is possible that applicants affected at the moment by the distance clause might not qualify. I am merely making the point that he should be treated as being an eligible party for the division which is about to be carried out.

With regard to the making of representations by Deputies and other relevant parties to the Land Commission or the Minister, as the case may be, in connection with the allotment of land to applicants for re-settlement, I am very glad the Minister has made it quite clear in his speech this evening that, by and large, such representations have little or no effect, so far as the final decision is concerned. I think it would be a very bad thing for Deputies, or Senators, for that matter, that the representations should in any way be instrumental in getting an allocation of land for an applicant. We [1197] would find ourselves in a very difficult position and, as I said already, the sooner we have the moral courage to make it quite clear to our constituents that in a matter of this kind we have little or no say, the better will it be for all of us.

An opportunity is provided during the course of the debate on the Minister's Estimate to criticise the policy of the Land Commission, if it transpires from experience that it is not practicable or fair or that it in any way requires amendment. I think that the opportunity being available here to the members of this House gives all of us the means of ventilating any grievances which we may have in regard to the division of land in our constituencies.

Deputies from the eastern counties of Wicklow and Meath made a point with regard to the present system of land distribution in their respective constituencies. They endeavoured to make the case that when a certain parcel of land is available for division, the requirements of the local people should have some consideration; in other words, that the entire area of land available for division or re-settlement, as the case might be, should not be allocated entirely to applicants outside the county where that land is situated.

I can very well sympathise with that point of view. Indeed, I rather feel that it is a matter which should be very carefully examined by the Minister, with a view to giving some facilities to that type of applicant. All of us can well appreciate the resentment that arises, particularly among uneconomic holders in a county, when they feel that an estate taken over for division has been allocated entirely to strangers. The people of my county have in the past been treated quite fairly, I would say, in the matter of land division and particularly in re-settlement.

Deputy Giles more or less indicated his disapproval of bringing the people from Kerry to the land divisions which take place in Meath. Of course, there are very good reasons for that policy on the part of the Land Commission. Deputy Giles should make himself [1198] more acquainted with the general position in connection with the land area and the small holdings which are to be found in counties such as Kerry. As far as I can understand, the number of holdings regarded by the Land Commission as uneconomic is very large in western counties. It is because the applicants come from uneconomic holdings which, incidentally, are available for re-distribution amongst the existing uneconomic holdings, but a certain number of people succeed in getting out and getting a resettlement in another area.

The tradition of the people of Kerry, so far as their ability goes to work successfully any lands they get, is taken into account by the Land Commission. I would be rather surprised to hear from any Deputy from any other county that, by and large, those people who have been migrated from Kerry have not given a good account of themselves in the matter of working their holdings. If that is the position, as I sincerely hope it is, I fail to see the objection, if I may call it such, to bringing people from those western areas into the good lands in the eastern part of the country. The only real local objection I could possibly conceive would be that coming from the local uneconomic holders of that area because they did not get a certain proportion of the land available for distribution.

The general rate of land settlement within the past year has been satisfactory. I am rather glad of that. I feel that the time taken by the Land Commission in resettling a farm in the past has been far too long. It is a common experience to find that it takes two to three years very often from the date the farm is originally acquired to the time when the final settlement takes place. The land, of course, is let in the meantime and utilised, generally speaking, for all practical purposes, in the nature of a local letting. However, that is not good enough. There is a certain amount of administrative expense involved in supervising certain activities which may have to take place in between. I think that generally tends to increase the overall cost of the land and to [1199] affect the cost which eventually has to be paid by the taxpayers.

Some Deputies here this evening— or, at least, one Deputy during the time I was in the House—made a very good case to the Minister with a view to getting him to devise some scheme whereby the sons of farmers and farm labourers worthy of getting land would find it possible to acquire it on an easy payments system. There is a certain amount of strong feeling prevailing throughout the country on this matter for a number of years. I think it is not quite fair, and it certainly is very discouraging to good farm workers who may have given five or ten years working with a local farmer, and to the sons of small farmers, to find that because they have not been in possession of land already they fail to qualify for division through the present scheme of the Land Commission. Where a worker is proved to be a man of ability and where he has worked for a certain number of years, either as a farm worker for hire or as a farmer's son working on his own farm, and where there is no land available within his own family for division, he should get a break. Many men of that type have managed to save a certain amount of money. If there were a scheme available whereby they could buy a parcel of land of an economic size for a given amount, they would be happy to pay down a reasonable deposit and make some arrangement to pay the balance off by instalments. That scheme, of course, is one which can be introduced only by the Department of Lands.

The time has arrived when the Minister might seriously consider the practicability of such a scheme. Quite a number of these people, after having worked some years on their own holdings, and also the farmer's boys who have worked with local farmers, find themselves at a stage when they want to get married and they are without any independent means of living. This leads to quite a lot of emigration from the western and southern areas at least, and I am sure the same is true in the other parts of the country. If there were some incentive on the lines I suggest, it would be a very good thing and [1200] would help very considerably to a general increase in production all over the country.

We have heard during the debate this evening the usual loose talk with regard to the purchase of land by non-nationals. I was rather interested in the report which the Minister had to give in that connection. By and large, what the Minister has stated is absolutely correct. I am quite sure that a thorough investigation was carried out by the Minister's Department in this connection. The Minister told us, in the course of his report here on this subject, that there is nothing to worry about.

The people of this country are very ready to condemn a practice which is alleged to exist. They go to very little trouble to ascertain for themselves whether or not the allegations made in this connection are correct. We all like to get an opportunity to go abroad, to go to England, to the United States, to Australia or other countries and to acquire land or property of any kind without hindrance. However, when it comes down to a person from another country coming to this country and endeavouring to get the same facilities, we seem to object to it.

With regard to the purchase of land by non-nationals, as far as I know there is a special rate of tax—one may call it a levy—in the legal fees that have to be charged in the case of purchase by a person who is not an Irish national. We have been told here that various devices have been employed, in the formation of private companies and all the rest of it, to evade that liability. I do not think it works as easily as all that in practice. First of all, if a limited liability company is formed, the personnel of the directorate has to be revealed. I do not know whether or not that will succeed in determining that the personnel happen to be non-nationals and will, therefore, be liable to the extra levy applicable in such cases. I think there is a good deal of irresponsible talk throughout the country in this connection and it was time the Minister gave an authoritative statement to indicate that there is very little to worry about. [1201] The Minister has gone further than that and has said that if the situation develops to a point where it would appear advisable for the Government to take action, the Government will readily do so.

Dealing with the general intake of land during the past year, I am very pleased to note that the acreage has considerably increased and is well above the average for the previous ten years. The allotment of land, at the same time, has gone very high during the past twelve months. Now we find the pool of land in the Department has been reduced to 32,000 acres, of which only 13,000 acres have been in hands over the past two years. That is quite understandable. While almost half the total pool has to be still in hands awaiting resettlement, I rather feel that the pool now in hands is getting somewhat dangerously low. As far as we can understand it is not as easy, even though the legal difficulties have been somewhat eased, to secure large parcels of land now as it was some nine or ten years ago.

This afternoon, a Deputy made the case that land should more or less be forcibly taken from people. He indicated that their general terms of tenure and ownership of land were rather doubtful. That is a very dangerous argument to pursue. If they are the legal owners of the property they occupy and use, we will have to accept it as such. There is very little point in going back and alleging that this land was obtained by confiscation and other means. It is accepted that once a person is the legal owner of a property he has to be regarded as such. He has the right to utilise that property in accordance with the law of the country and there can be no question of confiscation to deprive him of it. Very often a number of people who would make that case would take very unkindly to the attempted confiscation of their own property, I am sure, if the State intervened.

I feel sure that the average size of holdings here is too high compared with international standards and that if we had a larger number of families in smaller holdings it would be better [1202] for the general economy. Nevertheless, the owners of these holdings happen to hold them and to be the legal masters of their properties in so far as the work and management of them are concerned. In a democratic country, we have to accept that position.

I want to deal now with some matters affecting my constituency. First, there is the question of turbary. Due to the large use made of native fuel in this country during the Emergency years, quite a lot of turbary was used up in various areas. Old people will tell you that for 30 years before the war what was used by the land owners in the cutting of face banks was scarcely noticeable but that for the six or seven years of the Emergency the usage of turbary plots became very marked. There are many areas now in North Kerry where the tenants are not yet allotted turbary for the use of their households. I know the Minister finds himself in the position that sufficient tracts of turbary are not available to make the necessary allotments without incurring expenditure which possibly cannot be afforded at the moment. I feel, however, that this is a matter that the Land Commission might look into so as to utilise the existing areas of turbary that are available for the purpose of completing the division of such bogs for the tenants in the adjacent districts.

The collection of land annuities has been dealt with by the Minister. He has been able to give a very satisfactory account. What impressed me is the fact that this collection is made by the direct method system. It is collected through the banks nowadays without having to resort to legal action as was the case in former years and it is a very satisfactory state of affairs. I am glad the Minister has seen fit to congratulate the tenants on the prompt manner in which they have discharged their obligations in that connection.

That brings me back slightly to the point I made already in connection with the credit system which I asked the Minister to introduce for the purchase of land. It proves at the moment that any charges on the usage of land are readily paid up and this position alone should in some way, I think, [1203] influence the Minister to deal with the matters I have raised for his attention.

Another local matter I want to mention is in connection with a roadway in an island in my constituency—Fenit Island—just beyond Tralee. There are nine or ten tenanted vested holdings on that island. For some reason which is very hard to understand they have never got a roadway to connect the island, in the first place, with the mainland and also to accommodate the tenants who are living on that island. I think that at the time the land purchase settlement was being completed the tenants should have held out for some facilities in that connection. It is unfortunate they did not do so. That is probably 50 years ago and the island is still without a road.

Various attempts have been made to get agreement from all the landowners on the island with regard to getting the necessary right of way to make a roadway through the area. One of the landholders there is not prepared to give permission for that purpose. Various attempts were made through other sources to obtain grants and certain other facilities for the roadway in question but it has not materialised due to the reason, as I have said, that one landowner in particular was not prepared to give the necessary permission to make the roadway through his land. That is a case I should like the Minister to investigate. I should think the Land Commission, particularly in the case of vested land, should have some power to veto the right of any landowner to prevent half a dozen of his neighbours from having a roadway to facilitate them in getting to and from their homes. I do not think the ordinary line of approach will be successful in getting the necessary authority which evidently is required in this case to enable the Special Employment Schemes Office to make the road. I hope the Minister will have some way of settling the position and thus giving the facility to the unfortunate people living on that island which they should have got 50 years ago.

Finally, I come to the question of embankments on the upper stretches [1204] of the River Feal at Frieneragh Duagh. Parts of vested land in that area are subject to flooding. For some reason which the Department concerned could best explain, it was not possible to deal with the problem through the Arterial Drainage Act. The specification of the drainage of the river at the lower ends did not provide for any attention to be given to the river at the upper end beyond the bridge at Listowel— between that and Abbeyfeale. Quite a lot of damage is caused every year to land in that area through flooding. Parts of the lands and very large parts of some farms are of very little use to the owners. They have to reserve them usually for grass because if they are used for hay a flood will come and destroy the entire crop. At times of heavy rain, the cattle and stock have to be removed to the upper stretches of the farms. Generally speaking the lands adjacent to the river are not giving the results that might be expected under normal circumstances. The owners of these lands have made repeated applications to various Government Departments which they thought were capable of attending to the problem with which they have to contend. So far, no action has been taken. I hope the Minister will arrange with the Department for an examination of this problem, which is becoming more acute every year. I sincerely hope the Minister will find it possible to give this matter some attention during the coming year.

Mr. Collins: Information on James J. Collins  Zoom on James J. Collins  I regard this Estimate as one of supreme importance to rural Deputies, certainly of more importance than any Estimate other than, say, the Estimate for the Department of Local Government. It is especially important to rural Deputies who represent constituencies where there are large tracts of land available for acquisition. It is unfortunate that ordinary Deputies, backbenchers or whatever you like to call us, could not get a copy of the Minister's statement beforehand. By accident, I got a copy of his statement and I find it a very illuminating document of 21 pages. I understand that over the years it has been the practice that the Minister, through courtesy, or by procedure or principle, handed a [1205] copy of the statement to ex-Ministers.

To my mind, this document is one of the finest documents that I have seen presented here since I came into the House in 1948. It is a pity that we had not more time to study it. It is broken down into various sub-heads, and is most illuminating and informative. I should like to say to the Minister that I am glad he has given the green light to his officials in the various counties. Those of us who represent County Limerick, east or west, must pay tribute to the Minister and his officials for the speed up in the distribution of lands they have had in hand over the years. We all know that there was a period of back pedalling and of restrictions for many reasons, and we are glad to be able to say to the Minister that we are very pleased with the position now. I am sure that the other Limerick Deputies will agree with me on that point.

There is a lot of talk about this question of non-nationals. By way of preface, I should say that I am deep-rooted in the question of land division going back over many years. The question of land division is one of the most important social problems we ever had in this country. There is the social problem of land acquisition and division and there is the economic side also. I have yet to find any Minister for Lands, representing any political party, trying to find a happy medium between them. Some Ministers are praised because of their energy and application in their particular office. There is a danger that some of them will more or less give too much attention to the economic side, to the detriment of the social side.

Reading through this document, in the short time at my disposal, I can see written into it high economics. At the same time, cognisance is taken of the social aspect of this very important matter. Since I came into the House this afternoon, I listened to speeches from members of the opposite side and I must say that the speeches made were of a very high tenor and were of a concerted nature, with a few exceptions. I suppose in the best regulated society, and in the best regulated families, you will always find exceptions and there was an ugly note [1206] struck here this evening which the decent minded members of Fine Gael, Labour and the other Parties would deeply resent. The ugly note was a personal attack on the Minister. For some time, there has been going on a kind of blackmail by innuendo against the present occupier of the Ministry of Lands. We should not have that sectarian blackmail going on here. The Minister was openly challenged—by way of innuendo—to-day that he was wining and dining with people alien to this country and who all their lives were associated with British imperialism. I should like to remind Deputies that prior to 1916 the Minister's father was not wining and dining with aliens and non-nationals when he brought in the guns to make Easter Week a a possibility.

An Ceann Comhairle: Information on Patrick Hogan  Zoom on Patrick Hogan  I think the Deputy might——

Mr. Collins: Information on James J. Collins  Zoom on James J. Collins  I shall not continue with the reference but I felt it was due to the Minister to give it on his behalf. The question of non-nationals is the yardstick that is being used by the Opposition in the hope that they will injure the Minister. On page 10 of the Minister's report, we have the whole question of non-nationals explained. We see that this question was investigated in 1950 and that the land inspectors reported that only 50,000 acres of land, including only medium and large farms, had been bought during the previous ten years, mostly in four counties, by 200 persons, who, by their names, were believed to be aliens but quite a number of whom were Irishmen returning home. There is a difference, as I said, on this question of land. You have a social side and you have an economic side. There is also a very important difference between the various kinds of land we have. There are properties which are not suitable for land division but which provide adequate employment.

Only last week, I was invited to see such a farm in west Limerick and I believe that that farm was a full 100 per cent. residential holding. It was the type of farm the Land Commission would not acquire because of its beautiful site, its very good out-offices and [1207] its many other factors which combined to make it one of the best establishments we have in County Limerick. Being somewhat inquisitive with regard to the future of this estate, which changed hands lately, I made inquiries and was informed that it employed over 38 people. They represented 38 families in an area where employment is sorely needed. We do not want to break down that type of holding which affords continuous employment. The Minister is often criticised because he does not give instructions—which he could not—that such holdings be acquired.

This question of non-nationals was a burning question since 1950 and the Minister's statement indicates that in the words of Deputy Blowick, when Minister, at the 1940-50 rate of purchase, it would take 2,400 years to reoccupy the country and that the total amount of land purchased by non-nationals for the 10 years was less than the current year's total land division. That report clearly indicated that this question of purchases was not as significant as it was supposed to be. I am glad to see that in his report the Minister states that, if this matter becomes serious, the Government's policy will be clear and, if the amount of land suitable for land division purchased by non-nationals suddenly mounts, the Government will take action. That statement is satisfactory for those of us in rural Ireland deeply interested in land acquisition and division.

I am glad that the system of siting and planning Land Commission houses is to be changed. Deputy Dillon referred to the fact that you could distinguish a Land Commission house for miles away. He is perfectly right. Many years ago you could also distinguish for miles away what was commonly known as the Board of Works house. But now we have changing patterns with the march of progress and I am glad the Minister has a new type of plan in mind for these houses.

I do not want to be taken as overcritical of the type of house built by [1208] the Land Commission down through the years, but I thought one thing wrong was they were a bit on the small side. I do not believe they would be up to the standard of present-day health regulations. As a rule, I believe the largest families are found with people who work on the land. In one house I visited recently there are nine young children. All the accommodation they had in that house was a kitchen, a little sitting room and two small bedrooms. That was entirely too small for such a family.

Deputy Giles stated that unless you were a member of some organisation, you would not get a house. I do not believe one word of that. I saw land division effected here down through the years. When the two Coalition Governments were in power I knew people who had an unholy fear of what would happen. Possibly that was natural because other people probably had an unholy fear when Fianna Fáil were in power. But, by and large, there was nothing but fairness. When examined by the Land Commission, the applicants were placed according to the rules and regulations. For that policy I shall always be deeply appreciative of the Land Commission. They have never been influenced by any Minister for Lands and I hope that policy will continue here. We do not want Tammany Hall methods and we do not want changing plans with changes of Government. It may be said that the Land Commission, which was constituted under an Act of 1923, might now want a little shake-up or a spring cleaning. That may be so, but, by and large, they are doing their work in an admirable fashion.

Deputy Blowick referred to the mile radius. In cases the radius may be extended to one and a half miles but there are people in between the mile and mile and a half radius, vested cottiers with one or two cows. The day of the long acre is gone for ever. Because of the bovine T.B. regulations and so forth, all that had to disappear. I often feel that one of the most satisfying sights in rural Ireland is a cottier with two or three cows of his own which enable him to provide milk [1209] and butter for his family. There are other parts of the country in which the wife may have to stand at the crossroads with her tin can looking for a drop of milk. It is grand to see people having their own few cows and developing their own husbandry.

It is unfortunate that such people do not seem to fit in anywhere in the organisation and planning of land division here. I cannot understand why a cottier who purchases his cottage does not come in for some consideration. The cottiers on certain estates, who have the grass of a cow or two, are not considered when that farm is divided. The Land Commission should take an up-to-date view and include such people as I have mentioned. We all know that displaced employees are either provided for by way of gratuity or given an allotment. We know that, within that radius, there is a ceiling laid down—I think it is £30 in Limerick—and anybody below that ceiling is brought up to an economic level. In some areas there are no applicants below the economic level and it is a question of bringing in migrants. The organisation of the Land Commission is working well but if the people I have mentioned satisfy the officials of the Land Commission, they should be considered. They no longer have the right to have a cow along the road and it is not right to compel them to sell out their few cows.

It has been widely reported that there is an intrigue and a movement in this country and that a dark shadow from across the water is interfering in our economy here in the matter of land division and purchase. Land may be sold privately, without the Minister knowing anything about it. Perhaps the Minister would refer to that when replying and would he say that the land that may be sold by A to B is not land that is completely purchased out, and where does the question of vested land stand at the moment? Is it not the position that you cannot sell land that is vested in the Land Commission without the prior consent of the Land Commission? If that is so, it would be well to keep a watchful eye on things, because if, for instance, a non-national comes to County Limerick [1210] or any other county and buys up 300 or 500 acres and if the deal is sealed under the Minister's or the Department's regulations, as they stand at the moment, they say: “We will not interfere with the right of free sale.” If that land is still vested in the Land Commission, a watchful eye should be kept on it. What I have mentioned is supposed to be happening; I do not know if that is true, but forewarned is forearmed, and it is well to be on our guard. Supreme sacrifices were made in the past to rid the country of that type of people in the interests of our own people. Now, in 1959 or 1969, we do not want these sacrifices made in the interests of future generations to be in vain.

We are all very grateful to the Minister and his Department for the punch and drive that is shown in the work of the Department and in the 12 months ahead, I wish the Minister and his officials every success in the great work they have initiated.

Mr. Jones: Information on Denis Francis Jones  Zoom on Denis Francis Jones  I have looked at the Minister's statement and the main facts in it are similar to what we have found in previous years. Indeed, some of the points I have heard mentioned this evening were raised by myself last year. The first of these is the question of landless men. The view that young men are not entitled to land because they are landless is one that should be drastically revised, if we are to retain in the country those young farmers who are being trained on our farms, but who because the farms on which they live are small and incapable of subdivision, have no prospects there unless they have enough money to purchase farms coming on the free market. Last year and previously, there was talk of devising some scheme to meet this problem and perhaps the Minister has given it his attention. He might indicate, in replying, if any progress has been made.

Similarly the question of the smallholder who is a smgle man also arises. In some cases, a single man with a small holding does not find very ready consideration when he applies for an increase in his holding. Evidently, it is felt that such a man may leave the country, having acquired the land, and [1211] that the Land Commission has no hold on him. I cannot follow that because, as I understand it, all our land requires the consent of the Land Commission to its sale.

A Limerick Deputy has referred to the question of outsiders, as did other Deputies. In the Land Commission report, we see it stated that the job of the Land Commission is to settle in economic security on the land as many families as practicable and in that connection we find that 1½ million acres have been allotted since 1923. But when the last inquiry was carried out in 1950, we find that the evidence at that time showed that there was not any—what I might call—very large acquisition of land. Yet, it amounted to 50,000 acres. I do not know what the amount acquired might be between 1950 and 1959 but the 50,000 acres that have been acquired would accommodate about 1,250 families on farms of 40 acres. What I am concerned about is that non-nationals and others coming in here to buy land are depriving the Land Commission of land which should be available for the pool of land necessary for division among uneconomic holders.

A matter in my constituency which I thought might be referred to is the question of the disposal of land to industrial concerns. An industrial concern in a constituency is undoubtedly entitled to the land necessary to carry on the industry but beside this industry, the Land Commission acquired the Monsell Estate, Tervoe. I take it their object was to divide it among uneconomic holders, but last year the industrial concern purchased a farm in East Limerick and handed it over to the Land Commission. Undoubtedly, that served the purposes of acquisition and distribution, so far as the Land Commission was concerned, but the important thing to remember is that the people beside the land originally acquired, land passed on at that time to this industrial concern, lost the possibility of benefiting in any way from that land.

This year, we find the same industry purchasing a farm elsewhere and again presenting it to the Land Commission [1212] and again we find the balance of the land, with, I think, the exception of 7 people's holdings on it, passed over to this industrial undertaking. There is no question of denying necessary land to an industrial concern, but if the figure goes to something like 2,500 or 3,000 acres and if the undertaking uses some of the land at one stage for farming purposes, it seems to merit consideration. As a matter of fact, I think it will be found in the records that a pig farm, about which there was quite a lot of talk at that time, has now came down to the stage where there are only 45 to 50 breeding sows on it and a dairy farm has been passed over to a firm from Waterford. Therefore the amount of employment in that case has been reduced to approximately one man to every 200 acres.

The people of that area are gravely dissatisfied that when this land was acquired they did not obtain what they felt was their share. I understand also—I am subject to correction—that the local hurling club applied for a site for a playing field on the land and were told for one reason or another they could not be accommodated. I cannot understand why an industrial undertaking should find more favourable treatment and why this estate, which was originally acquired for the purpose of subdivision and for enlarging uneconomic holdings, was not used for that purpose. There is no reason why a further ten uneconomic holdings could not have been made economic or self-sufficient.

Apart from that case to which I drew the Minister's attention, I agree with Deputy Collins and other Deputies who praised the expedition with which the Land Commission are carrying out the work of land division. This is essential work and the amount of money which is made available for the purchase of land might even be increased. If necessary the Land Commission should go into the open market to acquire land.

There is another area in my constituency near Ardagh where there is great congestion. Land is available there or will be for sale. Previously [1213] the Land Commission did step in and acquired portion of an estate near Askeaton and that is something on which I should like to see the Land Commission embarking. If we allow people who have large sums of ready money for buying land to purchase it and if the Land Commission, the body charged with resettlement, do not go into the open market to get this land, the pool of land which will be available for resettlement and expansion of uneconomic holdings will disappear and eventually we shall find ourselves with a legacy of uneconomic holdings.

There was one matter to which Deputy Giles referred and Deputy Moloney misunderstood what he said in that regard. Deputy Giles referred to some man buying a farm of a couple of hundred acres and sending up the cattle from Kerry but as far as I heard him he did not express any objection to migrants coming from Kerry.

I noticed on my way to Dublin some of the new type of houses which are being built. It is gratifying to see these improvements being made in the prototype of future houses. Deputy Collins mentioned the question of accommodation but we cannot expect everything to be provided at once. Where people are being settled on the land the essential thing is that so far as growing families are concerned we should make provision for sufficient bedroom accommodation. There ought to be at least three bedrooms in each house.

Embankments were mentioned here, and on a previous occasion the Minister and the Land Commission came to our assistance in regard to one of them. It is a vexed problem in relation to which the Land Commission have great difficulty inasmuch as the amount of money which is available to them from the fund which was created at the time of the take over is not sufficient to do all these embankments except at intervals, sometimes long intervals. However, it was stated that the embankments will pass over at a later stage to the Office of Public Works. We have along the Shannon between Kildimo and Pallaskenry a portion of land which is subject occasionally to flooding. The river is tidal at that point [1214] and one of the outer banks gave way. Perhaps out of its limited resources the Land Commission could assist the farmers who have suffered from this flooding.

This report indicates progress on the part of the Land Commission, and I hope the progress will continue. I wish the Minister and his Department well in the work they have undertaken. I have had only one criticism to offer, that is, in regard to the estate at Tervoe which was originally acquired for division, which ought to have been kept for division between people in the area and should not have been passed to an industrial undertaking which had sufficient land already.

Mr. Fanning: Information on John Fanning  Zoom on John Fanning  I congratulate the Minister on the progress made in regard to land division. When complaints are made about delay in this respect, it should be remembered that it is not the fault of the Land Commission that some of these estates are not divided. I wrote on several occasions as regards the lengthy delay in dividing an estate and it was found eventually that the whole trouble lay with the vendor. There was the question of title, deeds, and so forth. Some Deputies are all out to blame the Land Commission. They are fair game down the country where people say the Minister or the Land Commission must be responsible for the hold up.

Several Deputies have raised the question of the allocation of land as it affects cottiers living on estates and near them. I had a case recently of an estate divided in my area where a man was living on the estate for 50 years and whose cottage was built on the land. He had a couple of cows and a horse but still he got no portion of the land. It is unfair that, in cases like this, in one county seven or nine acres may be allotted, while we in the adjoining county cannot get a few acres for the man in a cottage adjoining the land.

I wish to draw the attention of the Minister to the question of the erection of pumps for water supplies. In the extreme north of my constituency some of these pumps are out of order for years. When a complaint was made we were told the contractor [1215] would return but nothing was done. A problem like that should not arise because everybody knows how serious it is for a farmer to be without water.

Applications are sometimes made to county councils to take over roads built years ago. In some cases there is not a good foundation. The county council should not be expected to spend thousands of pounds on such roads. We put up the proposition that the Land Commission should put the roads in a reasonable condition, as is done in the case of cul-de-sac roads before they are taken over. That is a matter that should be considered.

When the Land Commission are taking over bog for division they start to drain the land but they do not start at the outfall. In some instances the result is that land is flooded. There should be co-operation between the Land Commission and the local authorities in the matter of drainage. Any reasonable man will agree that it is the proper thing to start at the outfall.

I was pleased to hear the Minister's statement on the subject of agitation and efforts to force the Land Commission to acquire land. I have attended several meetings. Certain Deputies tell the people that, if they do not put up a fight, the land will not be divided. I do not agree. Such agitation is wrong. Decent people are being fooled by it. I have attended a few meetings and was in complete disagreement with the views expressed by a certain Deputy. We had the full support of the parish priest, which is a good thing. If there is an effort made to force a person to do something, that person is bound to take a stand. Any Government is bound to take a stand in those circumstances and not give way to such pressure groups. Otherwise, they would not be worthy of their position.

In connection with the division of estates, the mile radius restriction operates unfairly against good applicants. If the radius were extended to a mile and a half a great deal of difficulty would be eliminated.

I agree with Deputy Collins that there were some speeches from the [1216] Opposition side of the House which should not have been made. It is easy to criticise and try to make political capital but the Minister for Lands has always given the best attention to questions raised in the House. Deputy Blowick said that the Minister could change the mile radius restriction by a stroke of the pen. Deputy Blowick must not have had any pen when he was in office. He did not extend the radius.

I am glad that the houses being built are not of the same old type. With regard to outoffices I would suggest that the T.B. eradication scheme should be borne in mind when they are being built so that outoffices now being built will not have to be demolished and replaced so as to comply with the requirements under that scheme. The installation of water supplies should be encouraged and the village pump abolished.

I welcome the Estimate. I am glad that the arrears of acquisition were overtaken. The arrears which the Minister mentioned last year were not the fault of the Minister or the Land Commission. It was a question of staffing.

Mr. Crotty: Information on Patrick J. Crotty  Zoom on Patrick J. Crotty  I am very pleased that the Minister has made such progress with the vesting of land because we all like to see people who have got land through land division having their rights established. I would ask the Minister to review a decision which he has taken. It affects Oak Park estate, Carlow, which comprises 1600 to 1800 acres. The estate was put on the open market and purchased by a foreign syndicate. At the time, there was what the Minister termed an agitation. It is very difficult to decide what is an agitation or what is a peaceful meeting with a view to having a large estate divided amongst local people. I regarded the move made at that time as an honest effort by the people concerned to have a large estate divided to help small-holders in the vicinity and to enable 20 to 40 farms to be set up. The estate fetched about £50,000 on the open market. That is too large a sum of money for an individual in this country. It is only a syndicate that could [1217] buy such a farm. The proper proceeding would have been for the Land Commission to have taken over the estate for division. The estate comprises good land and borders the town of Carlow. The people who bought it had already bought a 700 acre estate. They bought it to industrialise it, so to speak. They were not going to settle down there. They did not occupy the house. There was a big dairy herd there. That was disposed of and was not replaced. The land went into tillage and grazing of livestock.

In the case of the Brownhills estate, which was purchased by the same syndicate, having worked it for several years, they sold it in parcels of 80 or 90 acres and got a much bigger price per acre than they had paid for the entire estate. Instead of depreciating, the value of the estate had appreciated. The small farms were in greater demand than the estate of 700 or 800 acres. It is not fair that these two estates should be in the same hands. These estates were purchased about two years ago. At that time the Minister might have the excuse that, if the people agitated, he would not be coerced. For the past 1½ years there has not been one word about that estate. Now is the time for the Minister to say, “All right. I will come in now, when there is no agitation and no pressure.”

In his opening statement the Minister said that the Land Commission will not be coerced by any kind of agitation whatever, whether peaceful or otherwise. There is no agitation there at present. As I said in the debate on last year's Estimate, if the purchaser of the estate had lived there, and brought over his family and settled down in the house; I would not have a terrible lot of objection to him; but it was simply a case of coming over by plane for a day or perhaps half a day on a few occasions in the year. I think there is no reason now why the Land Commission should not divide these lands. They would make ideal holdings. Even if some of it is used for migrants, no one will have any objection provided the local people are catered for at the same time.

These lands would make ideal holdings [1218] for farmers' sons. They would be a great boon to the town of Carlow. The atmosphere is peaceful and there is no agitation of any kind. I appeal to the Minister to review the position now. I was on a deputation to the Minister and we put up a very solid case some 18 months ago. The Minister has an opportunity now of reviewing the position in a calm, cool atmosphere. It is not fair to the people to have such a fine estate handed over to one man who is anxious to have it purely for the profit he can get out of it and not for the good of the country. The previous owner went in for pedigree cattle and sheep and it was then a regular show-place. That does not hold true any longer. I appeal to the Minister to divide these lands. I am not asking for land for any particular person. My only aim is that the most deserving should get it.

Mr. Childers: Information on Erskine Hamilton Childers  Zoom on Erskine Hamilton Childers  It is not exceptional for the Minister for Lands to come in for plenty of criticism on occasions such as this. The raw material dealt with by the Land Commission is land. and it is a most coveted commodity. However it is my duty to ensure that the Land Commission act justly and that justice is done to all parties involved. There are nearly always people who are dissatisfied with the work of the Land Commission. The very fact of its existence must breed dissatisfaction as well as content.

At the beginning of this debate, I thought there was a general attitude that because Deputies were surprised at the very, very fine effort by the Land Commission last year, they were tempted to vent their spleen through the medium of personal attacks on me. But there is no need for me to say anything about that now because the debate, taken as a whole, has been most interesting and has been conducted in the finest possible spirit by Deputies on both sides. I am very glad to have heard Deputies in Fine Gael and on this side of the House pay a really deserved tribute to the officials of the Land Commission, whose numbers have not increased, for having established several near-records and for having done a volume of work, [1219] which, when everything is taken together, is really quite extraordinary.

I want to make it clear in that connection that the acquisition work of the Land Commission was genuine and the 33,000 acres acquired are to be compared with acquisitions in previous years. They represent an increase of 23 per cent. on the average acquisition over the 10-year period. I want to assure Deputy Blowick and the House that, having disposed of the mass of cases for acquisition that were cluttering up the books and having reduced the time taken to examine new cases through a very much needed change in procedure, we should be able to continue acquiring badly worked land and voluntarily offered land on a basis which, I hope, will satisfy the House when this Estimate is next discussed. In view of the attitude of most Deputies, I do not think there is any need for me to answer the charges made that the figures were rigged and that this was a smokescreen created to defend a position in which I, apparently, have some wish to cloak the Land Commission. I do not think I need say anything more about that because the debate as a whole has been conducted in a most helpful manner.

I want to make one reference to something said by Deputy O.J. Flanagan. In relation to his references to the agitation in his constituency, I am amazed that he should want to refer to any circumstances concerning that matter at this stage, having regard to what he himself must know. The organisation concerned has little or no support among those who have read its policy and the public can be counted on to pay as little attention to it as to the exaggerated write-ups and other scare stories. The policy itself would divide the whole farming community into two conflicting groups. It is utterly wrong and it would be completely disastrous. For reasons that are all too obvious to everyone in the area, there is no need to say more. I should add that, in my capacity as Minister for Lands, I do not interfere with the Garda in the exercise of their duties. I feel I have to make that observation in view of Deputy Flanagan's extraordinary intervention.

[1220] It would be impossible at this stage to deal with all the points that have been raised but I can reassure Deputy Blowick that we will not be in the lamentable position of having acquired only 5,000 acres at the end of the present year's work. I think we will be able to proceed very satisfactorily. I should say also that of the 33,000 acres nearly 12,000 acres were acquired voluntarily, and, within a certain fraction, that represents a big proportion of land taken voluntarily these days.

Mr. Blowick: Information on Joseph Blowick  Zoom on Joseph Blowick  Does it include holdings surrendered by migrants?

Mr. Childers: Information on Erskine Hamilton Childers  Zoom on Erskine Hamilton Childers  The 33,000 acres include resumptions and exchanges, as the previous year's figures did. Deputy Boland raised an interesting proposal which has often been considered in the Land Commission, namely, that we might be able to do our work more effectively if allottees were given the opportunity of paying a more economic contribution towards the cost of the land and the improvements. The difficulty there lies in the fact that so many estates are divided where people with very different means are involved. Local enlargements are effected among uneconomic landholders close to the estate. Some of these might well be able to assist the Land Commission and, perhaps, its activities, by paying a more economic figure in the form of an annuity and in the form of other contributions to the improvements. At the same time there may be rearrangements. There may be migrations. In the case of the rearrangements and migrations the persons concerned might find it difficult to make any other contribution than that asked.

One Deputy referred to a large estate in Roscommon. I should like to say in that connection that negotiations have been proceeding but it is impossible for me to foretell the outcome. I mention that because there has been a considerable amount of talk.

Another Deputy stressed the point that the Land Commission seem to have slowed down since the war. The [1221] Land Commission has allotted nearly 400,000 acres of land since the war. I think that is a fairly creditable achievement and, in comparing figures, post-war and pre-war, it must be remembered that in the early years of the Land Commission's work it was much easier to acquire very large estates, and obviously the easiest cases were taken in the early stages.

A lot of play was made by one Deputy with the suggestion that I had a sneering attitude towards congests. I was simply pointing out that in work affecting national, social and economic reconstruction, partly because of history, the taxpayers have had to pay very heavy charges. They have been willing to do so, and they have elected consecutive Governments who have charged them with these taxes, and in relation to all the various needs of the different sections of the community, I simply mentioned that the contribution of the taxpayer to land division was a heavier one than some people imagined, and that that contribution would suggest that those who got the land should make the best use of it under the circumstances. That was a perfectly simple statement and it was twisted to suggest some sort of evil attitude on my part which, in fact, was sheer nonsense.

Deputy Blowick made proposals that we should make use of Section 27 and provide more cash for the purchase of land. I should tell him that that matter is constantly under review. It is obviously a very tempting policy. It would get over a lot of difficulties but it would, at the same time, create others. It could create serious inflation in land values and it could create other difficulties.

Mr. Blowick: Information on Joseph Blowick  Zoom on Joseph Blowick  I do not think it would create inflation.

Mr. Childers: Information on Erskine Hamilton Childers  Zoom on Erskine Hamilton Childers  That proposal, as being one of the more feasible propositions, is always under review and will be reviewed again. Deputy Blowick raised the question of vested rundale holdings. They are eligible for rearrangement and a certain number are effected each year in the annual programme. Unvested rundale holdings so far have received priority but the others will be considered. I agree with [1222] the Deputy that the fact that they are vested does not mean that they should not receive consideration.

Mr. Blowick: Information on Joseph Blowick  Zoom on Joseph Blowick  In the case of a fairly large nest of vested small holdings, would the Minister consider placing them in the same priority as the non-vested ones? The reason I make that suggestion is that I think the time is now ripe to do so.

Mr. Childers: Information on Erskine Hamilton Childers  Zoom on Erskine Hamilton Childers  I shall ask the Land Commission to consider it, because, as I indicated, although we had a very large number of rearrangements last year, the fact is that in certain areas it is becoming difficult to find migrants and not so difficult in others. Therefore. I should not look with a jaundiced eye on the large pockets of vested rundale holdings. I shall ask the Land Commission to consider that and if any Deputy has in mind particular pockets which may not have occurred to the Land Commission, the Land Commission will be very glad to hear of them.

Mr. Blowick: Information on Joseph Blowick  Zoom on Joseph Blowick  Might I point out to the Minister that as well as vested rundale holdings, there are also vested uneconomic holdings which, being together in one block, could not be described as rundale but which are just as badly off by virtue of their smallness as the rundale holdings?

Mr. Childers: Information on Erskine Hamilton Childers  Zoom on Erskine Hamilton Childers  Mention was made of a suggestion that I should encourage deputations, but I find that my attitude has been justified in practice. It is not that I discourage deputations but I discourage deputations which, in the majority of cases, can throw no new light that has not already been thrown on the cases by the inspectors. The Land Commission are in very much the same position as the Civil Service Commission or the Local Appointments Commission in that they work best when there is an absence of that kind of pressure. The Minister for Finance does not receive deputations in regard to the appointment of officers to the Civil Service by the Civil Service Commission. The Land Commission have very definite judicial powers and the fact that so few Deputies have charged them with political discrimination—not one such charge was made in this debate—indicates that the system [1223] of leaving them independent works best in the long run.

I do not want to give people the false impression that by simply raising my hand and waving a green flag, the Land Commission will acquire some land, or that by writing a memorandum pressing them strongly to take an estate, they are likely to obey my wishes. That would create absolute chaos and it would break the whole judicial process for a Minister to exert moral pressure over the Land Commission in individual cases. It is quite possible for a Minister to consult informally with the Land Commission on general principles, but it would be very inadvisable to change the system which has worked so well in the past. Indeed, as the years go by, and as Deputies become accustomed to the work of the Land Commission, there really is less and less of that kind of pressure, and Deputies know when they inform the Land Commission, through me or indirectly, of an estate that is badly worked and merits division, inspectors go down and examine all the factors in the case.

Deputies know very well that no one can say that land was more rapidly acquired when land leagues were formed than when they were not. There is absolutely no evidence that land leagues and fulsome agitation in an area can get an estate more quickly acquired or can get an estate acquired which would not be acquired, if there were no agitation. The Land Commission have an excellent record in that respect. Naturally, they are not perfect. They must make mistakes occasionally and will no doubt continue to make some errors of judgment. Taken as a whole, the Land Commission have a splendid tradition and I hope they will continue to maintain that tradition in the future.

Some Deputies spoke vaguely about large estates which were badly worked. All I can say is if they will send in the names of those large estates which are being badly worked to the Land Commission, they will be very glad to investigate them. They have been given a general instruction by me not to ignore any large estate where there is evidence of poor usage but loose talk without [1224] definition by Deputies in regard to large estates is of no value to the Land Commission. What is needed is a proper examination and inspection of the estates and merely talking in a vague sort of way gets nothing done.

Deputy Dillon started romanticising about the horrible results that could emerge from the arrangement to permit the letting of land. I indicated in my opening speech that practically no land had been let under the provision and I should remind the House that I made it absolutely clear on the occasion of this Estimate last year when I said:

...the Land Commission will readily grant approval to suitable letting contracts except, of course, where they see too much land being concentrated in the hands of one person or persons not ordinarily engaged in agriculture.

Therefore, the arrangements made will effectively prevent the financial operator—I do not think I need mention his name—from coming in and leasing large quantities of land. The regulations are absolutely definite in that regard.

Deputy Sweetman referred to a particular case of a migrant who got land. I am very glad to tell Deputy Sweetman that in County Kildare a general report was prepared on the capacities of the migrants and making allowances for the fact that these men are working larger holdings than those to which they were accustomed, and in very different conditions, the vast majority are doing a very good job. One report I got suggested that at least 25 per cent. of them were doing a splendid job, which would compare very favourably with anything seen in Kildare, and the majority of them were making a great effort at farming land to which they were unaccustomed. Taking advantage of the help offered by local advisers and taking advantage of various Government schemes, most of them were progressing very successfully.

Deputy Sweetman also asked whether additions to local holdings are given to present holdings or were the circumstances of the occupiers taken into account. The answer is [1225] that many factors are taken into account in allocating lands. People nearest to the land have their circumstances examined and the Land Commission tries to give the land to the people who will make the best use of it without, as I said, ignoring the claims of any person who justly merits land. It would take a very long time to give a detailed description of how it occurs. There is no absolute strict rule except the general rule that the Land Commission gives land to people who, one hopes, will make good use of it, that is people within a mile of the estate and we find in general, though the Land Commission would like to give more land to landless men, there are difficulties. On occasion land is given to landless men but it has been found in the past that experience of land ownership and management is a very essential requisite for managing the amount of land awarded by the Land Commission in the ordinary way.

Deputy Dillon asked why we were constructing new houses in the Shannon flood area on boggy land. The answer is that the farmers themselves want to live close to their holdings and the land for the new dwellings is sufficiently high above flood level. Nevertheless, the land is of a peaty character and the engineers have advised that it is necessary to have these rafts, but I can assure the House, that dwellings are not being built that will collapse or that will be damp or unsuitable for the occupants.

A Deputy asked whether a vested holding can be sold without the Land Commission's consent. Provided no subdivision is involved it is a fact that vested holdings can be sold without the consent of the Land Commission. Deputy Giles spoke very bitterly. I forgive him that because other Deputies were so pleasant. He referred to land division in Meath. During the last three financial years 4,094 acres of land were acquired in Meath and I do not think that is a bad report. I do not think the Deputy can complain of that achievement.

Few Deputies said anything in contradiction to my statement about the [1226] general question of the purchase of land by foreigners and I do not think I need refer to it again except to say that the Land Commission naturally takes note of representations that are made. It is literally a fact—I want to repeat it—that I have had only one serious representation since April, 1957, on this matter. I think the reason is that, as I have indicated, there are certain types of residential estates, stud farms and so forth, which normally would not be acquired by the Land Commission and which, in most cases, are more suitable to the needs of people—they may be aliens, they may be Irish—who acquire that sort of property.

People who are not of Irish nationality are not, at the moment, looking for large masses of farm land where there are no stud facilities, shooting or fishing. They are simply not looking for that. With the one exception, about which I have spoken, I can assure Deputies they can discount all these stories of dark societies supposed to be operating secretly purchasing land for foreigners. I can assume, I think fairly, if there were any of these purchases the Land Commission would be the first to hear of it and the question would be kept under review. What we ought to have is an intelligent reasonable attitude to the whole problem, as I indicated in my opening statement. I want to thank Deputies, those of them who read the statement, for having supported me, at least by saying nothing in the nature of contradiction, because it is very important that we should have general agreement in this House on the fundamental questions of land division and in regard to the attitude towards the land pattern in this country.

Perhaps I should have emphasised when speaking about threatening agitations that occurred that they had been written up sensationally in the course of the last six months. For what reason I do not know but, looking back, I regret to have to say that in every year under the present administration, and under past administrations, there were always a certain number of regrettable agitations, threatening agitations, and violence of one kind or another. They are mostly [1227] the work of people who would not qualify for land in any event. Most of them, I am glad to say, are entirely ephemeral and most do not last more than 24 hours. They are very ill-advised but the numbers taking place in the years 1953, 1954, 1955 and 1956—looking back over the records of the Land Commission—have not varied very much. With the exception of one regrettable agitation which persisted to a recent date—well known to this House—there has been no change in regard to them. I should like to see the agitations disappear altogether but, looking at agitation in the form of violence in this country, this country is very peaceful indeed in relation to the tremendous work done by the Land Commission and, in relation to the general character of country life, the incidents that occur each year leave the rural area a very peaceful community as everybody knows.

Some Deputies raised the question of the mile radius. I should say in that connection occasionally Land Commission inspectors go beyond the mile radius to look for uneconomic land holders but they generally keep within it as they find, under present circumstances, that is the best limit to establish. Single men have not been excluded from land allocations. Their circumstances are examined, as are those of married men, but married men, in general, are given preference.

One or two Deputies suggested that there was a continuous increase in the number of large farms in the country. My information goes only to 1955 and refers to farms of 200 acres and over. It indicates that, taken as a whole, there has been little or no change in farms of 200 acres or more. There might have been some changes since then. If you examine the position generally during the past 10 years, you will find no remarkable or serious change; and that we can say that it is the medium-sized holdings that have been increasing quite steadily and the larger-sized farms do not show an increase which would merit an independent and special examination. No doubt, when a proper census of land is undertaken on the next occasion, the whole matter can be re-examined.

[1228] Naturally, people always notice farms that are growing bigger. They never notice the farms that are sold in portions privately, and so, occasionally, you get a suggestion as though farms of over 200 acres were growing rapidly.

One Deputy referred to a very large estate about which a lot has been said recently. All I can say is that in the case of a very large estate, the Land Commission will always keep its eyes on it. The owners of the very large estates are expected to give good employment and exercise good husbandry through the ordinary rules of the Land Commission. I do not think anyone need worry that the Land Commission will not always take account of the larger estates so as to ensure that they are well worked. The major point about well-worked estates is the fact that if they are acquired compulsorily, there is no noticeable social benefit. A lot of men who disemployed in return for the men who are employed. That is one of the reasons why well-worked land is not ordinarily acquired.

I should like to conclude by thanking Deputies for the manner in which they received the report and the way in which they expressed their appreciation of the work the Land Commission did during the past financial year. I hope that, with the simplification of the procedure, we shall be able to do more in the future, if the pool of land continues to be available and that with the aid of acquiring badly worked land and land sold freely and voluntarily, we shall be able to proceed with the work of relieving congestion such as is practicable under the prevailing conditions.

Vote put and agreed to.


Last Updated: 19/05/2011 16:14:26 First Page Previous Page Page of 29 Next Page Last Page