Wednesday, 12 November 1980
Dáil Eireann Debate
Mr. D'Arcy: During the Second Stage debate the Minister said that the houses owned by the college can be purchased by the present tenants. Would he confirm that, because they do not seem to be mentioned in the Bill? Some of the tenants have been in these houses for more than 40 years. The houses are in bad condition.
Mr. Corish: Possibly the Minister will not be able to answer this question. There are remnants of houses on the estate which have been derelict for some time and as a Deputy for the Constituency I am sure the Minister has been asked to have something done about them. Will it be possible to reconstruct them and restore them, or are they to be left there as eyesores on the landscape? Are they to be knocked down?
Minister of State at the Department of Agriculture (Mr. Allen): The position is covered in the Bill. There are 13 houses, five of which are occupied. Wexford County Council over the years have housed a number of the tenants of those houses. They are in a straight line, as is detailed in the map. The passing of this Bill will allow the institute to dispose of them.
Mr. D'Arcy: Apart from those 13 houses, what is the position as regards the gate lodge which was left for the district nurse? The Minister said the five houses which are occupied will be offered to the present tenants and that the other eight will be offered for public auction.
Mr. D'Arcy: They should not be allowed to deteriorate and fall down. They should be offered for sale as they stand if the institute are not prepared to make them habitable. What is the position of the beautiful gate lodge?
Mr. Allen: I have already dealt with the 13 houses at Redmondstown. One  gate lodge at Quanstown is derelict. This site will be cut off from the rest of the estate by the new roadway. We have power to dispose of that as well. The Bill covers the 13 houses and the gate lodge at Quanstown. The other cottages on the estate are not included in the scope of the Bill. There are two gate lodges, both occupied, sited at the entrance — one is at Murntown and the other is at the garden gate and is used as a canteen.
Section 5 of the 1945 Act provides for the maintenance of the gate lodge at Rathaspick as a residence, free of rent and rates, for the district nurse. Section 5 of the 1959 Act provides entitlement for the then existing nurse to reside at the gate lodge free of rent and rates for her lifetime. The nursing service was provided by the Church of Ireland community for the people of the estate and for the area generally. The last person to hold the position was a Nurse Keogh, now deceased. The gate lodge, one of the two referred to above, is currently occupied by a member of the farm staff, a situation An Foras intend to maintain. This is not included in the scope of the Bill.
Mr. T.J. Fitzpatrick: (Cavan-Monaghan): I understood Deputy D'Arcy to ask if the 13 houses would be offered for sale to the tenants. As far as I can see,  section 1 is a definition section. I cannot see anything in any part of this Bill covering these 13 houses, unless they are introduced by reference to some previous Act.
Mr. T.J. Fitzpatrick: (Cavan-Monaghan): If it is relevant on section 1, perhaps the Minister will tell us where there is imposed an obligation to offer these 13 houses for sale to the tenants or to anybody else?
Mr. Allen: It would be preferable to designate these specific areas of the estate to be sold or leased under section 2 (a) in the form of a Schedule to the Bill rather than the use of a deposited map as proposed. This is shown on the map and if Deputies want to see it I will show them.
Mr. Allen: I am sure it is available. Use of a schedule was intended but the advice of the parliamentary draftsman was that a map was preferable because of the technical difficulties involved in defining small irregularly shaped areas. Appropriate provision has been made in section 3 for inspection of the map and it is available to those requesting copies.
Mr. D'Arcy: It is very important that the people in that area know exactly where they stand so far as these houses are concerned. For some time this has been a bone of contention and it is a pity we did not get the map. I felt the map should have been in circulation because it is referred to in the Bill. SECTION 2.
Mr. Allen: Section 14 (3) of the 1959 Act, under which the institute was established, provides that the institute may sell or lease any land, offices or premises no longer required for the performance of its function. However, section 9 of the Johnstown Castle Agricultural College (Amendment) Act, 1959, provides that the above powers shall not apply to the estate. Hence this section is necessary to permit the institute to dispose of those portions of the estate which are either indicated on the deposited map or are to be leased to the State at some time in the future, and which are marked on the map.
Mr. T.J. Fitzpatrick: (Cavan-Monaghan): This means that section 2 applies section 14 (3) of the Agricultural Act, 1958, to the estate, thereby allowing An Foras Talúntais to sell the properties mentioned, but it does not impose any obligation on An Foras Talúntais to sell the houses to anybody, never mind the tenants. Deputy D'Arcy's difficulty concerns the gate lodge and the 13 houses which he thinks should be offered for sale to the occupying tenants. Am I right in thinking that there is nothing in the Bill to oblige An Foras Talúntais or anybody else to sell the houses to the tenants in occupation?
Mr. Corish: I accept what the Minister said: that it is necessary for the county council to get a portion of this long strip of land from Quanstown to Rathaspick, marked in green on the map, which is for future disposal. What does go “for future disposal” mean?
Mr. D'Arcy: This map changes the whole course of this debate and of this Bill, because up to now we were not aware that there was such rigid apportioning of each area. May we take it that this Bill will prohibit any other sale or change in respect of this estate other than that marked in colour on the map? Is this the total that is to be disposed of? We have not seen the map before now but it is very relevant to the entire Bill. Those parts marked in orange on the map are the ones required by the county council while there is provision for access by the county council for possible further disposal. That is a very small portion at Churchtown and Redmondstown. We should have been in possession of this map for some time whereas we were unaware of it up to now.
Mr. D'Arcy: We do not mind which section it is discussed with, but I am objecting to the position we are being put in by reason of the map being presented to us only now. The map is a very important document in terms of the Bill. I understood we were being presented with a broad blanket Bill whereby the Agricultural Institute would have the power to dispose of land as they saw fit. It seems now that each area is very neatly marked out and specified so that we cannot be sure of what is the position. It is not our intention to make matters awkward for the Minister but the map changes the whole situation.
— 11.5 acres for possible future disposal; these being mainly cottages and gardens on the estate, which tenants may wish to buy, and some small sites which will be cut off from the estate by the new roadway.
The object of this Bill is a simple one: it is to permit An Foras Talúntais to sell or lease certain portions of the Johnstown Castle Estate in Wexford and generally to lease to the State part  of the estate from time to time if required. This is not possible at present because of the existing legal position.
Mr. Corish: Are we to gather from this that these are the first proposals for the disposal of certain lands and who is to decide whether other parts of Johnstown Castle will not be disposed of? Or does the Bill include only what is marked here?
Mr. D'Arcy: Wexford County Council have spent as long as six or seven years endeavouring to have this Bill brought before the House. Though the Minister has read the sections of his speech that are relevant to our argument. I am not satisfied that the position is clarified and that the provision is only for specific areas of land to be disposed of. Surely it would have been possible to include in the Bill the authority for those who are operating the farm to dispose of land as they see fit. In the circumstances of what has now come to light we shall be seeking to amend the Bill. After all our work over a number of years in having the Bill brought before the House we find that it is specific and very restricted and that, if at any time in the future either the Department or the Agricultural Institute wish to dispose of certain areas of this land, they may not do so unless further legislation is passed here. I am very unhappy about the whole situation.
By way of explanation, the inclusion in section 2 of the general power in future to make leases to the State — for example in the case of a request for a site like that from the Meteorological Office referred to earlier — is to avoid the need for similar legislation at a later date. At the same time, the power is sufficiently narrow to ensure that there is no danger of the wholesale erosion of the estate as a single entity. Such a development would, of course, be at variance with the spirit of the donation and acceptance of the lands as a free gift to the nation.
Mr. T.J. Fitzpatrick: (Cavan-Monaghan): I find this very interesting both from a drafting and a procedural point of view. I gather that Johnstown Castle and the property which it includes was conveyed or left or transferred to the State under certain trusts, one of which prohibits the sale of the property or any part of it and that now the State wishes to take on to itself the right to sell some of the property. Is that the position?
Mr. T.J. Fitzpatrick: (Cavan-Monaghan): What I find extraordinary is the procedure which the Minister and the parliamentary draftsman have adopted to give effect to the wishes of the State in this matter. I am not trying to be smart or to trip up the Minister of State. This is a highly technical matter which would be above the heads of most people.
Section I defines the deposited map as a map that has been lodged in the Ordnance Survey Office and marked in a certain way, while section 2 relieves from the conditions prohibiting sale, certain  properties marked green on the map. It is stated in section 3 that the map will be deposited in the High Court and Wexford Circuit Court as soon as may be after the Bill becomes law.
It was only by accident that this map, which goes to the very kernel of our discussion and without which it would be utterly impossible to have any sort of intelligent discussion on the Bill, came to light. A copy of the map should have been circulated either with an explanatory memorandum or with the Bill itself. It would be impossible to know the land being released from the trust conditions without having the map on the table or reading the map in conjunction with the Bill. The whole thing looked farcical until I went back to the definition section and saw that the map has been marked in a certain way and identified by seals and signatures. The Committee Stage of this Bill should be adjourned to give the Deputies who are interested in ascertaining the property being made available for sale and property not being made available for sale and of expressing their views on it. That is the only rational way to deal with the matter. The Minister should withdraw the Committee Stage now.
An Ceann Comhairle: It is being discussed and it is not possible to start discussing amendments on section 2 when we are already discussing the section. We will wait until the amendment comes in and we will have a look at it.
Mr. T.J. Fitzpatrick: (Cavan-Monaghan): The amendment would need to be to section 1 because that is the definition section, and the deposited map, which is referred to in sections 2 and 3, is defined in section 1. The deposited map would need to be amended. In view of the way this has been handled by the Government, the Minister should give an undertaking that he will raise no objection to an amendment being put forward on Report Stage on section 1 and that he will agree to section 1 being re-committed for a full Committee Stage debate on it.
Mr. Allen: I want to clarify one matter. The Committee Stage of this Bill was ordered a number of weeks ago. It was ordered for a particular day and my colleagues from Wexford were both missing on that day. If they had the interest they are now claiming in the Committee Stage of the Bill, and if they had read the Bill, they would have made some inquiries in regard to the map. Not for one minute do I accept that the Government have been unfair about the introduction of this Bill or how it has been handled.
Mr. D'Arcy: I object to the remarks of the Minister when he said if we had been interested we would have looked for the map. I came here the day the Bill was to be taken and I consulted with the Ceann Comhairle until 4 o'clock that afternoon and he told me he thought the Bill would not be taken that day.
Mr. D'Arcy: As far as the map is concerned, the Minister knows very well that this important document before the House has only come into our hands in the last 15 minutes. It is specified clearly on that map the areas which are to be taken over from the estate. We can only now understand what is in the Bill. It was impossible before that to know exactly the areas which are being given to the county council. It is shown very clearly on the map. As a Wexfordman and having a great interest in Johnstown Castle,  which I expect all Deputies from Wexford have, I should have been presented with the map well in advance of the Bill and well in advance of the Committee Stage.
An Leas-Cheann Comhairle: Section 3 deals with maps. We are now dealing with section 2. If Deputies have amendments to put in they will be considered when we get back to the Committee Stage next week, but not on section 2 which has now been debated.
We have been discussing parts of a map coloured green without having seen the map. This must go down as the craziest piece of parliamentary procedure. The whole thing is draft in the extreme. I am asking the Minister to ensure that a copy of the map is circulated to every Deputy in the House.
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