Johnstown Castle Agricultural College (Amendment) Bill, 1980: Report and Final Stages.

Wednesday, 26 November 1980

Dáil Eireann Debate
Vol. 324 No. 8

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An Leas-Cheann Comhairle: Information on Seán Browne  Zoom on Seán Browne  The amendment refers to section 2 and the suggestion is that, with the agreement of [1403] the House, the Bill be recommitted in respect of the amendment.

Bill recommitted in respect of amendment No. 1.

Mr. D'Arcy: Information on Michael D'Arcy  Zoom on Michael D'Arcy  I move amendment No. 1:

In page 2, between lines 35 and 36 to insert the following:

“(2) The Minister may, notwithstanding the said section 9 of the Act of 1959 and after consultation with the Institute, prescribe by order that section 14(3) of the Agriculture (An Foras Talúntais) Act, 1958, shall apply to such part or parts of the Estate as are not referred to in subsection (1)(a) of this section.

(3) Every Order made by the Minister under this Act shall be laid before each House of the Oireachtas as soon as may be after it is made and, if a resolution annulling the order is passed by either such House within the next subsequent twenty-one days on which that House has sat after the Order is laid before it, the Order shall be annulled accordingly but without prejudice to the validity of anything previously done thereunder.”

The reason that I have brought in this amendment is to give the Minister the necessary powers to enable the Agricultural Institute to sell portion of this estate either to the county council or to the State itself. In 1970 Wexford County Council made application to An Foras Talúntais for a portion of land for house construction within the Murrinstown area. We found that this was physically impossible without the introduction of this Bill. Three Ministers for Agriculture have been through this House since then and each Minister promised to Wexford County Council the introduction of the Bill.

The Bill as presented to this House seems very simple. Nevertheless, it has [1404] taken approximately eight years to get it brought before the House. We have heard the arguments for the Bill and we have seen a number of problems attached to it particularly in relation to the map. As far as this Bill is concerned it is really only the areas which are marked on the map that the Minister has any control over. I believe that the question of Johnstown Castle is now the responsibility of the State. In plain language it is the responsibility of An Foras Talúntais. Its development is important to the State and I believe that it would make an excellent agricultural college. In view of the impossible position in which we find ourselves looking for suitable premises for agricultural education, the State sooner or later will turn to its own resources and one of the best resources it has and one of the best areas of information is Johnstown Castle.

I would not like to give the impression that I want to deface Johnstown Castle in any way, because it is a beautiful castle. However, there is land in the possession of an Foras Talúntais within a six-mile radius of Johnstown Castle. The Department of Agriculture are and should be in a position to build an agricultural college on those lands. Through the county committee of agriculture we have offered several properties which we thought were suitable and each property has been turned down time and time again by the Department of Agriculture on the grounds that it is not suitable. Still they have in their own possession an area of 1,000 acres of land which is used solely for research. I have always thought that research and education should go hand in hand.

If we have to spend another nine years before we can secure a Bill for the sale of any portion of Johnstown Castle it can be seen that we are wasting time. I move the amendment just to make the operation simpler but nonetheless to secure the preservation of the property. As stated in the amendment An Foras Talúntais will have the right to apply to the Minister for the sale of a certain portion of the estate but at the same time the order before being put into operation would have to be laid before both Houses of the [1405] Oireachtas. This safety measure is absolutely essential. I appeal to the Minister to accept the amendment in the interests of Johnstown Castle and the resources available there.

Mr. Corish: Information on Brendan Corish  Zoom on Brendan Corish  In support of Deputy D'Arcy we should always bear in mind, particularly those from the constituency, the desirability of establishing an agricultural college on the estate. There is sufficient space there to accommodate it. I gather from Deputy D'Arcy, although it is not in the amendment, that the Minister should have power by order to permit the sale to the county council. I would agree fully with that and I presume that any Minister for Agriculture would break up the estate. It is a very laborious and, as we see, time-consuming process to make any changes in regard to selling or leasing by means of an Act of Parliament. I do not think the Minister would be offending against the conditions laid down by the donor if this amendment is accepted. I think the Minister and An Foras Talúntais would find more flexibility in disposing of or leasing land. Above all, although it is not within the ambit of this Bill we should bear in mind the possibility — we hope probability — of the establishment of an agricultural college at Johnstown.

Mr. Allen: Information on Lorcan Allen  Zoom on Lorcan Allen  One reason for the delay in getting the Bill to the House was the delay in getting the parties to submit the necessary maps so that this matter could be finalised, the areas of land that have to be marked off for road widening and so on. Deputy D'Arcy knows that Wexford County Council changed their minds a few times regarding where the road should go. Secondly, although it was not a great delay, there was the delay of getting the consent of the donor to dispose of this.

Deputy D'Arcy's amendment cannot be accepted for a number of reasons. First, Johnstown Castle estate was donated as a free gift to the nation in 1944 and acceptance was ratified by the Johnstown Castle Agricultural College Act, 1945. The Donor's main object in [1406] making the gift to the State was to ensure that it would remain a single entity and not suffer the fate of many similar estates in Ireland. We all know what happened in the case of many of these estates which were sold off and are now forgotten. This was the main reason for the making of the gift to the State and the State subsequently had to give certain guarantees regarding the future of the estate.

It was a condition of the gift that the estate to be known as Johnstown Castle Agricultural College would be used exclusively for the purpose of a lay agricultural college and for no other purpose whatever. The college was subsequently transferred to An Foras Talúntais under the terms of the Johnstown Castle Agricultural College (Amendment) Act, 1959, again on condition that it would be used as a lay agricultural college including agricultural research and for no other purpose. Also, in keeping with the spirit and conditions of the gift, the 1959 Act precluded the Agricultural Institute from selling or leasing any part of the estate. It would be clearly contrary to the spirit of the gift and its acceptance now to make provision for the disposal of further parts of the estate. The proposed amendment would in effect repeal section 9 of the 1959 Act which deliberately precludes this. In addition sporting and other rights on the estate were reserved by the donor, his heirs and assigns for ever as a personal right under the conditions of the gift. During the preparation of the Bill the Attorney General whose advice was sought gave his opinion that as regards the sale of parts of the estate to Wexford County Council the donor's consent was necessary as some restriction of the sporting rights might be involved through the change in usage of the land in question.

The donor subsequently gave his consent to the disposal of the lands but made it quite clear that no further land should be sold in future. This effectively precludes the disposal of any further part of the estate. I should add that An Foras Talúntais are satisfied with the provisions of the present Bill. Finally, may I draw the Deputy's attention to the inscription on the deposited map in section 1. This map is endorsed as follows: “Deposited [1407] for the purposes of any Act of the Oireachtas passed in the year 1980...” If this Bill is not passed before the end of this year a new Bill will have to be initiated thus causing further delays in the whole matter.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

Bill reported without amendment and passed.

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