I move the following amendment to the address by the Governor-General:—"To omit all after the word `speech' and to insert `but regrets that no indication is being afforded of the scope of the Land Bill, the necessity for which has been so frequently expressed by the Government." In this Land Bill I think the Dáil will commence its real work of legislation, and I think it is very fitting that its first work should deal with the land. It is taken first because of its importance and urgency. Why have we to deal with this question of unpurchased tenants now? It will be in the recollection of every member of the Dáil that the land struggle which went on for many long decades was brought to a conclusion by a great national pact, chiefly the work of Mr. Wm. O'Brien and Lord Dunraven. When the Land Conference was translated into the Land Act of 1903 the majority of the landlords of Ireland availed of its provisions, most of them because it was good business, and because they got more from the tenants then than they will get from them to-day. A number of them, I am aware, availed of the provisions of the Act, because it was a patriotic thing to do so, and because there was a great desire for reconciliation at the time. Amongst the landlords of Ireland there was, however, a Die Hard section, who refused to sell their estates. They did not care a straw for patriotic motives; they were stiff-necked and selfish, and because of that selfishness we have this legacy from the old land war days to deal with in this Parliament. Now, these landlords who in the early days of the war sold out their estates, found their investments dropping in value, whereas the selfish men found that their rents did not drop. They pocketed them, that is to say, they found lack of patriotism and selfishness paying propositions. By that act of theirs they have inflicted a grievous wrong on one-third of the tenants of Ireland. It was a great hardship on these unpurchased men to see neighbours with land on the other side of the fence enjoying a reduction of rents for 18 long years or more. For instance, a man paying a rental of £100 saw a neighbour who formerly paid a similar rental getting quit of paying his debt by an annuity or £60 or £70 or £80 a year. Those landlords during those years have pocketed millions out of the unpurchased tenants. Now, the tenants would not begrudge them their millions if they had not been made out of their pockets. It is computed that what those tenants expended, what they lost because they did not purchase out, comes to a considerable sum for each tenants, and if they had those sums now it would be a fine reserve to face the distress of the present moment. I refer to the Act of 1903, which was an Act of conciliation and good will on both sides. I am sure that the Minister for Agriculture, when he brings in his Land Bill, will attempt to keep that spirit alive, but owing to our bad financial condition if anybody falls short I hope it will not be the tenants who are willing to buy, and willing to pay a fair price. I would put it to the Minister for Agriculture that in his Bill he should consider the tenants first and the landlords second. The landlords took their chance. If they threw in their lot with the rest of the landlords in Ireland they would have been doing a patriotic thing, but they chanced themselves and if they are to lose over it I will not have much pity for them. There is one question in which I am specially interested, and it will arise, I hope, under this Land Bill. I might say that the reference in the Governor-General's speech to the proposed introduction of the Bill was very bald. It is rightly described as a Bill of great national importance, and for that reason we should have some details about it. Hundreds of thousands of people are anxiously awaiting the introduction of that measure, and I think that the Minister should do something to allay their curiosity on the subject. This Bill will extend, of course, to the unpurchased tenants of Connaught, but I put it to the Minister that when he is going to expend State money to buy out the small farmers of Connaught and other portions of the Congested Districts, that he will not crystallise the present extraordinary state of affairs in the Congested Districts. I do not propose to hold up this Government for the sins of a foreign Government, but every day that this Government allows that state of affairs which exists at present in the Congested Districts to go on, they will be incurring a terrible responsibility. It would be unfortunate if by bringing up this subject often we were not able to secure for the small farmers of the Congested Districts the sympathy of the Dáil. I submit that very little is known east of the Shannon of the real conditions of the small landholders of the west of Ireland. We have a Farmers' Party here which represent farmers, as a rule, of from 20 to 60 acres or an average of 30 or 40 acres, and they have no idea of the sort of living a poor small farmer makes in the west of Ireland.
APPOINTMENT OF COMPTROLLER AND AUDITOR-GENERAL BILL. - MOTION ON THE ADDRESS.
Deputy Gorey has often told us of the hardships of the small farmers of 30 and 40 acres. I accept his statement, but I put it that if their lot is hard, how much more so must be the lot of those people who are living on little holdings of valuations under £10. Three-fourths of the holdings of the Congested Districts of Ireland are under £10 valuation. If we heard of a great factory reducing the hours of its staff to three-quarter time, the sympathy of everyone would be with these workers who would be losing so much of their wages. We would picture the limitations of the household supplies; but here you have a whole province, not on three-quarter time or on half-time, but on one-third time. Deputy Johnson referred yesterday to England, and he said that one-third of the people of England were under the poverty-line. Not one-sixth of these people in the Congested Districts are above the poverty line. Deputy Whelehan gave us figures yesterday which should be appalling to us. We are accustomed to hearing every day about the Congested Districts until we develop a certain amount of callousness about them. Land hunger in the West is talked about. Why would there be an absence of hunger for land when their whole source of income and support is the little bit of land of four or five pounds valuation? There are a million people in the Congested Districts of Ireland, and if any man went through them he would think that the system of land tenure was specially devised to see how much human nature could be degraded and still live. A philanthropist visited the Barony of Erris in Co. Mayo in 1891, and he wrote this about it:—"Human wretchedness seems concentrated in Erris, the culminating point of man's physical degradation." That was 32 years ago. The Congested Districts Board has been operating since, and it might be said that matters are not the same to-day, but I will recall to your mind the telegram read by the Minister for Local Government in this Dáil about Erris. There in Erris you have a barometer of all the degradation that these people have been brought to. When a Custom House, I think it was, or some other building, was vacated near Erris these people rushed in from their little houses, trying to avail of better housing accommodation and they entered in such numbers that typhus fever broke out. The houses they came from, according to the medical report, were in a desperate state—pigs were under the beds, and cattle were in the sleeping rooms. Now, those people do not submit to those degradations willingly; they are living under desperate conditions from which there is no escape, and the fact that they entered this coastguard station shows that they know what they want. They want better houses; they would like to live in better houses if they were available. That degradation that Mr. Tuke wrote about in 1891, still goes on. Those people cannot live on their small holdings. My main object in raising this is to urge the Minister for Agriculture to have the courage to tackle this question as it should be tackled. Up to this the land question was dealt with in a foreign Parliament. In the report of the Congested Districts Board you will find that Mr. Balfour, 30 years ago, though he supported the Board's cottage industries, did not believe in them. He said the only way to remedy congestion in these districts is to give these men farms large enough to enable them to make decent livings on. Now the policy for the solution of this problem is plain. It wants a courageous Government and a courageous Minister to tackle it. It cannot be done without a strong Government and, I must say, without law and order established in the country, but it must be done. You cannot have those people living as they are living, with typhus fever in the winter resident amongst them in some districts, and rearing up children for export. I would like Deputies, by their vote and by their speeches, to convey to the Minister for Agriculture that he will have their full support if he tackles this question in a thoroughly drastic manner. It means the reversal of Cromwell's policy, which drove these people over into the lands of Connacht. The landlords, in the clearance years of '46 and '47, drove them even from the good land of Connacht, and they are now on the hillsides and swamps. It is time to bring them from that. They are of the old stock of the Irish race, and they have kept the language alive, and they deserve our consideration. They are in a very poor condition. For decades they looked to the English Parliament, through the Balfours and the Birrells. Now for the first time they are getting an opportunity of having their case considered by an Irish Parliament. I hope the Minister for Agriculture, born and reared in a congested district himself, will handle this question as it should be handled. They say these people will not migrate. Well, there is a difficulty in it. Bad as the land is, these people hang on to the places where they were born. That is a failing we cannot find fault with, for if that failing were not there, there would be no Irish race at all. But in every village there is a section of them adventurous enough to leave these places, and I am sure if the Minister for Agriculture approaches them in a proper way he will get an appreciable portion of them to migrate. If the English Department found a difficulty in getting these people to trust them it was only natural. I know of two Inspectors of the Congested Districts Board who went down there. They were educated at Oxford, and the people looked upon them as curiosities rather than as people who were likely to find new homes for them Now, if the Minister for Agriculture sends down there—as he can—men in sympathy with the people whom they can trust he will get these people to migrate. I come next to a question I would like to say a word or two about— the landless men. I do not see clearly before me any recommendation I could make with regard to these men, but if Canada and Australia are eager for men and ready to settle them on the land we ought to be prepared to go some length to settle them, too. They are men with technical knowledge of their profession. Many of them fought for us in the war with the English, and they are entitled to consideration. There is only one thing that would suggest itself to me. The late Dáil approved of a scheme called the National Land Scheme. It did not succeed very well for several reasons. Money was very dear and land was very dear. They bought the land too dear, but with some amendments I think it would be possible to find a way to help landless men to get plots of land all over Ireland. The State on several occasions gave its money to bridge the gap between the landlords and the tenants. Might it not also help to bridge the gap between the farmers and the labourers. In many cases farmers to-day say they cannot afford to pay what the labourer asks, and the labourer says he cannot live on less. Would it not be possible for the State to step in with a provision of land which could be used by local labourers in grazing a cow, or a cow and a calf, or increasing their little plots. The scheme of giving the labourer an acre was not a success in many cases, because in many cases he did not think it worth while to till it, but if that was increased to four or five acres in some cases the farmer could till the plot for the labourer while he would be doing his own work. And the fact that the labourer worked on this would enable him to place his labour at the disposal of the local farmers. The conditions in the congested districts of several counties are so varied that what would apply to one would not apply to another. I mention these one or two suggestions with regard to the landless men, but the point I am particularly strong on is that I hope the Minister for Agriculture will make a determined and thorough effort to settle the Congested Districts problem.
I second the amendment proposed by Deputy Sears. Regarding the Congested Districts Board in Connaught and Donegal, a great majority of the people live on uneconomic holdings. That is common knowledge, but unfortunately the people do not continue to think of the conditions under which the small farmers of these districts live. They do not advertise themselves, and the Congested Districts Board, hampered as they were by legal formulae, could not come effectively to their assistance. No doubt, they made a very half-hearted and dilatory effort to deal with this problem, but the Board had been hampered in its operations by the want of power to buy land in the Congested Districts, and the natural opposition of the individual small farmer to migrate. The small farmer will object to migrating, but I do not think their objection would prevail to the same extent if they were to migrate in groups. I believe this opposition will not exist to the same extent if the small farmers are migrated in groups. They will not then be absolutely alone in their new holdings, but will have the help and advice of those who go along with them. But you must always remember—and I am sure the Minister for Agriculture will remember —that the small tenants do not want to treat anyone unjustly. What is really required is a reformation and extension of the power of the Land Bill. I am sure the Minister for Agriculture, enlightened and farseeing as we have always found him, will advise the Dáil to extend those powers as they should be extended.
I would like to say a word or two in support of the motion brought forward by Deputy Sears and seconded by Deputy MacBride. It is to people who live in Connacht one of the most important matters that could be considered, a matter of life and death indeed to them. I think there is a lot in what Deputy Sears said as to this being largely a Western problem, and that there is very little known of it east of the Shannon. I was born and lived part of my time in the West, and I came and worked in Westmeath for 14 or 15 years, and I know something of the problem from both points of view. The real kernel of the problem in the West is that the amount of land which the person holds is not sufficient to provide the tenant or individual with such an income either in cash or kind as will enable him to do what an income should do, what any wage ought to do, that is, to live in frugal comfort and rear his family and bring up his family in decent and comparative comfort. But the holdings there are not sufficiently economic; they are not able to provide a wage to reward the labour that is expended on them. That is the whole difficulty, and the matter to be regretted when you come to examine the problem or rather to touch on it is that such a state of things exists while there is plenty of land to go round. There is no doubt whatsoever that there is plenty of land to go around, even within the confines of Connaught itself, without going east of the Shannon at all. For in Roscommon and East Galway there are huge ranches which are devoted to grazing purposes. Now, mention has been made of the difficulty of getting people who are in these small holdings to migrate to East Galway or Roscommon, or where those ranches exist, or where they are to be divided up. Difficulties undoubtedly do exist. I think that some of the difficulties in the past at any rate arose, as Deputy Sears mentioned, from the want of trust in the authorities who were undertaking the migration. That I think did operate to some extent, but the real heart of the problem, as I know it, was touched upon by Deputy McBride when he spoke of the objection which the tenants have to leave the spot in which they were born, and leaving their own friends and their home ties. I think that could be met to some extent, to a great extent, indeed, if migration was carried out not by means of transferring individual tenants from districts but transferring whole colonies, and establishing them in colonies. Another difficulty that arose was this that men were taken from what used to be called spade labour farms in the old times—small holdings where practically everything was done with the spade—and were taken over to Roscommon and Galway, and given large holdings which they did not know how to work. That was their difficulty; they were put in where a different system of farming was carried out, and they really were not able to work the new farm to the best advantage, although as far as actual labour was concerned they were working harder than their neighbours. I think in any scheme of migration that would be adopted it would be necessary to make very large provision for the education of the new colonies in the proper system of farming suitable to that particular district. I think that was neglected in the past, and I think in any new schemes that are brought forward that point should be attended to. They should have opportunities afforded them of instruction as to the best methods of using the holdings which will be given to them. I think, too, that the suggestion made by Deputy Sears with regard to the increase in the plots which the labourers hold is a very useful one. We have heard complaints often, that the labourers did not attend properly to their plots—to such plots as they have at present. I think the difficulty, however, arose from the area of the plot. It was too large for a garden, but too small to rear a cow, and if it was increased to 4 or 5 acres so that the labouring man could keep a cow and be able to provide milk for his family, and have enough land to provide some hay to keep a cow during the winter, I think it would be very beneficial all round. Heretofore any migratory schemes have generally moved some of the people out of a village or district and left the land vacated by those to the few who remained behind. That, of course, would work out all right if the land that was left behind was worth tilling. But I know a very large portion of the land in the West of Ireland that is being tilled at the present time and really it is not worth the labour expended on it. Most of it is cut-away bog, marshy or mountainy land; and it is waste of labour to be tilling it at all. I think that that land could be much more profitably used if large schemes of afforestation were undertaken. There is in Connemara area on the inland or sheltered side of the mountains especially, very large tracts indeed which could be planted and which in that way would become an asset to the Nation. At the present time they are simply waste. Apart from material advantage and the material benefit, afforestation would add to the scenic beauty of the district. I trust that the Government, when taking up this question of the land or land settlement, will tackle the thing in a big way and do for the country what we have always been hoping should be done for it.
The three previous Deputies who treated of this matter coming from the Province of Connaught, one would be led to believe that there were no difficulties of this kind in any other province in Ireland. Whilst sympathising very sincerely with them in all the difficulties of the small tenants in those holdings in the Province of Connaught, I believe myself there are as large difficulties confronting the unpurchased tenants in many of the other provinces in Ireland, in fact in all the other provinces in Ireland. Deputy Sears alluded to the uneconomic holdings and quoted ten pounds as the valuation. I regret to say that we have perhaps half the holdings in my own county under that valuation. There are some large holdings, to be sure, but I believe myself the majority of the holdings in my county are under that valuation. As regards the difficulties of the unpurchased tenants during the past 30 years, very few except those who have been purchased alongside of them thoroughly understand them. They are for the past thirty years paying an inequitable rent, not through their own fault, but through the fault of the British Government or through the fault of the landlords who refused to sell. They have been taxed more or less double the amount paid by their neighbours who have purchased their holdings thirty years ago. I think it is high time that a Bill should be passed as soon as possible to relieve those people. The Bill should be a liberal one. It should be as liberal as it possibly could be, and compensate both sides equitably. We do not want to run away with the owners' interests; we want to give them fair compensation, but we want to get the best side of the deal if possible for the tenants who have been robbed for the past thirty years. Those people have been paying large rents for thirty years, and their neighbours with holdings alongside theirs, who are purchased tenants, are now near the goal of peasant proprietorship. They are very nearly finished with their annuities, but the others have not even begun to pay them off yet. Although for years they have been paying exorbitant amounts; they have not got one whit nearer the goal of peasant proprietorship at the present day. This matter should be fully taken into consideration in the Bill that is proposed. It should be a liberal Bill and, if possible, an agreed Bill. In my opinion a Committee should be set up to consider this Bill, and the Bill should be got through the Dáil as soon as possible, so as to afford some measure of relief to the tenants who have been paying exorbitant rents so long. This Bill also will, I believe, counteract the effect of the many writs and processes that are being issued for rents. By and by you will have to use the Civic Guard to collect those rents, and possibly they may become unpopular——.
You will have to get the rifle.
If this Bill were passed through Parliament all these things could be settled amicably and without any interference on the part of the Army or the Civil Guard. I appeal to the Minister for Agriculture to bring forward this measure as soon as he can and not leave it hanging over like the Agricultural Commission. That Commission was set up two or three months ago, but I am sorry to say that it has not been called together yet. Whose fault is that? It is the fault of the Department of Agriculture. It is a shame that the Agricultural Commission has not been brought into being. It was set down by the Secretary that it was the fault of the Department of Agriculture, and that statement coming from an official body connected with the Government, is, I think, a great shame. All the officials there are tumbling over one another, and they are not able to get their evidence ready for the Commission in the length of time that has elapsed. We were told that the Commission was practically ready, but it has not started to operate yet. In fact, a telegram has been put into my hands indicating that the Commission's sitting has been again adjourned, and I say that is a disgrace to the Department.
I make no apology for the particular reference to Land Purchase contained in the Governor-General's speech. The Governor-General's speech is not the correct medium for conveying details of any scheme. At the same time I welcome the opportunity of making a statement on this important question. This is the first time for one hundred years, as Deputy Sears has pointed out, that the subject was discussed in an Irish Parliament, and the first time that it could be discussed and decided in an Irish Parliament. That fact alone ought to give even the most unthinking people some idea of the revolution that has been accomplished. In the past this question of the land was our outstanding economic question, and that was only natural in the circumstances. As Deputy Sears pointed out, it had its origin in the clearances and plantations which in themselves were only one phase of the war of a class waged against us, and the opposition to which was engrossing the national mind. Now, however, that particular phase is definitely over. The ambition to conquer has been definitely renounced and repudiated by England and we are left free to settle this and other problems in our own way, and to build up our own social future. It is very necessary that we should remember that when we are thinking of land purchase. If we do, we will face it in the proper spirit and on the merits as one of the biggest and most urgent— indeed the biggest and most urgent— problems we have got; but, at the same time, remember we have always other problems on which the time and the energy, and, above all, the Nation's money, must be spent. All parties should remember that. Luckily this is not one of those questions that have come down to us entirely neglected. I think it will be generally admitted that the attempt to solve the land problem which began with the Act of 1903 was a bold, and, for the time, a statesmanlike attempt, and, further, it succeeded marvellously up to a point. It broke down, however, and before Deputies can helpfully discuss future schemes of land purchase they must clearly understand the reasons for the breakdown of the previous Land Acts. The Land Act of 1903 broke down because its finances broke down, and because the attempt to prop up its finances, made by the Land Act of 1909, failed. One example will explain, I think, fairly clearly, where exactly the shoe pinched, where the difficulty was. Two and three quarter per cent. Land Stock issued for the 1903 Act stands at the present moment at 58 per 100. Take it, for simplicity sake, at 60, and suppose a holding is purchased for, say, £1,200, it would be necessary to issue £2,000 worth of Stock to find that £1,200. £2,000 Stock at 60 per 100 is just £1,200. Now, the tenant, or purchaser of land, who gets a holding, pays interest and sinking fund on £1,200 Stock, and the interest and sinking fund on the balance—that is to say, on £800—is found from taxation. That made land purchase an utterly uneconomic proposition. The Land Act of 1909 was passed with the idea of remedying that particular defect. The interest was increased from 2¾ to 3 per cent., but it failed entirely in its purpose.
Only for one reason.
Now, Deputy Gorey can explain the point afterwards. Anyway this point is clear, that the Land Act of 1909 failed entirely to stop the decline. Land Stock gradually declined and the European War, which immediately made money dearer, put the finishing touch to the collapse. The result of the operation of all these factors is that it has been found necessary to issue 20 million pounds excess stock for completed sales up-to-date, and that interest and sinking fund on bonus stock and excess stock—bonus is just the contribution thrown in by the State to help the landlord and tenant in making a bargain—is well over a million pounds per annum. That is, of course, a sum that the taxpayer should not be asked to bear, and it is, I think, perfectly clear that no future scheme of land purchase can contemplate putting any such sum on the shoulders of the taxpayer; that is to say, on the man in the street, you and I and the rest of us. Land purchase must become an economic proposition. That fact was recognised by the Irish Convention of 1918, and everything that has happened since has made its truth clearer, has made it more certain. The Land Purchase Sub-Committee of the Irish Convention of 1918 drafted a scheme which is embodied in what has become known as the Land Bill of 1920. The Land Bill of 1920 never became law for reasons of which we are all aware. For the year 1918, and as far as it goes, that Bill was a genuine solid attempt to deal with the most urgent aspects of the problem. It certainly solved the difficulty of excess stock and solved it by a very simple device. It instituted compulsion, number one, and it arranged, or rather it was arranged under it, that the owner was to be paid not in cash but in stock. The stock was not put in the market. If an owner gets £500 for a holding the State hands him £500 in bonds. That method, together with compulsion, settled the excess stock difficulty.
Now the Bill to be acceptable needs extensions, needs changes in important respects, and it needs many changes in detail, but, as I have said, it was a genuine attempt to deal with the most urgent aspects of the problem. Its salient principle was the compulsion it instituted. On a given day, every tenant in Ireland, inside and outside the congested areas, was to become the owner of his holding, paying an annuity to the State. In addition all the land, with certain specified exceptions of what is popularly known as ranch lands in the congested areas, became vested in the Land Commission for sub-division. The congested areas are Galway, Mayo, Sligo, Leitrim, Roscommon, Donegal, Clare, Kerry, and parts of Cork. All this land in those counties was to be bought up for division. The idea of the Bill was, first of all, to make every tenant in Ireland the owner of an economic holding and to buy up all the ranch lands, that is to say, all the lands with certain specified exceptions, all of what is popularly called ranch lands in these areas. Moreover, the Bill did not in any way curtail the powers of the Land Commission under previous Land Acts. On the contrary, by providing a sound stock as the medium of payment it enabled the Land Commission to recommence operations under the Land Acts of 1903 and 1909. What was really contemplated was that the Bill, with its new and expeditious machinery, should be engrafted on the previous Land Acts and the whole machinery set going at its maximum speed. That was certainly a very fair attempt to deal with the problem. I said that it needs extension. I have said that it needs changes in detail. This is not the time to go into details. This is not the time to deal with the question of migration, to say specifically what should be done with regard to migration, which is a very important question. There were ample powers to migrate under the Bill, ample powers to buy land for the purpose of migration. I agree that the machinery is another question, that it is a difficulty which must be got over, but we have the advantage of the operation of previous Land Acts. We know what they are, we know what the difficulties are, and we can only promise to consider the question in all its aspects and to try to solve it in the light of the experience that has been gained. I have merely explained that the medium of payment was stock. I have not gone into finance and I have deliberately refrained from going into the question. It is a little bit early and it would not be helpful at this stage. There are difficulties—it would be a most extraordinary thing if there were not—but these difficulties can be solved, and can be solved quickly, provided there is just a little bit of goodwill on both sides, and provided that both sides face facts, and in particular face this fact, that this country has to develop uniformily and that all sections, not only landlord and tenants and what are properly called landless men must get fair play. All sections apart from these which I have just mentioned are entitled to their fair share from the National Treasury, which is a thing that people who are interested in land purchase should remember. If they do, and if they come to this problem in anything like a spirit of goodwill, then the financial difficulties ought to be solved, and solved quickly. However, as I am on finance I can say this about it, the landlord, of course, wants fair terms, and the tenant and the landless man, or the particular man that is purchasing, wants cheap land.
Fair terms absolutely, but I will put it in another way, if you like, so as to satisfy Deputy Gorey. The landlord wants fair terms, and the tenant wants fair terms, but I wanted to put it more specifically. I said the tenant wanted cheap land. He is absolutely entitled to want cheap land; he is entitled to cheap land. The point I want to make is this: the landlord can have what he wants; the tenant can have what he wants; provided the financial credit of the country is anything like sound. That principle applies to the people who want cheap houses; it applies to the people who want better trade and better opportunities for employment; it applies to every development in the national economy. It is simply a cold fact to state that the sheer, wanton, senseless destruction of the last year has been a greater draft upon the national credit than all these items which I have mentioned could be. That is a simple, cold, uncontradicted fact. The cost in money of the direct damage for the last year, every detail of which must be restored, would complete the purchase of every acre of tenanted and untenanted land in Ireland. That is the fact. I do not refer to indirect and consequential damage; of course that is vastly greater. I refer to direct damage alone. And by whom is it all done? In ninety per cent. of the cases by people who want cheap land, cheap houses, better opportunities for employment, who have some vague incoherent notion that they can get what they want in this way, and who instinctively shrink from the trouble, the toil, the thought, the energy, the peaceable and enlightened development required by the decadent and by the least virile portions of the community. I do not want to talk politics on a question like this; but that is not politics. That is simply a cold fact which everyone who knows the country knows. I might as well go a little further. Who is it all inspired by? By one who said he was not a doctrinaire republican—who stated in the hearing of a good many members of this Dáil that Ireland should not be asked to face a Sherman's ride for the Republic—who has tried to plunge this country into destruction just to save his own face. But luckily he has not succeeded, and I am in a position to come before you now, and to say that it is our policy to complete land purchase; it is our policy to make every tenant in the Saorstát the owner of his holding. It is our policy to make every holding in the Saorstát economic. It is our policy to buy up the congested areas and to buy up the ranch lands outside the congested areas. We can do that. We can do it quickly, and, in spite of the difficulties, it can be done, and it must be done, and we can do it quickly. There are just some other difficulties which are not inherent in the scheme, or in the particular scheme, to which I would like to refer. One of them is this question of the non-payment of annuities. I am proud to say that only a very small percentage of annuities are unpaid. That is to be said to the credit of the farmers of the whole country. But there is a small percentage unpaid. I know that there are some farmers who have not paid —perhaps a good many farmers in some counties—and who are not able to pay, who are genuinely unable to pay because of destruction during the war with England, because of destruction during the last year, because of the general depression. These are genuine cases, and we are willing to meet them, and to go a good distance to meet them in a way of giving them time, but the big majority— the majority, at least, of those who are not paying—are people who are not paying simply because they think there is no machinery for making them pay. Because they regard the present situation merely from the point of view of how much they are going to make out of it, because in order to put just a very little money in their pockets—after all, the annuity is the smallest part of a farmer's bill—in order to put a very little money in their pockets, they are willing to do their little best deliberately to destroy the credit of the country, and to prevent their unpurchased neighbour from purchasing his holding. Now, with that class I have no sympathy. Nobody could have any sympathy. And, as far as I am concerned, I will try to see to it that they pay, and pay with interest. And in this I am speaking also for the Government.
I have said it is our policy to complete land purchase and I shall refer to another difficulty in the way. Land purchase must be completed by law and not by force. In fact, anybody, owner, tenant, landless man—I do not care from what angle you view it—anybody who has ever had anything to do with the division of land knows that you simply cannot divide land if force is used, or if you have a state of affairs in which force has been used, of which the legacy is left thereafter which you have got to meet when you try to divide it. I was going to say there may have been reason for force. I go further and say there was good reason for force in its application to this problem in the past. When the question was being dealt with by an English Parliament, whose policy was dictated by English interests and not by Irish interests, there was good reason for force, and force was used effectively. But that phase is definitely passed. This problem is now completely within the competence of an Irish Parliament. In fact there is a Bill—I think it is actually before the Parliament—giving the vote to every man and woman in Ireland over twenty—one years of age, so that, as far as it is humanly possible, the laws of this country in future will be the expression of the popular will. In that state of affairs there is absolutely no excuse for the application of force to the problem, and when people seize land in future, no matter what patriotic pretences they may put forward, they seize it to gain an advantage to themselves over their equally deserving neighbours. When a man seizes land in Ireland now he is not seizing it from the landlord, he is really seizing it from his equally deserving neighbour. That is what it comes to in fact. It is no use, and it will not be accepted as an excuse, to say that such and such a person had a blot on his title, that he got the land wrongly, or anything like that. If an owner has a blot on his title then there is a legal way to deal with the matter, or at least there is an Irish Parliament that can devise legal machinery for dealing with him. Excuses of that sort will not be accepted and I am advising the Government that the time has come to take immediate and drastic action against people who are seizing other people's lands or who are in occupation of other people's lands. I am asking the Government to consider whether people who in future seize lands should not be debarred in any future scheme of land purchase from getting land, and whether those people who are committing these depredations should not be made to pay for them and not put the burden upon the unoffending taxpayer. Now that is our policy, that is my policy, and that is the policy of the Government with regard to this question in just as great detail as I care to put it to you now. It may be said we are proceeding on old lines. I realise that that sort of criticism might be urged. Personally I am not concerned with the adjectives new or old, and I suggest the way to settle this question is to look to the merits of the scheme itself. There is criticism, and it might be put that in Ireland as in other countries there is a limited supply of land, and therefore it is not right to give any one section unlimited control of it. Personally I feel the force of that criticism. I sympathise with it, and I will say at once that previous Land Acts in some small way recognised that. Mines and minerals were not handed over to the tenant, they were kept by the State. There were other small things, too, such as the tenants' right to sub-divide and cut trees, but while we can go further in that direction perhaps we cannot go as far as altering the basis of the whole scheme. This is a question with a history, and we must face that fact. We cannot solve the land problem as if we were dealing with virgin land. We must face the fact that the desire to possess his own holding is fundamental in an Irishman, and that the operation of the previous Land Acts has made it absolutely impossible to deal with the question on any other basis. I am not under the delusion that that method of dealing with the problem is perfection. I know that in countries like France and Germany, where there has been a very wide sub-division of land, the conditions are not absolutely perfect. Small farmers, small land-holders developed qualities of independence and thrift and other hard-headed qualities of that sort which make the countries that are based on the division of land, great and strong. But there is another side of the picture. I know in those countries where there is a very large percentage of small landowners they are very likely to colour the outlook of the whole nation and to make it a little aggressive, and the whole country seems to run on unenlightened individualism. I am very hopeful that we can obviate that particular development in this country, but it must be done outside the Land Act and apart from Land Purchase, and as that is so, this is not the time or place to discuss it.
Will the Minister make a statement with reference to bonuses?
I have said all I have to say on that question.
As one who is deeply interested in this question of land purchase, and who has done something as an individual for the people to whom he belongs, I am very grateful for the statement made by the Minister. It was something we had expected, and we knew we were not going to be disappointed. Hitherto land purchase failed for want of co-operation. It has been said that the 1903 Act was great, judging from the strength of its operations. But judging from the millstones tied around the necks of the purchasers, I do not think it was a great Act. The Acts of 1881 and the earlier Purchase Acts were much better. The 1903 Act came in, and then the 1909 Act was introduced to amend it, and the Act which had broken down was a good Act, only that it lacked one essential condition—namely, compulsion. Had the 1903 Act contained that one condition we would not now be troubled with land purchase. Seeing the development of the various Acts, and seeing the failure of Acts, owing to lack of compulsion, a Bill was framed in the English Parliament accepting and approving of the principle of compulsion. Land purchase in the future must be approached, not in the light of the conditions that obtained in 1918 when we were in the fat years, among the years of plenty, but rather in face of the conditions that obtain to-day, and are likely to obtain within the next 20 or 30 years. The position of the average man in the country is different to-day from that which it was in 1918. First, when arriving at anything like a basis of fair play you have to compare the position of the unpurchased tenant of to-day with the purchased tenant of all the Acts since 1881, and you have to try and visualise the happy condition of purchasers as compared with non-purchasers and with men who are no nearer than ever towards completion of ownership. You have also to view it in the light of increased cost of agricultural production. You cannot look at the question without taking these forces into consideration, and you have to look at it from the precarious agricultural outlook of the moment, and everyone in and outside agriculture will admit it is precarious. In all our previous Acts, I think Deputy Professor Magennis, earlier in the day, told the truth when he said a good deal of the drafting was done by lawyers for lawyers. Nearly all of the previous Acts were done for lawyers by lawyers, and if the amount of fat accumulated by lawyers were put together, I very much doubt if it would not go near purchasing all the land in Ireland. We have made suggestions to the framers of the 1920 Bill. We have also made suggestions to the framers of the coming Bill with regard to important aspects. One of the difficulties of Stock being given to a lardlord was, that that Stock did not pay encumbrances, that he had to find cash, that he had to put that Stock on the market and pay his encumbrances in cash. Now, we suggest, and the landlords have agreed in a previous agreement that encumbrances, estate charges, or annuities should be also payable in Stock. The landlord will be paid so much in Stock and the en-cumbrancers or mortgagees would receive the value of their mortgages with an amount of Stock equal to their portion. Landlords cannot accept Stock if the mortgagee is not also forced to accept Stock. You do not depreciate his income or the value of his mortgage because he is not getting anything worse than he previously got; he is getting an income equal to what he previously had, and that is enough for anybody. I should also wish to point out that the process and conditions under previous Acts of proving title were most irksome. Sometimes you had to go back as far as the days of the mistress of George III. The sale of an estate would be held up for fourteen or fifteen years until you were able to prove that the lady was dead. There again it was a question of grist for the lawyers. If an estate is subject to equity and subject to a lack of correct title so also should the stock be made subject to it. If an estate is subject to equity the whole thing could be done in 24 hours instead of waiting for years and years and costing the unfortunate landlords two or three years' rent in these searches until his title is proved. Now there is no reason in the world talking about the 1903 Act why an inducement should be given to the landlords to sell. I met several landlords who said, "We were born landlords and we will remain landlords," and who would go on to tell you how nice and amiable were the conditions existing between the tenants and themselves for generations. But I always found that these gentlemen were willing to sell their land and willing to get rid of all these nice amenities for a consideration. All these nice feelings they were willing to part with for a certain amount. These things do not appeal to me at all; they leave me absolutely cold. I will not go into the question as to what the bonus was for, and the use that was made of it for providing certain amounts for agents and other hangers-on. Here again providing for these people also leaves me quite cold. I want to treat this as a business proposition, and our people have no hesitation in facing it from the business point of view and treating it as a business proposition. We want nothing more than to be able to purchase land, paying annuities that will not hang as a mill-stone round our necks in the future. Circumstances have arisen in the last few years for which we are not responsible, and we hold ourselves aloof from any responsibility for these conditions. It was not our fault or the fault of the tenants that have not purchased that these conditions have altered, but the effect of these altered conditions must be borne by the landlords as well as by the tenants. We do not want the State of the future to be mulcted for any Act that it may pass to-day. As an unpurchased tenant I would be slow to ask the State to do so, and as a citizen I should object to its doing so. We do not want this done and we want to have the burden of the new conditions that exist and are likely to exist borne by both sides. I am glad that the bald statement on Land Purchase in the Address meant more than merely Land Purchase. I am glad it also meant ranch-breaking. I am glad that both big branches of the land question are to be tackled, and to be tackled honestly and seriously. You cannot have a land settlement if both these sides of the question are not tackled and tackled without quibbling. Deputy Sears told us that we did not know anything about the conditions in the West and the men under £20 valuation, moryah! We know as much as Deputy Sears and others do about the conditions in the West. Thousands of the tenants in the West are among our members and we have gone ourselves to see the conditions in the West, and I may tell Deputy Sears that we have many members in our Association from his own county. I do not think that the question of ordinary land purchase will be the troublesome question of the future, but I do anticipate that ranch-breaking will be a troublesome question. I admired the statement of the Minister when he said that this settlement will be conducted under common ordinary legal methods. It cannot be done otherwise. Land settlement cannot be brought about by the argument of the stick. It is no use to give preference either to the fellow who can cut the biggest stick or to the fellow who can give the biggest shout or to him who uses an amount of intimidation. It must be a legal settlement. It must be a settlement under which every man fit and capable of handling land will have an equal chance with the rest. I do not think that this is the stage at which to make suggestions as to what should be the qualifications for a man to get land. There ought to be qualifications, and they ought to be set out very carefully. If such precautions are not taken the State would run into bankruptcy by placing men on the land who are not fit for it. Character and efficiency and the will-to-work and perhaps some financial assistance are necessary. The will-to-work and the ability to handle the land are the great qualifications necessary. We had a great boom for land during the last seven or eight years when the prices were high. When there were very long fine feathers upon the bird everyone wanted to pluck it, but when the feathers were not so long there was no attraction. The big difficulty in the future will not be to find land for men, but to keep men upon the land. In England you have men, farmers, leaving the land wholesale, because the land is not paying its way to-day. There are no profits to be made upon the land but there is plenty of loss, and the difficulty, I say, will not be to find land in the future but to keep the people upon the land. You must have a standard of efficiency and fitness. The men put upon the land must be the best the nation can afford; they must be the best men we can get, because you cannot work the land with the muck and the refuse of the community. We do not want birds of passage. We do not want men taking the land for a gamble in the hope of getting something out of it for the time being. I know of cases of ranches broken up, and of men who got land, who kept it for a year or two, or three, but who have not got it to-day. It was only here and there that they were a success. The right men put upon the land will succeed, but birds of passage are of no use to any community. There are men who have claims. I admit, and am glad to admit, that men who for principle were evicted individually or in bodies in the old days, do deserve, and should receive, due consideration. But people evicted because they were no use ought not to have any consideration. If the State is going to consider their position let them give them something in cash, but do not waste the land of Ireland upon them. We want the land of Ireland for the good men and good women of Ireland.
I hear "Hear, hear," from Deputy Davin. Now, in the West of Ireland in the case of the agricultural labourer, the small farmer and others, we do not hope to get up to the standard of the street sweeper in Dublin, or to get to the level of the platform porter, but we hope that the income of our people will be between £2 and 50s. per week. Deputy Sears, and yesterday Deputy Whelan, were right when they said that the standards of comfort in the West amongst thousands of our people are degrading. The only cloth they have is the poor, plain Galway homespun, and the comforts of life are conspicuous by their absence. It is time the West awoke. I think it is going to awake now, and as a descendant of a Connaught man myself I am proud to see the West awakening. It is time that these people demanded the same standards of living—as Deputy Magennis stated yesterday, luxury, or, rather, leisure—of the inhabitants of the cities and towns. With regard to this question of purchase, since the new Government came in, and since the present Minister of Agriculture came into office, we have been met sympathetically, honestly, and with a desire equal to our own to settle this question finally and for all time. It was a pleasure to me to meet the Minister, and it was gratifying to have a change from an English to an Irish Government, and I am glad that the time has arrived when we have met men to whom we can talk. Now, with regard to these Commissions and controlling bodies in the West, the Congested District Board, and all these other Boards, I have heard of this difficulty about getting tenants to leave and migrate, but I honestly think that the Estate Commissioners and their agents did not work very hard—as a matter of fact, they were the biggest landlords and graziers in Ireland, and you always met them in the best rooms and best hotels in the country. I hope there will be a new order of things, and that new machinery and new life will be put into this business. With regard to what Deputy Sears has said as to four or five acres of land for each man, I do not know what Labour thinks of it, but it is a question for Labour, and I think that the average labourer does not want it. We have no objection to discussing the matter with the agricultural labourers, but I do know the agricultural worker prefers a constant decent wage to dabbling in a little land and doing one day's work here and another there. It is a question that can be settled, and I do not think that there will be any difficulty about it on our part. Then again, a great many of these acre plots have not been farmed. The people do not appreciate what effort and self-reliance mean. I have seen some of the nicest homes in Kilkenny and the South in the cottages occupied by labourers, and they are a credit to the men who have them. They have lovely gardens, and the land is well tilled, but in the case of others it would be better if they had no land at all. As regards the land breaking question and the men you are going to put on it, I say again that the men must be efficient and inclined to work. As Deputy O'Connell stated, some assistance should be given to them, and there ought to be some supervision over them, and they should be put on the land on approbation; 2 or 3 years would, I think, be long enough to see whether a man was a failure or not. One thing I would say, and that is that this will have some effect on the price that will be paid for ranches in the future. During the war these people made huge profits. I know it would have been a great boon to most owners of the ranches, if during the last two years their land had been taken from them for nothing. It was usual up to 12 months ago for owners of stock to be £10 on the wrong end of the ledger on every beast, and you would have done a good thing for them if you took their land from last November. This year I do not think their profits will be very much either. Their interest in the land to-day must not be measured by a war standard, but by the standard existing at this moment, and a load must not be put on the incoming tenants that they cannot bear. There is no use in saying that the State will bear it later on. The State cannot bear it, and I oppose the State's being asked to bear it. Everyone must shoulder his own responsibility, and let the landlords, who have gained in the past, suffer for their sins and mistakes.
I think this Dáil has every reason to congratulate itself on the very clear, lucid, and satisfactory statement made by the Minister for Agriculture to-day. I think there can be no matter that lies more closely at the root of a great deal of the unrest in Ireland than this question of the land. Not merely in agricultural, but in commercial circles, it is also felt and appreciated that this country can never be truly prosperous until the land question is finally settled, because there can never be that settlement, that peace, and that release from the incubus that land has always meant, until not merely a purchase scheme has been put into being, but the entire land of this country has passed into the hands of the people. We strike at something here which, as we all know, is very old, and it is only by recognising the antiquity of it that we will be able to answer some of the immediate problems it presents to-day. Now it has been commented upon by several Commissions, and established, that the Irishman has the desire to own land, or, rather, that the Irishman knows by instinct that the land belongs to the people of this country. It is not one body of people who work the land who have any monopoly of that instinct. That is also very frequently forgotten. Anyone who has studied the history of Irish land during the 19th century will know that from 1830 to 1880, that is to say, from the moment that the land ceased to have any political value until the time that agitation once began to establish itself, and you had a man rising in this country who advised the people to keep a tight grip on their homesteads —within that period of 50 years the tenants of one day, the small farmers' of one day were the cottiers of the next decade, and the cottiers of one day were the small farmers of the next decade. This passed down until the actual case is that many people through the country to-day as farm labourers are remembering that instinct just as strongly as those who were farmers. If one were to search back in any fruitless enquiry it might inconceivably be found in many cases where the farm labourer's family two generations ago were tillers of the land, that the farmer himself was a labourer holding a cottier interest merely. So the recognition of this source of unrest in the country is one that must be met a great deal more widely than it has been hitherto, and I am very glad, and particularly welcome that statement of the Minister of Agriculture when he spoke of men who were landless men, not merely those who were unpurchased, not merely those who were actually farming land without an opportunity of completing the purchase of the land they already work and own, but people who feel the injustice of their position no less strongly than he feels it, and who to-day, may be, are claiming in so many terms an increase of wages, when really if one were to go past the expression of their demand you would feel down in those persons' mind the same desire to put their feet on certain lands of Ireland which they claim, and which they have a right to till, and the reapage of which is theirs. As a farm labourer in Connaught said to me when there was trouble in County Mayo, and I shall never forget the vivid expression he used: "Don't you think it is as much a desire for me to have land that is loaded with my sweat as much as any other man." I do think, in spite of what Deputy Doyle has stated, that the problem is two-fold. There is generally a question of uncompleted purchase, and there is the peculiar specific problem in the congested area, and that problem is one-half of the larger problem, because congested districts are the complement of ranch land, and you can never solve the congested districts problem until the ranch land problem has first been dealt with. Everyone knows that at the beginning of every year—every Spring— in the congested districts, directly the Spring opens and the land begins to be broken up, the countryman begins to make his habitual reckoning — a reckoning that is habitual for many generations — as to the possibility of this land that he is now breaking up meeting his demands and the demands of his family for that year. Directly that moment comes, and for six weeks afterwards, there is unrest throughout the entire congested districts, and during those six weeks or two months there has been an outbreak, there is an outbreak, and will continue to be an outbreak—a form of irregularism — that cannot be avoided. The only way in which it can be avoided is to bring the congested districts to an end, and the only way to bring the congested districts to an end is to bring the ranch land to an end. There is, however, one aspect of it that I was sorry the Minister did not deal with, and I suggest that it is a very important aspect. There is first the uncompleted purchase, with which he has dealt, there are the congested districts, and there are the ranch lands, one of which is the complement of the other. That he dealt with, but I do urge him to consider now that we are promised this Bill, that he will also deal on parallel lines, and if possible, in the same instrument, with the important question of reclamation. One knows that Keane 50 or 60 years ago worked out areas where reclamation could proceed, and having made a careful calculation he gave a figure. I think in Ireland at that time the population was about eight millions, and there were many who questioned whether Ireland could afford to maintain a population so large. Clearances were begun by landlords, who demanded that the people of Ireland should be shipped away, as the land could not support them. Keane, from the scientific point of view, took up the entire matter in his very remarkable book on the Industrial Resources of Ireland. After a careful actuarial estimate he said that although Ireland then, owing to the system of land tenure was over-populated by eight millions, under an efficient and wise system of land tenure Ireland could afford to maintain on the land alone a very industrious population of not less than 16 millions. Ireland to-day has gone back to 4½ millions, and a great deal of our unrest is because those who, since 1850, have been flying the country are now unable to go. It is the desire and the ambition of every member of this Dáil, and I am sure of the Government, and it is an absolutely vital problem for the future, that Ireland shall maintain, either in her industries or on the land, every one of her sons, and that there shall be no necessity for any one of her sons or any one of her daughters to fly this country because this country cannot maintain them, because this country has not some form of substantial property which they may own. And if that is to be done, and if plans are to be made effectively—plans that I hope will exist in clear and distinct charts by which it may be known what every district in Ireland can afford to bear, and its population, so that any movement and migrations that there may be, any purchase that there may be — should be made in relation to a very careful survey made in the first instance, which ought to remember a principle that is very frequently forgotten to-day, and that is the old principle of land measure that goes back to the Brehon Laws. Under the Brehon Laws the unit of land was not measured by linear surface; it was measured by yield. The measure of land in those days was the amount of land which was able to yield so much of various kinds of crops. That is to say, the same unit of poor land in Connaught was larger than the same unit of richer land in another part of the country, and remembering that, and proceeding on lines such as have been indicated, and continuing the reclamation on parallel lines that have been indicated, it should be possible for us to find a cure for a very great deal of the unrest that has broken out in the past, and that will break out in the future, and that will, until some effective answer is made, continue to provide some form of Irregularism. We know that when we had a United Ireland in 1918, when there was a remarkable spirit of unanimity, some of us remember the experience we had at that time, administering the organisation of Sinn Fein, and the tough task it became to bring land hunger within legal proportions and to cure the unrest that occurred. That was done. These conditions, the conditions of exaltation that occurred, are not likely to occur again, and now that we have entered into our freedom it is the moment when this matter can be finally settled. It is the first matter in agriculture. It is actually the first matter in commerce, because it is on the very basis of the stability of this country, and the sooner the Minister can put his hopeful speech into the form of a still more hopeful Bill and bring it before this Dáil, the better pleased we all will be.
I wonder whether Deputy Whelehan is satisfied now that the argument he used last night was sound? He contrasted the proposition that we put forward that the speech of the Minister through the Governor-General, did not include suggestions or proposals for dealing with social and economic changes of benefit to the people, and he quoted the state of the congested areas, and stated that land purchase had been promised, and this, surely, was a proposal to deal with the social and economic grievances under which the people suffered. I have been listening to various speakers, particularly those representing, first, the congested areas, and second, the farmers, and I have been wondering to what extent the proposed land purchase is really going to affect the state of those million people who are living on valuations of from £5 to £10. Land purchase is satisfactory to the Deputies as a means of dealing with their economic grievances! It is going to add to the income of those congests by, possibly, £5 a year. I wonder does Deputy Whelehan and those others who supported his contention think that that is a satisfactory method of dealing with economic and social grievances. After all, land purchase, while it has had a very strong appeal in the past, and I suppose still has, particularly to the larger farmers, its urgency, except for the habit of thought, is really not anything like so great to-day as it was ten years ago. The rise of prices, the depreciation in the value of money, had removed to a very great extent the urgency of that problem, because, after all, apart from the sentimental and the elemental urge that has been spoken of in favour of the possession of land, it is a problem of a material kind mainly. With the doubling of prices of produce, bought or sold, the outgo for rent on unpurchased land has been comparatively halved, so that to that extent the problem that this land purchase scheme is intended to solve is very much minimised as compared with the position in 1913-14.
You know nothing about it.
Deputy Gorey says I know nothing about it.
You do not know.
Deputy Gorey has had ample opportunity for speaking.
I am sorry Deputy Johnson did not speak before me.
We cannot arrange the business exactly to suit Deputy Gorey always.
I challenge anybody to controvert that statement of the case: that an annual rental of £5, £10, or £15 in 1913, with prices to-day practically double, has only half the effect upon the tenants, and I suppose the great majority of those tenants in the congested areas have as a matter of fact purchased their holdings. The Minister, and, of course, I recognise the fact, told us that part of the intention was to purchase ranches. I suppose Deputy Whelehan will contend that that is part of the scheme which is going to benefit congests, but the mere purchase of the ranches is not going to benefit congests. It will depend entirely on the method of distribution of these ranches, and it is not embodied in the scheme of land purchase which has been suggested, outlined, or hinted at by the Minister. Now I think the problem of the congested areas is a very terrible one, but I do not think it is going to be solved merely by land purchase — I mean you have to think of the tenants, of holders of lands in those congested areas, pretty much as you have to think of the sweated industries in the city. You have got to think of them in relation to the general economic position. You have to give them opportunities of a wider means of production, and you have to find an outlet for their produce. I am not sure whether one ought not to suggest here that some adaptation of the minimum Wage and Trade Boards to those congested and sweated people ought not to be considered. I would remind the Dáil that if you are going to add to the holding of these congests you have got to do it in a way which will add to their productive and consuming capacity. If these men and families living in these areas did not, as they do to so great an extent, live on their own produce, if they were to depend entirely upon the sales, turning into money, of their produce, and purchasing everything that they consumed, their problem would be multiplied considerably, and you are coming to this consideration: that just as you put those congests now living upon their own produce to a very great extent into the position of marketing their produce and purchasing their requirements in the world markets, unless you do something else besides land purchase you are not going to improve the condition very much. You are going to put those people into the position of depending upon this International trading, this marketing of produce, and the purchasing of marketed commodities, with the concurrent burden of paying from 33 to 50 per cent. over and above the cost of production for mercantile charges and for rent, interest, and profit. In so far as congests live on their own produce they are avoiding that. Improve their condition by putting them into a state where they will have to market everything, and purchase everything in the open market, and you are putting them into a state where they have to hand over to all these middle men, and to all these people who are simply adding to costs without giving anything valuable in return, a considerable proportion of the value of their produce. I quoted here the other day, when speaking about the railway position, that more than one-third, or forty per cent., or even more than forty per cent., of the money paid for transport by the people of Ireland went to shareholders. At least forty per cent. of the purchase price of their commodities goes in the same way, and similarly on all the commodities that are sold by the farmer-producer; before these things reach the consumer, similar burdens of rent, interest, and profit are added. Now, I am convinced that unless you are able by one means or another to relieve the small holder-producer of this burden you are doing very little indeed by simply removing the burden of rent as against annuities. The Minister warned us, I use the word warned advisedly, that he is going to see that the landlords get a fair price for the land, the farmers are going to get a fair deal, and the landless men are going to get a fair deal. We are all going to be dealt with fairly. I wonder who is going to be the judge in dealing with the landlords as to what is fair.
I am very glad of that. I hope it will not be the Seanad. We are going to promise the landlords a fair deal, and we are told quite rightly that the taking possession of land must be done by legal methods, and not by force. Now, I am one of those who believe that it is probably cheaper in the long run to acquire property that is unrighteously, I was going to say illegally, held by purchase than by confiscation. For it usually takes longer to persuade the community to acquire land by confiscation, even legal confiscation, than it does to persuade the community to purchase it. Unless the Dáil, representing the mind of the majority of the people, is prepared to see that the land that is to be purchased is purchased at a price which will take into consideration all the factors, not merely the factor of how much the landlord has been able to draw out of that land in the past, but how he got the land and what true title he has to it, what he has done to keep it in heart, what he has done to give value to that land. I think that in the majority of cases if due consideration is given to the question of a fair price, if due consideration is given to the question of how much value that land owner has added to the land he owns, then the price will be fair enough, but it will be very small indeed. But if we are going to transfer the land from the present holders at what the landlords are prepared to think of as a fair price, then there is not going to be much relief to the country, and as Deputy Gorey has frequently reminded us, the taxpayers of the country are in very large measure, indeed, the farmers of the country, and if the burden is going to be thrown upon them as taxpayers of an excessive price of land——
On a point of personal explanation I would like to say that the one thing that I was careful of in my speech was that I deliberately refrained from dealing with the question of price. The only allusion I made to prices was that the landlord wanted fair terms and the tenant wanted cheap land. On that superstructure Deputy Johnson bases a tremendous case that the landlords are going to get what they consider to be their own terms, and that the taxpayer is to pay for it.
I am glad to have from the Minister a refutation of the suggestion that the landlords are going to get a fair price. I hope it will be noted I used the word refutation of the statement, that I think I took down correctly, that the landlords are to get a fair price, because we know usually what that implies. Then there will be an economic benefit to the country to the extent that that sum of money which to-day goes to the landlords will be greatly reduced. That is a very hopeful outlook, and I congratulate the Minister upon it. I just want to say in regard to the Minister's condemnation of the attempt to get possession of land by force, that while one recognises that Parliamentary and legal methods of applying compulsion are infinitely better than the anarchistic movement on the part of a few people to obtain possession of lands by force on their own initiative, still one must bear in mind that it has taken that initiative in the past to move Parliaments in more countries than one; even native Parliaments have had to be moved in such a direction by the unauthorised use of force. It will be our duty, I hope, to prevent the necessity by forestalling the movement of the people and to prevent the necessity of the stimulus that unauthorised confiscation of lands usually gives to Parliamentary methods and activities. The Minister spoke, if I did not misunderstand him, of putting some slight barrier to the unlimited control of land by the purchasing tenants or by the purchaser; he does not pretend that the unlimited control of land should be handed over. I am not sure that I understand that correctly. I hope there will be some conditions placed upon purchasers which will imply the effective use of land, and that the purchaser does not purchase the unlimited control of land, but that it is to be a conditional purchase, which implies that there must be proper utilisation of that land in the interests of the well-being of the community, even though that well-being conflicts with the individual profit-making capacity of the purchaser. We talked about the compulsory purchase of ranches. It does not lie in the mouth of any upholder of the doctrine that the owner of property has the right to do what he likes with that property — it does not lie in the mouth of the upholder of that doctrine to say that there should be compulsory purchase of ranches, or that there should be compulsory tillage, or that the holder of that land should not use it solely for the grazing of cattle. It is because it has come to be recognised as a legal thing that land which is ultimately the property of the Nation must be used to the common good, and that ranching is not to the common good, even though it might be to the good of the individual, that the doctrine of compulsion has been so generally accepted. But I would apply even to the small holder and to the small farmer the doctrine that the State has a right to step forward and say you are not using this land to the common good, and, therefore we have a right to interfere with your unsatisfactory use of it. I think that while the mover of this amendment dealt almost in the main with the congested districts problem, and while other speakers have enlarged upon that, and dealt with the problem as it affects the unpurchased tenants all over the country, there is undoubtedly a very general feeling that the problem has to be tackled seriously and urgently, and — whether I am right or wrong in my belief that it is, in terms of cash at any rate, not so urgent to-day as it was—the very fact that there is a general belief that it is urgent justifies the Government in pushing this forward as an urgent measure. I want to press upon the Minister that in any proposals that he may make for dealing with the ranches that he will consider the wisdom of providing for some of those ranches being operated by co-operative holders, acting co-operatively and working the ranches on a large scale, and not allowing the proposal for dividing up to over-ride every other consideration. I believe it will be found that many of them, at any rate, ought to be occupied by groups of men, farmers or labourers, who will work that land on a large scale, holding the land co-operatively. While I am not one who thinks that any single method of tenure or working is applicable to all parts of the country, I would like to see an opportunity created for men to hold large tracts of land and to work them in groups for the co-operative benefit, and see how far such a method of holding, and such a method of cultivation, would prevail over the sub-divisions into small holdings in the general economic scheme of things. I think the country requires to encourage different methods of tenure; that is to say, different methods of cultivation and different plans, and that we should not look forward to the future of agriculture in Ireland as a system wholly and solely of small holders, but that we should bear in mind the possibility that land is more economically worked on a large scale, and that a greater number of people will get a better living out of land they have worked and farmed co-operatively.
I confess I do not understand one of the points which Deputy Johnson made. As far as I could understand him he suggested that by increasing the Poor Law Valuation of a holding from £5 to £10 you merely increase the farmer's income by £5 per annum.
I said nothing at all about that.
I have taken down the exact words—he is going to add to their income by £4 or £5.
What I intended to convey, however badly I may have done it, was that the purchase scheme might benefit the purchaser to the extent of £5 in those small holdings that Deputy Whelehan spoke about last night. It might save him £5 out of his annual rent.
The implication being that is really the only benefit he gets out of it. All I have to say about that is that anybody who knows anything about conditions of farming in 1914, and conditions of farming now, and who knows the difference, in fact, between an economic and uneconomic holding, will know that that statement is absolutely divorced from the realities of the case. I agree with the Deputy that land purchase is not the solution of all our economic difficulties. I think I made that point clear at the beginning. People will have to realise that there are other ways of making a living, even in Ireland, than by the land. Land purchase cannot do everything, and I agree further with the Deputy that you are not going to solve the problem of the congested areas by land purchase. You will have to give the sort of tenant who lives in colonies, in Connemara, in Mayo, and on the seaboard, other opportunities for development. All you can claim for land purchase is that if you put up what is popularly called ranch land in the congested areas, and if there is a judicious scheme of migration, you are really giving economic holdings to the maximum number of people, having regard to the amount of land available in the country. That is all that can be done by land purchase, and I never claimed any more for it. Now, as regards price, I never suggested the landlords should get their own prices. That is clear, I hope. I was careful to state that I did not intend to refer to prices, and I made no reference to prices, or no reference to the prices at which the owners should sell and the tenants should buy; but if anyone asks me now should the landlords get a fair price, I shall answer it straight away. Of course they should. Those are the only points I wish to make.
After the statement by the Minister for Agriculture, the promise he has given to complete land purchase and divide the ranches, and after the exhaustive and very interesting and useful debate, I would be disposed, with the permission of the Dáil, to withdraw the amendment.