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Dáil Éireann debate -
Thursday, 14 Jun 1923

Vol. 3 No. 27


I stated on First Reading that the price of a tenancy on which a judicial rent of £100 had been fixed prior to 1911, was to be approximately fifteen years' purchase, and that the tenant purchaser's annuity was to be £65, a reduction of 35 per cent. It will obviate misunderstandings if we consider the general principles of the Bill in their application to such a tenant. His case is the key to the position. The figures which apply to it can be adjusted and made to apply to the very small number of judicial tenancies on which rents were fixed after 1911. This 35 per cent. reduction gives the tenant on the average 10 per cent. better terms than tenants who have purchased under the 1903 Act, and between 8 per cent. and 10 per cent. better terms than tenants who have purchased under the 1909 Act. Consider what that means. Annuity is interest and sinking fund on money lent by the State and borrowed by the tenant to pay for his holding. The rates of interest between 1903 and the outbreak of the European war were 2¾ and 3 per cent. The rate now is 4½ per cent. Notwithstanding this increase, we were faced with the problem of evolving a scheme which would leave the tenant's interest and sinking fund not merely the same, but actually lower, than pre-war figures. Land Purchase is essentially a stock exchange transaction, and we were under the necessity of carrying it through as if the European war with its tremendous reactions on prices and credits had never occurred; as if the rebellion of the last twelve months had not cost us about three times the price of land purchase; as if, in fact, the trend of things was entirely the other way. We have tried to do it, and as I have said, the terms offered give to tenant purchasers under this Bill annuities between 8 per cent and 10 per cent. lower than the annuities of pre-war tenant purchasers. The term over which the tenant-purchaser will pay annuity, will vary, of course, with the price of the stock on the market, but the maximum will be between 68 and 69 years, that is to say, the same term as tenant purchasers under the 1903 Act.

The price is approximately fifteen years' purchase. I explained on first reading that even at the price of 3 per cent. land stock between 1909 and 1914, there would be no difficulty in borrowing between £1,500 and £1,600 on terms which would leave the tenant's interest and sinking fund £65. Now, with interest at 4½ per cent., £65 will only provide interest and sinking fund for £1,368, and we are forced, therefore, if we are to achieve our double purpose of being just to the landlords and generous to the tenants, to add 10 per cent. as a State contribution, making the price within a few decimal points of £1,505. I hope we are not going to be involved in a futile argument as to whether this 10 per cent. is a bonus or a contribution to the price. It does not matter what we call it. Everyone to his taste. The important thing is to realise exactly what it means, what purpose it achieves, and if we are clear about that, then we need not waste time in arguing about its name.

Is £1,505 a fair price in all the circumstances? I will content myself with indicating the considerations which the Government had in mind when fixing it. We were acquiring property compulsorily for the first time in the history of the Free State, and whatever the principles, or if anyone prefers the word, the expediencies, of the case may be, I take it we can all agree that the issues raised are manifold, and are entitled to something more than casual decisions. First, the transaction cannot be looked at as an ordinary case of bargain and sale where the price is fixed entirely by reference to market value. Market value is a variable quantity. It fluctuates according to the point of view of the vendor, and according to the point of view of the purchaser. It may have been one thing last year; another thing this year, and it may be something quite different next year. What I will call the value of the property as a security is much more stable. Fee-simple property is, and always has been, a recognised security, and in fact, Irish rents are quite a common security both in Ireland and England. We are dealing, therefore, not only with the vendor, but with the people who receive his head rents, with his mortgagees and his encumbrancers. These include different people and different institutions; middle-class people who wanted a reliable 5 or 6 per cent. for their money, stock-brokers, charitable institutions, banks, insurance companies, and so on. When they are lending their money as an investment, they take care to make allowances for fluctuations in the market value. Irish lands, in view of the fact that rents have been regulated by law since 1881, are, as a business matter, a recognised investment, and in view of the fact that they have escaped the general inflation during the war, are mortgageable, that is to say, are worth, from the point of view of a banking institution, a high percentage of their current value. We realise that we cannot afford—to put it for the moment on no higher grounds—to fix a price on these lands which would adversely affect their value as a security. In other words, we cannot afford to give notice to people here or elsewhere who have money to invest that Ireland is no place in which to invest it. That is the first consideration; it is the business aspect of the question, and from that point of view, it is the primary consideration for the State. There are others. There is the tenant's point of view, that at present agriculture is not flourishing, and we have to put that fact against its condition in the immediate past and its prospects in the immediate future; and there is the landlord's point of view, that a large number of the estates with which we are left to deal are mortgaged to individuals, to banks, and to other institutions, and encumbered with family charges and head rents up to their full security value. We have endeavoured to fix the price in the light of all these considerations of financial credit, and in addition to keep in mind the necessity for fair dealing. We realise that when applied to the heavily encumbered estates, it will entail hardships, and we have tried to provide for this and for the fact that the purchase money is being paid, not in cash, but in bonds, by arranging that the redemption price of mortgages, encumbrances and head rents shall also be paid in bonds.

With regard to tenancies on which judicial rents have been fixed after 1911, the annuity and price are, when the extra reduction which these tenants received has been taken into account, slightly more favourable to the tenant. The price of non-judicial holdings on which the rents vary very widely must be fixed by the Land Commission, who will take all the circumstances into consideration. A 10 per cent. contribution to the price will be made by the State in the case of all tenancies. Untenanted land will be acquired by the Land Commission at a price which, in default of agreement, will be such an amount as may be fixed by the Land Commission other than the Judicial Commissioner, or by the Judicial Commissioner on appeal from the Land Commission, and in fixing such amount, regard shall be had to the fair value of the land to the Land Commission and the owner respectively. There will be no contribution to purchase money in the case of untenanted land.

I do not think I need labour this question of price any further. I claim, and I think I may say that it is admitted by the tenants themselves, that the terms provided have, so far as it is possible to do so, succeeded in reconciling the conflicting questions of price and annuity within the equities of the case.

I have explained the terms with regard to arrears on first reading. The arrears now due are not in the same case as the arrears, say, in 1881, which were dealt with by the 1881 Act. The strike against rents which took place during the last two or three years was only indirectly a strike for a reduction in rents. It was primarily a strike against the relationship of landlord and tenant, a protest by the existing tenants against the fact of their not having purchased. This differentiates the problem from all previous problems of the same nature. So far as it was a protest against the fact of non-purchase we have met the case; we are introducing this Land Purchase Bill. We are now faced with the problem of making an arrangement which will obviate, as far as possible, the hardships that must ensue as a result of the necessity which the tenants are under of paying rents which accrued due over a period of two or three years, within a much shorter period. There are 70,000 tenancies, with a rental of about £800,000, that is to say, an average rent of about £12 per annum. We all realise that the payment of £12 per annum over a period of two years is a different proposition from a payment of £24 down. That is the difficulty from the tenant's point of view.

On the other hand, the landlord is under the necessity of paying his head rents and interest charges in respect of those years during which arrears of rent have accumulated. Further, he must pay them in full without any abatement. This will be his position until he receives his purchase money and is in a position to redeem his charges. The owner of a heavily encumbered estate will not be able to pay his full rent and interest charges out of the income from his purchase money. The purchase money is £1,505. The income is £67.72. This £67.72 is the interest at 4½ per cent. on the purchase money. On the other hand, the interest on his charges may be, and probably is, at the rate of 5 per cent or 6 per cent. He can overcome this difficulty, that is, the difficulty due to the fact that whereas he is only receiving an income of £4 10s. 0d. on every £100 of his purchase money, he may be under the necessity of paying out £5 or £6 for every £100 of his purchase money which represents the redemption price of a mortgage or charge by redeeming his rents and other charges in bonds at once, but he cannot do this until he receives his purchase money, and hence we cannot in equity allow the same abatement in regard to arrears and payment in lieu of rent, that is to say, in regard to the period during which the landlord must pay his full charges without any abatement, as we have allowed in respect of annuity. We have taken these facts into consideration, and in addition the fact that before the landlord receives his compounded arrears or payment in lieu of rent, costs of collection must be deducted, and in the light of these facts we have fixed the reduction in regard to arrears and payment in lieu of rent at 25 per cent. All arrears up to the first gale day in 1920 and all hanging gales are written off. The arrears collectable are the arrears due from the first gale day, in 1920, to the first gale day in the present year, 1923. One year's arrears, less 25 per cent., is to be paid on the passing of the Act, and the balance —where there is a balance, is to be paid in cash in accordance with regulations to be made by the Land Commission, who will take all the circumstances into account.

I referred shortly to the scope of the Bill on first reading. It is defined in Section 21. The relevant portion reads:

"Subject to the provisions of this Act, and notwithstanding anything contained in any other enactment, all tenanted land wherever situated, and all untenanted land situated in any congested districts county, and such untenanted land situated elsewhere as the Land Commission shall, before the appointed day, declare to be required for the purpose of relieving congestion, or of facilitating the resale of tenanted land, shall by virtue of this Act, vest in the Land Commission on the appointed day."

Sub-section 2 of the same Section provides that the foregoing Section shall not apply to land which has been purchased previously under the Land Purchase Acts, land which is not substantially agricultural or pastoral, demesne land, home farms building sites, or land held by the State.

Then sub-section 3 provides that, where it is required for the purpose of relieving congestion, the foregoing lands excluded by sub-section 1, except land held by the State, may be acquired compulsorily by the Land Commission. That, I think, for all practical purposes, justifies my statement on first reading, that for the relief of congestion, the Land Commission has power to acquire any land of any kind anywhere.

Section 28 specifies the persons to whom advances may be made by the Land Commission for the purchase of parcels of land. They are: congests, tenants who enter into an agreement to exchange their holdings, evicted tenants who have been evicted within a period of twenty-five years before the passing of the Land Act of 1903, labourers who have been deprived of their employment by reason of the sale of any lands, and any other suitable persons. Congests have the first claim, and any land available after congests have been dealt with may be sold to these persons. It is specifically provided by sub-section (2) of Section 28 that when choosing landless men to whom advances are to be made, the Land Commission shall be satisfied as to their competence to work the land, their intention to do so and not to sell, let or assign it.

The problem of congestion is a huge one and it bristles with difficulties. There are congests on practically every estate, and wherever there are congests the Land Commission will acquire the estates, deal with the congests and resell the balance to landless men. Outside the congested districts, which are roughly the Province of Connaught, the Counties of Donegal and Kerry and parts of the Counties of Clare and Cork, though untenanted land will be bought, in the first instance for congests, nevertheless the major portion will be available for landless men. In the congested districts, however, the case is different. There are thousands of wretched holdings huddled together along or near the sea coasts, all under £10 valuation and with very little untenanted land of any kind in the neighbourhood to provide for them. As far as possible these tenants must be migrated, and as far as possible the bigger tenants must be migrated. Bigger tenants, as a rule better educated, are more suitable for migration. But after everything has been done there will be a residue, and I am afraid a big residue of congests undealt with. I do not want to dilate too much on the difficulties; most people understand the difficulties of getting tenants to migrate, difficulties which arise from the point of view of the tenants themselves and from the point of view of the tenants and landless men on the estates to which they are going. We can only do our best, and I claim that we have done our best when we provide that any land of any kind may be taken for the relief of congestion. We have not preserved the old definition of a congested tenant. The Congested Districts Board had a hard and fast rule that no tenant of a holding of £10 Valuation or over could be regarded as a congest. We have not drawn any definite line. There are tenants whose holdings are over £10 valuation and who are nevertheless congests. It is only right that the Land Commission, where possible, should be able to deal with them as such. Owing to the special conditions in the congested districts, Section 21, which I have quoted already, specifies that all untenanted land in the congested districts shall be taken up not only compulsorily but in fact automatically; and it should be remembered that land will be required outside the congested districts not only for the purposes already specified, but for migrating tenants from the congested districts.

Section 27 deals with the limitation on advances and provides that the Land Commission may advance up to £3,000 to any tenant for the purchase of his holding, and further gives the Land Commission a discretion to advance more in any case where, in the opinion of the Land Commission, who will take all the circumstances of the case into account, it is expedient to advance more. This limitation will mean that the Land Commission will retain on hands considerable areas of large tenancies and these will be used for the same purposes as untenanted land. Where they are not required for the relief of congestion they will be sold to landless men.

Section 33 empowers the Land Commission to acquire compulsorily any bog, even bog which has been sold under some of the previous Acts to tenant purchasers. Under the previous Acts in certain cases all available bog has been sold to tenants, with the result that these tenants have more than enough, while there is no turbary available for future tenant purchasers. This Section enables us to deal with that difficulty, I hope, equitably.

Section 36 gives ample power to the Land Commission to make regulations with respect to turbary on any bog and to make such regulations as may be necessary for conferring or defining rights of access to or through the bog.

Sporting rights and fishing rights are dealt with in Section 38. They vest in the Land Commission. This need not frighten anybody. In practice there are no sporting rights of any monetary value on tenanted land. There are, however very valuable sporting rights on untenanted land, such as large areas of bog and mountain. These can be developed and can be made to yield an income that will be by no means negligible. There are extremely valuable fishing rights out of which a very large number of fishermen make their living, especially on the bigger rivers, and there is no reason why they should be vested in the tenant who happens to own the adjoining land. If anybody has a first claim to them it is the fishermen who have been making their living out of them up to date. The Land Commission will acquire these rights and let them at reasonable prices. These are the main provisions of the Land Purchase section of the Bill.

We have endeavoured to make what I will call the machinery of the Bill as simple as possible. As from the date of the passing of the Act the relationship of landlord and tenant shall no longer exist. The State will take over the management of the estates as a going concern, will collect the compounded arrears of rent up to the first gale day of this year and will collect payment in lieu of rent from the first gale day of this year until the appointed day. The appointed day, as I have said before, will vary for different counties and perhaps for different sections of counties, and on the appointed day the landlords' interest in the holdings of the tenants for whom the day has been appointed shall vest in the Land Commission. Before that appointed day can be named it will be necessary to find out accurately the name of the tenant, the area of his holding, the amount of his rent, whether he is a present or future tenant, and if judicial, whether he is a first, second or third term tenant, and other particulars of that sort. When these facts are ascertained the appointed day is named, the holdings vest in the Land Commission and the tenant begins to pay a sum which is equivalent to his annuity, that is to say, a sum which, in the case we have been considering, is a 35 per cent. reduction on his existing rent. When the estate is completely re-arranged and all titles in connection with it made to the satisfaction of the Land Commission, the holdings on the estate which up to then are vested in the Land Commission will be vested in the purchasers and the bonds for the purchase money allocated to the vendor and to his encumbrancers. Sub-section 2 of Section 25 deals with this matter and provides as follows:

"There shall be payable by the tenant to the Land Commission an annual sum equivalent to the standard purchase annuity for the holding, from the appointed day until the gale day next after the holding is vested in the tenant."

Sub-section 4 of the same Section specifies that all payments made by the tenant after the appointed day on foot of the annual sum payable by him to the Land Commission shall, from and after the vesting of the holding in him, be treated for all purposes as if they had been payments in respect of purchase annuity. It will be noted that in effect the tenant begins to redeem his purchase money as from the appointed day, though as a matter of book-keeping the payments will not be appropriated to this purpose until after the holding is vested in him. The reason for this distinction is as follows:—Certain holdings will be retained, say, for the relief of congestion, and certain holdings will not be sold in their entirety to the owners, and it is necessary to make it quite clear that though the tenant is paying a sum which is equivalent to his purchase annuity as from the appointed day, nevertheless his payments will not be appropriated to the payment of the sinking fund until the Land Commission is in a position to say whether they are going to vest the holding in him or resume it or part of it for other purposes. It is necessary to make it quite clear that the occupier is not the owner until the Land Commission is in a position to say whether they require the whole or any part of the holding. In 75 per cent. of cases tenants will be left in occupation of their old holdings, or will get additions to their old holdings, but it will take some time before the Land Commission can say who are the particular tenants who will come within the other 25 per cent. category. It would be going back to the old slow procedure to hold up the appointed day and to defer the commencement of payment of sinking fund in redemption of the purchase money until that is decided, that is to say, until the estates are re-arranged. The difficulty is got over by the provisions in the Act which provide that a sum equivalent to the annuity shall be paid as from the appointed day by all tenants, and that this payment shall not be appropriated towards annuity until the holding is vested in the tenant. This arrangement gets over definitely the grievance which tenants had under the old Acts by reason of the fact that they were paying interest in lieu of rent, none of which went in redemption of the price, for six or seven or ten years before the holding was vested in them. Every payment made under this Act after the appointed day will count as contribution towards redemption of the advance, and this alone makes the procedure just about five or six times more expeditious than the procedure under the 1903 and 1909 Acts. I beg to move the Second Reading of the Bill.

I beg to second the motion.


Whilst I thoroughly agree that the Minister for Agriculture has made a fair effort to bring in a Bill to settle the land question in this country, I believe there are many shortcomings in the present measure, and that it will require drastic amendment in the Committee Stage. There are only two points which I would desire to impress upon the Minister. The other points will be dealt with by other members of the Party. My first point is as regards the price. The price is not so liberal at all in the Bill, I think, as the Minister would have us believe. The conditions, as you are all aware, of the agricultural industry in the past three years have not been at all favourable to those engaged in that occupation. In fact, for the past two or three years people engaged in the industry have suffered a dead loss. Therefore I think the prices quoted by the Minister and the comparisons made with former Bills are not applicable to the present conditions at all. We are all aware that the cost of producing crops for the last year or two was far in excess of the receipts obtained from those crops. For that reason I say that the people engaged in agriculture at the present time are far worse off than they were at the time alluded to by the Minister when other Bills were brought forward. Therefore they are entitled to much more liberal terms under this Bill than were the people concerned under the previous Bill.

The reduction to tenants whose rents were fixed before 1911 is 35 per cent., and to those whose rents were fixed from 1911 to 1914 30 per cent. We, and those others engaged in agriculture, believe that the terms should have been at least 40 per cent. We cannot see any real difference between the 1911 fixtures and the 1914 fixtures. We think that both should share in the same reduction under the Bill. It is not permissible at the present stage to move amendments, and I am just making a statement. What I have indicated should be, I think, the minimum offer to the tenants.

The next question I desire to touch on is the question of arrears. The landlords at present do not seem to recognise at all the section in the Bill dealing with arrears. They are out at the present moment with writs and processes to recover the full amount of their arrears, whereas a section in the Bill definitely provides for a reduction in respect of those arrears. The landlords are out for their pound of flesh in the interval before the Bill becomes law, and I am sorry to say they are assisted by the forces of the Government in the collection of those arrears.

Who is responsible for that?


Whoever is responsible for it, I am stating the facts.


You voted for it.


The soldiers are supplied to the Sheriff to collect those arrears under duress. While the Bill provides for a reduction in respect of those arrears, the landlord is taking advantage of the interval to seize and secure every pound of flesh that he possibly can. I ask the Minister and I ask the Government to give an undertaking now that the issue of writs and processes for the recovery of those arrears will be stopped. It was mainly because of that clause in the Bill dealing with arrears that the measure was acceptable to the general body of the tenants in the country. They were getting a reduction on rents that they could not possibly pay, considering the state of agriculture during the last three years, and now the Government is assisting in the collection of those rents throughout the country. This does not apply solely to one county or to two or three counties, but it applies to many counties. The State is giving assistance by lending the military to the Sheriff to collect those rents under duress. This must be stopped and, without an undertaking from the Government that the thing will be stopped and stopped immediately, I say that we must take very drastic measures with our people to see if the Bill will be accepted at all. This matter is very important—so important that even if it needs a short Bill in order to remedy it, such a Bill must be introduced by the Ministry. Otherwise I cannot say that the tenants will accept the Bill in its present form. It is a shame and a disgrace to say that while things are sub judice those people are allowed to harass and persecute the tenantry to procure the payment of rents which the Government admit by this clause in their Bill are not payable. Other clauses of the Bill will be dealt with by other members of the Party and amendments will be introduced later. But the Government must give an undertaking—and that shortly—to put a stop to the execution of writs and processes and the collection of rents under duress at the present time.

The Minister, with his usual clarity of diction, has explained to the Dáil that this particular Bill is the best of its kind which has ever been introduced, and that it is even 10 per cent. better than the Wyndham Act of 1903. It provides that the tenants pay 13.68 years' purchase of their holdings. Their annual contribution at 4¾ per cent. amounts to 65 per cent. of their rental. I want to explain what 65 per cent. of their rental would bring in under the Act of 1903. 20 years' purchase at 3¼ per cent. amounts to £65. Therefore 13.68 years purchase at 4¾ per cent. is tantamount to 20 years' purchase to the tenants of the country, who do not understand high finance. It represents 20 years' purchase as the tenant understands it, so that we need not go into ecstacies over the Bill at all. This Bill provides that for a term of years extending over two and a half generations the tenant has to pay 4¾ per cent. I do not think it is a proper view of the finances of the country which represents that the rate of interest for 68 years from now will remain at 4¾ per cent.

4½ per cent.

I believe that it is probable that in 10 or 20 years the rate of interest will be 3 per cent. Therefore I would like to see a clause in the Bill making it competent for the Minister for Finance of the day to reduce the interest to the tenant and enable him to get a benefit which is now refused him on account of the finances of the country.

Mind you, £4 15s. to-day, if it were reduced to £3 15s. in twenty years, would mean that a particular tenant would get a reduction of 20 per cent. in his rent. When men are asked to make engagements which will bind themselves and their families for two generations, an opportunity ought to be given by which, when the finances of a country are again right, these men would get the benefit. There is a point made about arrears, and also about these compulsory clauses. In a Free State that sounds wrong. The citizens of the Free State are to be compulsorily disturbed in their property. Now, there is no such thing as compulsion in this Bill. The compulsory clause was based on an agreement made in 1920. It was an agreement between the landlords and the tenants, and the very wording of this particular clause was put into a Bill which never became law. The landlords agreed, and this is not compulsion, because it is merely carrying out an agreement. Therefore, the question of compulsion does not apply and the question of acquiring land compulsorily does not arise. The question of compensation, I admit, does arise. A citizen of the Free State, be he a landlord, tenant, or anyone else, cannot be deprived of his rights without due compensation. I think this Bill is over-beneficial to the landlords in the matter of compensation. There is camouflage in the Bill. Fifteen years is put down in print. It is not fifteen years' purchase at all. There is a percentage for costs, and that means 15.3 years' purchase. Then there is payment for sporting and fishing rights; and really one does not know what the landlord does not get in the end. When you multiply that by 4½, you will observe that the landlords are coming out fairly well. In those cases the landlords would be getting 67½ per cent. of their incomes now for a problematical 100 per cent. in the future. I believe that the landlords are generously dealt with, and if anything could be done to lighten the load on the tenants it would be very desirable. Who is to get the sporting rights? What will the Land Commission do with them? Do you mean to tell me that if anyone comes from the Land Commission with licence to shoot over my farm, I will let him? I will not. If the tenant buys his land, he has as much right to the sporting rights as the State. There is such a thing as commonage in mountain rights. If you live at the foot of the Wicklow mountains you will find a man with a little bit of arable land, and he has the right of running so much collop—that is, eight sheep—on the mountain. There is no provision made in the Bill for that. Is he to be deprived of this collop? That is not defined in the Bill. I hope the Minister will define it in black and white, and so allay the feelings of the men outside. I also want to know why it was that fee-farm grants and leaseholders are debarred from the operation of the Bill. No good case has been made in that respect. Could we also have information as to what becomes of the total amount of tithes payable by the tenants? Are they to be called superior interests? I understand that the tithe charges payable by the landlord will be classified as superior interests. What becomes of the tithe rent charge payable by the tenant? No provision was made for that. Then there is the question of the omnipotent power which is to be given to what in future they will call the Land Commission—the power to take lands anywhere and at any time. I want to know what rules and regulations are there, and how the powers of the Land Commission are to be defined. It is essential in the interests of the country that the powers of the Land Commission in this respect should be defined. It may be that the land of a working farmer would be required for the purpose of what would then be described as the common weal. We are not satisfied on this point, and we would like the powers of the Land Commission to be definitely set out and embodied in the Bill, in order that we may have some security, and that we may know we are not going to be interfered with in our holdings. I am not condemning the Bill. I believe it is an honest effort to bridge over a difficulty. I believe that the Minister has done his best to try and better the lot of 350,000 of our citizens—70,000 tenancies of 5 each. On these tenants of a Free State the Minister is going to put a load for two generations. He, in his efforts to lighten that load, seems to be over-anxious to give the minority the advantage. I believe his efforts were the best he could put forward; at the same time, if I had the management of that it would be different. At the one end you have 350,000 people of your own class; at the other you have a minority of citizens whose interests the State must also protect, but I believe that the balance was made too great on one side, and fiat justitia ruat colum was forgotten. The Minister has at the same time, made an honest attempt to deal with the situation. If the landlords are prepared to take what they are entitled to, then the Bill will go on, but if not—nothing.

I wish to congratulate the Minister for Agriculture on the reception which his measure has received. I took the trouble of reading the landlords' organ immediately after the Bill was in troduced and after the text of the Bill was published, and I saw that, though they stated the Bill meant the confiscation of the landlords' property, yet they had to admit it was a bold and honest attempt on behalf of the Minister for Agriculture. In fact, their criticism, though couched in severe language, was after all only an attempt to conceal their satisfaction and delight at having obtained so much where they really feared they would not come out so well.

The splendid oratorical effort of Deputy Wilson did not at all come down to the same thing. He said it was a bold and honest attempt, and that the Minister had done his best as between the claims on both sides. The only point he made was based on the fact that money cannot be obtained on as good terms to-day as could be obtained in 1903. The Minister for Agriculture cannot be blamed for that. Deputy Wilson knows well, in the course of his purchases and sales, what changes have taken place between 1903 and to-day. Deputy Doyle pointed out the difficulties that have arisen in regard to prices and the cost of production. If Deputy Wilson compares his notes with Deputy Doyle, he will come to the same conclusion, that the Minister has made a very good attempt and has struck a happy medium as between the contending interests. One point Deputy Doyle made and Deputy Wilson corroborated was with reference to the action of the landlords at present. I never had any good opinion of Irish landlordism.

You had not much reason anyhow.

Landlordism is now in its final stage, and it seems it is going to die with a sting in it to the last. Landlords are taking advantage of an Act the provisions of which were never intended to help them as it is helping them now, but the Minister for Agriculture cannot be blamed for that. I think the Deputies on the whole, when examining the two speeches criticising this measure, will arrive at the final conclusion from both that the Minister has done his best, and that the Irish landlords of to-day are doing what they always did—their worst. As a representative of an area in the congested districts, I am far more interested in the provisions of the Bill dealing with congests. First, I might express my satisfaction with the clause that deals with turbary. Turbary, as everyone knows in the congested districts, is a very valuable right. The ownership of a bog, the ownership of the only source of fuel in the district, is a very valuable right. The Government in this Bill has put into practice a principle that even if the most revolutionary member of the Labour Party was Minister for Agriculture he could not do more. Some men own bogs in the West of Ireland who have a monopoly of bogs, and have a little gold mine in them. They are selling out those bogs at a high price to men in desperate straits for fuel. This Bill proposes to take possession of those bogs and sell them out to people who are in need of fuel. I was delighted to see that clause in the Bill. Now, as to the question of congestion, what this Bill does is to break down the fence that divides the people of congested districts from the ranches. These good lands in Connacht—and there are good lands in it—off which the people were driven are now to be made available for them. This Dáil has, on more than one occasion, approved of the principle of dividing up those ranches amongst the congests, amongst those people who were living, as the Minister for Agriculture describes, on very small holdings. The Congested Districts Board tackled this question 30 years ago, but, as Sir Henry Doran himself said, they have been only playing with it all that time. They knew very well the proper remedy for congestion, but they had not the powers to apply that remedy. They could not get possession. Now, this Bill gives them possession of the land. There is also a great difficulty that the Congested Districts Board were faced with, and that is, how to deal with the congests. You take a man out of his area where he has 3 or 4 acres of land, and where up to this he has been living the poorest life of any peasant in Europe, that is, that his standard of living is at the very lowest. If you were told what his meals were and what his family lives on, this Dáil would hardly believe it. If you take a man who is living on a farm like that, and trying to eke out an existence on it, and bring him away to a big ranch and say, "Here is 15 or 20 acres of that land for you," you will have the difficulty about his house and outoffices and fencing. These will cost five or six hundred pounds. The interest on that amount, at probably 5 per cent., would be £25 or £30. Is that to be put on top of what is considered to be a fair rent? If that is done, it is impossible. He cannot face the burden. You cannot go ahead with your remedy. You will come to a full stop. The Government must face that question. Congestion is an evil in the National body. These people have only been able to make out a living so far by sending their children to England to reap the harvest and going there themselves; a most humiliating and disgraceful situation it is to see thousands of these men crossing over to England and Scotland and living in stables and barns and coming back with their savings. Worse still it is to see the girls going over. Then there is the American letter which brings home the cheque which pays the rent and helps to keep them going. That state of things cannot be kept going continuously, and I am glad the Government are taking the first step to-day, and I hope they will take the final step to remedy congestion. The Congested Districts Board set up a great many—fifty to fifty-three thousand—holdings, and of these holdings not a single tenant failed in a single case to meet his engagement. If ten or five per cent. of them failed, it would not be a reflection upon the general body. I have a letter from the Congested Districts Board saying that in not a single case did these people fail to meet their engagements. These people are deserving of every support. They have gone to every extreme of effort to make a living. Canada is faced with a problem. Canada has land, but has not the men. Australia has land, but has not the men. We have the land and we have the men. The Minister for Home Affairs said we have a depopulated country. But you have people cultivating land that would not repay cultivation at any rent. If you go to the barony of Erris you would have to take two hundred acres to get a holding with a valuation of £10. If the Government means to go ahead in earnest against congestion, I would urge them that they must be more generous in setting up the congests than the Congested Districts Board were. If they come to this Dáil for any further powers in that matter this Dáil will readily give them those powers.

I must condemn the present Government for the drastic action they have taken in regard to the arrears of rent of many unpurchased tenants. There are three farmers in my locality, and their cattle and horses have been seized by the bailiffs, assisted by the National troops, and I submit it is a very bad action by our Government. These farmers whose cattle and horses have been seized were the men on whose lands the Clonbanin ambush took place, and where Colonel-Commandant Cummings lost his life. These people gave us assistance when we were out on the hills fighting against an alien Government. I think it is a very bad action for the Government to seize cattle on these farms for arrears of rent due to English landlords. I do not know what sympathy this Government has with these landlords. It seems to me they have some sympathy with them. I know several tenants who asked the landlords to sell some time ago, and they refused to sell because they had the English law and Government at their backs. Now, I know some farmers in North Cork who gave assistance to the Free State troops in every way. The Irregulars found it out, and gave them final notice to quit the country, and they had to be deported to Glasgow. What protection did the Free State Army give them for the help they rendered? Now, when normal times have come, cattle can be seized from the farmers. I do not think that that is just or fair. I would ask the Government, therefore, to stay all executions for decrees for rent and also to stay civil bills. I hope they will give a straight answer to that matter.

One does not want to be cruel, but the temptation is very great to remind Deputies of the Farmers' Party of their conduct. Despite very earnest and very direct warnings that what they are now complaining of would certainly not have happened if they did not support the Government on the Enforcement of Law Bill, they did it with their eyes open. Everything that has now happened was foreshadowed from these benches. Deliberately and with knowledge they supported the Government in passing that measure. The Minister and Deputy Sears on one side, and the Farmers' Party on the other side, have discussed the finances of the Bill and have discussed the details, one side suggesting that there is fairness here and generosity there, and the other side saying generosity is over-stated and that there is no such thing as fairness. It seems to me that, inasmuch as this is the first Land Bill that has been discussed in an Irish Parliament for a very long time, we ought to consider something more fundamental than the mere detail of the business transaction that the Minister spoke of. I think we have to go back before agreeing to the passing of this Bill. By the way, I would like before the vote is taken that some ruling should be given from the Chair as to whether it would be competent to receive an amendment from a Deputy, not a Minister, such as that foreshadowed by Deputy Doyle, which would mean raising the charge upon the State. I question whether it is competent for any amendment to come from anyone but the Executive Council raising a charge upon the State, and, inasmuch as there is a ten per cent. mentioned in the Bill, any alteration in the incidence of the charges which would not mean a reduction in the amount to be paid to the landlords would mean an increased charge on the State.

That was not intended from our benches.

The question seems to me to arise at once, as to whether we are to consider the relations between the landlord and tenant in this matter as a right relation, whether, in fact, we are to consider the landlord's claim as a just claim, and whether in the allocating of a price we are to consider his position as one which he has occupied in equity and justice. It is true that for fifty or sixty years there has been an understanding that landlords should be bought out, and Land Purchase Bills have been passed and made use of, but they were passed not by an Irish Parliament. It was the best that could be done, and I am not going to subscribe to the proposition that because terms were made and accepted by the tenants in Ireland giving the landlords certain property rights in their land, certain rights to charge rentals for the use of land therefore we have to accept that as a right, and must consider it as personal property, or, leaving out the legal meaning of that phrase, as property to which the landlord has an equitable claim. The whole basis of the agitation that led to the Land Acts and Land Purchase Acts was that the landlords had no rights to the land, that they had stolen those lands, and their only right was the right of conquest. I was interested enough in the Minister's speech on the First Reading to read a book which is very interesting, "The Fall of Feudalism in Ireland," and I take this extract from the Land League's judgment of the 1881 Land Purchase Bill before it became law. "It is impossible to place the relations between landlord and tenant on any sound economic basis in Ireland. With us landlordism means confiscation. The people of Ireland will never acknowledge any Statute of Limitations in a matter of injustice. Their basis is their inalienable right to the land of their country. They consider the longer the injustice is continued the greater is the wrong inflicted, and if they seem to accept the principle of land law compensation they do so not as an admission of the landlord's right, but because they are willing to accept a peaceful solution of the question. They are prepared to make concessions to-day; to-morrow they may insist on rigid justice." That was in 1881. Is to-day the to-morrow of the Land League manifesto? Is this the day when we ought to insist on rigid justice?

Then, if we are to insist on rigid justice, we ought to insist on having presented the two titles to the land which is to be sold, and if the title is not quite good and not acceptable to the people of this country, then all the damage done must be charged against the State in so far as the State can bear it. There will be very little coming to the landlord if justice is to be done, but the tenants in the main have accepted the principle that they are prepared to pay annual sums for a limited number of years with the object of obtaining possession of that land free of rent after that period has expired.

resumed the chair at this stage.

Surely conditions have to be taken into account as the years pass, and if in the case of landlords who had an opportunity and refused to avail of it—if in that case they come now and ask to be put in as good a position as their predecessors or as their neighbours, we have a right to examine the position quite afresh, and consider it de novo at least in Dáil Eireann. I believe that it is our duty in the Dáil, representing the people, to lay down, in considering the terms on which land is to be transferred, that the first charge upon the land and the produce of the land must be a reasonable livelihood for the people who are working that land. I read an authority, an Estate Commissioner, in his definition of an economic holding. “It is to be a holding of sufficient productive capacity to support a family at a reasonable standard of comfort out of the produce, and after the family have been supported at a reasonable standard of comfort, then to pay the rent.” So, even on that definition of an economic holding we have got to assume that the holding is capable, first of all, of maintaining the family at a reasonable standard of comfort; and in present conditions, when agricultural produce is produced for the market to sell, the economic conditions of that holding are variable. It may be economic this year, and not economic next year, and I make the assertion that, despite agreements that may be come to between the legal owner and tenant, despite agreements when we are dealing with land, bearing in mind, as the Minister for Home Affairs has told us so frequently these last few days, that there is a difference between land and manufactured property; despite agreements, men working on a holding or on a farm, farmer and labourer, have a right as first charge upon the produce to a reasonable standard of life. But what the Bill proposes to do is to say that the first charge upon the holding shall be an annuity for sixty-eight years, and at the end of that time even the purchase price, with the freedom to reinvest, shall become a perpetual charge upon the annuity in the form of interest upon capital investment. It may be very good for farmers who agree upon this method of the transfer of land, and I suppose one may say they are satisfied, the landlord is satisfied, and that the other citizens need not worry; but at least the other citizens have a right to worry when we come to the question of 10 per cent. plus some other cost. We have a right then to intervene and to say that there is no reasonable claim in present circumstances, and I do not think there is any reasonable claim in any circumstances for the landlords to demand of the State something over and above what the farmer is presumed to be willing to pay. I think the treatment of the landlords in this matter is overgenerous. I think better justice would have been done to the State at any rate, and to the farmers also, if it had been said that in consideration of past practices we are prepared to allow you a sum something less than you have been getting as a rental over a limited number of years, a terminable annuity, so that those who have been dependent upon rentals would not be immediately deprived of a livelihood, and would have ample time to make provision for other means of livelihood. It seems to me that would have been a just way to have dealt with this problem. It would have been more fair to the farmer and the tenant, more just to the community, and no hardship would have been inflicted on the landlord. The thing that is being purchased, what is it? It is the annual value of the land as fixed by the Land Courts, taking no account of the tenants' improvements. That is supposed to be the intention. I wonder do farmers generally agree that that is the practice in fixing judicial rents. Do farmers agree that improvements, past or present, are not taken into account? A gentleman not unknown to fame in the Dáil is credited with responsibility for a Clause in the Act of 1881 which stated “No rent shall be allowed or made payable in respect of improvements made by the tenant or his predecessor.” Is it generally agreed that that has been faithfully observed in the fixing of judicial rents? Has it been accepted all through the country that the Healy Clause in that Act has been faithfully carried through by the Commissioners?

No, it has not.

It has not, for the price that has to be paid for the land is being based upon a price which was not fairly fixed according to the Act, which provided that the improvements which the tenants and their predecessors had made should be taken into account. For all these years since the judicial rents were fixed the landlords have had the benefit of that maladministration of the law, and henceforward, in this Bill, they are still to retain the benefits of that maladministration and wrong interpretation of the law. Is it just that this should be continued? Is it right that the Dáil should be so generous to the landlords, whose friends helped them out in these past years? It is very laudable for Ministers to desire to satisfy what is called the sense of justice of those whose ideas of justice have been trained in a different school. Justice to the landlord and justice to the landlord's supporters mean considering that they had rights, equitable rights, as well as legal rights in their estates. Real justice demands that the people who made the land valuable are the only people who have rights in equity in that land. The equity would be met by providing a landowner with an annual sum for a very limited number of years, not exceeding 25.

I think that too much is being given to the landlords under this Bill. The Bill does not say very much about very many things that are important. It is vague on matters upon which we would like to have some light. Perhaps the vagueness would be easily justified if we could be sure that the powers that would be given to the Land Commissioners would be used in the way that I think the Minister himself would desire. It may surprise some Deputies here if I say that this question of land ownership is not so important to me as is alleged. I really am not very much concerned who owns a farm of land, whether it is Earl this or Patrick that. I desire, though, to make sure that the land, whoever the owner may be, is made proper use of, and if by this process of devolution of trust from the State to an individual the greatest use can be made of the national estate I have no fault to find, but I want to see worked out in practice that the greatest use is being made of the national estate by this method of distributive ownership. I would like to see some condition imposed or implied in the Bill which would say to the future owners of these lands that by virtue of the assistance the State is giving, you have as a quid pro quo to make full use of that land, to make the best use of that land, and that not only for your own personal interests. After all, the individual interest of the landowner is what has led to the de-population of the country in favour of cattle, and I would like to see that some provision is made in the Bill to ensure that at least a refusal to make fair use of a holding would mean its falling back into the hands of the Land Commission. I would like to see also the retention of holdings large enough to make possible experiments on a large scale in agriculture. Hitherto, of course, there has been work done on that line by landowners. I think it would be undesirable to eliminate by the process of this Bill the possibility of utilising any development in agricultural science which may be caused by the over subdivision of estates. I think there might be opportunities given—I hope there are —within the limits of the Bill for large bodies to use large estates, some estates at any rate, here and there through the country for experiment and models in the hope that if they prove to be the most successful, that smaller holdings could combine and copy the methods of those large holdings. This is looking somewhat to the future, but it is well in such a Bill as this to look to the future in regard to the possibilities of agricultural development. I hope the Minister will reassure us that within the limits of the Bill there is provision made for such possible development.

I also would like to have some assurance that workmen in towns can be provided with grazing for their cows, and that there would also be a development of the plot-holding system. These are some of the smaller matters that I hope have not escaped the attention of the Minister in the framing of the Bill, but there is another matter that ought to be borne in mind before we pass from the Second Reading. When this land purchase is completed we shall have the farmer proprietor and the labourer irrevocably divided. Now, that may be inevitable. In the course of evidence before the Agricultural Commission it was brought to our notice that quite a considerable percentage of agricultural labourers in Great Britain were able, on their system of tenure, to eventually become tenant farmers, and that there was an urge forward and an encouragement given to labourers on farms to learn agriculture because of the prospects of the future.

Under the conditions that will prevail in Ireland there will be little opportunity for the landless labourer to do anything but bargain for the sale of his labour. He will be a man trained to the soil, living on the soil, and naturally inclined to the soil, but precluded from ever thinking of having a holding of his own. That at least ought to encourage the Minister to think on the lines I hinted at a moment or two ago, that there should be reserved from sale to tenants at least a number of large holdings to which capable labourers could be attracted, where they would have some responsibility—not the ownership perhaps, but some responsibility in the working of a farm. I suggest that it would be worth while bearing that in mind in dealing with the land that is to be vested in the Commission. I do not know whether the Minister has high hopes that his scheme of migration will be successful. He has appealed to the Dáil and to public men to use their influence to make it easy rather than difficult for migrants to be settled upon new lands. I hope that appeal will be responded to, and that it will be made easy. I hope that this terrible problem of congestion in the West will be eased and solved by the process begun by this Bill. When we speak of the congests' problem and the corresponding evil, the grazing problem, we are again immediately driven back to the causes of those two problems. Again we must ask ourselves the question, having regard to the causes of these evils, having regard to the people responsible in the first instance for these evils, and those who have, generation after generation, benefited by those evils, whether we are doing justice to the people more intimately concerned —to the tenants, to the migrants, and to the citizens generally—whether we are not doing greater injustice to them by being so generous as the Minister has claimed, or so fair, I think he said——

Just was a second thought. Being so just to the landlord. I am sorry that his conception of justice has so readily attuned itself to the conception of the old landlords. I would ask the Minister, when he goes away from here to-night, to telephone to the Viceregal Lodge and ask for a copy of "Stolen Waters," or "The Great Fraud on Ulster," and take that as an example of the kind of thing in respect of land that has been going on in Ireland. That was done in respect of waters all over the country—long generations ago, centuries ago no doubt, but the evil has remained, and the evil results of it are still there, and people have benefited to this day from the crimes of those people Now, having benefited so long, having, through the agency of themselves and their friends, been put into a legal position, the Minister asks the Dáil to treat them generously and treat them justly according to their conception of justice.

That is what I said—to give them justice.

"Stolen Waters" is their conception of justice.

Is maith le duine ar bith cosamhail liom féin a bhí i dtroid na talmhan nios mo bliadhanta ná mar is maith liom a rádh, an lá seo d'fhéachaint. Nuair a táimid sa tigh seo is ceart duinn deire a chur le smacht na dtighearnaí talmhan sa tír mar is maith liom féin. O'n am go rabh mé i mo ghasúr 'sa chéad rang, tá cuimhne agam go maith ar an doigh a bhí na tionantai 'na seasamh. Bhí fhios acu dá mbeadh barr mhaith ar an talamh a bhí acu go sgarfaidhe orra an chéad bhlian eile nios mo cios a dhíol. Ar an adhbhar sin, nior chur siad a geroidhe san obair. Ar an am san d'eirigh buaidhirt Pharnaill. Chuir an troid seo deireadh le smácht na d-tighearnaí tálmhan agus thug sé comacht do na tionnantaibh an feilm a dhíol ar an luach a b'fhearr a bheadh le fághail. Dhá bhlian 's fiche 'na dhiaidh seo tháinig Bille um Ceannuigheacht Tálmhan 1903. B'fhurus airgead a fhághail an t-am sin agus bhí an riaghaltas ag na tighearnaibh tálmhain féin. Bhi siad abaltha luach a fhághail o'n stát agus nuair a bhi an t-airgead seo leagtha amach ar neithibh eile bhi nios mo 'teacht isteach dóibh na mar bhi roimhe le sin. Ar an am ceudhna, bhi nios lugha ag na tionnantaibh acht bheadh an talamh saor acu féin gan cios ar bith i ndiaidh naoi m-bliadhain agus tri fichid. Ceannuigheadh amach an talamh ag cuid mhór des na feilmeóraibh faoi'n Bille seo ach tá talamh le ceannuigh ag cuid acu go fóill. Isiad seo na tionnantai atá i g-ceist anois. Tá talamh go leór fosta le roinnt nach bhfuil ag tionnant ar bith. Tá mórán daoine ann a cuireadh as seilbh go h-eagcórach. Is mór an obair atá le dheunamh ag an Bille seo—ceist na tálmhan a shocrú i dtreo go mbeidh ceart ag na daoini ar ar deineadh eagcóir.

I have to say in this we are up against the most important problem we had to face yet. We are facing it under conditions that make it a very difficult problem to deal with. Who are we that are here to deal with it? We are the children of the people who had to fight the power of landlordism in the past, who have had to stand up against it, who had to put up with the hardships that it meant, and who had to consider and feel a great deal of the sufferings and penalties that it had imposed. We are standing here with these things ringing in our ears. Remember, we do look at them from afar. We know them, we realise them, and, standing here, it is certain, instead of the assertions that are made from across the Channel in the "Morning Post" and other peculiar organs that we are not treating these agencies fairly and that we are not disposed to treat them fairly, that we are going to confiscate from them their lawful property—is it not surprising at all to them that we here can stand and view these things dispassionately? Is it not surprising to them, when we come to consider them, that we can view them in the light in which our Minister for Agriculture here has been able to view them, and in the viewing of which he has secured, so far as I can see, the sympathy and support of the people not alone in this Dáil, but throughout the whole widespread area of the country. Is this not a lesson, and one of the greatest lessons that can be preached by any persons in any country, that would for one moment lay a charge against the people of this country that we are not capable at any time of putting aside all the considerations that would urge us on to have retaliation for the wrongs we have suffered. We are approaching this question with a sense of justice and a sense of equity and a sense of fair play. I hope that those agencies will not continue in this way in making allegations that any unfairness is attempted to be practised on them. We have then the allegations of our people on the other side. We have the allegations of the sixty or seventy thousand unpurchased tenants on the other side. This Bill attempts, at a time when it is extremely difficult, to place these tenants as far as possible upon the same basis and on an equality with the tenants who have already purchased. I have carefully read the Bill and examined the figures, and, as far as I can see after reading them, it succeeds to within one per cent. of doing that—that is, placing them on the same basis. Then there is the difficulty that has to be surmounted in the borrowing of money. I think the Bill is a credit to the ability and earnestness with which this question has been approached and considered. Deputy Johnson is talking about rents not being fair in the past, and that improvements made were not allowed for. We have heard of what is known as the Healy Clause, and later on we heard of the case of Adams v. Duncan. This clause was nullified because it was held that after the improvements had been in operation for twenty years, the benefit of those improvements had gone to the tenant, and consequently no residue remained. So that has nullified that clause. With regard to unpurchased tenants and a comparison between the tenants who purchased under the Act of 1903 and the unpurchased tenants at present, I wish to show that from my estimate of the whole conditions of finance here I find that if the unpurchased tenant now got 36 per cent. of a reduction instead of 35, he would have got compensation for all that he alleges he has lost on account of the fact that he had not purchased under the Land Act of 1903. That is how he stands according to the figures here, and I have studied them. I wish here the Minister to understand another important item in connection with this Bill. I ask him to watch carefully the position with regard to the Ulster Custom. In all the Acts from 1870 down the Ulster Custom has been very jealously protected and preserved. Bear in mind that the landlord did not own any portion of the land. The tenant was the owner of both the landlord's interests and his own. The landlord had control only over an annual sum which was payable to him. The tenant held both interests, and still holds them, and those interests must be carefully protected.

I can plainly see in this Bill before us the problem that is likely to keep the forces of the Land Commission, stipulated here, in operation for, perhaps, our lifetime. I cannot see how it is possible to do all the things that are to be done by the Land Commission in the lifetime of the average man here. The problems are infinite. We cannot measure them. It is impossible to estimate them. It is easy to say the Land Commission can do this and it can do that, but look at the problems and difficulties to be faced. How is all the work going to be done? You have the question of bogs, demesne lands, uneconomic holdings, congestion, and all those other questions. Then you have matters relating to boundaries, and it is nearly impossible to arrange an exact boundary between individual tenants. Then there will have to be dealt with such matters as common rights and duties of landlords with regard to drainage and fencing. These are things that create all the troubles you have in the country. They are the cause of a considerable amount of expenditure in law, and we have to consider that these will have to be definitely decided in the Act of Parliament. There is no use in telling the Land Commission that they should do this or that. It is our duty to lay down definitely for them the procedure they are to follow and the lines they are to be guided by. If you do not, you are going to have a terrible amount of trouble and confusion. Then there is the question of commonages. It must be expressly and definitely laid down what a commonage means. You must watch all those things. They are difficult problems which will have to be faced. The Minister will have his own difficulties. This is a very big problem, and I do not suppose that this Bill will put an end to land purchase, for I can foresee a time coming when there will be another kind of purchase, a purchase from the men who have the land now, a time when the land will be used in the general interests of the community. I can foresee that, though perhaps other Deputies cannot, and if any man can prove to me that it is possible for individual ownership to safeguard the interests of the community I will at once surrender my contention. I do not think that that is possible, because I think the individual interests and the community interests involve perpetual fight. I think that the only property that we have in this country is the land. I have said so much I will now give way to Mr. Gorey, who seems anxious to follow me. I will take the liberty of telling the Minister that I intend to put down a number of amendments, and I will be insistent on pressing them. I think that the tenants have very little grievance in this Bill, and I think this will solve their difficulties. They have grievances according to themselves, but every man at present in the world has a grievance. I think that their principal grievance is that they think they have not sufficient authority within the nation. We are willing to give them that authority, but they must prove the merits of their case. The unpurchased tenant at present cannot claim anything better than the tenants who purchased in 1903. You must stand upon common sense and equity, and if you take from one man something which another man has got you are entitled to compensate that man.


Deputy Johnson is a great idealist, and, like other great idealists, he is inclined to lose touch with realities, and at times almost to outrage reality. Frequently one is inclined, particularly coming on towards evening, to take the view that after all it would not matter very much to let these abstract doctrines be enunciated, as they are scarcely likely to be put into immediate practice and they could be safely ignored. I think, on the whole, that that line might be pushed too far, and when we hear doctrines such as Deputy Johnson used the Land Bill as a peg for enunciating, someone ought to take the trouble and responsibility of clearing the air. "You must go back," says Deputy Johnson; "you cannot take things as they are; you must go back and inquire most searchingly how these titles arose. Bring back O'Donnell from Spain and plant him over three or four counties in the North of Ireland."

I wish we could.


Shortly after the Provisional Government was established I got a letter from a gentleman, one Simon P. O'Rorke, an estate agent, who wrote from 154th Street, New York. He was quite candid as to his requirements. He said that he understood, there would be a certain pressure of business for some time upon us, but that he would ask me to write him to say when it would be convenient for us to entertain his claim to Leitrim, Cavan, and certain areas around there, as he was quite sure that he was a lineal descendant of O'Rorke of Breffni. "We must go right back," says Deputy Johnson.

He would not take Johnson with him.


Ideals are very good things in their own way but there is a duty on idealists, and I think we possibly had a lesson in that direction here, to keep their feet on the ground and not to float away in the upper ether. What I mean by keeping their feet on the ground, is to keep some contact with the realities of the situation, and with regard to this question of the rights of landlords the actualities are that these rights have been recognised in law here as elsewhere for centuries, that there has been this dual proprietorship legally recognised, and that these rights have been sold, devised, transferred, mortgaged and dealt with as a commercial asset for centuries, that on the recognition of these rights thousands of people are dependant, that money has been lent on the security of them, and that to challenge them now would be to challenge something that has become part of the woof of our social system, and would have re-actions and repercussions which I am sure Deputy Johnson would be the last seriously to desire. He read an extract from the Land League Manifesto. Here, I think, in the privacy of our own Parliament one can say that many things were said in this country, when we had not the power to translate them into action, and said by men who, if they had power to translate them into action, would hesitate to do so. They were said because we were in a negative and destructive frame of mind, and because we were pushing at the props of Government.

Some of the things they said were true.


I take it the time for stopping pushing at the props of Government is when the Government is essentially something which you yourself have set up, and without violence can take down. The Land League Manifesto, in its own time, was a very fine document, and no doubt it had the effect upon its readers that it was intended to have. Beyond that I do not think it ought to form here the groundwork of any Legislative code. I do not think Deputy Johnson thinks it ought to.

We have our own humbug.


There are idealists who keep their feet on the ground, and who endeavour within the circumstances confronting them, and within their own day and generation, to do the best that is reasonably possible. I think this Bill that is now before us has been framed in that spirit. I think it is a measure of practical idealism, the idealism of Griffith shall we say. I think that properly accepted, properly worked, it will prove to be a great and healing measure here, and that it will cure and end what has been a sore of long standing in the body politic. One can only go ahead in that way, healing the old wounds, with an attitude of constructive idealism, doing the things that are possible, that lie to one's hands that is on the whole a safer line to take than to talk abstractions, dangerous abstractions, if taken up here and there by irresponsible, unthinking people, and attempted to be pushed to what would seem to be their conclusions.

Abstractions of cash.


It might result in abstractions of cash. I just want to refer in a passing way to what has been said about the Enforcement of Law Act. This Act is really in danger of becoming a glorified bugbear, and people seem to have the tendency to ignore the fact that it is a measure that has helped considerably to restore normal conditions, and to end anarchic ones here. The Enforcement of Law Bill has been referred to in various terms of vituperation both during its passage and since, and yet I have not had placed before me a single case of genuine hardship arising out of its operation. Deputy Vaughan referred in a passing way to cases in his neighbourhood, and the chief argument he used against people paying their rent was that on those lands an ambush took place in which a British General was killed. That, no doubt, was a very creditable ambush to those who took part in it. I do not see that there is a halo around the farm which makes it free of rent, and Deputy Vaughan did not say that an offer in accordance with the terms of the Land Bill had been made. He did not say that. You can take it that that Bill was only brought in because the Ministry responsible for it had a very clear idea of the situation which necessitated it, and a very clear idea of the proportion of the problem which called for it. It has not been used in any harsh or aggressive way in the matter of rents. I would be interested to hear if it has been used in any single case where an offer in accordance with the provisions of the Rent Bill was made, or that the assistance of military was requisitioned for execution of a decree in such cases.



I want to say again now what I said on the First Reading of this Bill, and I say it with every intention of acting upon it, and in the hope that the warning will be conveyed and accepted, that is where people go out in violence, in illegality, to seize land, then whatever influence I can bring to bear on the Minister for Agriculture, and whatever influence I can bring to bear upon the Executive Council would be directed to seeing that such people do not benefit by this Act.

If they opt for that course of violence then the State can only meet them upon that plane and at a rough guess I would say that the collective arm is going to prove stronger than the individual arm or arms. They cannot have it both ways. They cannot have law and violence. They cannot have an Act and their own plunder and, in so far as I can secure it, I will see that they do not have it. Over the country there has been—no doubt they got the lesson and they got the lead —a tendency to go out without a shred of legal or moral claim and seize another person's property, and that has taken place a great deal more with regard to the land than with regard to other forms of property. It simply must end, and by the time this Bill reaches its closing stages, I hope to be able to assure the Dáil that there is not in any county, over which we have for the time being responsibility and jurisdiction, one acre of land in the possession of any person but the legal owner. That is the immediate objective; that is something that we are going out strong for at the moment and that we hope to be able to tell this Dáil before this Bill is through. No one wants to hit anyone heavier than the exigencies of the situation demand, and no one wants to do it that way if there was another way, if there was the way of reason, if people could be taught to look to the Parliament to adjust their claims and to deal with the equities of the situation. But if the Parliament is rejected and if the State is challenged, and if individuals take up the stand "law or no law, State or no State, we are going in there and we are going to stay there," then it becomes the duty of any responsible Executive to use all its resources to end that insolent challenge—not insolent to us personally, but insolent to what and to whom? An insolent challenge to the collective majesty of their own fellow-citizens, an insolent challenge to that authority which sent all of us here, which keeps us here and which could remove us to-morrow.

If you had an election.


At an election. I would like to stress the point, even in their own interest, that the way of order and the way of law is the better way. Here, even while on the defensive during the last year, which has been a bad year, we have endeavoured to construct. We have set up an agricultural Commission for dealing with agricultural problems, and the Minister for Agriculture assures me that whoever is responsible for agricultural legislation in the next Dáil will be considerably assisted by the deliberations of that Committee. There have been Committees and Commissions of various kinds set up and their work is on record, and even while there was a very definite and a very bitter challenge here, a more bitter challenge than was ever offered to the British administration, we have been endeavouring to deal with the problems of the country. This Bill is one evidence and one manifestation of our desire, and our power to deal with these problems, and it is not in the interests of any section to encourage or sympathise with that kind of wantonness, criminality and violence that has been going on on a fairly large scale with regard to land in quite a good many counties. There was only one way to meet that. There is only the one way if it continues, and people may take it very definitely that the objective of the Executive is to be able to tell this Dáil by the time this Bill is law that there is not one acre of land within our jurisdiction in the possession of any but the legal owner.

Is maith liomsa mo chongnamh a thabhairt ar son an Bhille Tálmhan seo atá ós ár gcomhair, mar tá fhios agam go dtiurfaidh sé athrú saoghail agus go gcuirfidh sé feabhas mór ar go leor de na daoine a bhuil me ag labhairt ar a son san Dáil. Le bliadhanta mora fada bhi na Gaedhil bhochta ar dhroch chaoi. Bhiodar caithe ar thaobh na sleibhte agus imeasg na bportach on am ar bhain na Gaill seilbh taltai mine, reidhe na tire diobh, agus bhi an sgeul nios measa aca ó aimsir an droch shaoighil, mar briseadh go leor aca na bliadhanta ud ar loic na fatai orra.

Badh doiligh an sean-bhunadh Gaedhealach a chlaoidh, agus tar éis gach corr a cuireadh orra thosadar ag cur a ngreama sa tir arís. Fuair go leór de thunontai na h-Eireann seilbh thar-barr amach ar a gcuid talmhan faoi na reachtanna dlighte a cuireadh ar bun san am atá caithte, ach bhi tunontai eile ann, nach raibh chomh adhamhail sin. Bhi na daoine seo ar an gcuid ba mheasa agus ba bhoichte den talamh agus nuair a bhi daoine eile ag feabhasu agus ag dul ar aghaidh san saoghal sé an chaoi a raibh siad-san ag dul le fanaidh. Is maith an nidh an fhoighid, agus an té an mbéidh si aige geobhaidh se fóir agus congnamh.

An mhuintir sin a raibh mé ag trácht orra, a bhi ar ghanntan tálmhan, agus nach bhfuair aon chothrom na ceart ie fada tá siad ag teacht isteach faoi'n mbhille seo agus de bharr an tsocruithe a déanfar ar a son anois ni bheidh tus suidhte ag aon tunontai san tir orra. Is mor an sasamh aigne agus intinne doibh é seo, thar eis an meid sglabhuidheachta agus anrogha a ndeachadar thrid. Is mór an céim un cinn de na Gaedhil freisin, nuair ata deis aca fe'n dlighe mar é seo a reachtu, a thiubharfas aithsheilbh do shean-bhunadh na tire ar bhántaibh na h-Eireann.

Is iomdha corr agus casadh san saoghal acht is deagh-chosamlacht é agus ádhbhar misnigh dúinn go bhuil Gaedhil ag teacht ar a gceart arís in Eirinn. Is ionmholta an Bille é seo ar go leór slighti. Tugann sé bealach do dhaoine atá ar ghabaltais bheag shuaracha, fairsneacht talmhan a fhaghail, agus in a cheann sin, geobhfaidh siad lasganai maithe má tá riarasti ciosa orra.

Tá dóchas in mo chroidhe go dtiucfaidh tairb mhór don tír as an mBille seo, agus tá súil agam go mbainfidh na tunóntai nua a thiucfas i seilbh anois, agus a gclann na ndiaidh, an toradh ceadtach as na taltai ach-reidhe a báiniú in aimsir a sinnsir.

There was a big question raised by Deputy Johnson on the debate on this Bill—the question of the right of the landlords to get any price at all for their land. In a matter of this sort when a Government comes to consider it it cannot go back 200 or 300 years to inquire. It must try to do justice between man and man, leaning of course to the side of the weaker party, and the Government have done that in this case for the masses. Deputy Johnson stated also that he has no fixed opinions on ownership of land, but I am sure he and every other Deputy in this Dáil are agreed that dual ownership should cease because it has proved to be a failure.

I do not want to interrupt, but I did not say that I had no fixed opinions.

I understood you to say you had no settled opinions.

Perhaps Deputy Johnson would be allowed to explain what he did say.

If it is worth while, I said I was not very particular about the question of ownership, whether we are going to have wide distribution or consolidation. What I wanted to secure was that ownership was full use of the property.

I accept in full the Deputy's assurance, and I am sorry for miscontruing what he said. Deputy Wilson also made a forcible speech. I like to see Deputy Wilson when he is in a fighting mood, but if he turns his attention back to 40 or 50 or 60 years ago he will find that many theorists and political economists, taking Henry George as one and Fintan Lalor as another—advocated forcible views. Although that is a long time ago now, and the world has made great progress since, I am sure as regards land many theories put forward then by these men would not be accepted in the full by Deputy Wilson in 1923. I rise to support this measure, coming from the West of Ireland where people unfortunately were placed in a very bad position as regards the land. Deputy Doyle mentioned that for the past two years there was very little money to be made out of agricultural produce, but in my district, where people were tilling the same plots year after year, the question of what was made on agricultural produce, one year with another, did not affect them very much. This measure which has been introduced by the Minister for Agriculture brings a message of hope and gladness to their hearts, because they see now that after long weary years of waiting they have the prospect, in a few years,, of getting back on the good land of the country from which their forefathers were evicted.

I think, as this very important debate is likely to be continued for some days it might, perhaps, be as well to adjourn now, and resume again fresh to-morrow. I accordingly move the adjournment of the debate until 3 o'clock to-morrow.

I second the motion.

Question put and agreed to.
The Dáil adjourned at 8 p.m. until 3 o'clock on Friday, the 15th June.