CEISTEANNA—QUESTIONS. ORAL ANSWERS. - PAYMENT OF LAND ANNUITIES.

asked the Minister for Lands and Agriculture whether he is aware that, owing to heavy taxation, the great decrease in the prices of stock and farm produce in recent years, large numbers of the small farmers in the Saorstát are unable to pay their annuities regularly; whether in view of these facts he will introduce legislation extending their time for repayment to the State of the purchase money from 68½ to 100 years (or more) so that the present tenants annuities would be reduced, and future generations would thereby bear their share of the cost of land purchase.

Mr. HOGAN

With regard to the first part of the question, the great majority, particularly of the small farmers, are paying their annuities regularly. The Deputy's proposal in the second part of the question applied to a concrete case amounts to this: a farmer with twenty acres of land paying an annuity of £20 for 68 years would, instead, be paying £18 10s. for 100 years; in other words, he would be relieved to the extent of £1 10s. per annum for 68 years, and would be penalised to the extent of £18 10s. per annum during the balance of the term of 100 years, namely, for 32 years. The relief is not sufficiently apparent to justify us in repudiating our financial obligations and thus making it impossible to borrow money for any other purpose.

Mr. COSGRAVE

Arising out of that answer, is the Minister aware that there are thousands of Civil Bills issued in every county in Ireland, and if the annuitants were paying their annuities regularly how can that be possible?

Mr. HOGAN

I am aware that about eighty per cent. of the farmers are paying their annuities regularly, and ninety per cent. of the small farmers are paying their annuities regularly. These are fairly exact figures.

Is the Minister aware that very large numbers of people who succeeded in getting land under the 1923 Act are at present unable to pay owing to the high prices charged them, and does the Minister realise that if the time for payment is extended it will mean a great deal to the small farmers? Even 30/- a year is a great deal to these people, and it would help them considerably. I would ask the Minister to think of the small farmer. Of course, I am not speaking for the Farmers' Union. Give the small farmer an opportunity of being able to pay his annuity.

Mr. HOGAN

I think we might as well give the 30/-.