In regard to Section 10, I think the Minister has some statement to make.
COMMITTEE ON FINANCE. - LAND BILL, 1927—THIRD STAGE (RESUMED).
Deputy Gorey asked whether I would agree to defer his amendments until the Report Stage, when the Bill might be recommitted for the consideration of those amendments; that is, the amendments dealing with fee farm grants. I agreed.
In the circumstances the best thing would be to withdraw the amendments, subject to their consideration later.
In lines 41 and 42 to delete all words from and including the words "all the" to the end of the section and substitute therefor the words "the purposes of collection and payment of compounded arrears of rent and payment in lieu of rent."
This merely makes the section more specific.
This amendment is not in order.
Would you explain why it is not in order?
It is not covered by the Money Resolution.
Might I point out, with all respect, that the Ceann Comhairle has informed me that at least portion of the amendment is in order? The view that you have expressed is, I think, quite right with regard to that portion of the amendment beginning with the word "provided."
Yes, if the amendment left out the proviso for compensation it would be in order.
Although the wind has been taken out of my sails very considerably, I will move the portion that is in order. This matter was discussed before the Committee, to which an amendment in exactly the same terms as this was submitted by me. The voting was even, and under the Standing Orders governing the deliberations of the Committee the amendment was rejected for that reason. This amendment seeks to do something for the evicted tenant. It is a very old and a very vexed question and one, I submit, that very little has been done to settle. This whole matter is within the discretion of the Land Commission, and, as far as I know, very little has been done to deal with it in a definite way. No matter how long we delay, this is a question which, I submit, will have to be dealt with finally. Power to do something has been given by previous legislation of the Dáil and elsewhere——
On a point of explanation. Might I draw the Deputy's attention to the fact that I think the amendment, with the proviso gone, does not alter the law set out in the 1923 Act? It still leaves it optional for the Land Commission to deal with an evicted tenant. I may be wrong, but that is my reading of it.
I am not quite sure of that, because the case I intended to make has been badly shaken as a result of the decision of An Leas-Cheann Comhairle.
Would it not be better to debate it on the next amendment?
The two amendments could be taken together.
To insert before Section 13 a new section as follows:—
"A person who or whose predecessor, at the passing of the Land Act of 1881, was the tenant of a holding to which the Land Acts apply, and who (or whose predecessor) was evicted from the said holding, since the said date, in consequence of proceedings taken by or on behalf of his landlord and who or whose personal representative has not under any previous Land Acts been either reinstated in his original holding or been given a substituted holding, shall be entitled on making application in the form prescribed under this Act, to be restored to his original holding."
My object in moving that this new section shall be inserted in the Bill now before the House is because of the failure of the Minister for Lands and Agriculture to include in his Bill a clause dealing with evicted tenants. The British Parliament passed three Land Acts dealing with this question. These three Acts, the Land Act, 1903, the Evicted Tenants Act, 1907, and the Land Act, 1909, intended to make provision for bona fide evicted tenants and would have completed the work were it not for the intervention of the war. The statutes provided for all bona fide cases, and it is only necessary to continue the machinery under the present statute. Under the Land Act, 1903, Section 2, sub-section (1) (d):—
A person who within twenty-five years before the passing of this Act was a tenant of a holding of which the Land Law Acts apply, and who is not at the date of the purchase the tenant or proprietor of that holding,
Provided that in the case of the death of a person to whom an advance under this paragraph might have been made, the advance may be made to a person nominated by the Land Commission as the personal representative of the deceased.
By this sub-section evicted tenants were enabled to become purchasers of parcels of land of which they might not previously have been in possession, and Section 53, gave them on being reinstated in their former holdings the same rights of purchase as if their tenancies had never been determined.
Under the Evicted Tenants' Act, 1907, Section 17, sub-section (1) (c):—
A person who within twenty-five years before the passing of the Act of 1903 was the tenant of a holding to which the Land Law Acts apply, and who is not at the date of the purchase the tenant or proprietor of that holding or in case such person is dead a person nominated by the Land Commission as his personal representative, and
(d) any person to whom in the opinion of the Land Commission after adequate provision has been made to satisfy the requirements of the persons mentioned in the preceding paragraphs of this sub-section, an advance ought to be made.
This sub-section, as far as it applies to the evicted tenants, is not limited in point of time, and although the amount to be advanced is not to exceed £1,000, it may be exceeded at the discretion of the Estates Commissioners. The bona fides of the claims are admitted in these three Acts, and it is only bare justice that the machinery created by them for making provision for these cases should be reconstituted, and I would earnestly appeal to every Deputy in the House, irrespective of Party, to assist in recreating the machinery for the completion of this national obligation. The Minister for Lands and Agriculture stated on the Second Reading of the Bill that: "Most of the genuine evicted tenants were dealt with long before the Act of 1923, and that a number were dealt with since." Yes, according to a report of the Estates Commissioners 3,359 were provided for up to 31st March, 1914. But I am not aware of even one case dealt with since the passing of the 1923 Act, and I will ask the Minister, if he can do so, to give the names and addresses of the evicted tenants who have been reinstated since that date. He also stated on that occasion: "We would love to deal with all of them, but how are we going to do it; where is the land to come from? There is practically no untenanted land." I will suggest to him how he can do it, and where he can get the land. If you will accept the new section which I am moving to your Bill you will have compulsory power to acquire land, whether it is tenanted or untenanted. The first to be attacked should be the grabbers. What right have they to retain evicted land for which they never paid a penny fine? When they grabbed the evicted land they were known as planters or future tenants, but when the Land Act of 1909 was introduced, the landlords made them permanent tenants for the purpose of frustrating the Act. I hold that tenancies created for such a purpose are invalid, and no one should know that better than the Minister himself. I do not agree with the Minister's statement that you will have to deal with 100,000 evicted tenants if this section is inserted in the Bill.
From information I have received, I have no hesitation in stating that the number of genuine cases to be dealt with will not exceed 500. It may be necessary for me to mention a genuine case for reinstatement. I will do so, and if the House should require it I shall give the names and particulars of many others. Patrick Madden, Meelick, Co. Galway, was evicted by Lord Clanricarde for non-payment of rent in the year 1893, his holding, consisting of 34 acres I.P.M., was grabbed by a man named Horseman. This man holds 199 acres at present, 131 of which he has grabbed. The tenants evicted from 78 acres of the 131 have been supplied with new holdings elsewhere, so that the only land required to be taken from Horseman is Madden's 34 acres holding and 19 acres from which two others were evicted, who have not yet been reinstated or have not got new holdings instead. If this 53 acres is taken from the grabber he will still hold 146 acres, which, in my opinion at all events, is more than he deserves.
I support Deputy Cosgrave's amendment. I was surprised to hear him say that the Minister stated that if the evicted tenants were to be reinstated provision would have to be made for 100,000 of them. Surely, if the Government have at heart the interests of the country in general, they will see that genuine evicted tenants, or their descendants, will be reinstated on the land, and, if they cannot be provided on the holdings from which they were evicted, surely they can be given land elsewhere. It is all very well to say that all genuine evicted tenants were reinstated prior to the Land Act of 1923. That is not so. In Westmeath and Longford there are several genuine evicted tenants who have not been reinstated and who have got no land since the 1923 Act became law. Like Deputy Cosgrave, I could mention several such cases, but I do not intend to mention names. I will, however, give full particulars to the Minister. It is well known that the land of these evicted tenants was grabbed for certain purposes, and that land is still in the hands of the grabber or the grabber's offspring. In Section 31 of the Act of 1923 it was stated that any evicted tenant who was the tenant of a holding which came under the Land Commission prior to the passing of the Act had a genuine claim to be reinstated.
Could the Minister say how many, if any, genuine evicted tenants have been reinstated in accordance with that section? Not one evicted tenant in Westmeath or Longford has got land. Several men came to me and said that their fathers or grandfathers were evicted and their holdings were battered down to make ranches for some great captain or major who fought for the British Government against the Irish people. These lands were given to such people for services rendered. Notwithstanding the fight made by their fathers and grandfathers, these people are absolutely destitute. If they possess a cow they cannot get grazing, even on land that was once theirs. I give the Minister all due respect and I appreciate the efforts which he has made to settle the land question by means of the Act of 1923. When the Dáil was considering that Act I brought up the case of the evicted tenants. I was at that time really interested in this country, because I thought our own Government would see that justice was done to these evicted tenants and that their sons and daughters, who rendered great service in the fight against the British, would be given decent treatment. But for the land agitation and the people who fought in it, the British Government would never have introduced their various land Acts.
Many of the landlords still remain on the land, whereas the people who compelled the British Government to introduce the various land Acts are still simply the insects of the landlords. It is a fact that cannot be contradicted that you have to-day thousands of people in the Free State whose fathers and grandfathers, through advocating the cause of the tenants many years ago, were driven from comfortable holdings by the planters, are still dependent upon the county councils to give them road work or the boards of health to give them assistance. If they could get back their own land they would be independent and useful citizens of the State by utilising that land to the best interests of the State. The grabbers and settlers are not working the land, but if the original owners, or their descendants, got back that land they would till it and make it arable. At present you will find that the largest portion of such land is under scrubble. These lands were once capable of growing oats, potatoes, and barley, but now all they grow is ferns and thistles. I know several portions of land in Westmeath and Longford where the settlers have allowed the land to go into scrubble in order that it may be regarded as fit only to plant as a forest. The former owners of such lands now live in tumble-down hovels. My advice to the evicted tenants is, unless the Minister accepts this amendment and makes some provision for them, to rise up in a body and assert their rights. It is time they were reinstated.
They are the people who drove the first thorn into the side of the Tory Government. If our present Government are prepared to do for them nothing better than what the Tory Government did, then I say, God help those heroes who succeeded in getting such a Government established in this country. These men and women are practically starving to-day. Their little ones toddle off to school half-naked and badly fed, but if their fathers and mothers got back their land these children would live in decency and comfort. I say now, as I said in 1922, when we were considering the Land Bill that I would not give a grabber or a settler one penny compensation for the reinstatement of an evicted tenant because they made a large amount of money out of these seized lands. We had a man in Westmeath who fought well for the people in putting down landlordism and succeeded with the help of his colleagues at Westminster in getting various Land Acts passed. That man told the people that if they wanted help they must help themselves, and that if they did not help themselves they would not get any help from the Government. I hope that I will not have to go through my constituency and give the people the same advice but, if it comes to that point, I will not hesitate to do so.
I sympathise with the objects of the amendment, but I am certain that what the mover of it has in mind could not be achieved without imposing injustice on somebody. I know one case, and probably there are many like it, in which the holding from which the tenant was evicted has passed through three or four different hands since the eviction took place.
Then there are three or four grabbers in that case.
The land was sold in the first instance for £400, it then passed on to another tenant for £700, and was eventually purchased by the present occupant for, I think, £1,100. If this amendment were put into operation the holding could be given to the evicted tenant only by doing injustice to the present occupier. If the present occupier was a grabber or an emergency man I would say that Deputy Cosgrave would be right in insisting on the reinstatement of the evicted tenant. I take it that the Minister and the Land Commission still have power, and still have a desire, to deal with genuine cases of evicted tenants and that they do not take the view that all cases submitted to, and turned down by, the Land Commission under the British régime cannot be reconsidered. The Minister surprised everybody when he said that if the amendment were adopted the number of claims to be dealt with would be about 100,000. I do not think that anybody could imagine that applications from genuine evicted tenants would approach anything like that number. I hope he will not insist on repeating that statement to-night. I would like to know how many evicted tenants have been reinstated and how many applications for reinstatement have been sympathetically considered since the evictions in 1881 or 1882.
I should like if the Minister would give us the approximate figures regarding such cases, and how they were dealt with. I should like to know if they have been sympathetically considered since the passing of the 1923 Act. I know of cases brought before the Land Commission in which a number of people claimed to be entitled to holdings as a result of the division of the Luggacullen Estate. The circumstances are known to many Deputies. A number of these cases were dealt with, prior to the passing of the 1923 Act, by the British Government. But there are eight or nine claims still before the Land Commission and I do not know whether they are being definitely turned down or not. Eight or nine of the Luggacullen tenants who were evicted still claim that they are entitled to reinstatement or to alternative holdings. I should like to know if there is anything in Section 13 which would prevent the Minister or the Land Commission from sympathetically considering those eight or nine cases. The objection to the amendment is I think to the use of the word "must" instead of the word "may." I believe Deputy Cosgrave and the Minister might be able to come to some arrangement with regard to the alteration of five or six words in the latter portion of the Deputy's amendment, which at present could not be carried into effect without imposing an injustice on somebody other than the grabber. The Minister might assure the House that the claims that have been submitted—whether they be 100,000 or 500,000—will be sympathetically considered by the Land Commission under the powers given them by the 1923 Act, and by this section.
When I was dealing with the amendments in my own name in connection with this matter, I suggested that, even with altered wording, the amendment I was responsible for would not sufficiently deal with the matter.
There is no question whatever that all the genuine evicted tenant cases have not been dealt with. From time to time questions have appeared on the Order Paper in the names of Deputy Hogan and myself in connection with the position of evicted tenants in the constituencies which we represent. Frankly, what I gathered from the replies to these questions was that nothing had been done. In the constituency I represent there are a number of evicted tenants whose cases are notoriously genuine. Recently I saw documents in the possession of these people informing them that their cases had been noted by the Land Commission, and would be considered when the land was available. Evidently the cases were accepted as bona fide by the Land Commission. It seems to me that there is no machinery for dealing with these cases definitely—that they are dealt with in a haphazard way. I think Deputy Cosgrave is aiming at the provision of some machinery which will deal specifically and definitely with the cases of evicted tenants. This question is a relic of a very old agitation. It is unfortunate that, in the new position in which we find ourselves, we are faced with it still. Up and down the country one finds people who are dissatisfied and who have a genuine grievance in connection with this question. The Minister stated, I think, during the proceedings of the Select Committee that this Amending Land Bill would probably have to be supplemented in some way later. I submit to him that no matter how many Land Bills are passed, and no matter what provision is made in other respects, this question will have to be tackled sooner or later in a definite way. I am not making a plea on behalf of imaginary cases or on behalf of cases which had their origin in the remote past. But I do make a plea for the genuine cases, and I suggest that the machinery for dealing with these cases under the Act of 1923 is not sufficiently efficient. I regret very much that the proviso for assessing compensation in cases of this kind, where land is not available, was not strictly in order, because it would provide an avenue from a very considerable difficulty that the Minister will be faced with. I suggest to him that this question should be dealt with definitely and specifically, and that power should be given to the Land Commission to go ahead with this work and to remove the last traces of this agrarian evil.
There is a remarkable disparity between the figures that have been given us to show the extent of this problem. We have been told, on the one hand, that there are 100,000 evicted tenants, or descendants of evicted tenants, and, on the other hand, that there are only 500 or 1,000 altogether. I am sure the Minister did not base his calculation upon any definite set of figures, because it is impossible to believe that there could be anything like 100,000 evicted tenants or descendants of such tenants. At all events, I think Deputy Cosgrave is to be commended on bringing forward this amendment, especially as regards the old plan-of-campaign tenants, who have not yet been settled on the land. I can bear out what Deputy Davin has stated as to the number of people on the Luggacullen estate who have not yet been restored. A great many of them have been restored. Some of them have got rather poor settlements, but they have, at all events, got houses and some land. With regard to the people designated grabbers or emergencymen, I do not think that they deserve much consideration. We have had, unfortunately, many plantations in Ireland. But it must be said that in the old days the planters carried their lives in their hands and won the land by force of arms. The planters of later days sneaked in behind their fellow-farmers and took advantage of the state of affairs then existing to get the holdings for nothing. The men who did that deserve very little consideration. The case which Deputy Davin cited, in which the original grabber or emergencyman has been succeeded by purchasers who bought bona fide and paid substantial sums for the farms, are in a different category. I think it is not at all creditable to the National Government or to the people of the country that men of that class, who went out of their holdings at the direction of the national leaders in the land war, should themselves be regarded as waifs and strays for the past twenty-five years, or that their descendants should now be so regarded. I trust that their cases will be speedily dealt with and that these people will be provided with suitable holdings.
I support the principle of the amendment. But I agree with Deputy Davin that by legislating in the manner set out in the latter portion of the amendment we might bring about a great deal more injustice than justice. I suggest to the Minister that he should accept the principle of the amendment and that he should bring forward, on the next stage, an amendment which would give him power to deal more fully with the cases of evicted tenants than these cases have been dealt with since the passing of the 1923 Act. It is evident, all over the country, that sufficient attention has not been paid to the claims of evicted tenants. In some cases where evicted tenants have made application for reinstatement or for equivalent holdings, they have been completely turned down. I know at least two cases where the representatives of evicted tenants applied for holdings and were turned down without reason assigned. I think some improvement should be made in our land laws in order to deal more efficiently and more speedily with the cases of evicted tenants. In this respect, a very great hardship exists throughout the country.
I am glad that this question of evicted tenants has come to a head. For the last three years, those evicted tenants have had very little consideration from Deputies or from Ministers. Provision was made in the Act of 1923 for the reinstatement of those tenants or for supplying them with equivalent holdings but, up to the present, very little has been done in this respect. I know that inquiries are being instituted into the cases of some evicted tenants, but I am not aware that any of the genuine evicted tenants, up to the present, have been reinstated. I hope the Minister will adopt the principle embodied in Deputy Cosgrave's amendment and, after long delay, that he will now do something for the restoration of genuine evicted tenants. Surely those tenants have quite as good a claim as some of the landless men and congests who have been supplied with land. There is as much land at the Minister's disposal to deal with evicted tenants as to deal with those other parties. I hold that the evicted tenants should get the preference over both of those classes who have been dealt with—the congests and the landless men. Many of them went out of their farms during the Land War on principle. They could have remained in possession like many other tenants, but they went out to fight the battle of their fellow tenants, and help to get rid of landlordism. I believe the sufferings of some of those evicted tenants in the eighties and later were as great as, or greater than, those of the congests or landless men more recently. I think the time has come to do something to embody the principle of Deputy Cosgrave's amendment in legislation and to rectify the long injustice done to this class of tenant. The Minister says he cannot find land to deal with those tenants. I know hundreds of acres of land that are not being applied for and that could be applied for if there was any real desire on the part of the Minister or the Land Commission to deal with those tenants.
Nothing has been done and I know of some of those evicted holdings which are still on the landlords' hands. I have brought the matter of those evicted holdings under the notice of the Land Commission, yet nothing has been done. The representatives of the evicted tenants are there and their holdings are on the landlords' hands, yet no movement has been made to reinstate these people. I hope the Minister will do something to remedy the great neglect of those evicted tenants since the initiation of this Parliament.
I wish to support the amendment. As to the statement of the Minister the other day, I think it is now generally recognised that the assertion that there are 100,000 evicted tenants in the country who have not been reinstated is a gross over-estimate. I suggest that at the utmost there cannot be more than 5,000 genuine evicted tenants, and I believe that that even is an over-estimate.
I want to emphasise the word "genuine." I know that the Land Commission would get 100,000 applications for reinstatement as evicted tenants, but the great majority of those will not be genuine. The fact remains that there are still a number of genuine evicted tenants who have not been reinstated. It would not be necessary to move this amendment if we knew that the Land Commission were trying to carry out the provisions of the Act of 1923 in the spirit in which they were intended. We know that under Section 31, sub-section (1) (c), the Land Commission have power to make advances for the purpose of placing certain people on the land, and that that refers to persons evicted since 1878. We can only deal with things that come before us individually, and we must take into account the facts as they come before us as to whether the Land Commission is attempting to reinstate those evicted tenants. The opinion I have formed is that they are not. It seems to me that when the Land Commission comes to decide between uneconomic holders, landless men and evicted tenants, they put them all on a par and select the men they think are most likely to make the best use of the land that they get. If that is the standard by which they go, they are not likely to do justice to a great many evicted tenants, because in my opinion, in connection with evicted tenants it is not a matter of placing men on the land who are most likely to make good use of it, but of righting a grave injustice. In my opinion it is only comparable with giving a pension under the Military Service Pensions Act to men who engaged in the recent fighting. Those men deserved compensation for the fight they put up in the land wars. The Minister is aware, and we all know, that this Dáil exists because of the land agitation and the fight put up by those men. The whole national movement which culminated in the measure of freedom we now enjoy, was built up on the basis of the land agitation. The Minister knows that well, that Parnell had to build his whole national movement on the miseries and misfortunes of those situated on the land. There are cases of men who went out of their lands because of principle, and who have not yet been reinstated.
It so happens that my attention was called to a particular case on the very day of the Second Reading of this Bill, and it brought to my mind clearly the fact that the Land Commission do not intend to reinstate the evicted tenants, unless they think those tenants are at least equally entitled to land as the other applicants available. They are not taking into account the services rendered by these men in the past and the fact that this is rather a matter of righting a rank injustice than a matter of selecting men who are the most suitable to go on the land. I will give particulars of the case to which I have already called the Minister's attention. In my opinion this case absolutely proves that the Land Commission have no intention of reinstating evicted tenants unless they are of the type which corresponds with the other class of people whom they are putting on the land in regard to farming ability. The man I am referring to is a genuine representative of his brother who was evicted from a farm of about 100 acres adjoining one of the principal towns in Tipperary. This man's brother was evicted during the Plan of Campaign from the Smith-Barry estate at the time when the New Tipperary agitation was going on. When the tenants of Tipperary went out and abandoned their holdings and went into huts in order to help the land agitators. The man evicted was quite capable of paying rent, and had the rent as a matter of fact, but in order to be loyal to his fellow tenants he withheld his rent in accordance with the dictates of the leaders of the campaign. Because of the non-payment of one year's rent he was evicted from this 100-acre holding. The holding has been in the hands of the landlord until recently, managed almost all the time by an emergency man, but has recently been taken over by the Land Commission. This brother of the evicted tenant, who is the only surviving relative, except one in America, made an application for reinstatement to the holding and his case has been before the Land Commission who had a full opportunity of considering it. About three weeks ago the land was divided and this man was not reinstated. If the Land Commission had any intention of doing justice to evicted tenants they had here a genuine case where the man should have been reinstated. I have formed the opinion from that case that the Land Commission have no intention of reinstating evicted tenants.
There is another side to that case which I do not intend making now. It is another aspect of land settlement and it makes the case worse. It is the question of the type of people who have been put on the land. If the people put on the land were uneconomic farmers of the right kind who would be likely to make good use of the land I would have been much slower to take up this case, because I have a good deal of sympathy with the idea of giving the land to uneconomic holders. But the people who got this land were not uneconomic holders. In my opinion they were quite unsuitable. Even if they were suitable, the claim of this man should have received serious consideration. If the Land Commission really intend to reinstate evicted tenants they should have reinstated him. I move to report progress.
Progress ordered to be reported.