Before proceeding with the resumption of this debate I should like to know from the President if there is to be any time limit for the discussion of the Bill. I understand that practically all the Deputies are very anxious to speak on the Bill and I hope that the closure will not be moved without giving an opportunity to every Deputy to speak. What I wish to point out is that you, sir, could limit the time of long-winded speakers and it would give an opportunity to every Deputy who is anxious to speak.
Land Bill, 1933—Second Stage (Resumed).
Fortunately or unfortunately, the Chair has no power to limit the duration of speeches in this House.
What about the long-winded Ministers?
We are open to any agreement about the length of speeches.
Could I get any assurance from the Government that the closure will not be moved until the debate is concluded and that every Deputy who is anxious to speak will be allowed to speak?
It seems to me that if Deputy Kent is interested in not having the closure applied he is rather going the wrong way about it by suggesting that there are Deputies who have made long-winded speeches on this very important matter. Surely this Land Bill is as important a matter as we have had before us for a long time or as we are likely to have before us for some time. It takes a very considerable amount of time to go in full detail into it and I think it would be very unjust to suggest that because Deputies speak at length on the matter their speeches are necessarily of the kind often referred to as long-winded.
What I am anxious about as regards the Centre Party is that we should get an opportunity to speak in the debate. Could we get any assurance from the Minister that he will not move the closure before every Deputy gets an opportunity of speaking?
Ask the Labour Party. They have the keys of the situation in their hands.
When I heard the Parliamentary Secretary suggest that they would be agreeable to any arrangement by which speeches would be curtailed it reminded me of the poem, "Man wants but little here below but wants that little long"—and strong.
This is an eviction cum plunder Bill. For generations our predecessors in politics fought in an alien Parliament to preserve tenant right in this country and to prevent tenants from being evicted. All over the country during those years men of all classes fought all the forces of that alien Government to maintain the tenants on the land. It remained for an Irish Ministry in a native Parliament to upset their work and the victory they won. I wonder what would be the feelings of those that have gone if they were present in this House to see us discussing this Bill which undoes all the results of their labour and sacrifices. References have been made to the famous three Fs in this debate around which the land war centred in past generations—fixity of tenure, free sale and fair rent. This Bill provides another set of Fs. It provides the Minister with powers to fleece, filch and forfeit, and that is the sum and substance if this Land Bill.
Dr. Ryan, last night, in his contribution to this debate, made no attempt whatever to defend the policy of the Minister. He even implied that the speakers on this side of the House made no reference to the sections of this Bill which were injurious to the agriculturists and the farmers. I do not know if Dr. Ryan was present during this whole debate. If he had been present he would have known that a number of Deputies referred to several sections in this Bill in no uncertain manner and pointed out their effect on the agricultural community and the tenants of this State. I intend to make a short reference to some of the principal sections in this Bill. I am sorry that Dr. Ryan, the Minister for Agriculture, is not here, as he might possibly get some enlightenment. The first section of which we need take any serious notice, in my opinion, is Section 6. This is the section that gives the Minister power over all Land Commission transactions and kindred matters. This section is a reversal of the policy of all previous Acts which provided that the final decision of disputed matters should be given by an independent person with the status of a High Court judge. This section and the following section reverses all that, in all matters except in the accepted matters, which, I might say in passing, are controlled primarily by the Minister. All other matters are reserved to a commission consisting of two lay commissioners appointed by the Minister, or by the Executive Council, which amounts to the same thing, and of which much was said already in this debate, and a judicial commissioner. All questions of law— and I am making a particular point of this because it was denied last night that questions of law cannot be decided by the judicial commissioner—are only decided by the judicial commissioner with the assent of one or other of the two lay commissioners.
This section says that he shall function on questions of law, provided that one or other of the two lay commissioners is satisfied that it is a question of law; so that, in fact, unless one or other of these two lay commissioners is satisfied, or agrees that it is a question of law, the judicial commissioner has no function. Yet, the Minister says that the final decision of a question of law rests with the judicial commissioner. If we can read English, that is not embodied in this section of this Act, but rather it is embodied in it that the powers of the judicial commissioner are limited in this Bill to the assent of one or other of the lay commissioners who are to be appointed by the Minister or the Executive Council.
There is a little to be said also about the appointment of these lay commissioners. Who are they going to be? Deputy Roddy spoke a good deal on that question yesterday and nobody knows this question better than Deputy Roddy knows it. Perhaps, as one of the Ministers, at least, did not seem to understand yesterday what was stated in perfectly clear language by Deputy Roddy and other Deputies, it might be no harm to repeat it. This Bill precludes the Minister from appointing any commissioner as one of this trio who has had any hand, act or part in the particular matters to be considered. Anybody who knows the working of the Land Commission knows that it is almost inconceivable that some or other of the existing commissioners, or possibly all of them, will not have had at some time or other some reference to the particular estate, or matter that is being considered, passed by them; so that, in fact, it will be found in practice that the present Commissioners will not be available to the Minister and he will have to go elsewhere and may have to go outside the field of the Land Commission altogether and appoint outsiders—possibly some of the followers of the Fianna Fáil Party—and into the hands of these gentlemen, whoever they may be, will be put the ultimate welfare of the tenants of this State. I do not know if any farmer Deputy in this House can go back to his constituents and say that he voted for this particular proviso without understanding what it was.
It is interesting to note some of the matters that are to be considered by this commission. One of these matters is "the determination of the individuals from whom land is to be acquired." Reference was made to the speech of the Minister for Agriculture in Clonmel. As I read that speech and as many other Deputies read it, the Minister implied that the land was to be taken from the lazy Cumann na nGaedheal and Centre Party farmers and given to those who would farm it.
I leave it to the imagination of the House as to who those others are to be. Anyway, it is to be taken from the tenant farmers who are the supporters of the Cumann na nGaedheal Party or the Centre Party. I say that politics are at the root of this Bill. Another matter to be considered is the determination of the price to be paid for the land so acquired. It is to be left to these two lay commissioners to decide what is to be the price. This Bill, in itself, is iniquitous but introducing it at this moment when, by the actions of the Ministry themselves, the price of land consequent on the fall in prices of commodities is reduced to a low level is— I cannot find an adjective to describe it—but it is disgusting to say the least. Above and beyond the reduction in price brought about by the economic war what, I ask you, is going to be the market value of any farm if this Bill becomes law? What chance has any average tenant farmer of disposing of a farm with the powers which this Bill gives the Minister hanging over the purchaser if he buys the farm? I venture to predict that once this Bill becomes law the sale of any farm which could possibly come under any section of this Bill will be an impossibility and the Minister will be able to put any small value he likes on land and call it the market value. Land will cease to have any value once this Bill is passed and, particularly, once Sections 6 and 7 of this Bill are passed.
Section 11 of this Bill again refers to the powers of these lay commissioners and the appeal tribunal as it is called, because again it is the lay commissioners who will have the decision. I think we have satisfied the House that the judicial commissioner has no power unless he has the assent of these two gentlemen and that all the power is centred in these two lay commissioners, whoever they may be. Section 11 provides that:
On any application by the Land Commission for or in connection with the resumption of a holding, the powers of the court under Section 5 of the Land Law (Ireland) Act, 1881, as amended by subsequent enactments (including this Act) shall be exercised by the appeal tribunal, and the decision of the appeal tribunal on such application shall be final.
There is no appeal, none whatever. Section 21 of the Bill will provide for funding the annuities. There was a reference made in the debate yesterday to the people who are principally the gainers by this particular section; they would be the people who, in the good years had defaulted in making payments—men who defaulted in normal times when it was possible to make land pay and possible for the farmers to meet their obligations. In those years certain people failed to meet their obligations and they are the only people in this Bill who will get any advantage whatsoever. They are to have all their arrears except three years forgiven and the honest farmer who paid his way gets by this Bill practically little or no advantage. But there is another section of tenants. Perhaps I should say they are no longer tenants; they are people who made sacrifices in the good years. These were the men who, in past years, in good times, made a little money, or perhaps got a little money from America, or from some other source, and thought it well to apply that money to the redemption of their lands and thus became freeholders. What benefit are they getting now under this Bill? What solace is it to them to see the men who defaulted getting the concessions that this Bill will give, while they get no advantages whatsoever from any tittle tattle or word in the measure. The Minister for Agriculture (Dr. Ryan) made the defence that this was done in previous Acts; that if they had added on all those arrears they could not equalise rents and that as a result one man would be paying more than another for his holding. He said that in four or five years' time if this had not been done another Land Bill would be required. I would like to ask the Minister for Agriculture if this Bill equalises the rents? Decidedly not.
According to this prophecy a new Land Bill must be brought in every four or five years in order to equalise the rents until we arrive at the stage when the rents are wiped out altogether, because it is only then that the tenants will be on a par. Section 22 provides:—
A revised annuity which does not include a funding annuity may be redeemed, in whole or in part, in the like manner, in all respects as such annuity could have been redeemed if it had not been revised under this Act, save that the sum payable for such redemption shall be reduced by the same percentage as the percentage by which such annuity was reduced on such revision.
What purpose is served by this section? What tenant is likely to redeem his land in the future with the experience before him of the tenants who redeemed their land in the past? With that experience confronting him, what tenant or annuity payer is likely to redeem his land in the near future. This section might well be left out. It is almost an insult to any tenant farmer to say that any tenant is likely to redeem his annuity with the possibility that the fruits of his redemption might be wiped out by a stroke of the pen as it is now wiped out in the case of tenants who spent their spare money in redeeming their holdings in former times. There is a very interesting section—Section 27. I will not read out all the section, but it provides that the Land Commission and the Minister shall be put on a par with the Revenue Commissioners. In other words that we have arrived definitely at the stage when for all purposes we have to meet the position that the land is subject to a land tax. In fact, the rent which the farmers will be asked in future to pay is nothing more or less than a land tax. That elaborates the statement made by the President of this House some time ago when he said that he was in agreement with the policy of a land tax. That policy is brought about definitely in this Bill. Future rents are going to be land taxes and are going to be recoverable just as income tax is recovered. Income tax collectors are the only people who can go to the farmers house, seize his furniture or his cattle or anything else they can lay hold of. The Minister and the Land Commission are, by this Bill, to be put on a par with the Income Tax Department.
In the future the moment the farmer is not able to pay and is in default with his land annuity they can go down and seize his furniture or stock for this rent without a decree from any judge or court. That is a dangerous provision. All bodies make mistakes. The Land Commission is a highly efficient body, but taking into account its numerous offices and the vast number of people employed in it, it is a body that is subject like all other bodies, to make mistakes. It does make mistakes. I am sure Deputies here from time to time have got demands for rents that have already been paid to the Land Commission. That happens in the case of the Land Commission just as in the case of other large bodies. Any great Department like that is bound to make mistakes. It would be expecting too much of the Land Commission that with the millions of cases going through their hands that there would not be an odd mistake now and again. Some farmer will find, as a result of this, that because a mistake was made in the Land Commission office a bailiff will walk into his premises, seize his cattle and thus hold him up to his neighbours as a defaulter. That will be one of the results of this section.
Now I come to Section 28 and this is a section that will hurt the farmers more than any other section in the Bill. This is the section that does away with his title. Before I go into this section I would like to quote what a well-known lawyer, a member of the Government Party and one of the foremost lawyers in this State said some time ago. Senator Comyn, speaking in the Seanad as late as the 25th May last, said as reported in the official report, volume 15, column 1385. He was talking of an enquiry into the agricultural industry and incidentally, he referred to this matter:—
"One thing I would like to say in conclusion is that I for one am not in favour of disturbing any vested tenant right where that right existed. I am certain that that is not and never will be the policy of this country."
That was a declaration made by one of the leading lawyers in the Fianna Fáil Party, one of the leading Senators in the Oireachtas. But here in this section the Ministry have acted in defiance of the expressed words of that particular lawyer. I wonder if the Ministry consulted any of the lesser lawyers in drafting this Bill.
Who are the people from whom the land is to be taken under this Bill? Rather I would ask the House who are the tenant farmers from whom land may not be taken under this Bill? I suggest that the number of tenant farmers who are saved from the application of this particular section in this State are very few. In my particular county there is scarcely a tenant farmer who has not, outside of his residential holding, some small piece of land, semi-detached, into which he put his savings in bygone times. Is he now to be disturbed? Is his title to that particular land to be destroyed? It will have no market value if this Bill is passed. The Minister will be able to step in and give him a nominal sum for his tenant right and his proprietorship in that particular farm. The Minister for Agriculture apparently did not understand this Bill, because he said that it imposed no harm on any individual tenant, and that no Deputy had referred to any particular section to show that the Bill would impose hardships. Perhaps it is as well that I should draw attention to the harmful portions of the Bill. Who are the people from whom land may or may not be taken?
The right conferred on the tenant or proprietor of any declared land by the foregoing provisions of this section of requiring the Land Commission to provide him with a new holding, shall not be exercisable unless such tenant or proprietor satisfies the Land Commission.
There was a provision under previous legislation that if land was taken from a farmer he had the right to demand a suitable farm of equivalent value. That right is taken from him now except in these circumstances:—
(a) That he or his wife resides on the declared land and that he or she uses such land in the same manner as an ordinary farmer in accordance with proper methods of husbandry;
I do not know what would constitute an ordinary farmer in the minds of the Government. Now we come to the word "and." Deputies will observe the word is not "or." The section runs on:
(b) that he or his wife is not the owner or the tenant of lands the market value of which exceeds the sum of £2,000.
I think it was stated from the Government side that any man who resided on his farm was safe under this measure. He is not. The purpose of the two paragraphs I have read is that a farmer cannot claim exemption if he had a farm of more than £2,000 in value.
Many an industrious man in times gone by, with a farm of 40 or 50 acres, built a substantial house and out-offices and improved his holding to such an extent that it would now be a farm exceeding £2,000 in value. Such a farmer is now liable to be disturbed. He may get bonds for the portion of his holding in excess of the £2,000, or he may be provided with an alternative farm that the Minister assumes is worth £2,000. That is the only privilege he can get. As regards all other farms, whether they be large farms or mere cabbage plots, if the farmers do not reside on them they may be taken from them at the desire of the Minister. A land holder has not even a chance of appealing except on a question of law and that will be decided by two lay commissioners. As regards any other matter, he has no right of appeal. The tenant ought to have the right of appeal to some tribunal, whether on a question of law or of fact. I do not think there is the least possibility of this measure passing, because I cannot conceive Deputies such as Deputy Corry and other leading farmers on the Government Benches voting for this Bill. I believe the Bill will be defeated even in this House.
I cannot conceive the Deputy voting against it.
There are a lot of Cumann na nGaedheal Deputies not going to vote against it—well, not a lot, but a few.
The Bill teems with references to the powers of the tribunal from whom there is no appeal. Section 31 sets out:—
(2) A certificate given under this section shall be final, subject to an appeal to the appeal tribunal on any question of law, or of value, and the decision of the appeal tribunal on any such question of value shall be final.
The final decision as to the value of land will be in the hands of two lay gentlemen. I will not call them Land Commissioners, because the probability is that they will not be Land Commissioners. They will be two lay gentlemen from the ranks of Fianna Fáil and they will adjudicate on these matters.
Perhaps you would prefer Mr. Justice Wylie there.
Is that remark in order—that reference to Mr. Justice Wylie?
I did not catch the remark, but no interruptions are in order.
They are helpful sometimes. My chief difficulty is that I have had no interruptions. I have been talking so straightforwardly on this Bill and showing its consequences so fairly that Fianna Fáil Deputies are unable to interrupt. They know I am stating the facts. I should like interruptions and, apparently, I am not making any mistakes, for I am sure I would have been interrupted if I made any blunders.
There is one section in the Bill to which no allusion has been made, so far as I know. Possibly there was a fear in the minds of Fianna Fáil Deputies that if they alluded to this section they might be accused of sympathy for a certain class of people who are now, thank God, almost extinct in this country. I refer to the landlords. I am not afraid to allude to them. Section 35 gives power to the Land Commission in certain cases to reduce the standard purchase annuity of a holding. That applies to cases where land has been vested in the Land Commission. It provides that even where land has been purchased under recent Acts and a bargain clinched, all that can be upset and the former owner need not get all the money originally agreed upon—it can be docked. I am not much concerned for the particular class in question, but in ordinary justice when a bargain is made by the State it should be carried out. This Bill embodies certain proposals in relation to people who made bargains under other Acts. Those bargains may be interfered with. This is the retrospective clause in this Bill. I was looking for the retrospective clause in this measure and I find that here it is. I think this section is both unjust and unworkable.
It is all unjust, from start to finish—reductions and everything.
Truth is always unjust to some members of the Government Party. This is bound to hold up the allocation of purchase money and it will delay matters. It has even a worse effect. The Act of 1903 and subsequent measures proposed finally to deal with the land question, finally to wipe out the landlord from this country, to buy them out compulsorily. They were bought out compulsorily and no reason given. Their bargain as to the price of their land was signed, sealed and delivered. We are going back on that. We are to have another broken agreement. This ought to be styled "The House of Broken Agreements," because in this Bill we are going to break another agreement entered into by a Department on behalf of this House. Contrast that with the action of the Ministry in a Bill which we are still discussing in this House, and which has not yet been passed, in regard to the payment of sums due to people in another country. That was an agreement with no binding force behind it such as the owners of the land had in this particular instance. This Bill provides that there may be a revision of the agreement made with those people, even though it was signed, sealed and delivered. I say that this section is unjust and undesirable.
There are many other matters in this Bill that I could allude to, but I do not want to be the only Deputy on this side of the House to speak. I believe there are other Deputies interested in this Bill more capable of expressing themselves than I am. The Minister will probably say that the powers given in this Bill will not be exercised to the full; that we need not fear; that no tenant farmer will be disturbed: but the powers are there enshrined in this Bill in paragraph after paragraph, and if they are not to be exercised what are they there for? Our experience is that when drastic powers against the tenants appear in an Act they are exercised. They will be exercised politically in this particular case, in a vindictive spirit against certain people. There is only one thing in conclusion which I should like to say——
Mr. Corry here made an interjection which was inaudible.
If Deputies cannot restrain themselves they should not sit in the House when speeches are being made.
There is one final thing which I wish to say on this Bill, and it is that if the Minister thinks, having passed this Bill, he is going to get easily over this matter, I am afraid he is going to be disillusioned. I am afraid if the Bill passes the Minister will be engaged in a worse war than the economic war, which is a bad one. He will be engaged in a fight which he never conceived he would be engaged in. A fight was fought for the tenant farmers in this country in bygone days to preserve their title and prevent eviction—fought and won. I believe that they will not lightly let the fruits of that victory pass from them, and that they will resist the Ministry in putting this Bill into force.
After all we have heard on this Bill from the legal profession and professional debaters, it is something in the nature of presumption on the part of a back bencher like myself to give my views on it. I believe that the aim of this Land Bill is to put into effect what we in the west, at any rate, were led to believe, both by expression and implication, that the Land Bill of 1923 would do. Deputy Hogan, when speaking on this Bill, started off by saying that it was a political measure. Even if it is in any way political it will have to go a long away before it can get up to the 1923 Act in that way. In 1922, long before the 1923 Bill was introduced, I met people down the country who asked me why I was opposing the Treaty: they asked me was I trying to prolong the agony of the unfortunate congests, and keep them from being put on the land and having their pitiable plight relieved by the Bill that would be brought into force if the Free State were allowed to function. That Bill impressed people considerably, and while some people may be credited with the winning of the civil war for Cumann na nGaedheal, I think that at least so far as the West is concerned the credit for that victory was due to Deputy Hogan and the implications of the 1923 Land Act.
It went so far as that very intelligent people were carried away. In fact, we had respected Catholic clergymen, and one in particular, who went out for the Treaty on the score that 180 congests in his parish would be relieved and put on the 3,000 acres of untenanted ranch land which was in that parish. He was transferred from that parish, and all along the line he went out strongly for the Cumann na nGaedheal Party. He believed that the 1923 Act would give the relief which he wished, but he came back as parish priest to that parish in 1928 and he found the position still unchanged. The 180 congests were still on their miserable patches, and the ranchers were enjoying the grass lands, with the result that on the first opportunity he disavowed his allegiance from Cumann na nGaedheal and sent an open letter to the electors of Leitrim-Sligo to return a Fianna Fáil candidate at the election. I can tell you that he did not like sending that letter. It was not against the person who was a candidate for Cumann na nGaedheal at that election he sent it, because for a number of years he had been his beau ideal. He sent it in order to have that policy adopted.
The Land Commission had not been idle during all that time. They did their best to acquire that land, but they found at every turn of the road that they were meeting obstacles in the way of legal technicalities which prevented them from taking over the land. It would be very interesting if Deputy Seán Brodrick, of Galway, were here, to hear his opinion of this Bill. The people of Killosora, Caltra and other villages would know exactly where he stands in regard to their position, and how they have been kept in the same miserable plight all along, although they were led to believe as far back as 1923 that their lot would be bettered. I think it is a fine thing that we have a provision in this Bill, anyhow, which will expedite matters so that relief will be brought to those unfortunate people who had been neglected under the 1923 Act. We have heard a lot about economic holdings and about protection and all the rest of it. I know that the people in this particular district of Killosora and Caltra have supplied more food from their miserable holdings to the markets of Mountbellew and Ballinasloe than, in proportion, 35,000 acres of the ranches would supply. I hold that the real wealth of a country is the food that is produced for the people who are living in that country.
As regards the appeal tribunal, I am not versed in law in any way, but I am glad, anyhow, that there is about to be set up a tribunal which will not inflict a crime on suffering humanity such as the crimes which were perpetrated on the unfortunate tenants on the Pollock, Persse, Taylor and Larne estates. I hope that those who are responsible for those crimes will no longer be allowed to carry on. It will be a great source of comfort to these unfortunate people to find that instead of paying 20/- in future they will only have to pay 9/-. Deputy Hogan may say that the agreements entered into by those people were freely arrived at. In some instances that was so, but in many instances, particularly on the Pollock estate, that was not so, because there you had a number of employees who had either to take the land as it was given to them or quit. Deputy Hogan stated that, since Fianna Fáil came into office, for political expediency they gave holdings to their followers. I do not believe that that is so. I partly know where he is referring to, and this I do state here in this House, that for every Fianna Fáil supporter landless man, so to speak, who got a holding in that particular area a prominent member of the A.C.A. also got a holding. I think the proper term for an economic holding is a holding that will be economic in rent anyhow. There is no use giving a man a holding that is economic in area and uneconomic in rent, such as were the holdings that were given under the 1923 Land Act. As regards the funding and remission that has been given under this Bill, Deputy Hogan said that it was most unfair to honest people and that it was a commendation of dishonesty. I know several people in County Galway who were quite anxious to pay their way, but in 1924 we had the fluke ravages and they completely wiped out the entire stock of sheep. As for the amount of relief the Agricultural Credit Corporation brought them in 1926 or 1927 it was very little. It would be a fine thing for them that they would be relieved of that burden and that they would get a chance to make use of their holdings. I hold it is very fair, taking the people en bloc so to speak—more fair than by leaving the burden there and then by some ingenious device to set about to give relief to our own supporters as happened in not a few instances under the 1923 Land Act. I know a particular gentleman in my district within two miles of Deputy Hogan's area, who, when the Galway County Council rightly or wrongly published a list of annuities defaulters, what happened in his case? He was given an exchange holding in County Meath and the unfortunate people around were given his land at a rent they could not pay, and one of the people happened to be a person who had to sign, so to speak, an enforced agreement. That was the herd and were it not so and if he had not been hard pressed, he would have not signed the purchase agreement.
Deputy Hogan tried to lead us to believe that he is a champion of stern morality. That is only one case I have quoted. Quite close to him an individual getting into private debt was allowed to sell the major portion of his holding and he was given in exchange a holding in County Dublin, where he was put into possession the day before the general election in 1932. My advice to Deputy Hogan and people of that kind is that people in glass houses should not throw stones. As far as the acquisition of land is concerned, I am sorry Deputy Dillon is not here. What respect would he have for the fixity of tenure of the planters who still hold the holdings from which the people responsible for the plan of campaign were evicted? His father, Lord have mercy upon him, was their champion, anyhow, and if he were here instead of his son, he would have welcomed the opportunity of setting right some of the grievances of poor people still on the seachrán. One notable case was that of Pat Madden, of Meelick, who was evicted from a 34-acre holding 50 years ago. He refused to take an alternative holding, and rightly so. Why should he not get back his holding when the man holding it had 100 acres besides? I trust the remaining evicted tenants are the first people who will be put back on their original holdings. I think that is a fine thing and that that fixity of tenure will be swept away. If we examine other ranches in East Galway we will find that it was in the same manner the holders came into possession of the lands, and why should we hold any brief for them? On a vote here the other night Deputy Brodrick said he wondered what I would have to say if the congests of Connemara were taken over to Laurencetown. I should like to tell Deputy Brodrick that I would be more at home around Laurencetown with the congests of Connemara than with the Lamberts, the Bournes or the Trenches. I have little more to say, only that I do hope in the case of landless men getting holdings they will be put to the test of industry and that no man will get a holding who is not capable of working it in accordance with the proper methods of husbandry. As far as building grants are concerned, the Land Commission would do well if they would not give grants on the same elaborate scale on which they were given under the 1923 Land Act. They were not given fairly on that occasion. In one case a modern Cromwellian mansion was built, while other people only got £250 or £200 of a grant. I trust the architects and engineers of the Land Commission will take this into consideration and will outline plans of houses which can be extended as time goes on and that they will see that it is not the political colour or the influence of some local person that will get the larger grant, but that the size of the family will be taken into consideration. I welcome this Bill and so do the farmers who have always been fighting and who bore the brunt of the land war in County Galway. It will go down to this Government's credit for all time and if the question is quickly and properly dealt with it will solve some of our major problems and it will bring the economic war to a speedy ending.
My contribution to this debate shall be as brief as possible. I dare say every section of this Bill has been fully discussed and debated. To my mind, at all events, I see no reason why this Bill should be introduced at the end of a Session and hastily got over for one political purpose, and that is to give the Minister for Lands and Fisheries authority which no one person in this country for generations got and powers to carry out this Land Bill, which I consider one of the most drastic coercion Bills ever introduced in this country.
A great number of the older members of this Dáil might remember the fight that was made in the early days of the Land Bill, going back to the times when the tenant farmers were crushed out of existence by the old ascendancy gang known as the rack-renting landlords. They came along extracting every penny from the unfortunate tenant farmers of the country to pay those rack rents regardless of the fact whether the families or themselves were in want afterwards. The people put up one of the greatest fights that this country was ever known to put up by constitutional means, and perhaps otherwise, when we were a united Party in this country under the able leadership of the late Charles Stewart Parnell.
He wrung more concessions from the English Government than we did in after years, I am sorry to say, with our armed forces. Under the Bill we are now discussing, if it becomes law, the concessions which we now possess, such as fixity of tenure will no longer be enjoyed by the farmers of this country. I, as one man, have been through the land war. I fought side by side with my fellow tenant farmers in this country in a united Ireland, under the great leadership of Charles Stewart Parnell, backed up by the clergy in all parts of Ireland. Eternal credit should be given to the Catholic Hierarchy and clergy for the manner in which they stood behind their flocks. In Cork County alone we had four priests especially who stood loyally behind the tenant farmers when they were looking for reductions in their rents, fixity of tenure and free sale. Not only did they stand loyally by the side of their flock but they suffered long terms of imprisonment in their cause, and surely to goodness. at the present moment we are not going to lie down and take calmly the injury we are threatened with under the present Bill. No matter what Government introduced such a Bill, whether it be Fianna Fáil, Cumann na nGaedheal, Labour or Centre Party, we are not going to allow the privileges which we now enjoy to be filched from us. I say we would be the very greatest cowards if we allowed any Party to filch away the rights which the tenant farmers now enjoy.
As one of the wounded soldiers of the land war, I feel I would be ignominiously failing in my duty to my fellow-men if I did not raise my voice in protest against this Land Bill. There is no need for it. We heard Deputy Roddy's statement last night that there are 250,000 acres of land waiting to be dealt with at the present moment. Where is the demand for land at the present moment? In East Cork we have an estate under the care of the Board of Works at the present time. It contains 1,000 acres of the most arable land in Ireland and it has been held up for the last ten years. When I was anxious to have it divided amongst the landless men I was turned down both by the late Government and the present Government. There are 1,000 acres lying idle there on the Kilworth, Moore Park Estate.
The powers the Minister for Lands and Fisheries is looking for at the present time are the most drastic and dictatorial powers ever asked for under any Bill. I would advise the Minister and the Executive Council, if they have the interests of the Irish people at heart, and the peace and the prosperity of the country in view, to withdraw this Bill, to scrap it and throw it into the waste paper basket. By doing that they will be doing more for the unity, peace and prosperity of the Irish people than anything that happened in modern times. I wonder what farmer Deputies from East Cork will say when they go down to their constituencies and visit the Ponsonby Estate, where families were evicted 45 years ago, where a great number of their representatives were imprisoned in Cork Jail for the part they took in the defence of the rights of their fellow-farmers. I would like to know from Deputy Corry what excuse he will give for helping in the work of filching away rights which the farmers had won and for which their fellow-men went to jail to achieve.
I would like to know from Deputy P.S. Murphy what excuse he will give for his action in East Cork, which I have the honour to represent, to the tenant farmers of the Kingston estate, near Mitchelstown, where a great fight was waged for the rights of the people in the early days of the Land League. I remember well as a young lad in those days a public demonstration held in the streets of Mitchelstown, under the chairmanship of the late John Mandeville and attended by leaders of the movement such as Michael Davitt, long since deceased, William O'Brien and John Dillon, illustrious patriotic sons of Ireland. When they advocated the rights of the tenant farmers what was the order sent down from Dublin Castle? A proclamation was issued that the meeting should not be held and an order was sent down that if it was held the police and military should not hesitate to shoot. The meeting was held and the British of that day did not hesitate to shoot defenceless people in the streets of Mitchelstown. Out of that demonstration and the shooting of people which took place at it, arose a cry, not only in Ireland, but across the seas, "Remember Mitchelstown." Will it come to this again, I ask, that the Irish people will again have to make the same sacrifices and go through the same persecution which the landlords of this country put them through in days gone by? If it comes to that it will not be a case of "Remember Mitchelstown," because of what the British Government did, but it will be "remember some particular place," because the Fianna Fáil Government has put into operation this drastic coercion in order to take from the Irish tenant farmers the rights and privileges that they now enjoy. I am rather surprised that any native Government which understood, or should understand, the history of the land war in this country, would bring in such a drastic measure as this to take from the tenant farmers of Ireland the privileges and concessions which they now enjoy. I speak as one who was in the campaign in the days of the Land League and who suffered two years' imprisonment in Cork jail and was under hard labour when it was not a picnic to go there. It was no privilege to be in prison in those days. The concessions which we fought for and the privileges which we now enjoy are to be handed over to a Minister who, perhaps, will examine his conscience before he puts these dictatorial powers into force. I do not wish to state for one moment that the Minister is to carry out this Bill to the extreme letter of the law, but my advice at this juncture is this: withdraw the Bill, put it into the wastepaper basket for the future peace and prosperity of our beloved country.
The only defence of this Bill made by the Government Party was the defence made by the Attorney-General last night. The Attorney-General must be a very simple-minded man and I believe he is a very simple-minded man. I am sure many Fianna Fáil back benchers must have thought also that the Attorney-General was a very simple-minded man. He told us last night that the objects and underlying principles of the Bill are exactly the same as in Deputy Hogan's Act of 1923. I do not think he will be able to convince. Deputy Corry of that, or Deputy Beegan, or very many other members of the Fianna Fáil Party. Deputy Corry last night gave us to understand that Deputy Hogan's Act and, of course, all that Deputy Hogan ever stood for, was the defence of the lazy grazier in this country. The Attorney-General told us the objects and underlying principles of the Bill are exactly the same as in Deputy Hogan's Act. I wonder why the Fianna Fáil Party expect so much from this Bill if the Attorney-General is right. It would be very interesting to know on what clauses Deputies Corry, Beegan, Cleary and other Deputies base their hopes on a speedy division of land under the Bill. The Acting-Minister when introducing the Bill did not mention any particular clause which would speed up the division of land. He could not do it. They are not there. The only thing that might speed up land division is this: They have already in hand not 250,000 acres as stated by the Acting-Minister, but much more, and they have not divided them. Why? Were they waiting for the power conferred on the Minister in this Bill, the power of patronage? Is that what they were waiting for—to select the applicants? Is that why the Fianna Fáil back benchers have such confidence in the operation of the Bill? If it is not, I do not know what it is, because the Attorney-General said that the objects and underlying principles are the same as in Deputy Hogan's Act of 1923. Deputy Corry said that everybody connected with land division in the past was guilty of conspiracy against the farmers and against everybody. The Attorney-General said that the Land Commission in the past was absolutely free from blame, that it was a body that was above reproach. I wonder where we will get agreement amongst the Fianna Fáil Party on this matter? The Attorney-General took Deputy Dillon to task on the question of the rights of the tenant farmer and the fixity of tenure of the tenant farmer. The Attorney-General very deliberately tried to confuse the judicial tenant with the purchased tenant. There was no confusion in the minds of any other person in the House. Everybody knew what Deputy Dillon was referring to, because the judicial tenants at present are very few in comparison with the purchased tenants.
Let us take up this Bill and see exactly what are the powers which the Minister is looking for under the Bill. The Attorney-General told us last night that whatever powers are being sought by the Minister under this Bill, and, I think, the Acting-Minister agreed with the Attorney-General, the same powers existed before—that the previous Minister had practically the same powers. I shall read for you what the Acting-Minister said when introducing the Bill:—
"The Bill proposes to bring the Land Commission into line with all the other Government Departments, and to give the Minister, whom the Dáil holds responsible for it, the same authority over its administration and general policy as other Ministers have over the Departments for which they are responsible."
Of course the Minister will have powers that he never had before, notwithstanding what the Attorney-General said and what the Acting-Minister said last night. The Acting-Minister himself told us that he was introducing that specially. What are the powers he is asking for, and why is he asking for them? If Fianna Fáil supporters are not pinning their faith to the powers which the Minister has in this Bill with regard to the division of land, there is nothing else in the Bill to which they can pin their faith. Sub-section (2) of Section 6 says:—
That the Land Commission and the lay commissioners shall "act under and in accordance with the directions, whether general or particular, of the Minister."
I could very well imagine the Minister looking for general authority, but he wants particular authority. He wants to deal with the particular cases. The Land Commission shall deal with them in whatever way the Minister directs. The sub-section states:—
That the Minister shall have "full and unrestricted powers of regulating and controlling every and any exercise or performance by the Land Commission..."
I wonder what were the shortcomings in the machinery of that Department that demanded that tightening up? Is there any evidence, since Fianna Fáil became the Government of the country, of insubordination in the Land Commission? There must be something to account for this, if the Attorney-General and the Acting-Minister are right in saying that they are seeking no powers except what were there before. What is there that has urged the Minister to put in this clause here? Previous to that clause we have four excepted matters which are completely annulled by sub-section (3) (a) (b) of the same section.
The Minister cannot interfere with any of these four excepted matters, but he can divide into classes or into types all the cases all over the country in any district or in any county. He can distribute it by way of class or type— political class or type or otherwise— among particular people for administration. That is with regard to the excepted matters. That is what he takes under sub-section (b) of sub-section (3). If there is any appeal from anything done by these people whom he sends down to deal with these particular kinds of cases in particular classes or particular districts, that appeal is heard by the judicial commissioner, sitting as chairman, and the two nominees of the Minister. I wonder is it upon that Fianna Fáil is depending for the quick and speedy division of land? If they are not depending on that, I should like to know from the Acting-Minister, or from some of the back benchers of Fianna Fáil what are they depending on for the speedy division of land? Where are the clauses in any part of the Bill which are designed to speed up the division of land except through the selection of applicants in which the Minister, from start to finish, is set up as a kind of Lord High Executioner—a new Cromwell—who has control of all the lands of this country? It does not matter whether or not you are a landholder and that you fear undue interference with your land or that you fear it may be taken from you compulsorily and you want to get justice with regard to the price, or whether you are an applicant for land or a person who is not able to ward off the sheriff by way of the payment of your annuity, there is only one way in which to get in touch with any person who is able to help you, and that is to get to the Minister.
Of course, the only effective way, possibly, to get to the Minister is through the local Fianna Fáil clubs. So we read in the provincial papers. We have reports in the provincial papers every week by the local Fianna Fáil clubs which are to the effect: "If you want your grievances redressed, join Fianna Fáil. All communications from this area addressed to the Ministers are to go through the Fianna Fáil club." One resolution passed by one of these clubs and circulated over the county from which I come called upon the Government to have all relief grants administered through the Fianna Fáil clubs. Is it any wonder that the Fianna Fáil clubs and the back benchers of the Fianna Fáil Party should feel that at last through the operation of this Bill they have come into their own and can get the job done as they want it to be done? Why does the Minister seek those powers if it is not for that reason? I ask is it fair that the Minister in charge of a department such as the Land Commission should have the powers which the Acting-Minister for Lands and Fisheries asks for in this Bill? He said that he wants to give the Minister the same authority for the administration of his department as other Ministers have for the administration of the departments for which they are responsible. Is there any analogy between the department of the Land Commission and any of the other departments? Take Local Government, take Justice, take Education or any of those departments, and it will be found that there is absolutely no analogy between them. There is only one department which is in some way analogous to the Land Commission, and that department is the Appointments Commission. It is the particular duty of the Land Commission to select people to whom to give land. That is their particular duty and aim. In other words, it is their function to confer benefits, by way of positions if you like, on individuals. That is the real business of the Land Commission. When the Appointments Commission was being set up for the purpose of selecting candidates for positions under local authorities, this House was most careful that there would be no opportunity for Ministerial interference or Ministerial patronage, and so the Appointments Commission was set up as a completely detached body so that no Minister and no Government office would have such control as would enable them to interfere with the selections of the Appointments Commission.
Why is it that the land workers, as apart from other workers in this country, have absolutely no security whatever with regard to the manner in which they will be selected for parcels of land? After all, land holdings are much more important than other positions in the community, because the land holder has a right to dispose of what he has and to hand it down to those who come after him. I think that, as far as Ministerial patronage or Party patronage is concerned, the Land Commission is the one Department that ought to be away above that, and that no opportunity for interference should be given. Notwithstanding that, we have a demand that the Minister shall have all those unrestricted powers, whether general or particular. Whether general or particular, he wants those powers, and he is going to have them under this Bill.
The clauses relating to the appeal tribunal have been rather exhaustively dealt with by other Deputies and I do not intend to delay the House in dealing with them. We come now to the part of this Bill which proposes to fund the arrears and to halve the annuities. Strictly speaking, I suppose what I have to say on this will be restricted to a certain extent, because it would be more applicable on the Committee Stage, but I want to say a few words on the general principle of funding the annuity of, say, last year in toto and of halving the annuities for the future. Deputy Fionán Lynch made a suggestion from these benches which, I think, is one that ought to get consideration, and that is, that if any annuities are to be remitted, the first claim lies with the annuity which became due during the economic war. I think that was a very reasonable suggestion and that the Government ought to admit that certainly, if there is remission due in 1930 and 1931, or the years previous to that—1928 and 1929—the outstanding one that ought to be remitted is the annuity of 1932. Why do I say that? I say it because the Government itself found it to be the case. It is the Government's own finding. It is not mine.
On the public advice and instruction of the President, demands were made for the full annuities of the last year. They were to be paid in full. No person, who was able to pay, was to be allowed to leave his annuities unpaid. Acting on further instructions the Land Commission took proceedings. After issuing in my own county thousands of civil bills and obtaining hundreds of decrees, and after putting the people to the cost of those things—which they have not paid of course—the Government found that they were wrong and that they ought not to have taken those proceedings at all. Accordingly, they withdrew the proceedings. That meant one or other of two things; either that the Government had not the "guts" to put their decrees into operation or that they found—which, to my mind, is right—that the people were not able to pay. If they were not able to pay, on the finding of the Government itself, in 1932, why should those annuities be funded in toto? The Government apparently anticipate that there will be a revival of industry in this country. I hope they are right. They apparently anticipate that agriculture is about to get on the up grade again. I very much hope they are right. The Government must think that, because last year they refused, after being taught a lesson, to collect the annuities on the grounds that the people were not able to pay them. This year they say the people are able to pay half of them and only half of them and that in the future they will pay only half of them, but they go back and say: “We are going to fund in toto, the arrears of last year which we have already found the people were not able to pay; and not alone that but all the legal expenses to which we put the people wrongly by asking them to pay and bringing them into court. We are going to fund these legal expenses also against those people.” That is done under Section 12 (2) which reads: “As soon as may be after the passing of this Act, the Land Commission shall ascertain the amount of the arrears of every purchase annuity to which this section applies which were due and owing on the 15th day of July, 1933, and the amount of the costs and expenses (if any) incurred by the Land Commission before the passing of this Act in proceedings for the recovery of such arrears, and immediately upon such ascertainment.” These costs are going to be funded. I would ask the Government in all seriousness is that fair? Is it fair after their own finding in 1932 that the people were not able to pay? After their own withdrawal of the legal proceedings is it fair for the Government to come along and say to these people whom they have put to costs: “We are going to ask you to pay in the future and we are also going to ask you to pay the costs of the court proceedings and we will fund that against you also”?
Now let us see what are the prospects of the farming community being able to pay half of the annuities as set out here. The Government has found that we were not able to pay any part of our land annuities last year. In yesterday's Irish Press I saw some returns of market prices. I am sure nobody will attempt to contradict these figures for I took them specially from the Irish Press, or Truth in the News. That paper yesterday published figures relating to the pig industry in this country for last year and this year. Last year is the year in which we were not able to pay our annuities. I want to impress that upon the House. Last year there was bought in the Saorstát in the first 28 weeks up to the 13th July, for home killing, 341,285 pigs. This year there was bought in the corresponding period for home killing 390,228 pigs or an increase of 48,943 for this year. That looks well. Now we turn to the live pigs exported for the same period. Last year there was bought for export, live pigs to the number of 142,791 for the first 28 weeks of the year. This year the number of live pigs bought for export was 36,181, making a net decrease in pigs of over 57,000 pigs, for this year. And this is the year we are going to be asked to pay half of our annuities, the year in which we made that loss! Further in the same paper we find some other very illuminating figures. It may be said that perhaps there was not a market for live pigs but this is the extraordinary thing that in the same period in 1932 the Six Counties exported 13,407 pigs and in the same period this year they exported 35,291, or an increase of nearly 22,000 pigs. One might easily perhaps fall into the mistake that we had a much higher export of bacon because we killed more pigs at home. I give you those figures for the same period and again I regard them as very illuminating figures. Our export of pork up to the 18th July this year was 98,176 cwts. as against 121,170 cwts. last year, or a drop of 22,994 cwts. Our export of bacon and hams dropped as against last year by 17,271 cwts. this is the year that we are going to be asked to pay half our annuities! Last year, the comparatively wealthy year, was the year in which the Government found that we were not able to pay our annuities.
I have further figures here that are even more depressing. For the first five months of this year ending the 31st May we exported to Britain 235,412 cattle as against 271,568 last year. That does not seem such a big difference, but look at what it meant to us and to the people of this country for whom we are legislating here. Last year the value of our cattle exports were for that period £4,147,900. This year the value is £2,247,500. And this is the year that we are asked to pay; the year when it is quite evident from these figures that we are not able to pay. There is even a worse feature than that. Notwithstanding the fact that it has been said by the people on the Government Benches that the bottom had fallen out of the British cattle market, and, notwithstanding that we had been told from the Government Benches that the British Government was going to take steps to keep us out of that market, we find on looking into these figures that in the first months of 1931 Canada sent into the British Isles 3,000 cattle valued at £78,000. In the corresponding period this year Canada sent in 15,506 cattle valued at £286,000. These are even more depressing figures. And this is the year we are going to be asked to pay the annuities that we were not able to pay last year.
I will ask the Acting-Minister if he seriously thinks, having found last year that the farmers were not able to pay their annuities under the conditions then existing, that they will be able to pay half the annuities this year and for the future. The people against whom he wrongfully took proceedings, on his own admission, because he subsequently withdrew them, must now have funded against them the law costs which the Minister wrongfully incurred.
There is a section in the Bill which has been the subject of a great deal of discussion. I refer to Section 28. The Attorney-General said there was very little difference between it and another section in the Act of 1923. In the 1923 Act, Section 24 (4) gave certain safeguards to land holders. Those safeguards are being removed and all we have got instead is the word of the Minister for Justice that there will be no undue interference with land holders. We have got the promise of Fianna Fáil. That is the security we have for the future. We have the same security as the teaching profession and the civil servants got when the President told them he would not reduce their salaries. We have just the same security as when the Minister for Finance told us he was going to reduce our burden by £2,000,000. What strength that promise has I leave other people to figure out.
I think the climax is reached when the Government that styled itself, when it came into office, "the poor man's Government," took unto itself the right under Section 27 to send the sheriff to a poor, unfortunate tenant purchaser's door without any warning. I think it was Deputy Walsh said yesterday evening that rate collectors had the same powers. We know they have, but they never exercise them. The county councils would not permit that power to be exercised.
Are you sure they never exercised that power?
Suppose they did, I am sure Deputy Walsh would be the very man to say that it was harsh treatment. It is a power that ought to be killed, yet Fianna Fáil is giving it new life here.
How do the lawyers' costs relieve?
How do they relieve what?
The force of the decree.
I do not understand the Deputy.
On a point of order. I have been informed that one State solicitor, whom I shall not mention——
Information about a State solicitor is not a point of order.
He received £1,900 in costs.
Deputy Walsh appears to be as far away from relevant points as other Deputies. Deputy Cleary, speaking the other night, welcomed above all the one clause in the Bill which set up the appeal tribunal; he said that it was the very best clause. After referring to the good work which the Government was doing in setting up the appeal tribunal, he wound up by telling us that the right people to decide all these matters were the members of the Land Commission.
Deputy Corry detained the House for a considerable length last night quoting another Deputy who is not now in the House. I think the portions of the Bill which are a real danger are the portions upon which, apparently, Fianna Fáil are relying to aid the division of land. Those portions of the Bill give the Minister the absolute power of patronage. We will have in this thing a reversion to the old servitude. It does not matter what redress you require, or what justice you think you have been denied, there is only one way of getting some chance of amelioration and that is by coming with your hat in your hand to his Honour, the Minister. Of course, you need not do that personally; the local Fianna Fáil club will do it for you.
I think the Bill is, from beginning to end, political. The clauses which give the Minister the power of patronage are the clauses upon which the Government mainly rely.
It seems to me that everything that can be usefully said on this Bill has been said from these benches. I do not think the House has ever had to listen to more piffle and nonsense than it has had to listen to-day from the Opposition and the Centre Party with reference to this measure. The Centre Party in their opposition to this Bill want, to my mind, to blow hot and cold. The Centre Party are in a very peculiar position. Down the country they pretend to represent the farmers, but their attitude here shows they are representing the ranchers. I do not like singling out certain members of the Centre Party, but I would like to say a word in regard to Deputy McGovern's arguments. He told us yesterday that he would oppose the Bill. He comes from an area which, if it is not a congested area, is very close to one. I will be very interested to know what the people whom Deputy McGovern misrepresents will have to say as to his attitude on this Bill.
Deputy Brennan spoke about security. He knows perfectly well that the only sense of security that the plain, ordinary people have had for a long time has been the security they have enjoyed since Fianna Fáil came into power. The provisions in the 1923 Act gave security to certain people in this country and denied fair play to the people entitled to it. I think it will be generally admitted that an attempt is being made in this Bill to undo a little of the harm done by the 1923 Act.
A good deal has been spoken about the appeal tribunal. I wonder what is wrong with the appeal tribunal? I wonder what the people who have spoken against the appeal tribunal have to fear? It seems to me that they must have something to fear, or they would not be offering the opposition which they are offering to this measure. After all, the appeal tribunal is to be constituted of three laymen, I think, and the judicial commissioner. Any question of law which comes before the appeal tribunal will be decided by the judicial commissioner. I wonder what the Opposition or the Centre Party has to fear from that?
Another point that has encountered a good deal of opposition is the method of collection of the annuities. For six or seven years before I came into this House I had intimate knowledge of the collection of land annuities. I had that knowledge because I worked in a solicitor's office. In many cases the amount of the costs attached to those civil bills and to those proceedings, through no fault of the solicitors, was a good deal more than the amount of the debt. I wonder what the tenant farmers of this country have to fear from this method of collection of the annuities? I think I can speak with as much authority as anyone in this House with regard to the tenant farmers of this country, and I must say deliberately that I believe they will welcome this method of collection.
I do not expect, sir, that you would allow me to discuss this matter, but I might mention incidentally that I hope in the very near future the Minister for Justice will implement a statement which he made some time ago, and give the ordinary people of the country cheaper law. The amount that small farmers in this country have to pay for obtaining probates and things of that kind is out of all proportion to their means.
What has this to do with the Land Bill?
The Deputy asked me whether he was in order. Decidedly he is not.
I will pass from that. There is another matter dealt with in this Bill—the acquiring of land for the relief of congestion. Will anybody in this House stand up and say that the people in the congested areas—the people, mind you, who were mostly responsible for bringing about the position which enabled this House to sit here—are not entitled not to preference but to just distribution of a fair share of the land which is to be acquired and which is to be distributed? I think every fair-minded person in this House, whether on the Opposition Benches or not, will agree with me that there are persons in this country who gave of their best to the country, and who to-day have no land and cannot get work. The land which should be theirs is probably held by people who evicted their forefathers out of it. Will anybody here say that those people are not entitled not as I say to preference but to a just share of the land when it is for distribution? A certain gentleman here the other night made reference to those people who would become in the natural course of events entitled to this land. They were referred to as men who had no knowledge of working the land. Why have they no knowledge of working the land? Simply because the very people who have referred to them as such have seen to it—and have been enabled to see to it by the Government in power before Fianna Fáil came into office—that they would never get an opportunity of working the land.
The time has come now when those people will get a fair share of that to which they are entitled. Let us hope that the Government will be alive to the interests of the plain people of this country; that they will see to it that those who did enjoy privileges in the past when the other Government was in power will get no more of those privileges; that they will get fair play and nothing else. I think they should be satisfied with fair play.
Deputy McGovern, speaking in this House yesterday, told us about three wise men whom he had consulted about this measure. I do not know whether those three wise men were legal men or ordinary lay men. It seems to me that those three wise men whom Deputy McGovern referred to did not get very far in digesting the effects of this Bill. We have other Deputies here telling us that this measure will be operated through the Fianna Fáil clubs. Deputies who speak like that know perfectly well that it is absurd to do so; that no Department, no administration, or no Minister would allow such a thing to happen. I hope that for the future if the Opposition and the Centre Parties have nothing more tangible to offer against constructive measures when they are brought into this House they will at least keep silent.
A great many aspects of Government policy, especially as expounded by the President and Members of the Executive Council, are usually clouded with so much qualification and quibbles that one is just as ignorant as to what is really meant after the expounding of this policy as one was at the start. This Bill, if it has done nothing else, has, at least to my mind, made clear a very important but hitherto incomprehensible attitude of the Government. Many Fianna Fáil supporters were wondering lately why it was that the Government had instituted the economic war but this Bill now shows the reason for it. If there is one thing the economic war has done it is to drive down agriculture in this country and to drive down the value of land. In other words, the economic war was launched to prepare the way for this Land Bill by reducing the value of agricultural land almost to nil. It made it easy for the Government to come in with a measure which amounts certainly to practically State Socialism. Hence, one must compliment the President and members of the Executive Council with possessing a certain amount of statesmanship, even if it is statemanship of a deplorable kind. We now see why it was not to be ended but to be made a perpetual thing. When the land is worth nothing the market value of it is not to cost very much, so the working of this Land Bill is made easy by the preparations made beforehand by the economic war. This Bill must be considered from this viewpoint. If thoroughly and drastically worked as an Act it will lead to a condition, as Deputy Kent indicated, of widespread disturbance over the whole State, that is, if thoroughly and drastically worked. Quite likely a fillip will be given to the dangerous instincts and passions of certain people in this land. Everyone who has read Irish history and who knows the Irish peasantry, cannot but be aware of the troubles and strife aroused whenever an attempt was made to interfere with the individual or the individual's land in the country. To work this Bill to the full extent, with the full use of the powers it embodies possibly, and probably eventually, will precipitate strife which will turn possibly neighbour against neighbour, brother against brother and father against son, and will, eventually, wreck the whole fabric of rural civilisation which was so ardently fought for and won by the Land League and its workers. If it is meant to be in theory, drastic, and if in practice, it works out half-hearted, then, one sees the inevitability of political favouritism.
It is common knowledge that one of the methods of securing votes used by the Government Party during the last two elections was for a Deputy to call around him the landless men and to promise that if they voted Fianna Fáil in the ballot box they would get a slice of land. In certain districts I have heard, but it may not be true, that the division of certain farms was arranged in theory beforehand at the meetings of Fianna Fáil Cumainn. I suppose the time has come to make good those promises. One sees the Deputy's supporters going out for the parts of land that were promised to them, so that those on the opposite benches must make some effort to respond to the clamour. Hence, the Government has been urged to introduce a measure which empowers them to take from the rightful owners by force, fear or legislative fraud, that land and divide it among their friends. In this connection, one must congratulate again the Executive Council on their political astuteness by producing the usual talk about their concern for the weaker citizen and the financially embarrassed. The people with means of any kind are to be beggared to provide a Republican holiday for the hangers-on of Fianna Fáil. While the President smoothly and piously disassociates himself from every tinge of Communism, we see in this Bill a definite inclination towards Communism as a pretence of speeding up the Land Commission, but the red rag of Bolshevism is peeping out. Deputy Keely referred to this Bill as an attempt to break the power of the landlord. He is most ingenuous. He must think that history started at the time when his Party entered the Dáil in 1927, when the Party took an oath they declared they would never take and forsook the rock of the Republic. I would remind him that it was the Land League that freed the country from serfdom, which established the three "Fs," as they have been referred to—free sale, fixity of tenure, and fair rent, and hence made possible the national advance achieved during the past 17 years. How did that obtain? Before the Land League days, and it is admitted by many that it was one of the greatest and most successful revolutions of the nineteenth century, every effort to gain national freedom was stifled because the Irish peasant had no life and no decent prosperity of his own. The founders of the Land League saw that the backbone of the country must be settled by establishing reasonable independence amongst the root stock of the people, namely, the peasant proprietors. It was in order to give the people of the country the means to fight for freedom that there had to be established definite and individual prosperity. The importance of individual prosperity was recognised.
Let us consider the conditions at the time of the French Revolution, another important revolution at its inception. I do not refer to the degrading days of the Commune or the Red Terror, but at the inception of the French Revolution. Its success was not due to the unfortunate misery of the slum livers of Paris but to the individual prosperity of the members of the bourgeoisie. That brought about the French Revolution and it was the more prosperous members of the community who were ready to fight for the rights of their country at home and free it from feudalism. The moneyed farmer and the well-to-do shopkeeper were behind the movement and hence its success.
Who is the best type of farmer? Is it the man who gets a holding of ten or 12 acres, buys a couple of cows and then goes back to work on the roads, or is it the man with a holding of ten or 20 acres who works it well, buys ten or 20 acres more and by doing so enlarges his activities, extends his farm and gives more employment in the long run? Between the two types there is no doubt as to which is the better citizen, but if we are going to pass an Act which is going to stultify every individual effort, we are going to wipe out that type of individual from the country altogether. Has such a man not a right to extend his farm and acquire more land just as a good businessman has the right to extend his business and acquire more shops? We have seen an example of successful business recently when a member of the Oireachtas, the late Senator Ryan, died to the regret of everyone, and Dublin was robbed of one of its most able citizens. We saw an example of the man who by peaceful and businesslike action extended his activities so that his shops are now spread all over the city and remain undoubtedly as a monument to his ability. Have the Executive or the Government any right to step in and say to such a man: "You must not extend and develop your business; you must keep to one shop. We will take your other shops, and we will give you bonds upon the Exchequer for dividends that will be paid by the Minister for Finance, and we will divide your shops among the slum dwellers." Is not that surely a fair example of what is proposed to be done under this Bill? If the Government extends such a principle to the land there is no reason why it should not be extended to city and urban forms of enterprise. This Bill destroys incentive, abolishes ambition, puts a premium on inefficiency and encourages idleness.
A certain Deputy on the opposite benches, to check me in my attitude towards this Bill said he would attack me if I stood for the lazy graziers of Meath. There may be lazy graziers in Meath and there may be lazy tillers, and there may be lazy industrialists, but surely it is a confused mind that sees no difference between a farmer who works his land and an absentee landlord. In this connection there is a very significant fact worth mentioning. The County of Limerick has much less ground under tillage than have many other Irish counties, for instance the County of Wexford, which is a very highly tilled county. But Limerick employs more agricultural labourers to the 1,000 acres than Wexford, or than a great agricultural country like Denmark. This Bill is produced at a time when it seems as if the economic war is becoming permanent, and when the effects of this war are to deprive the farmers of their means of obtaining a livelihood from the land. When farmers who for years have been working their farms, having the advantage of long experience, are unable to make a living from the land, that is the time chosen by the Government to encourage speculators who are rapidly driving the country to bankruptcy.
I believe this Bill occasioned great discussion in the Fianna Fáil council of workers. Many of their members were very much alarmed at the trend this measure takes. I know the Government have sufficient numbers to pass the measure. But I appeal to the more enlightened Deputies opposite to think seriously before they give their votes for a measure that means a distinct advance towards socialism. There are many people in this country who would like to see the Tricolour replaced by the Red Flag, and the Presidential top-hat by the republican cap. I doubt if every one of the Fianna Fáil Party is of that opinion. There are, of course, some of them who think that there is some more desirable end than that of a Socialistic State. It is to those that I appeal to stop and think, before engaging in a business of this description. Free-sale is gone. Fixity of tenure is gone, and so vanish principles that were greatly treasured by our forefathers. Who knows that eventually we may not see again the battering-ram raised by a tyrannical Government, as it was in the days of the Land League in the interests of landlordism. All that system was abolished. Now under this Bill it will raise its head again, and we may find that we have but exchanged one form of tyranny for another. I oppose this Bill for the reasons I have given, but for the main reason that, perfectly worked, it is a bit of State Socialism, while if it is only partially worked it is bound to become a political measure.
By way of opening statement, I wish to say that the financial provisions of this measure are excellent and are particularly in keeping with the pledges made by our Party and our Government. When this Bill was being introduced we believed that it would bring about a more or less definite settlement of the land question, that previous discrepancies and wrongs would be made right under this Bill, and that it would redress wrongs not dealt with under previous Land Acts. While I regard the principle of the Bill as excellent at every step, I wish to point out a few items about which I desire to make suggestions in the different sections.
In Section 34 the question of submerged land is dealt with. The words "permanently submerged" are taken as meaning that the land in that category is such that no annuities should be claimed upon it. I suggest to the Minister that land seasonably submerged should be considered as land permanently submerged also because the fact that land is submerged for one or two or three months makes it practically useless for the remainder of the season. I think it would be only right and just that seasonal submerging should be regarded as permanent, and that that portion of the holdings should be exempted from payment of annuities. Also in regard to Section 34 where the phrase "sub-tenant" is referred to, in view of the exorbitant rents paid by sub-tenants, I suggest to the Minister that, instead of 50 per cent., the reduction ought to be 75 per cent. for the sub-tenants and 50 per cent., in the case of the immediate tenants. It is a well-known fact that under the system in vogue in Kerry, at any rate, sub-tenants pay, in proportion to the acreage, three times as much in rent as the immediate tenants do. I suggest therefore that instead of a 50 per cent. reduction in the annuities sub-tenants should get 75 per cent. and, as I say, 50 per cent. reduction to the immediate tenants. I submit that a good and a just case can be made for that.
Further, in regard to the funding of arrears special allowances should be made in the case of sub-tenants. Section 40 provides for an expenditure on embankments not exceeding £500 and that the Land Commission may provide such expenditure. "May provide" might be taken to mean that the Land Commission would defray the cost up to the first £500. We are convinced that that section could be beneficially altered. Tenants residing adjacent to rivers and lake shores at the moment are compelled to pay jointly for this expenditure. That is to say, tenants, even on some private property, have to defray the cost of that type of expenditure just as well as people whose immediate concern it is. I suggest that is scarcely fair, and that the Land Commission should at least substitute the word "shall" for the word "may." If the expenditure amounts to £1,000 the Land Commission should provide the first £500 and levy the remainder by way of an additional annuity on the tenants on that particular property.
In portions of my county and in other counties the question of sporting rights is another grievance. I am not sure that anything in this Bill would cover that point. I understand, however, that under previous Acts it can be dealt with. So far as sporting and fishery rights are concerned, I should like to make sure that the sections of previous Land Acts relating to these rights would be put into effect, particularly in regard to fisheries. Under the 1923 Act, which we have heard so much about, the fisheries were taken from the tenants and vested in the Land Commission. The Land Commission adopted the peculiar procedure that they re-let the fisheries to some of the original landlords or other landed gentry in the district, and did not, on any occasion, as far as I know, give the tenants an opportunity of obtaining the fishery rights to which they were entitled. That is the peculiar camouflage in regard to the 1923 Land Act which I have noticed. We have heard what the 1923 Land Act meant. But it deprived the tenants of the valuable fishery rights which they and their forefathers fought for, and which were a source of trouble for twenty or thirty years. The fisheries became vested in the Land Commission. Under the 1927 Land Act the late Government made the pretence of vesting the fishery rights taken from the tenants under the 1923 Act again in the tenants. Section 41 of the 1927 Act states:—
Regulations made by the Minister for Lands and Agriculture may provide for the sale by the Land Commission to tenant purchasers of fishing rights in any rivers or waters adjoining or intersecting the holdings purchased by them...
They never put that section into operation. I have not seen it put into operation, particularly in certain areas with which I am concerned, and the tenants did not get the option. They did not get the right which this section refers to. The Minister did not make any effort to give the tenants the right to regain the valuable fishery rights taken from them under the 1923 Act. I would impress on the Minister that, if it is not possible under the administration of the 1927 Act to get the fisheries restored to these tenants, some amending section should be introduced into this Bill whereby that wrong could be righted.
Section 43 refers to the power to buy bogs. I should like to know what is really meant by that. Advantage should be taken of that section to secure that a full compulsory power will be taken to see that every tenant in this country who is entitled to turbary will get that right. I shall mention one case in order to draw the contrast, Under the 1923 Land Act power had been given to acquire turbary and re-divide it amongst the tenants on the different properties, tenants who under the administration of previous Land Acts did not get turbary rights. Whatever has happened in regard to that section, it has not been put into operation as far as I know. There is a case in the Dingle peninsula where tenants who were paying an annuity of 15/- per year to the Land Commission were informed that all the turbary for which they had been paying an annuity is to be allocated to a man named Walsh. If that was the type of turbary right given under the 1923 Act it is no wonder that that Act was at one time called a landlord's Act. It was a hopeless measure. That is why I am asking that this section should be construed to mean quite the opposite to that. Instead of taking away the turbary from these unfortunate people and giving it to one man, where turbary has been wrongfully acquired through a former administration, it should be fairly and justly divided amongst the tenants in that particular area. Certainly it is one of the best sections in the Bill so far as the congested areas are concerned, because, through certain usage and certain influences in previous years, the landlords and their agents did give large tracts of turbary to people whom they favoured and the unfortunate tenants who were really entitled to it in every respect got very little. For that reason I welcome that section of the Bill in regard to the acquiring of turbary.
Did the Deputy read the section? It is not for giving bog to people at all.
Under Section 12 there is a certain differentiation made with regard to land purchased before 1923 and after 1923. I should like to ask the Minister why the differentiation is made? Why is not the 50 per cent. reduction given in connection with land purchased before 1923 as well as at a later period? It appears to me that there is very little ground for the differentiation. One other matter has come to our notice, and that is, that landlords in certain areas have, for some time past, offered portions of their land for sale. Probably they are trying to anticipate certain action which will take place as a result of the passing of this Bill. That certainly should be forestalled if possible. As to the acquiring of ranches. Deputy Dillon said the other night that some of the men who would get the land would not be worthy of it, or would not be able to work the land. I would refer him to a statement which I can stand over made by a certain bank manager that he would advance any sum of money to the types of men who were being transferred from Kerry and other places in the West of Ireland under the migratory schemes for the working of land in Kildare, Meath and other counties. We have thousands of people in the West and South of Ireland, and particularly in my own county, who would certainly hold their own with any industrious workers in the world. No one can doubt that. No one can deny it. Are the Deputies opposite serious when they say that we are acquiring land simply because it is a political move or that it is going to be worked out from the political point of view? If they are honest themselves, should not they admit that, through the stoppage of emigration and the consequent increase in population, some of the best men in this country, who in ordinary circumstances would emigrate, cannot emigrate, and is it not the best system in the world to plant these men on the land where they will be useful citizens and do useful work? No matter what parcels of land the Government will give them, whether it be ten acres or 20 or 30 acres the Government will be doing the best work any Government ever did here in planting these men on the land. Apart from that, it will prove to the world that every man can find a living in his own country here.
Will the Deputy tell us the name of this philanthropic bank manager whom he mentioned? I have a large number of friends whom I would like to send to him.
In regard to the question of the Court Orders Act in the section dealing with the sheriff, I hope that whatever system is devised and whatever will be the result of the working of this Act, from the administration side of it, the sheriffs will be a thing of the past.
The very name of sheriff in this country stinks in the nostrils of any Irish nationalist. You can have a system somewhat like that which corporations and county councils have where rate collectors will have certain powers by means of which half the cost and half the legal procedure will be eliminated.
Deputies did not say "Hear, hear" to that.
Under this section the system will be a hundred times more workable than the unwieldy and costly system of the sheriff. It will obviate half that procedure.
This is a Bill to give work to the sheriff.
Taking it all in all, this is one of the best measures in regard to land that has ever been brought in by any Government in this country. I merely put forward those few suggestions as they relate to my own county, and perhaps to other counties generally. I merely put them forward as suggestions, and I tried in my own way to make the points as clear as possible, but, taking it generally, as I said, not alone will this measure be a credit to this Government, but it will open up a new spirit in this country where the youth will be workers and where the ranchers will be ended, and the absentee landlords who have been drawing fabulous sums from this country in rents, will be wiped out. It will mean employment for the men who are denied a living at the moment, and it will lead to the position where the Government, in good time, will provide the capital for the youth of this country to work the land.
What about the bank manager?
I oppose this Bill not from the point of view of whether the land should be divided or not, but because it is a political Bill. It is brought forward in the interests of a Party.
The interests of a nation.
The Minister for Agriculture stated that he would take the land from members of our Party and the Cumann na nGaedheal Party because we said it was not paying, and that he would give it to those who would make it pay. Why is the land not paying us? Is it not because of the action of the Government in taking away our markets? We can produce nothing that will bring us profitable prices. All our stock are sold at a loss. The farmers in the country, since this economic war started, have suffered severe losses. I can only compare the action of the Government towards the farmers as that of a bull in a china shop. They have trampled on the trade of the country and have made mincemeat of the farmers' business. No matter whom you put on the land it will not improve the markets. The new occupiers will be as unsuccessful under existing conditions as the present owners have been. Now, when the Government have the country and the farmers reduced to bankruptcy, they propose to take their land. Is that fair, when all the farmers got is gone?
With regard to the part of the Bill which deals with annuities and arrears, the people believe that there is no justification on the part of the Government in collecting annuities when the farmers have already paid those annuities to the British Government in the commodities they have sold for the last year. One payment ought to be regarded as sufficient. I oppose this Bill on the ground that it is political and that it takes away our fixity of tenure which was fought for by our fathers through years of suffering and struggle. If our fathers were alive to-day and were treated as we are being treated to-day, they would not look calmly on but would teach such a lesson to those who are acting in this manner as they did to much more powerful forces in their day.
The Minister, in his opening speech, made reference to lazy ranchers. That strikes a hard blow at those who helped to vote him into office. Certainly, they never gave a vote to any of our Party or Cumann na nGaedheal. In my constituency they were foremost in supporting the Government Party. They thought they would gain benefits from the Government Party on whose promises they placed their reliance. They thought that their arrears, their annuities, their rates and also their bank debts would be wiped out, but the hard-working farmer voted for us and for Cumann na nGaedheal.
The hard-working farmer. He placed no reliance on your promises. When the Government Party again seek their votes at the next elections, those lazy ranchers, as they term their supporters, will know all about the promises by which their votes are sought. Some of those ranchers may now be found upon land divided already which they are not able to work for want of capital and of experience. The new owners or occupiers will be drawn from the same sources of the population and the lands will be let, as they are now being let, for grazing. On those grounds, therefore, I oppose this Bill, because there is nothing in it to commend it to anybody.
I heard once a very learned citizen describe a speech as a diarrhoea of words and a constipation of ideas. This rude and crude remark may I think be not inaptly applied to some speeches which I have heard from the Government benches on this Bill. Some aspects of it can only be described as eviction made easy and a grab-all statute. It is said that at the present day one of the curses that is afflicting humanity is over-production. I should say that this House has erred very considerably in the matter of over-production. Acts of Parliament are passed here at limited mail rate speed. The most revolutionary, the most sweeping, and the most drastic Acts of Parliament are passed into law before one is able to say Jack Robinson. In fact the legislative machine is so over-worked that panting time is toiling after it in vain.
Let me say here that there are certain parts of this Bill with which I am in entire agreement. There are other parts of the Bill which I think in their implications, their vagueness, and their possibilities are wholly to be condemned. The most powerful speech I have heard made here against the obviously objectionable portions of the Bill was made by Deputy Corry who spoke with evident conviction, sincerity and simplicity. He pointed out, he stressed and he emphasised in a manner that left no doubt, the danger of entrusting extra-judicial powers to Government officials or even the Government Ministers or putting, as this Bill does, the Minister into the position of Sergeant Hempenstall, who was described as judge, jury, hangman rope and all. The establishment of the latest triumvirate, it is quite possible, will put to shame the most ancient trinity in the world—the world, the flesh, and the devil.
It used to be said that nothing good could come out of Nazareth, probably a sentiment that my good friend Deputy Briscoe, that Nathaniel without guile, might agree with, and it has long been impressed upon us that everything bad and diabolical came from Saxon-land. Therefore I was astonished, astounded and amazed to find the Attorney-General, Deputy Conor Maguire, justifying the establishment of this tribunal by the precedent of a British Act of Parliament connected with the railways passed in the year 1888. I thought, and it struck me, that Leinster House would have disappeared in a thunder-storm, which came much later last night than I expected it would have come. We have heard and we have been told again and again from the other side of the House that it is the duty of Irishmen to restore Gaelic traditions, Gaelic customs, and Gaelic culture. How many Deputies in this House know anything about the history of land tenure in this country? How many of them have ever read either the works of Dr. Joyce or Dr. Sigerson or Professor MacNeill or Professor Butler? How many of them have even read the work of that great man, Michael Davitt, on "The Fall of Feudalism in Ireland?" How many can tell me one syllable about the long struggle in this country between the two rival systems of land tenure, the old Gaelic system that was somewhat communal, and feudalism, which was, so to speak, forged in the crucible of barbarian conquest? How many of them could tell me how feudalism did happen to triumph after the Battle of Kinsale? How many can tell me how the fall of feudalism was brought about in this country? And how many can tell me what were the primary objects of the men who accomplished the fall of feudalism in this country? The three Fs have been referred to, and their chief object was fixity of tenure; the others were fair rents and free sale. They were irretrievably opposed to State ownership. Whenever any suggestion of State ownership was brought forward in any shape or form or under any pretended guise, even the guise of a State tax on land, it was turned down by the unanimous vote of the men who brought emancipation and freedom to the farmers of Ireland. And now under a native Government here to-day, what is this Bill doing? It is imperilling fixity of tenure. It is putting free sale into the melting pot. It is subordinating peasant proprietorship to what, eventually, if this present policy of the Government is continued, will become State ownership. It is confiscation. It is the first step towards confiscation. It is the milestone on the road to the eventual Communism which certain Deputies in this House are aiming at.
These are, undoubtedly, facts and cannot be denied. No Deputy here has yet put up any kind of conclusive reply to these arguments. The Minister for Agriculture last night made the weakest speech that I ever heard delivered in this House. In ancient times, when a poor man, condemned to death in Athens, was about to die by the poison administered to him, his last prayer was: "We owe a cock to Aesculapius." Last night we heard a staggering cock-and-bull story, presented as an apologia by a disciple of Aesculapius.
Here we are talking about this industry of the farmer, the farmer who is going to get the land, and the legion of fellows who are about to be put on the land. And what have you here in this Bill? What are you doing in this Bill?—you are putting a premium on laziness. Now the small farmers, say in West Cork and places like West Cork, who paid their rents and their annuities regularly and punctually and starved themselves to do so, are getting no concession by this Bill. The wasters, the lazy fellows, the fellows who preferred greyhound coursing and horses and horse-racing to minding their own farms, are going to benefit. How can anybody make any kind of an excuse for the most demoralising clause that was ever put into a Land Bill, a Bill which is supposed to encourage industry and progress in this country? During the course of this debate there was a whole battery of artillery massed against the lawyers of Ireland. Do Deputies realise that the greatest protagonists of freedom, the greatest pioneers of progress in this country were lawyers, from the days of Daniel O'Connell and Thomas Davis down to the days of Tim Healy, Parnell and Pearse in our own time?
He never practised law.
He was my class-fellow my friend, and one of the most beloved men that any man ever knew. I could not find language eloquent enough to pay a tribute to his outstanding merits as an Irishman and a patriot. Some Deputy from the Farmers' Benches said here last night that there were farms being sold every day in the open market and he asked why did not the Land Commission buy them. He was told the Land Commission had not power. Why not give the Land Commission power under this Bill? Nobody will oppose it. Let them take that power. They are taking far more drastic and dangerous powers, and I am sure that if they asked for that power the House would grant it unanimously.
Deputy Fagan suggested that there was a time when the farmers of Ireland would not tolerate such a Bill as this. There was an occasion on which Parnell very wisely said: "Keep a firm grip of your homesteads." I say the same to the farmers of Ireland to-day. I tell them to keep a firm grip of their homesteads and there is no Government in Ireland—I do not care what power may be given to it by this House—that can get the better of the farmers if they only act, as I am sure they will, unitedly in one organisation to protect the rights won for them through long years of suffering and agitation.
We faced the bailiffs before.
The present Government, which promised the fullest measure of freedom that ever could be given to the Irish people, has adopted methods that would put Procrustes to shame. Instead of wrapping us even in bawneens, they have thrust on us a Nessus-shirt, woven out of false theories, impracticable ideals and economic heresies.
I am opposing this Bill for two reasons. I propose, first of all, to deal with one or two aspects of the Bill which affect very many of my constituents. I am opposed to this measure, first of all, because nowhere in it is there any provision made for the evicted tenants of this country. Some time ago I attended a meeting of evicted tenants in Cork City, at which four Fianna Fáil members were present—Deputies Corry, Corkery and Hales. Deputy Kent was also there. Each and every one of those Deputies gave certain undertakings to the evicted tenants, but up to the present not one of their voices has been raised here in relation to the provision of land for the evicted tenants of the country.
Deputy Kent spoke to-day.
My second objection to the Bill is because I feel that it is an attempt to deprive the Irish farmer of the title and right to his land, for which he and his forefathers fought. In that connection, it should not be necessary for me to tell members of the House of the great and holy tradition that has grown up around the old farms and the old homesteads of this country. We know that land tenure in this country has been bound up with the great national struggle and, if one were to epitomise the history of Ireland in a very few words, he would say that the land trouble represents in itself what this country has been fighting for down the generations. We know that many of our forefathers, many of the forefathers of Deputies on the Fianna Fáil Benches, as well as on this side of the House, were driven from the fertile valleys and plains into the mountains and the bogs. Many of their forefathers, going back to six, eight or nine generations, reclaimed that bog and mountain and passed it on to their sons, until to-day the present generation is in the enjoyment of fairly fertile land, almost as good, if not better than, some of the holdings their forefathers were driven out of.
That has created a vested interest in these lands. I am aware there were other kinds of vested interests, the vested interests of the old landlord, but that type of vested interest was successfully challenged. Sometimes words change their meanings. We have had, for instance, to-day a reference to the bailiff. A bailiff is very much disliked on an Irish countryside. Deputy Flynn, who made the reference, forgets altogether that a bailiff comes into this Bill under a new name. He is called the registrar, just in the same way as the workhouses or poorhouses, as they used to be known, are now called by the more polite term, county homes. I have said something about the tradition that has grown up around those homesteads. From my knowledge of the Irish farmer and from the knowledge of the Irish farmer which every man in this House possesses, he will resist to the very last that challenge which has been made to his title to the land—land in which, as I just suggested, he has a vested interest.
Is it to be said that, having got rid of landlordism in one form, this Irish House is about to set up another and more vicious form of landlordism? We frequently resisted what we considered a libel on this country, uttered by persons who were alien to this country, that once we got the management of our own affairs we would turn much greater tyrants and worse landlords than the old ascendancy class in this country. That is what it is coming to. The old ascendancy and the old landlord class certainly had their faults and failings, but they had some little virtues. This measure proposes to establish another landlord class which will have all the vices and not even one of the virtues of the old landlord class in this country. Is this what the Irish farmer fought for? Is this what generations of Irishmen toiled for? Is this what the late Michael Davitt fought for? Is this what all those men went to jail for? Is the Irish Parliament going to upset what even an alien and British Parliament gave to us? If the idea underlying this Bill were to plant a number of landless men on the land, to make it reproductive, to bring added wealth into the country, and to give even those men some fixity of tenure, there would be something to he said for it, but there is nothing in this Bill to make provision for that state of affairs. It simply means that another set of men will get on to the land, and they in turn will have to get off it when another administration comes into office.
I said in this House, not long ago, that this present Government was Americanising the industries of the State. This is going further than Americanising the industries of this State, because in no other country has an attempt been made to ticket and regiment the tillers of the soil. That is being attempted by the measure that is before the House.
I propose to be very brief. I said that I intended to deal only with two or three sections of this measure. I find in Section 6, which deals with the powers of the Minister in relation to the Land Commission and the lay commissioners, that the Land Commission and the lay commissioners may determine the individuals from whom land is to be acquired. They may determine the price to be paid for land so acquired. They may determine the persons to be selected as allottees of untenanted land, and they may determine the price at which land is to be sold to any such allottee. Here again this measure savours very much of a political measure, or—to keep politics out altogether—of a partisan measure. We know something of the operations of the Government at the present moment in other industries of this State. In those sub-sections (a), (b), (c) and (d), which I have just summarised, there is nothing to prevent but everything to suggest—if we are to judge by the record already established by the present Government—that it will be partisans of the present Government who will get all the spoils. That apparently has become the motto of the present Government since they came into office. Section 27 is a section which I would recommend Deputy Flynn to study. Where any farmer becomes a defaulter according to this section the Land Commission, if it thinks proper, may issue to the county registrar of the county in which that defaulter resides a warrant in the prescribed form. That warrant enables that registrar, who might in former days be known as a bailiff because he performed the functions of a bailiff, to sell out that man's property or stock or furniture. All those things have been done by the bailiffs in those days. All this is a case of out-heroding Herod, and it is coming from a Government which professes to be the last word in democracy.
We have the Minister for Agriculture standing up here and telling us that everybody is interpreting those sections wrongly. We have it on some of the best legal authority in the country that the interpretations which have been given on this side are the correct legal interpretations of those sections. There may be some good in some kinds of State Socialism, but this is a kind of State Socialism which strikes at the root of our greatest and oldest industry, the great national industry of agriculture, from which all our wealth comes. If this is an indication of the Government's policy in relation to agriculture then it is the worst form of State Socialism. Something has been said about pandering to a section of the community which is supposed to have certain Communistic tendencies. I do not attach a whole lot of importance to those statements, but at the same time we cannot forget that numbers of bodies in the country have been clamouring at the doors of Fianna Fáil for legislation along those particular lines. If that is not yielding to that particular class of clamour then I do not know what the word yielding means. This measure is a gesture to some of the worst elements in our country to-day. We may reject the idea; we may not have the courage to state it, but the fact does remain and is evident to anybody who cares to see or to read or to understand that there is a growing number of irresponsibles in this country, and that there is a number of people in this country who pretend to be looking for work, but who would get a tremendous shock if they got it. It is that section of the community that is dictating and that creates the urge for the production of such a measure as that before the House at the moment. A splendid movement has been on foot to re-establish the people on the land. It has been stated here by Deputy Roddy, who should be in a position to know, that there are 70,000 acres—I think that was the figure he mentioned—ready for distribution among the landless men. Why not have those acres distributed amongst the landless men, without attempting to sabotage the work of generations of Irishmen, and generations of politicians, and to commandeer the lands of honest Irish farmers?
We know of course that it can be argued that no industrious Irish farmer need have fear of this, but the definition of what is or is not an industrious farmer is to be in the hands of the Minister. Such revolutionary legislation was never heard of in any other Assembly that had regard to common sense or to the circumstances of the age. A good deal might be said for the single tax, and if I were in any other country but in Ireland I would believe that untenanted land should be taxed. Having regard to what I said a moment ago about the tradition that grew up about Irish land I cannot be a whole-hogger. But the evidence of the single tax mind is here, because it is on record that the President himself stated he was not unfriendly to the land tax and knowing what I do about the admissions of the President I think that was going a long way. It left a loop-hole but that is his usual method of speech and quotation. This is as I have suggested an attempt to sabotage all the good that has been done by generations. It is throwing the Land Commission into the melting pot and I feel that when this Bill becomes an Act the Government will have raised for itself a Frankenstein which will ultimately destroy themselves in turn and I would appeal to the commonsense of every Deputy who represents even in a small way the agricultural interest, to forget his Party affiliations and remember that his own title to his own land may at some future date be challenged. If there is a title, the eldest son or the son who inherits may find the same thing. I agree that it is a wonderful gesture to the irresponsibles of this country—we are going to split up the lands of Mr. So-and-so because he has 2,000 acres. Eventually it will come down to 800 acres and in time perhaps we will have people coming along and saying that there should be nothing larger than holdings of 10 acres by farmers who are willing and able to till their lands. Then we will have the full effects and benefits of the hair-shirt policy. I oppose the Bill and will have something to say when we are able to go into it in more detail as to its merits and demerits on the Committee Stage.
Deputy Anthony has mentioned my name in connection with evicted tenants. I pledged my word and I said we would recommend to the Government to make provision for the honest, genuine cases of evicted tenants. Deputy Anthony should be at least honest. I have tried to work at least half-a-dozen cases of tenants in the West Cork and surrounding area and I am sure I have sent at least 100 letters to the Land Commission, and as the machinery stands at present I might as well be sitting down and be posting letters to the moon. Will Deputy Anthony say, at least, that this cog or wrench should be taken out of the machine and the way cleared to give the evicted tenants a chance? There is no chance of doing justice to the genuine evicted cases as the machinery of the Land Commission is at present. The principle of the Bill as a whole is to clear the way to the perfection of that machinery. We have a very bad impression of the Land Commission. I abused them inside and outside this House but I did not know the difficulties they were up against then. The whole argument against the Bill is for what they call fixity of tenure. Deputy Fitzgerald-Kenney tried to drive that home in a way that would tickle the Irish working farmer, the hard-working farmer. Does he or any other Deputy think for a moment that the real working farmer who is carrying on his work has the least fear from this Government? They have not. Take the farmers of West Cork, averaging 40, 50, 60, up to 100 acres in my area and further west. They have enough and they are a comfortable and, fair play for the majority, topping good farmers. Have they fear in their hearts because of this Bill? Do not believe it for a moment. I believe that certain Deputies have false impressions about this fixity of tenure. The Minister for Justice outlined what fixity of tenure was. Is it forgotten that you were fighting against a foreign administration and that it came to preserve the working farmer from the landlords at a time when hard-working, industrious farmers were thrown out on the roadside? Whom did Parnell fight for? Who are the gentlemen with those farms? One of them I know has 365 acres. I worked for him for years. He had two houses last year, and I sent a man to him for a month. This year he said he had nothing to do—no one working on the farm and nothing ploughed. Is that the class of man you are going to give fixity of tenure to? Are you going to turn the land of Ireland into nothing but a grazing ranch? You will have to create a definite land sustenance—that the land must contain so many able-bodied men either based on rotation or acreage. Among the hard-working industrious farmers of Cork you have from 20 acres to 25 acres supporting a family comfortably; up to 45 acres you have the boss himself, the family and an able-bodied man, and over that three able-bodied men. If you are going to adopt land sustenance there is no need for that section, but if you take out that section you must put in land sustenance to cover it.
Fixity of tenure was there against the foreign administration. Some of the disciples across the House promised far more drastic powers for the Land Commission. They speak of a tribunal. Deputy Burke in his glorious eloquence, well in keeping with his position as chief of staff of the Morning Post of West Cork, wrote a most infamous article condemning this Bill, but the Deputy did not take much interest in the early movements. It was always possible to get lay administration and it must be agreed that it has tried cases successfully with peace and harmony. The Deputies now on the other side were some of the men in those days who advocated that, and in my area there 20 of those cases received satisfactory settlements. A tribunal was quite in harmony with the natural order then of the national development of humane principles in the national advance. Speaking of a judiciary has no effect on the minds of the layman. When we went to school we were told, and we learned that monarchs, kings, dukes and earls were running the things of this world, and that they were there to save the people. We have had experience of that in this country and, even after a period of seven hundred years, the link still remains. Ireland never got a chance as a nation. She was always threatened, and I ask Deputies do they think now, that if the foreign link is maintained the country can advance as we should like to see it advance? Honest Deputies and honest farmers need have no earthly fear from this Bill, neither have they anything to fear from the tribunal or the machinery that is devised to carry it out. If I thought for a moment that honest farmers with a tradition behind them would be impeded or injured in their work I for one would be with them even if they were on the Cumann na nGaedheal side. No Government could last two days if it attempted to do anything like what the Party opposite tell us our Government is doing. If the Deputies opposite were honest and if they believed what they said, they would say, “go all the quicker to your doom,” so definite and clear would be what is going to happen. Now what is the alternative to what our Government is proposing? A Deputy spoke some time ago about our performances. I have no experience except with the last administration. Some cases against tenants were proceeded against because there was four or five years' rent due. There were other cases where tenants were evicted because of bank debts. The lands in these last cases were bought by gombeen men, and these lands are idle to-day, with the slates off the roofs and the ditches fallen in. Do Deputies think a National Government is going to permit that state of things any longer? Is that the class of legislation they defend—to give the gombeen man power to buy from the bank or from the Land Commission or from anybody else, and then to let the farms go derelict? That situation should come to an end, and it is going to come to an end.
Deputy Belton spoke about Communism. If we asked ourselves the question what did God create the land for. Must not the answer be to support the people? Deputy Belton said the other evening that he would almost have preferred 100 acres of weeds to the crop of potatoes he had grown. He would prefer to have weeds but that teaching is contrary to our Christianity, and the day may come when the man who advocated it might be glad enough to have potatoes to eat. He did not get a good price for his potatoes because the banks and the finance gods ruled otherwise. If we do not get justice from the finance gods we can say, at any rate, we have a Government that is giving an opportunity of providing food for the people and that being so everything else will automatically right itself. We have faith in the future, and the doctrine "Thy faith hath made thee whole" is the whole thing. Yet we find some people that have not faith. I do not for one moment believe that opposition on the lines that Deputy Belton is going on could affect anything.
Deputy MacDermot according to his lights is, I believe, trying to put forward constructive opposition and ideas. I advise him to talk with the honest working farmers if he wants to win them over. Deputy O'Donovan made a speech on this Bill a few nights ago. I would advise the publication of Deputy O'Donovan's speech in full, and its circulation throughout the whole length and breadth of Ireland. If that were done I am sure no man would be more thoroughly disgusted than Deputy MacDermot. Deputy MacDermot speaks of the farmers as down-and-out. Deputy P. Hogan (Galway), when people were once getting up a deputation to visit Denmark, said he thought they would be better advised to visit West Cork. Well if a deputation went to Deputy O'Donovan's farm they would be more surprised. A Deputy talked about ploughing land. I may inform him that I ploughed more land than many Deputies opposite. We also heard some talk about wheat. I claim to have had more experience of wheat than most Deputies. I have been engaged in threshing work since I was a kid. I never went into a barn until recent years that there was not plenty of wheat and oats to be found there. It was only during the time of the beginning of the last administration that wheat went out of cultivation and then we had letters from Deputy Belton about seeds. If I were to decide to sow wheat in the morning I would have to allow two years to pass away before I would get results; that is according to the law of God and nature.
We have not a single strain of hard wheat in this country.
There is not a word about wheat in this Bill so we shall pass from wheat and get back to the land.
I was talking about old wheat but I pass on from that. I am in favour of this Bill and I hope no retarding amendments will come from the Government but if anything that there will be advances upon the powers already in it. Personally I see no danger in this Bill. Some people said it would introduce Communism. I believe it will have the contrary effect. If we meet the ordinary requirements of our people as God intended we should we will have no Communism here. Another argument that is used is that this Bill will drive you from one position to another, from 40 acres to ten. Any equilibrium in the State well directed by the people can never go wrong. It is the people have the power. They put in the Government and they will have to back them whether they were right or wrong. The people have the power. If this thing is wrong fundamentally, go back then and organise; go back to the ranches and make one drive through the country and say there is a golden opportunity to do away with this Government and with the Land Bill. Then you can get your own Land Bill back. Is not that the honest position? I believe this is the only good thing done by this Government.
The only good thing since they came into office. What I mean is——
Do not spoil it.
I do not mind the small things. There were plenty of them. There were a lot of charitable things which, unfortunately, were not done by those on the other side. By a good thing I mean something worth doing. If there is opposition, let Deputies be honest and straight and say, "We want the old ascendancy; we want provision for the derelict farm; we want provision for the Land Commission to buy out and keep the farms derelict." I say that this Government are not justified in allowing this to continue. It did continue in our area under the old administration but, please God, it is ended now and will not continue in future.
I wish to ask Deputy Hales whether owing to the economic conditions——
That is not a point of order.
One would have expected on the introduction of this measure to get from the Government, in the first place, at what price it is proposed to issue these bonds; in the second place, what sum of money they intended to expend; and, possibly, an estimate of the number of persons they intended to deal with. Instead of that, we have the Land Bill introduced one week and the Land Bond Bill introduced a fortnight or three weeks afterwards. One would suspect that it was hoped to have had the Second Reading of this measure passed before the Land Bond Bill would be introduced. One learns now something of the estimate of the cost, at any rate, in so far as the Government's intentions with regard to the division and distribution of land, generally, under this measure, are concerned. I have been rather struck with the almost exact knowledge disclosed by practically every speaker on the Opposition Benches in connection with this measure and the lack of knowledge and the misreading of the measure by most of the Deputies on the Government Benches. Objection has been taken by the Government to certain political allegations in connection with this measure. Having looked over some of the speeches delivered by members of this Government previous to the introduction of the measure, I am not surprised that there were such allegations made. The Minister for Justice, as reported in the Irish Press on 10th January, stated:
"The work of land division in the county would empower the Land Commission to break down the walls of the big demesnes and remove all the difficulties in the way of the Government's placing of all the landless young men on economic holdings. The Land Commission would have absolute power, and only a few years would be required to accomplish the entire task of splitting up the lands."
One gathers from that statement that every landless man is going to have a holding. One does not gather that from the Land Bond Bill, which has been introduced. The Minister for Agriculture, at New Ross, as reported in the Irish Press on 6th February, said:
"The Government also intended to bring in a Land Bill and would include in it provision that any man who did not work his land to the best advantage would have it taken from him and divided amongst the people who would work it."
The Minister for Justice again, at Ballina, on 2nd October, as reported in the Western People on 8th October, said:
"The new Land Bill was being introduced to try and provide an easier or surer method of dealing with the problem in the congested areas. If the Bill went through, although, on the face of it, it appeared drastic, it would not be administered drastically. It might not be perfect, but if they were going to deal with the land question in the country they must have drastic legislation."
Mark the difference. The Minister for defence, in Mountmellick on 17th January, stated, as reported in the Irish Press:—
"The balance of the annuities would be devoted to the division of the ranches and the placing of families on the land instead of bullocks."
I see no interpretation of that in this measure. The gem of the whole lot comes from the Minister for Education at Kilkenny on 8th January last, as reported in the Kilkenny Journal on 14th January:—
"The Land Bill which we propose to introduce on the re-assembly of the Dáil, will embody our proposals for the reduction of land annuity charges by 50 per cent. and for the funding of arrears. I regard those proposals as the greatest measure of relief the tenant farmers have ever received. In addition to £2,200,000 which the farmer is now receiving in relief of rates through the increased agricultural grant he will receive a further £2,200,000 approximately in reduction of land annuities. The tenants under the 1923 Act will get this reduction, and cases of exceptional hardship arising out of over-valuation of untenanted land will be specially considered."
There is the message as to the introduction of this measure. Now we come to examine it. Running right through the measure from beginning to end there is nothing but a slavish copying of British legislation as far back as 1881. The Act of 1881, from Section 41 to Section 55 or 56—14 or 15 sections—dealt with the setting up of the Land Commission and mentioned by name the first judicial commissioner. I think it was Mr. Serjeant O'Hagan, afterwards Lord Chancellor. It also mentioned the two lay commissioners. I think one was Mr. Lyttleton Edwardes and the other Mr. Vernon. It also specified what salary they were to be paid. That was 50 years ago when money was probably worth four or five times what it is worth to-day. It mentioned that these Commissioners were to get £3,000 per annum. The judicial commissioner was to have the status of a High Court judge and was to be available for High Court work at other times. That was the mind which dominated the whole conception of the treatment of the land question in this country.
What have we got here? It was provided in the Bill as introduced—it is going to be amended I understand— that any officer of the Land Commission could be made a lay commissioner by the Minister. He could make an officer of the Land Commission in receipt of £300 a year a land commissioner, before we got the announcement that there was to be an alteration, and that the Executive Council were to appoint the Land Commissioners. Last night the Minister for Agriculture, who. one would imagine, would make himself more at home with all the details in connection with these appointments, said that these were removable; that the Land Commissioners appointed by their predecessors were removable, and were actually removed. I want proof of what Land Commissioners were removed. He says "were removed," so I take it that more than one was removed. I should like to know under what authority and by what power we carried out the removals in question.
Do you deny that one was removed?
I am asking the question. We were told last night that more than one were removed. I presume the Minister understands grammar, and "were removed" means two.
Oh, two! Do you deny that one was removed?
I say that statement is not true, and I want the story. I want an exact statement from the Minister—he is paid for it.
Was one of them removed?
Find out, and tell the House the truth.
I defy you to deny that one of them was removed.
I want a statement from the Minister as to who was removed, and, furthermore, I want to know under what authority and by what power he was removed.
Removed, in any case.
Let us have the proof of it. I now challenge the Minister to prove what he has just stated. It is the usual stunt, of course—an interjection of that sort to throw one off. The Minister does not like this. He does not like the change in character of the Commission being exposed to the Dáil. What was the characteristic of it as the Bill was introduced here in the Dáil—one might almost say, as it left the Turkish bath of the Executive Council? They could not stand over it. They could not stand over its being the case of a simple nomination by the Minister and that a man could be removed at a moment's notice. Now they say that it has not the same character and will not have the same character as it did. The Attorney-General, to his shame, last night was exposed by Deputy Burke in reciting an Act passed in 1888 in Great Britain. He stated that under the Railways Regulation Act it was possible to appoint a person of judicial knowledge and two other persons. These two other persons were appointed at salaries of £3,000 a year and they had to have some knowledge of railway matters. Have we any such guarantee here? Have we got the same judicial system here as in Great Britain? Have we got a Lord Chancellor here going in and out of office with each Government? I say that it is a farce and a mockery to describe the positions as being in any way parallel. Is the Attorney-General like the Lord Chancellor? Does he go in and out with the Government? These persons are exercising judicial functions and have judicial discretions and they ought not to be at the whim of the Minister or of the Executive Council.
Going through the Bill, one finds that certain things are removed from the Minister's competence. Four items in all are removed—the determination of the individuals from whom land is to be acquired; the determination of the price to be paid for land so acquired; the determination of the persons to be selected as allottees of untenanted land; and the determination of the price at which land is to be sold to any such allottees. Those are the four reservations. Let us examine how the Bill runs with regard to those reservations. Take Section 11. I have said that there is a slavish copying of the British method of dealing with land legislation here by this Ministry. The first section to which I will draw attention is Section 11. That section says that: "On any application by the Land Commission for or in connection with the resumption of a holding, the powers of the court under Section 5 of the Land Law (Ireland) Act, 1881, as amended by subsequent enactments (including this Act), shall be exercised by the appeal tribunal, and the decision of the appeal tribunal on such application shall be final."
What is Section 5 of the Land Act of 1881? It is the basis and the foundation of the strength of the hold which the farmer had on his holding. It specifies that no higher rent can be charged than the fair rent, and that if it changes he cannot be evicted from his holding. It goes on then to point out that in certain cases, having given, as it were, the Charta of his rights to the tenant, the rights of the landlord shall be preserved in other connections, as, for example, where labourers' cottages, school buildings, church buildings and so on, are concerned. The very same thing is animating the minds of this Ministry although they are bulldozing their supporters into thinking that this is a purely democratic measure. What was the object of that provision in the Act of 1881? It was to keep the estate. It was for the purpose of keeping one man paying, say, £5 a year so that the landlord could say later that it was inadvisable to have a man like that and that he should be put on to somebody else. It is the same thing here where you have the lay commissioners and their appointees removable at will and so on. It is the same right through the whole of this Bill—Section 28, Section 29, Section 33, Section 37, Section 41 —practically all the operative sections of this measure are so arranged as to nullify the particular reservations that there are in respect of the Minister's exercisable powers under this Bill. We are told that the Minister cannot declare who the persons are from whom land is to be taken. Let us examine that. He divides, let us say, South County Dublin into North, South, East and West. He appoints the commissioner and he knows that there are so many people from whom land should be taken. How does it operate? I say that the clause or section which has relation to the powers of the commissioners and which is supposed to remove them from the Minister's competence is not worth the paper it is written on.
Since this Bill was introduced, we have had four speeches from the Front Bench. We had one from a man who bought land and who constructed a house on the land. We are told that it may be taken from him. We are told that it is not sacrosanct. A solicitor, a barrister and a doctor spoke. Have they any hold on their particular professions? Whence did that hold come? Each and every one of them has a vested interest in his profession. Once he has got it, can the other people of the country be transported into that profession? Has he not got his grip on it? How much would they resent an assembly of 300 or 400 students coming to the heads of their respective faculties or colleges and saying: "We know as much about law or medicine as any of those practising it. Try any one of us"? Could you not get a brilliant young man who could say: "I can diagnose a disorder. I am as good as any man on the medical register"? But that is sacrosanct. In the case of a man on the land, the man who is responsible for the entire wealth of this country, who works from morning till night and whose people have been on the land for generations before him, we are told now that he is not sacrosanct. We are told that his holding, for which his forefathers fought and suffered and for which he is prepared to fight now—do not forget that—is not sacrosanct.
We have this Bill introduced as I said, without any advertence whatever to the land problem or its solution, or as to how we are going to deal with it, and in what manner. What is the problem? Not one single Minister ever bothered his head about looking up to see what was to be solved. Not one of them would have the courage to say: "We are going to bank upon making the uneconomic holdings in this country economic." If they were to take up these questions with the intention of solving them, would they not come in here and say "this is something we want the House to know, and we are putting it to them as sensible men, having considered the whole question of the land policy in Ireland, that the first thing is to establish a sound economic proposition for the major holders of the land in this country. But it is a complex question. Which of them ever bothered their heads about it? Which of them ever dealt with it? What are they proposing to do in this? They are proposing in the Land Bond Bill to pass £1,000,000 for the solution of this problem. That is the sum that is down here. That is, approximately, enough to purchase 100,000 acres. Speaking here on the 27th April the Acting-Minister for Lands and Fisheries stated in reply to a question: "As regards untenanted land, the present position is, approximately, that over 434,000 acres have been actually acquired by the Land Commission for division under the Land Acts, 1923-31, of which some 360,000 acres have been already divided among some 18,500 allottees. This leaves about 74,000 acres on hands..."
That is to say three-fourths of what they are going to get from this Bill and the Land Bond Bill. Then he goes on: "... but not yet formally divided, though, of course, the arable portion of it, about half the total area, is utilised for grazing letting, temporary accommodation for migrants etc., pending distribution. In addition, prices have been agreed upon or fixed for over 42,000 acres and offers have been made or provisional lists published in respect of another 76,000 acres."
In all that is 192,000 acres according to the Acting-Minister for Lands and Fisheries here in this Dáil in the last couple of months. That is his statement. That is twice the amount that we are proposing under this Bill plus the Land Bond Bill, the Second Reading of which has not yet been before the Dáil. Then the Minister went on: "The Land Commission have under investigation with a view to its suitability for acquisition an area of some 700,000 acres of which 256,000 acres have been inspected, apart from a considerable area which has been put aside after preliminary examination as unsuitable for present action but with the possibility of revival if necessary. There is thus plenty of work in hand to keep the Land Commission busy for some time to come, not to anticipate the greatly increased progress in the acquisition and division of untenanted land which should follow on the enactment of the contemplated land legislation."
Supposing all that is so. The Minister told us they could not deal with it. Why did they not introduce a Land Bond Bill first and get power to acquire that land instead of going through with this Bill and practically shaking the confidence of every owner of land in the country, making the people of the country uneasy notwithstanding all these announcements as regards the security of persons owning land in this country.
Mention has been made here of arrears. One Deputy who is I believe a legal practitioner of some sort or other from Galway—I cannot remember his name—spoke here and made reference to the fact that we did not collect the annuities from the people of the country during the last eight or nine years. I mentioned here before— not in this Parliament—that when we took over the Land Commission in 1923 the arrears outstanding on the previous January were £642,932. Under the 1923 Act we collected over £27,000,000 in the nine years and at the end of the nine years we wound up with outstanding arrears of £526,095. In other words we collected all the annuities plus £126,000 off the arrears. That was the figure by which they were reduced in nine years.
I say here now that a fouler calumny was never uttered against any class in this country than has been uttered against the land annuitants in this debate, in saying that they had not paid their way. In the figures that I have read there is the proof of it, there is the proof that they did pay their way. If one were to take into account the 1923 Act, and add the annuities in that case, one would have a sum of, say, £36,000,000. Of that there is only £20,000 uncollected in nine years. Can anybody tell me of any banking or financial house in any part of the world where in a collection of £36,000,000 there has been only £20,000 outstanding? All that £20,000 is not bad either. Now we are speaking about funding the arrears and limiting them to three years. The other night the Minister, in recommending a different course of action for collection of these arrears, went into one case where a land annuitant owed 16/3 and the cost amounted to 19/11. I do not know whether that 19/11 runs over the three years or whether it is in respect of one year, but no matter what it is, there are some people who will get in on these arrears for three years. This unfortunate man had been mulcted in costs of 19/11, and the mention of it is supposed to excite sympathy.
In my view it is particularly immoral to collect land annuities for the last 12 months. I repeat particularly immoral and I challenge anybody to deny that if the British Government have more than collected the annuities by reason of their tariffs, what right have we in those circumstances to compel the annuitants to make a double payment? Are they to be responsible twice for a single debt that should be collected by one party. The people have a right to say to them: "Get on with your quarrel with the British Government, but do not put unfortunate men into the front line trenches to get all the shocks."
It is not fair or right to fund these arrears. I have to subscribe to a good deal of what was said, that honest men paying their way will have a just grievance in seeing this dispensation of liberality with other people's money on the part of the administration. Whose money is used in funding the arrears? To whom does it belong? It has been deducted from the ratepayers of this country, and those are the people who are entitled to get relief. A sum of something like £660,000 had been paid by the ratepayers when Fianna Fáil came into office. That is what it amounted to up to then. Is there any restitution being made of that sum to the ratepayers? This Bill as drawn simply means that not only are you to enter into the possession of the arrears, but you are taking a sum that has already been made good by the ratepayers of this country. That I say is little short of confiscation. It is really confiscation; it is their money. Will the Minister in reply point out where provision is made in this section for the payment of costs? The costs have to be added and the tenant has to pay them. What provision is there for paying them out to anybody who is entitled to them? That is a matter which I have not been able to find in the Bill. The really operative section of the measure is the section which entitles the Land Commission to take land which people believed up to this—and solemnly and sincerely believed—could not be taken from them. They were convinced that that land could not be taken from them, but under this section it is to be taken from them at the market value.
What is market value? Who will give us an interpretation of what market value is? I have had several cases brought prominently before my notice. One is in my own neighbourhood, where 25 acres of land, subject to £2 an acre Land Commission annuity, were sold within the last ten years for £2,300 plus all the costs. That is approximately £100 an acre. I think the sale took place in 1925 or 1927. We have heard of an ex-Deputy purchasing, within the last month, 285 acres, one of the best farms in County Kilkenny, for £2,310. There is a third case, 24 or 25 miles from here, where a farm of 200 acres, with a fine house recently rebuilt at a cost of £1,000 or £1,100, was sold for £5,000. The land was not up to much. In a fourth case there were 34 acres of land sold about eight years ago for £1,700. I invite the House to consider these cases.
In the first place, the ex-Deputy can, under this Bill, be removed out of his farm of 285 acres and placed in the holding of 25 acres, which was sold for £2,300; he will be given that as an equivalent holding, and he will receive £300 in land bonds. Is not that a nice state of affairs? Let it be remembered that that is the market price. Just visualise a man who has managed to save up, or who has got by a marriage settlement a sum of £2,000 or even £500. Let us say he proposes to set up his sons, and he buys land with that object in view. As soon as this Bill passes, the Minister can direct a lay commissioner to report on a certain sector of Kilkenny so as to be advised where he can get land to divide at a moderate price. He can also tell him where he can find an alternative farm. He can point out that a certain individual is not resident and he can take the land from him and hand him £2,000.
I maintain that that does not, and will not, work. It will be expensive in more ways than one. It is most expensive in the way in which it shakes the public confidence. Why should not any farmer, if he has six or seven sons, do his best when they are of age to buy a holding and put them on it? Is it suggested that he should make them solicitors, barristers, doctors or something else, or should he put them on the land, where they would have an opportunity of seeing how their father earned his living?
He might like to put the money into a Liverpool bank the same as some Deputies on the opposite side.
Or the Royal Liver.
What is the problem we have to consider? There are 117,453 receivable orders in respect of holdings under a valuation of £4. There are 52,881 in respect of holdings exceeding £4 but not exceeding £7. There are 40,000 between £7 and £10, and 44,000 between £10 and £15. Nobody has told us what the valuation of an uneconomic holding is. Nobody will venture to tell us. If you add up the four figures you will find you have practically 230,000 persons having receivable orders. I think a very moderate estimate would be something in the nature of 50,000 to 70,000 uneconomic holders in the country. What do they want? Approximately 20 acres each to be added to what they have already got. That brings it up to 1,000,000 acres, and that does not provide for landless men, evicted tenants and so on.
We may as well face this problem and tell the people what it means. We may as well tell them that there is no chance of dealing with the uneconomic holders as a class entirely and completely, and there is very little chance for the landless man. We have not got any information regarding the distribution of land as it has gone on during the last ten years. I expect it has been distributed to evicted tenants, uneconomic holders and landless men. What is the report regarding how each man has dealt with his holding during that period? Can we get any information about it? Have we any sort of compensation for the huge sum of money the people have spent in connection with that? The amount over the ten years comes to £2,600,000. We are entitled to know what is the Land Commission's view on that policy. Even if it costs money, we are not prepared to baulk at the cost. We are certainly entitled to see that there will be sound economy in connection with the whole system of agriculture.
Formerly, in the case of a man whose holding was being considered by the Land Commission, if they told him they intended to acquire it he had the right to say that there was alternative untenanted land in the same area and they were bound to enter into possession of it before they touched him. Section 28 (4) wipes out that right and now, if the agent of the Land Commission comes along, no matter what case a man puts up and no matter whether a tenant purchaser may be able to point out that there are alternative holdings, he might as well keep that information to himself because they will not listen to him. There is no statutory authority to compel them to consider anything like that before taking over the man's holding.
Section 30 deals with the resumption of holdings. That is not to be left to the appeal tribunal. The lay commissioners decide upon resumption and the judicial commissioner is consulted with regard to price. The judicial character of the Land Commission as it was known heretofore will be all gone once this Bill becomes law. Any man who has £500, £600 or £700 a year and with practically no experience as regards land may be nominated by the Executive Council and authorised to carry out judicial as well as administrative functions in regard to land. As Deputy Hogan said we are putting a limit on the discretion of a Circuit Court Judge to the extent of £300, but here we have two laymen without perhaps judicial experience, without perhaps a knowledge of the land question at all, and they can decide questions involving £500, £2,000, £3,000 or even £10,000. That is not good business and the Minister will find it out sooner or later.
What attitude did the British Government take in regard to this matter? They actually gave a land commissioner, not the judicial commissioner, the same standing in respect of the retention of his office as a Circuit Court Judge. Mention was made here that the fixity of tenure has gone. The whole three Fs have gone bag and baggage, every one of them. Take free sale; what can any man sell after that Bill has passed into law? What title has he to sell anything? After all, a man has to consider title when he is buying. What title can any tenant farmer give with regard to his holding? He has simply a removable title. He can be moved from Leitrim to Roscommon, from Roscommon to Offaly, from Offaly to Laoighis, from Laoighis to Kilkenny, from Kilkenny to Carlow and so on. I know that that could have been done before, but at any rate we have this much to our credit that after ten years of office the Attorney-General, and, I think, the Minister for Justice got up here and paid a tribute to the work of the Land Commission. There have been no big removals from the Land Commission since they took over office, so they must have been satisfied that the work of the Land Commission has been carried on in a proper administrative and judicial manner. Mention has been made here of the new functions that are going to devolve on the county registrar or the sheriff. May I just at this moment tell the House a story? In 1920 and 1921 I was Minister for Local Government under Dáil Eireann. It was at that time, in the words of the Attorney-General, an illegal Assembly, but it was functioning. We found it particularly hard to collect the rates, and I was advised to approach senior counsel to get a decree drafted which would empower the Volunteers to go in and distrain. I went to a senior counsel who occupies a very high judicial office in this State at the present moment. He told me it could not be done, that it was against natural justice, and that he would not advise it; that while a Parliament might have power to do a thing like that it had not got the right.
The rate collector will do it.
He is not allowed to exercise those functions.
I have often heard that rate collectors could do it, but I never heard a case of it. If there have been cases they are the exceptions which prove the rule. Take the following case for example: There is a townland of Ballydehob; Cornelius O'Sullivan has a holding there, but he is not the only Cornelius O'Sullivan, and the wrong man is distrained. What is the position going to be in that case? Again, take this case. Suppose Cornelius O'Sullivan has sent up to the Land Commission on Friday night the money that he owed for the land annuity. He sent it on by post. On Saturday morning a letter arrived in the county registrar's office to distrain on Cornelius O'Sullivan. The Land Commission annuity did not arrive until Monday morning. The sheriff is out at O'Sullivan's house on Monday morning; the Land Commission has the money, but he is being distrained. That is one of the things that is very unlikely to happen if you have got to go before the court. You are almost bound to get the correct man in the case of the court. There is no use in telling us that officials do not make mistakes. Everybody in business makes them some time or another. It might happen that Cornelius O'Sullivan was on his deathbed when the sheriff came in, or that his wife was ill. Would it not be a nice position for the Minister for Lands and Fisheries to be told that O'Sullivan had a stroke by reason of his action. It is a most inadvisable section, and I would certainly advise the Attorney-General to consult some of his colleagues in the Library before he subscribes to that particular principle.
Now, I come to the gem of the whole business, and that is the 50 per cent. reduction of the land annuities. Enshrined in all those Acts, as I have said, there was the grip of the landlord provided for as long as it was possible. In this Bill the same principle runs through practically every section. As Deputy Belton said, this is a land tax. There is no doubt in the world about that. What is your basis for entering into possession of this three million pounds? What is your case? The best you can produce is the Act of 1920. Remember, that while you entered into possession of the land annuities the country was also rendered liable for £10,000,000 a year as an Imperial contribution. The British Government in giving £3,000,000 a year relieved themselves of the trouble of collecting it. The debt which this country entered into possession of if it accepted the Act of 1920 was £7,000,000 a year. What, as I have said, is the right or authority for putting this £3,000,000 into the Exchequer. The only right, and the only authority that there is, you get from a British Statute which was not accepted in this country; which contemplated your paying out a sum in excess of this; that you never owned the land and never had the right to enter into possession of it. If there is any money due in respect of those land annuities then you have no right to collect it.
This is a tax on the landed proprictors of this country, the people who have made this country what it is, and whose backbone they will always be. It is an immoral and an unjust imposition, and the method that is designed for trying to collect this money is worthy of the same judgment which asserted that the State was entitled to this money. There is a provision in this measure which gives the Land Commission authority to review certain cases and to reduce the sum paid to the landlord. I have no brief for landlords. I do not know any of them. I have heard of one, and in that particular case the Land Act of 1923 reduced the income of the estate very considerably, for the reason that there was certain money held on mortgage at 3 per cent., and the mortgagees were paid off at 4½ per cent. under the Act. The point I wish to make is that I know no landlord but that one, and that one only very slightly. I do say that if a bargain were made ten years ago, no matter who the person was with whom the bargain was made, and he believed he was getting that particular price, he ought to get it. In all justice, if he thought for ten years that he was entitled to a certain number of pounds, he should get it. I do not dispute that if the Land Commission finds that those lands are not value for that particular purchase annuity they ought to come to the House and ask for whatever sum will make that up. I do say that a bargain once made should be adhered to; and remember how it was made: in the first place this Land Act of 1923 was backed by the British Government with security for the bonds. There was only one thing they asked, and that was to see the Bill. They made no recommendation in connection with it. The Bill provided for much more than the completion of land purchase. I should say possibly some £8,000,000 or £10,000,000 was involved in the purchase of untenanted land for distribution, and they might reasonably have said: "We are not responsible for that." They made no objection, but I would infer from the conversations that they were a sort of bond to the landlords in question. A bargain was made with them and subsisted for ten years; it is bad form, bad business, and I do not think it is honest, to review and reduce those amounts. I would say that if by reason of any cause there is a sum in excess of the amounts that the land can bear, they should come along to the State. It should have been done before, but it is not too late to remedy that particular matter.
I say the same thing in regard to the present collection of £2,000,000 of land annuities. I would like the Land Commission, with all the resources at their command, to enter into a close examination of the economics of agriculture here, at the present moment, and to make out for themselves, by reason of the present prices for agricultural produce, whether or not the land can afford to pay even half the annuities. If not, the Government has no moral right to put any such imposition on the farmers. The Government have the power, whether they have the right or not to tax them is another matter. I admit the power, but I draw the line at the right. The power is there, but before it is exercised it is good business to see whether or not they can afford it and if they cannot to put a stop to it. It is not too late to do it. But do not adopt the attitude of levying rates and taxes upon the agriculturists of this country which they are unable to bear in connection with a measure of this kind.
One word in conclusion, Deputy Fitzgerald-Kenney mentioned a case last night in connection with Section 18 of the Act of 1887 and Section 25 of the Act of 1891. I think it was under the Act of 1887 it was provided that if a man owed his rent for 40 days the owners were entitled to come to court and to get possession of his land. That could be done through one or other of the particular sections that I mention. If that be shown to the court the county registrar may now have the same right. That is a very serious thing, and it ought to be remedied under this Act. Again I refer to the case mentioned by Deputy Costello in regard to the acquisition of land valued for £2,000. I cannot find out what exactly is proposed to be done under Section 28. In conclusion, I have to say that between this and the Committee Stage the Ministry would be well advised to examine the question of uneconomic holdings and to see how far it is possible to make an estimate of what advance they can make to modify the effects of that Section 28. As Deputy Anthony said, many people have reclaimed land—mountain and bog land—and made arable land out of it, That has been accomplished by the sweat of their brow, and it was through their industry that anything at all could be made out of that land. There is also the case of a man with a house on small holding. Some of them may have as much as 100 acres. Is it to be held in respect of these that they are not residential holdings? If it is, a most serious situation confronts the Land Commission.
Mr. Aiken rose.
Is the Minister rising to conclude?
Yes, I should think that two and a half days, nearly three days, should be plenty of time for a Second Reading debate.
I never take up very much time.
Very well, as long as you like.
I want to take this opportunity of saying a few words upon this Bill. Each and everyone of us here is aware that nothing appeals so much to the people of this country as the land. In the past it has been known generally that the national characteristics of our people were well pronounced, more so, perhaps, than any other nation, and no characteristic was more pronounced, after the love of their Faith, than their love of the soil. We are aware that in the past our people were torn from the soil and sent across the Shannon into Connaught where they were obliged to live on barren, mountainous and inhospitable land while the fertile lands of the country were occupied by the foreigner. Not only were the people driven into Connaught but they were driven into the bogs, the quarries and quagmires adjoining whatever fertile lands there were in Connaught and, also, in other parts of Ireland. Furthermore the people were forced to emigrate. One quarter of a million of our people were driven out of Ireland in the year 1851 alone. A great deal has been said of the unfairness of interfering with fixity of tenure. It would be unwise to interfere with fixity of tenure were we dealing with a country from which a large portion of the population was never forcibly removed from the land. But fixity of tenure is not such an obligation here, where our people were drastically removed from the land and compelled to go to foreign lands and some to the worst lands in this country. Therefore I hold that the Land Act of 1881 only settled matters between landlords and tenants, and should not be enforced to prevent those people or their children and grandchildren who prior to 1881 were forced from the land being again placed upon the soil. We know there is plenty of land in this country for distribution without interfering seriously with the rights practically of any individual. It is estimated that we have here 11,000,000 acres of pasture. In Denmark you have something only like 300,000 acres of pasture. Here only one-fifth of our land is cultivated and it is the intention of those who oppose this Bill to make permanent that condition of affairs. It is, also, their intention to enable the wealthy foreigner to come into this country to purchase land subject to fixity of tenure, and, when he has so purchased it to get a man with his dog to look after the entire pasture land and deprive our people of their natural right to live upon the soil.
It has been stated that this is a political Bill. If it is politics to attempt to provide a living for our people on their own soil, then I am glad it is political. Deputy Burke has called this Bill State ownership, confiscation and Communism. He went into a great deal of Irish history in his comments, but he seemed to be unaware of the state of this country prior to 1881, when our people were driven out of it. Under this Bill an attempt will be made by the present Government to plant the children and grand-children of the people who were driven from the soil on the soil again. In every country to-day the same policy is being pursued. Even the leading legislators in England have stated that a policy of back to the land is the only salvation for the country. We know also that prior to prohibition in the United States Italy purchased all its flour from the United States. As a result of prohibition and the stoppage of their export of wines from Italy to the United States and the shortage of money which resulted, the Italians were unable to purchase flour. The Government immediately decided to produce their own flour and within a few years they produced all the flour necessary to maintain the population. It was stated at first, just as it was stated by some Opposition Deputies here, that the flour was unpalatable and that the Italian people would not be capable of producing wheat which could be used. But, as a, result of experience, it has now been proved that it is as palatable as that which they received before from a foreign country.
One other matter which I should like to point out is that the population per square mile in this country is the lowest in Europe. Our population is 112 people to the square mile, whereas in France it is 184 people; Switzerland, 243; Germany, 328; and Belgium, 635. A genuine attempt is now being made to place our people on the soil and from the attitude adopted by the Opposition towards this measure you would imagine West Britons were speaking. Statements have been made that this is a corrupt measure and that the appeal tribunal will be used in a corrupt manner. If the appeal tribunal operated as the tribunals in the past, initiated by Cumann na nGaedheal, operated, then undoubtedly it would be a corrupt measure. But since the present Government came into office it must be admitted that they have discharged their duties to the people most impartially and, if anything, in a way that almost amounted to injustice to their own followers.
I should like to know does the Deputy suggest that the judicial commissioner was interfered with by the Government? That is what he stated.
I do not think the Deputy referred to the judicial commissioner.
He referred to the appeal tribunal and the only appeal tribunal connected with the Land Commission is the judicial commissioner.
I suggest that the Ceann Comhairle knows what is out of order without the assistance of the Deputy.
From beginning to end there was nothing pervading the speeches of the Opposition except dread of corruption on the part of the Minister, the Land Commissioners appointed by the Minister and the tribunal. I can well understand that fear. Nobody knows better than they do the corruptive practices of which they were past masters while in office during the last ten years. There is one thing I am delighted with, and that is the constitution of the tribunal mentioned in this Bill, because we are dealing with a situation that requires drastic remedies and it is absolutely necessary to have a drastic reorganisation of this tribunal. The duties of this tribunal in the future will be altogether different from its duties in the past. The tribunal in the past devoted themselves exclusively to settling matters between landlords and tenants. I hope and trust that the main duty of this tribunal in future will be land settlement and practically land settlement alone. Then we come to another matter, the method of collection of arrears as compared with previous methods of collection. I have had years of experience of this matter and no provision in this Bill appeals to me more than this change in the method of collection. Tenants have come into my office, some of them with five or six civil bills, and asked me was there any possibility of being relieved of the payment of the costs due in connection with these civil bills. I pointed out that, of course, there was not. One great defect which I saw was that the unfortunate tenants received no benefit whatever from the payment of these costs. The ordinary procedure was that the civil bill officer came with the process. The case was heard on a certain day in court and the tenant knew nothing further until he received word from the sheriff that he had a decree in his hands for execution. There was no defence whatever to offer.
I venture to say that the costs paid by tenants in respect of Land Commission proceedings must have amounted to several hundred thousand pounds at least during the past ten years. No benefit whatever was received by the tenants as the result of those proceedings, considering that there was no possible defence. The amount was a liquidated amount, and a curious anomaly which I perceive was that where unliquidated amounts were payable the Government Departments had power to issue a warrant without giving the unfortunate payer an opportunity of defending. I refer to income tax and rate collection. In this Bill the greatest relief will be given to the tenant because, whatever he will have to pay, he is receiving a benefit in respect of it; but he received no benefit whatever from payment of those costs previously except the glory and honour of having his name called in a public court to answer a decree to which he could offer no defence. I am sure that there is no necessity for me to point out that it will be necessary, of course, to give the tenants as much time in the future for payment as they received in the past. With these remarks I wish to conclude. I must say that I am delighted with this Bill, and that it is the first opportunity the Irish people got since their lands were confiscated of being restored to the soil again. I trust that in the operation of this Bill and in its administration by the Land Commission in the future they will act most drastically in placing the people on the soil.
I rise to oppose this Bill. I look upon this Bill as a drastic attack on the rights of property for which our fathers and our grandfathers had to fight hard. The rights which they secured under the different Land Acts since 1881 were signed and agreed to by the tenant farmers, the landlords and the Land Commission. Now we have the members of this Government about to break the arrangements they had already made with the farmers. I look upon that as a disgraceful attitude on the part of this Government or of any other Government in this State. The men who are working the farms are men who are competent to work them. They have been able to maintain their holdings and, many times, have been able to make some additions to their holdings. I believe that it is a great hardship, and, in fact, that it is unjust to make any attempt to interfere with the right of those farmers to their land. I hold that neither this Government nor any other Government in this State have any right to the land that was purchased by the farmers under the different Land Acts since 1881. I say that if this Bill passes and if legislation is going to be imposed on the farmers throughout the country to take away their land from them, it will bring about another land war and cause an amount of trouble in this country that will take, perhaps, years to end. Nothing will create more trouble than the taking over of land from a man who is not prepared to sell it and which he regards as his own. I do not see any difference between taking a farmer's land and the taking of his or any other person's money. This Bill seems to me to give power to certain sections of the community or to the Land Commission to take over land from the farmers. At the same time, what is the difference between taking the land from the farmer and taking his money from him or from anybody else in the State? It is practically the same thing as walking down the street and holding up somebody who you think has money in his possession, putting your hand in his pocket, throwing back some of it, perhaps, and saying to him: "This is sufficient for you. I want this money for somebody else down the street who will make better use of it." It is the same thing. I look upon this as a disgraceful and confiscatory measure, and I say that it will lead to trouble in this country. I know the feelings of the farmers in the country. I am a farmer myself, and have been associated with farmers all my life. I know how hard they work, and I know that people like that, if they are going to be disturbed now, will take it very badly.
I understand that the amount of. undivided land that is still on the hands of the Land Commission is 250,000 acres. Surely, that land should be divided amongst those looking for land at the present time before anything else is done, and we could see what would be the position then. I do not want to say anything hard— I would like to see everybody successful—but it seems to me that most of those who got land under the Act of 1923 have not been able to make it pay. I know myself that they are not able to work the land or make it pay. I do not say all of them, but a number of them are not able to work the land already allotted to them. They are letting it every year for the eleven months' grazing, and a good many are selling the hay off their land. This is not any improvement, and I think it is more or less waste to give land to that type of farmer. I think that the 250,000 acres already in the hands of the Land Commission would satisfy all the people who are looking for land. As a matter of fact, I do not know of many who are looking for land. I do know that a great many agricultural labourers, who work on the land and know what it is to work on the land, are not looking for land at all. It is those who never worked on the land who are looking for it. Most of them will be a failure on the land and it will cost the State money.
Another thing that strikes me is the number of farms one sees advertised for sale week after week in the newspapers. It is strange that the Land Commission do not make some effort to purchase those farms that are offered for sale. If they have not the power to purchase them, they could very easily get it from this House. In connection with that, we have no indication from the Minister as to what will be the price paid for the land we are going to take over. We have no statement or indication as to whether it will be £10 an acre, £15, £20 or £30 an acre. A great many people would not sell their farms for £50 an acre and I think it would be very unjust to take it from them at a smaller price. Who is going to be the judge with regard to whether a man is capable of working his farm to the best advantage or not? I think that if they are going to select the man who is best qualified in that direction, they will have a very hard job to decide for themselves as to whether or not a man can work a farm to the best advantage. No one can tell that better than the man himself, and the only way he can tell it is by the way he is able to pay his way and pay the charges on the land that he has to meet.
To find out whether a man is working his farm to the best advantage by having a Land Commission official walk into the farm, examine it, and look around and casually see what is being done, is not the way to ascertain it. By just looking round in that way, the Land Commission inspector could not see what is being done on it. I think he would want to remain more than a day or two on the farm in order to be in a position to judge whether the owner was using that farm to the best advantage.
It might be that there is a certain amount of land wasted in this country, and if such land were taken over and worked by somebody else it might be an advantage to the State. But from my experience I would say there is not a whole lot of that kind of land in the country. The farmers I know are very hard working farmers. Whether they have five, ten, 100, or 500 acres, I know that they work the land to the best advantage and get the most good out of it. In the larger holdings they give considerable employment. Interference with farmers of that kind would only result in putting more people out of employment. I have not much more to say on this Bill, only just this, that I strongly oppose it. I look upon it as a confiscatory measure, a measure that interferes with the best farmers in the country, with people who have been able by their industry to buy up an adjoining farm and to give good employment on their land. On these farms there is at present accommodation for a number of cattle and farm stock suitable to the amount of land going with the farms. There is enough accommodation to house their cattle in the winter time. The people who own these farmyards would have a very big grievance if any of that land were taken away from them, because some of their farmyards would be practically wasted. I look upon the taking away of land from a man who is able to pay his way, to meet the charges on the land, and to give employment, as a pure piece of confiscation. These men have acquired their lands by agreements with the landlords in the past, and by whatever advantages they got from the different Land Acts since 1881. Men of this class are entitled to their holdings and to undisturbed possession of them and no Government, either this or any other Government, has a right to interfere with them.
I would just like to make a few remarks in connection with the arrears of the land annuities. Land annuity arrears are supposed to be wiped out by this Bill. But these arrears, Deputies must remember, have been already paid by the farmers and ratepayers of the country. The good farmers and the ratepayers have paid up the arrears of the defaulters as well as their own. That went on up to 1931. The Government has not wiped out any of these arrears as far as they are concerned, for the arrears were already paid by the farmers and the ratepayers of the country. The farmers who had paid their own annuities also paid these arrears. The amount of money that is going to be funded by the Government is a matter that I really think does an injustice to the farmers of the country, in all the circumstances of the case. Now the farmers have already paid their annuities more than once, practically twice to England through the taxation on their livestock and on their agricultural produce. They are being asked again to pay a further 50 per cent. of the land annuities to the Land Commission. That is very unjust. While we are paying our land annuities to England I do not believe that it is fair for this Government to ask the farmers to pay them again or any part of them.
The 50 per cent. of the land annuities that is to be asked for here is really only a land tax. It is not a land annuity because these have been paid already. We have been told all along by the Government that they have retained the land annuities and they will give certain concessions to the farmers who are allowed to retain 50 per cent. of their annuities. But they have done no such thing. What they have done is really to pay them twice over, and what is being collected now in this 50 per cent. is really a land tax. All we ask of the Government is justice and fair play, and we are not getting it. The best farmers in the country cannot make a living out of their farms just now. The value of their stock has been brought down by more than 40 per cent. Now the Government are proposing to take away part of their farms from the people and make them even worse off than they are. It occurs to me that this thing is going to lead to trouble. I would be sorry to see any trouble in this country again, but I cannot see anything else. Perhaps that is what the Government are looking for, and perhaps that is what they want. I can assure them, however, that if they come up against the farmers of the country they will not be up against men who will lie by the ditch to meet them. They will be up against men who will come out and fight them in the open.
I just want to make a few comments on the criticism made in connection with this Bill. I am going to deal with it as it affects the congested districts and I think that in confining myself to that aspect I will be less liable to fall into repetition. I do not think that the Gaeltacht, at all events, has been dealt with. Migration has been condemned by several Deputies in the course of this debate. As far as I can make out the principal argument against migration is this, that the people from the congested districts are entirely unfitted to use good land or to make a living out of it. That suggestion is entirely false because we know that the people from the Gaeltacht who have gone to foreign countries, to America and elsewhere, have made good there. They have proved themselves as adaptable in America in every sphere as at home. They have proved themselves as successful in other lands as the people from any other part of the country. It is very strange to hear their own countrymen putting obstacles in the way of their betterment by suggesting that the intricacies of the plough would be beyond their capabilities. The men from the Gaeltacht are as well able to make good on the land, and I submit far better able to do so than the people who occupy the large ranches and who have proved themselves largely parasites on the country.
We have heard a great deal about markets and agriculture, and double-entry farming and things of that kind. But I would like to put it to this House that the people of the Gaeltacht and the congested districts have another interest in the land. They maintain, and strongly maintain, and it is very hard to deny their point of view—that the basic idea behind farming should be the sustenance of the families who live on the farms and not profit-making. The basic idea is to provide the food and clothing the people require. When these have been produced then it is time enough to think of profit-making. Most of the arguments put forward here dealt with profit-making and with the markets. Deputy Belton is the principal spokesman on that topic. The Deputy will admit that in the matter of markets and high agriculture the farms cannot be run without the introduction of outside labour. But the labour question, at all events, does not arise where the migrants are concerned. These men are able to provide their own labour and produce most of their own needs. That is the first charge on the land— food and clothing for the people who live on it—and not profit.
Farms in England are worked in about the same way as people run factories or shops. When they fail to pay they hand them back to the landlord or to whomever it was that they took them from. Here people do not hand over their farms to anybody. They leave them there derelict and no use is made of them. The reason is because the people are protected by their tenant right. That tenant right will be as sacrosanct in the new Bill as it was in the old code. Quite recently we had a few Cumann na nGaedheal speakers down in Connemara and they charged this Government with having done nothing to clear the slums. Deputies Brodrick and Hogan were there, and they told the people of Connemara that the Government were not clearing the slums in Connemara. I would like to congratulate Deputy Brodrick on the fact that I read into his statement that he is an advocate of migration, and I am glad to know that. I say that because you cannot clear the slums in Connemara and in the Gaeltacht in any other way but by migration. For that reason the people of Connemara will expect Deputies Brodrick and Hogan to vote for this Bill, because that is what this Bill sets out to do— to clear the slums in Connemara. I hope Deputy Brodrick will not disappoint us in that.
A very strange anomaly about the land of Ireland is that the distribution of the population over it seems to be in an inverse ratio to the quality of the land; the worse the land the better the population. That is a state of affairs that this Bill sets out to remedy. In Connemara the people are living on rocks. I was sorry to hear last Friday night, when I referred to the people in Connemara living on rocks, there being practically no land there, a Dublin Deputy sneering at the idea of the people in the Gaeltacht being "on the rocks." Now he will get a chance, by voting for this Bill, of taking them off the rocks.
To my mind, this Bill is the beginning of an attempt to put an end to what is known, in the West at all events, as the curse of Cromwell. It may not achieve all the people of the Gaeltacht hope for, but it is certainly a good attempt to take the people away from the rocks and barren places and put them on the Tailte Bána, which is their rightful place. No matter how others may stop their ears, I, at all events, am in the position that I cannot stop my ears to the gathering cry of the Gaeltacht. That gathering cry is gaining force day by day and week by week, and it is this: "Give us an outlet, or if you do not we will go and take it."
When the Acting-Minister for Lands and Fisheries was introducing this measure he gave the House to understand that the problem was of grave national importance. One would have thought that the Minister for Lands and Fisheries would be here if it is such a matter of grave national importance. One would imagine that this whole land question is so serious and so complex and the whole problem is so big that the Minister would have been better occupied here than in London in the Piccadilly Hotel or referring to Cromwell at the International Conference. He could refer to Cromwell here on the land question far more appropriately.
If there is one thing that this debate has done, it certainly has made it abundantly clear that it is not now a question so much of absentee landlords, large unbroken estates, or wide areas of untenanted land; rather is it more of a problem now of the taking over of farms by the State. It is time the public understood that it is now a question of farms and not a question of the great political problems of the past, when this country was led into huge mass meetings with great enthusiasm. Here in this Bill, which consists of about 30 pages, there are lots of sections interlocked, all covering up one main feature, and that is the power of the State and the Minister. Underneath this mass of words and sentences, to the lay mind hardly understandable, there is one preeminent factor, and that is the power to be wielded by a Minister, a power unheard of before in the case of any Department of State that ever dealt with a land question in this or any other country.
There is one phrase in connection with which I would like a definition. I refer to the phrase "bad husbandry." Will somebody define it for the ordinary people who hold the land and who may be carted out into the ditch under the provisions of this Bill if they are found guilty of bad husbandry? That phrase should be defined one way or another.
There is not the slightest necessity to bring Kildare farming into it at all. The Deputy has Deputy Harris sitting beside him and I am quite certain, without shouting across the House to me about Kildare farming, Deputy Harris will be able to tell him all about it. Deputy Harris may have some difficulties later on when, judging by the speeches of Deputy Flynn of Kerry and Deputy Bartley of Connemara, North Kildare is going to receive huge excursions of congests, bus loads of them. They will come by rail and canal, and Deputy Harris will have to meet them at Kildare Junction——
With outstretched arms.
——or some other convenient place and lead them along in column en route in order to establish them here and there through the county. Then Deputy Harris will have great fun with those who have got to get out. It is most appropriate indeed that the Minister for Defence is introducing this Bill, because I foresee the Curragh troops being called in to straighten out some of the difficulties which will arise out of this.
There is a lot of confusion on the far side of the House—at least there seems to be from the speeches made— as to what this Bill is exactly out to achieve. Some say it will only just touch the bare fringe of the land problem and others say it will settle the problem for ever.
It will settle you, anyhow; that is one sure thing.
As far as settling is concerned I can assure Deputy Jordan that there will be a reaction and a very unsettling condition for some of the Fianna Fáil Deputies before this Act is long working in the country. A Fianna Fáil T.D. will only be safe if he represents the City.
The wish is father to the thought.
Why are you worrying about it so?
The Deputy must be allowed to make his own speech, and not the speech the interrupters desire him to make.
I do not mind one bit being interrupted if I can understand what the interrupters are talking about.
What are you worrying about?
I am not the slightest bit worried as far as Fianna Fáil is concerned. What I am worrying about is this——
You are worrying about Fianna Fáil.
Yes. You can keep that in your mind as I speak. As this debate has gone on for some considerable time, in which every aspect of the Bill has been discussed, I do not intend to delay the House.
If Deputies keep on saying "Hear, hear!" I may delay longer than they think. If they want to get rid of me they should keep quiet.
Stick it out, anyway.
Interruptions do not take the slightest effect on me, good or bad—not even interruptions from Deputy Corry. Even though Deputy Corry did make a wonderful speech at Mylerstown in which, during the by-election of 1932, he pointed to large areas of land and stated that he would have all the landless men around that area placed there within six months, yet nothing has happened.
We are doing it now.
And I think Deputy Harris ought to be grateful to him.
He got a lot of votes out of it.
Those promises will be no more fulfilled by this Bill than by any other Bill.
If there are any more interruptions the Chair will take serious notice of them. Some interrupters are experienced enough to know that they should not interrupt.
Well, a Chinn Comhairle, the case I am making is raising the ire and the wrath of some Deputies on the far side through which there would be a danger of their being suspended. I will conclude by saying that this Bill gives really enormous power by reason of the fact that the Department can take action and the Minister can take action if a farmer is complained of to the Ministry as not giving proper employment. If he is not running his farm to the satisfaction of certain agitators they can turn around and say that his administration can be better done by somebody else. That is a position in which political action can be taken, and the local Fianna Fáil club can make things very difficult for ordinary people. I quite imagine that if John So-and-So, who is a supporter of the Centre Party, is complained of he will not get a very sympathetic investigation. If he is a Cumann na nGaedheal supporter he will probably go out within 50 days. That is the whole danger of the Bill. We heard enough in other directions such as: "If you do not join a Fianna Fáil club you will get nothing. Unless you join a Fianna Fáil club there will be no influence used in your favour and all influence will be thrown in against you." Now it will get to this stage, that it can be said: "if you want to retain your holding you must come and join a Fianna Fáil club; then they will throw in their weight behind you and everything will be all right." That is what it is coming to. Deputy Corry knows how to play that very well. He is doing it all day long. However, I will not try to get him into trouble. A Chinn Comhairle, as I am rather disposed to be too aggressive to Deputy Corry, I think I will sit down.
I wonder what has come over the Opposition during the past hour. It is a full hour or more since we heard either the word "Communism" or "Bolshevism" or "Socialism," and I am sure everybody must have been surprised. Certainly some of us were relieved at the interruption of the monotonous regularity with which speaker after speaker in the Opposition was repeating those words, relieved that they had found something else to talk about. There was not displayed indeed a tremendous knowledge of Bolshevism or Socialism on the part of many speakers. I think the views of those who were taunting the Government about Bolshevism and Communism and so on were not altogether identical as to what those words mean. Deputy MacDermot, for instance, yesterday evening referred to the Bolshevist drive behind this Bill. Then he went on to talk about his idea of what would be right for the State. He had no objection whatever to the biggest farm so long as the owner made proper use of his farm. In that he seemed to me to be approaching very near to Mr. Stalin's idea of the use of land. Mr. Stalin does not mind much either, I understand, as to the size of the farms in his country. Mr. Stalin's principal idea is as to the use of the land.
Just like Dr. Ryan.
And, like Deputy MacDermot, Mr. Stalin, so far as we hear from him, does not object at all to the land being worked by a proletariat population. Deputy O'Sullivan seemed to sympathise yesterday evening with that view of Deputy MacDermot. It is not so long, however, since Deputy O'Sullivan was taunting the Government with proletarianising this State. One of the most serious faults he had to find with last year's Budget was that it was proletarianising this State. To emphasise this objection, I remember, he quoted a statement from a friend of his in Germany, who told him that one of the biggest losses which Germany had suffered through the recent troubles in that country was the disappearance of the middle class. He warned this Government that in proletarianising the people they were running the risk of bringing about a state of affairs that had meant great loss and harm to Germany. Yet to judge by Deputy O'Sullivan's attitude yesterday evening when Deputy MacDermot was speaking, and to judge by his attitude now, he does not at all object to a system of land ownership in which the great bulk of the workers would be proletarians. Taking a different view, however, the Government are endeavouring to settle people on the land, and—it does not matter whether they are Fianna Fáil or Cumann na nGaedheal—they will be the real bulwark against Communism in this country.
Perhaps the Deputy will allow me to explain what I meant by referring to Bolshevistic sentiments behind this Bill. I meant not any particular theory in society. I meant a frame of mind based upon class hatred. That is what I call a Bolshevist system.
That is a very narrow definition of Bolshevism. When a Deputy mentions Bolshevism the ordinary person visualises a proletarian State where there is no personal property. Remember that Deputy MacDermot's example was followed by several other speakers to-day—I had almost said that his example was preceded by several other Deputies yesterday. At all events, it is quite evident that the word has been very loosely used. Is it fair of Deputy MacDermot, knowing that the word "Bolshevist" is a particularly opprobrious epithet in a country like this, to use the word in that narrow sense and to let it appear in the Press that he associates this Government with Bolshevist economics?
What could be worse than class hatred?
Class hatred is a thing that is very rare indeed. It is, so far as most of us can see, practically unknown in this country.
If Deputy MacDermot has found it, he must know the country a lot better than some of us. I have not seen any signs of class hatred, and I think that Deputy MacDermot in accusing the Government of being influenced by Bolshevist sentiments, and the attempt he made now to prove that he meant it only in that narrow sense, cast a big reflection on himself. His words have been reported to-day in the Press. His words have gone to every part of Ireland and the people have seen that the leader of a big Party here says that this Government is actuated by Bolshevist sentiments. He says now "I was not thinking at all on the lines that the Government was in any way inclined towards depriving the people of their property or in any way inclined to create a proletarian State. I was only thinking that the Government was influenced by class hatred". I wonder what interpretation the average reader of the Irish Times to-day put on Deputy MacDermot's words?
The Deputy might realise that if I had meant "Communist" I would have said "Communist". Everybody knows what Communism is. I did not use the word "Communism".
On that point—a very educated Deputy spoke two or three hours ago from the Opposition Benches, a Deputy who, one would think, should have better sense, in view of the prominent association, and the very creditable association, of his father with land reform in this country and with very radical ideas of land reform. He referred to the Communist red flag and the Bolshevist red rag apparent in this Bill so that evidently the words are interchangeable, so far as an educated Deputy, like Deputy Davitt, is concerned. In the course of his speech also, Deputy MacDermot said that if people are not making proper use of their land, the position should be left to time, that not many years will elapse before they will have to disappear, because their means will go. Does Deputy MacDermot think that if he were in the President's chair at the moment, in the present state of this country, with so many thousands of people growing up on farms, with no other prospect in life but farming, and who want homes for themselves, he could afford to adopt that attitude? Would he tell the country from his position as Leader of the Government "I am not prepared to take any action whatever with regard to the thousands of acres of land that are not being properly used at the present time. I am going to leave that to the natural working out of events. I am going to leave it to be accounted for by natural cause and effect"? I do not think he would, and, when Deputy MacDermot advocates such a line as that, he is, in my opinion, inviting Bolshevism in this country.
I did not advocate that line.
I am sorry to say I cannot accept the Deputy's denial of that, because I have his words noted.
"Natural economic causes will secure that the desirable changes will take place."
The Deputy will have to quote a little more than that.
We can see, when the Official Report appears, whether the Deputy said that or not, but the Deputy will admit, I think, that he said that this was an untimely period for this Bill——
I said that, in principle, I agreed that if land was being used in an anti-social manner the State had a right to interfere, subject to safeguards. I said that, but I said that at the same time, the Fianna Fáil Party, in my opinion, did not take sufficient account of the fact that very often natural economic forces were sufficient to cause the disappearance of lazy and incompetent farmers.
I shall have to leave it at that, naturally. I could not attempt to contradict the Deputy without having the printed report before me, but we will see by the printed report whether that is so or not.
I do not think it is, because I took particular notice of what the Deputy was saying. The Deputy will admit, at any rate, that he said that the present period was untimely for this Bill and that in view of the present state of farming and in view of the bad prices that prevailed for farmers' produce, the land question should be left alone. I wonder if a person who was anxious to save this country from Bolshevism or from revolutionary sentiment would seriously say that? If the Deputy wants us to believe that he is really and seriously concerned to keep Bolshevism out of this country, expressions of that kind are hardly the stuff to convince us that that is his position or that he has given the subject much attention. If he thinks that you can allow the congested areas to remain as they are, where, in the past three or four years, thousands of young men have grown to manhood without an earthly prospect in life, on the one hand, and, on the other hand, that you can have, within 25 miles of Dublin, one man owning five farms and not one acre of the five farms, amounting altogether to something like 400 or 500 acres, tilled, with very few cattle on them and with only one man engaged for the five farms, he is living in a fool's paradise. People do not lightly put up with these things.
There have been a great many sneering references to the activities of Fianna Fáil clubs, but when the Fianna Fáil clubs see that state of things prevailing around them, and when the young men who desire to change that state of things, who say it is wrong that people should be living on the hills or merely existing, while land is treated in that indifferent way, while it is left unproductive like that, giving neither employment nor producing corn or produce of any kind, but used only for grazing a few bullocks, see that state of things and urge the Government to change it, they are doing good social work. They are doing much better work than the people who have made the outlandish and ridiculous speeches that have been made on this Bill in an effort to show that we stand for the taking over of the land of hardworking farmers. If this Bill threatened the security of a single farmer in this country——
And does it not?
——who is making any good use of his land, there would not be six people in the Fianna Fáil Party to vote for it.
And does it not do that?
There is no intention whatever of interfering with the land of any man who is making proper use of his land.
What protects him in the Bill?
There is the intention to take over farms, such as the farms I mention, where one person is in occupation of five or six farms, which are not being tilled and which are not giving employment, and the land of which is unproductive. There is no intention of leaving all that land in that person's possession, and there is not a Deputy in the House but knows that, in its present state and with the lack of employment there is, the country could not afford to look on while that sort of thing prevailed.
Where is the safeguard in this Bill?
The question of safeguards has been argued. Deputy Dillon knows that there was no safeguard for the past ten years.
There were ample safeguards.
Every safe guard.
The same safeguards will prevail as have prevailed during that time.
The Deputy has not read the Bill if he thinks so.
The Deputy is entitled to his viewpoint on the Bill, just as any other Deputy is.
At all events this question of safeguards——
On a point of order, for our future guidance if a Deputy states deliberately that black is white, is he entitled to state that without contradiction from another Deputy in the House?
I just wanted to be sure of that.
If a man is colour blind is he entitled to see any colour?
I think that Deputy Dillon should not be pontificating so often here in this House.
Deputy MacDermot opened his speech with a tribute to Parnell, a tribute which he has often paid before. We were told by Deputy Dr. O'Higgins, I think, that in Parnell's time the big farmer was regarded with just the same respect as the small farmer and that the Party made no distinction between the big farmer and the small farmer, that they had as much regard for the big farmer and his rights as they had for the small farmer. In that connection I must call attention to this: if in Parnell's time it did not matter what size a farm was so long as it was properly worked, I wonder why it was that an effort was made, a successful effort, to pass the Labourers Act, which not merely provided a house for the labourer but gave him the ownership first of half an acre and, later on, of a whole acre of land? If Parnell attached no importance to the ownership of land why did he and his Party make an effort to secure land for these men? Deputy MacDermot and Mr. Parnell did not think exactly on the same lines in regard to this question.
Mr. Parnell and, I think, every Irish Leader always had in mind—and I think Deputy MacDermot will find that those throughout the country who are most anxious to safeguard this country are of a similar opinion—a position in which the main population of the country will be a population of substantial middle-class farmers, not owning an excessive amount of land but at the same time in possession of what are generally called economic holdings. In my experience that is the general outlook, and the Government, in passing this legislation, are interpreting that general outlook. I have personally no objection to a big farm so long as it is properly used, and there are big farmers in the country who have made such good use of their land that I would be very sorry to see them deprived of any part of it. One, however, cannot guarantee that on such big farms the maximum number of labourers will be always kept in employment or that there will be no desire amongst these labourers to own some land themselves. Many other countries have had to pass legislation similar to this. Hungary, which is probably the most conservative country in Europe, has been faced with this problem within the past half-dozen years. They went so far as to divide the land into minute farms, so minute that they are now faced with the problem of reuniting them.
Coming events cast their shadows before.
However, I think all these questions have been already sufficiently argued. I desire to put one or two special points before the Minister. There is no provision in the Bill with regard to sporting rights. I want to know does the Minister not think that such a big question as that should be settled without delay? Is he satisfied that no particular legislation is necessary with regard to the question of sporting rights? Most Deputies are no doubt aware that under the first Purchase Acts, when sales were arranged by voluntary agreement, in most cases the landlord got the sporting rights. Afterwards, certainly under the 1923 Land Act, sporting rights were retained by the Land Commission. I understand that in the case of lands vested in recent years sporting rights have been vested in the tenants. That is obviously not a proper position in which to leave such a big question as the sporting rights. You have on some estates three different systems; certainly you have two. Where part of an estate was sold by voluntary agreement you have the sporting rights reserved to the landlord, and in another part of the same estate which has been sold compulsorily you have the sporting rights vested in the tenant. It is quite obvious that you cannot have contentment where you have two persons living side by side when the landlord or his friends are entitled to trespass on the farm of one of these persons and is not entitled to go in on the other farm. At all events, it is a very big question to be left in that unsatisfactory position.
There is another aspect of the case to which I should like to call the Minister's attention. I understand that where grazing rights exist on hills, that is, where they are shared by a number of people, it has been the practice of the Land Commission to purchase only the grazing, leaving the ownership, and consequently the sporting rights, in the hands of the landlord. That system prevails in the vicinity of Blessington in regard to the hills in that district. I should like to remind the Minister that it was not merely land reform the people had in mind when they were agitating to get rid of landlordism. They wanted also to get rid of the landlords. The people will try to prevent the landlords, their friends or agents, from shooting over these lands if the Government are not prepared to take action. I would ask the Minister, when he is replying, to state whether he intends to nationalise the sporting rights or by what method he proposes to deal with the question.
There is just another matter that, perhaps, might be more appropriately mentioned on the Committee Stage, but as I have a note of it here I should like to bring it to the Minister's attention now—that is with regard to the £2,000 limit, which is the central point in the Bill. In view of the currency fluctuations that prevail at present, and in view of so much talk of probable big changes in the currencies of all countries in the immediate future, it might be well to insert a safeguard in the Bill in regard to that matter, so that the £2,000 the Minister has in mind may be something that can be identified twelve months hence as £2,000. We have seen in recent times how £2,000 was reduced in comparative value to £1,200 or so in the course of a few months. I presume it will be necessary to safeguard the owners of land against a possibility of that kind. With regard to reduction of annuities, I am rather interested in the section which specially relates to soldiers and sailors. I am not satisfied a reduction of 45 per cent. will be sufficient there. If all the lands purchased for them were purchased on the same terms as the Proby Estate at Woodenbridge I believe a reduction of 55 per cent. in the annuities would still leave these people paying over £1 an acre for land. That land in present conditions could not pay that charge. I think the Minister would find it hard to get people to take land and pay that charge for it. He might further consider that question. It is notorious that land bought at that period, on which soldiers and sailors were settled, was bought at peak prices, at scandalously high prices, and that even a special reduction of 5 per cent. in their favour would not be sufficient. Otherwise I think the Bill is full of promise of valuable land reform in the immediate future, and I hope it will be quickly passed into law.
My principal objection to the Bill is that it interferes with every class of farmer. Fianna Fáil Deputies have stated that if there was any interference with the ordinary farmer they would not support the Bill. I would like to know where there is a safeguard for any kind of farmer, whether his holding is one of ten acres or ten perches. In my opinion when the Bill passes we will be all State tenants. If Deputies on the Fianna Fáil Benches who are farmers support that, let them do it with their eyes open. The only safeguard I have heard of is that a farmer who works his land well will not be interfered with. Who is to interpret that? It is not set out in the Bill. I believe it is stated that if a farmer works his land properly he will not be interfered with.
They can shift him whether he works it well or not.
It is worse than the Deputy thought.
Absolutely. Where is there a safeguard for a man with 50 acres?
Or the man with 40 acres? I do not think there is any farmer, no matter what his acreage— whether he belongs to the old ascendancy that we hear of or is an ordinary farmer—but intends to work his land. Let us face facts. What is the justification for interfering with the rights of the ordinary-sized farm? A farmer may have bought a holding and paid a good price for it—as a good many of them did—or he may have inherited it as a right. Is this Government to come along and resume the holding? They can do so under the Bill. I cannot see how that will strengthen Fianna Fáil clubs in particular areas. We know very well that there is a certain clamour for the division of land here and there, and we know what has prompted that clamour. I am not acquainted with the class of farmers that Deputy Moore alleges exist. I have no idea where there are farms of 1,000 acres or 500 acres. I am only concerned with ordinary farmers. If a farm is put on the market after this Bill is passed, what will it be worth seeing that the Land Commission and the Government can take possession of a holding any time they like? I have known of attempts being made to divide up farms of 50 acres. I can see that being done in the future. I think that is very regrettable and should not be supported by the ordinary rank and file member of Fianna Fáil. Any of us may have to sell a farm that has been properly acquired. If a man wants to go and offer his land as security to a bank will anything be advanced on it? What title is there to land when this Bill is passed? Not a bit.
Deputy Cosgrave spoke about one very peculiar section in the Bill which deals with the case of a farmer who might have a residence on a holding of ten acres and who might have further holdings of 40 or 50 acres. These holdings can be acquired under the Bill. Is it fair or just to give any Government power to interfere with such holdings? I cannot see that it is reasonable or just for the Government to seek such powers. This method of funding the annuities is neither reasonable nor just, because the Government have no right to look for annuities during the progress of the economic war. The annuities due prior to that period have been paid by the local rates. I ask Deputies on the Fianna Fáil benches to think of the moderate sized farm and not to mind the 1,000 acre farm. The section dealing with Government interference with reasonably sized holdings should be withdrawn. It has been stated that if a farmer works his land he will not be interfered with. A farmer might be working his land all right in the eyes of one Government, but probably next year things might not be going so well. No one has a right to leave a question like that to be decided by any official. This section gives the Government power to interfere with moderate sized holdings and that is a power that should not be in the Bill.
I am sorry to confess that I am not disappointed at the way the debate has gone. When introducing the Bill I knew perfectly well that Cumann na nGaedheal would discuss it in the same dishonest way that they have done, and that the Centre Party would discuss it in the same lazy and ignorant way that they have done. It would be all right for Cumann na nGaedheal to use the arguments they used, if they were talking to Fianna Fáil alone, because there would be no damage done. We know Cumann na nGaedheal quite well. I do not think it was right for them to deceive the two poor Babes in the Wood. One of the babes from Ballaghaderreen and the other——
The Liffey at ebb tide.
These two gentlemen do not know anything about the land law at all. Deputy MacDermot may know something about land tenure in the Place de l'Opera, but he knows nothing about it in Kiltimagh. Deputy Dillon talked himself into a trance about events of thirty years ago. He wakened up the other day but he forgot to look up what has happened since. Deputy Hogan started off by talking about the hard-working farmer. He led the House and people who do not know him to assume that he was the one bulwark of the hard-working farmer who earned his money well when other people were spouting. He spoke of the farmer who has a holding of 20 acres, with his house, on one receivable order. After his father's death, he worked on and bought 50 acres within half a mile, under another receivable order. The Land Commission, Mr. Hogan said, can now come down on that man and take the other 50 acres. "That," he said, "is the law as it stands in this Bill." He also said:—
"Under the Land Act of 1923, there was an attempt to deal with the very difficult problem of congestion and, at the same time, to preserve the security of tenure the Irish farmer had struggled for and, in fact, achieved since 1880 and even before it."
What was the point of that? To try to deceive ignorant people like the back benchers of Cumann na nGaedheal and members of the Centre Party into the belief that, up to now, the Irish farmer was, as Deputy O'Higgins said, "as secure in his tenure as the rock of Gibraltar." A few back benchers in Cumann na nGaedheal should know that that is not so, and before the Centre Party began to discuss any Land Bill they should, at least, have known a little about what was in the 1923 Act. Deputy Dillon, interrupting Deputy Moore to-day, said that nothing could happen the tenant farmer under the 1923 Act—that he was secure. I propose to refer to two clauses in the 1923 Act—Sections 28 and 29. Section 28 sets out quite clearly that when judicial holdings, on which the farmers were secured by the 1881 Act, vested in the Land Commission, the Land Commission have power to retain these holdings and resume them for the relief of congestion. They have not even to leave that man a single sod. Talk about our cutting down the large farmer to £2,000 value. Under that clause, the 80,000 tenants whose holdings were vested in the Land Commission since 1923 had not the right left to claim that a sod of ground should be left to them, not to speak of a holding of £2,000 value. Deputy Roddy and Deputy Hogan knew that perfectly well, and I think the ignorance of the Centre Party about it is unforgivable.
It is well-known. Do not try to quibble.
Is the Minister going to read the section?
I think the Deputy should read it himself. It will be a bit of a lesson to him.
I should like to hear you read it.
When Deputy Hogan talked about the hardworking farmer, whom we were going to dispossess, he simply used the arguments used against himself in 1923. If anybody turns up the debate in the Seanad, quoted here yesterday evening by the Attorney-General, he will find that all this argument about Bolshevism, the doctrine of Karl Marx and so forth, was used against Deputy Hogan in 1923. These arguments were used with much more point against him than they are being used against this Bill, because under the 1923 Act, Deputy Hogan reserved to the Land Commission the right to take from 80,000 tenant farmers every sod of their land without giving even an acre of ground in exchange. It was disgusting to see the hypocrisy and dishonesty with which Deputy Hogan and Deputy Roddy and other members of the Cumann na nGaedheal Party discussed this matter. I do not mind Deputy Cosgrave. Deputy Cosgrave is so ignorant of the land law that the other day he tried to prevent us from getting an estimate through to pay the Irish bondholders—the people who advanced the money for the purchase of land under the 1923 Act. Fortunately enough, Deputy Roddy was near the tails of Deputy Mulcahy's coat and did not allow him to force the matter to a division. But for one hour, Deputy Cosgrave spoke about the desperate thing we were doing, and he did not know that the money was going to pay the bondholders here. Deputy Cosgrave, alluding to-day to Sections 6 and 11, said they disclosed the British and landlord mentality. He quoted the section. It is a pity Deputy Roddy was not near enough to pluck him by the tails of the coat and pull him down before he made a fool of himself again, because the section Deputy Cosgrave referred to as disclosing the landlord and British mentality, is an exact replica of another section in the 1923 Act. Word for word it is the same.
Sub-section (3) of Section 29 of the Act of 1923.
Do you say that that is an exact reproduction, word for word?
Of Section 11.
Will you read it?
The Deputy can read it if he likes. Deputy Cosgrave spoke also about a land tax. The reduction of the land annuities he said was putting a land tax on farmers. I think the income tax payers would be very glad if the same kind of tax was put on them and their income tax halved. I was interested in hearing Deputy Cosgrave say that the Government here have power to collect taxes, but that they had not the right to collect taxes. I think if ever there was a statement subversive of Governmental authority it was that statement. For years he ruled in this country, executing people on the plea that he was enforcing the right of Government selected by the people to rule no matter what the majority thought, yet he has the impudence to come here to-day and question the right of the Government to impose taxes. The Government has the right to impose taxes, and so long as the Government has the confidence of this House it is going to act upon its right to impose what taxes it thinks proper to impose in the interests of the community as a whole.
You agree that they are taxes. That is the cardinal point of the whole thing.
Deputy Cosgrave and Deputy Hogan talked a lot about the morality of forgiving arrears. Deputy Hogan said nothing could be more demoralising and declared that the real injury the Government has done to this country is the moral injury of "putting a discount on thrift and honesty, and putting a premium on softness and dishonesty and other forms of weakness." Deputy Hogan was alluding there to the section of the Bill under which we propose to forgive arrears over three years due. That he declared was "putting a discount on thrift and honesty and a premium on softness and dishonesty." He went on to say that in the years prior to 1930 it was easier for the farmers to make money and that farmers who fell behind then should be forced to pay. Why did he not put that principle into the 1923 Act? In that Act, the arrears over three years due were forgiven, but the farmers had made money from 1920 back to 1914, all over the country. That was an easier time to make money for the farmers than from 1920 to 1922, yet prior to 1920 the arrears were forgiven. In every Land Bill introduced by the British the same principle was followed. We have decided to give the people a clean start in this country and not to have them burdened with a volume of arrears. We adopted that old principle.
Those old arrears were due to the landlords.
They were arrears of rent; these are arrears of annuities.
The Deputy made a speech that lasted for hours.
I was speaking to the point.
25 speeches were made against the Bill. Surely that ought to be enough and the Minister should be allowed to proceed.
We are going to collect the arrears that have accumulated in the last three years and we are going to forgive those that accumulated up to three years ago. There is something to be said against that by men of the type of Deputy O'Higgins who announced one day that it was wrong to allow the unjust man to escape even if a couple of just men had to be made to suffer. That was when he was speaking on the Juries Act. Under this section, undoubtedly, there will be some wasters escape who should be made to pay their land annuities. But there are a vast number of people who got into difficulties through fluke and other diseases that attacked their cattle, owing to which they got into arrears and would find it impossible to pay these arrears now. If we were to attempt to collect all the arrears, due prior to three years ago, we would be creating a big problem for the Land Commission, and we would be doing harm to an enormous number of families throughout the country who would be anxious to pay up if they could, but who simply could not. I do not stand for the principle that we should squash these decent people who got into arrears through no fault of their own, and put their families on the roadside, in order to get hold of the waster who should be made to pay his land annuities.
Why does not the Government bear the loss?
The Government is bearing the loss.
No, the county councils are bearing the loss.
The Government is bearing the loss. If Deputy Cosgrave, when he was in office, had forced the people to pay up, the money would not have been kept for a couple of years in the ratepayers' pockets. He tries now to create the impression that when we came into power he had only left a balance of £20,000 to be collected. As a matter of fact, the balance to be collected in respect of arrears over three years is something over £206,000, and these arrears were on account of the last years of Deputy Cosgrave's régime. We are not going to accept any amendment to collect arrears due prior to three years ago. There was a lot of hugger-mugger and hullabaloo raised by a few lawyers on the sheriffs section. There are some lawyers who would want you to go to court for leave if you wanted to have a tooth extracted. There is no reason why anybody should be alarmed at the sheriffs sections in the Bill. If we were to say that the sheriff could go in and distrain, and if he made a mistake he could not be made amenable, there might be some cause for alarm; but the usual Land Commission procedure will come in there—six days' notice and so on. If in any case the sheriff makes a mistake the farmer who is wronged can proceed against the sheriff, and the Land Commission will have to indemnify the sheriff against any risk he will have to take. There is no reason why we should continue the procedure of putting the tenant to expense on account of money he owes, simply to prove that he owes it, when he acknowledges he owes it, and everybody knows he owes it, and when he would not dispute in court that he owes. One of the principal causes of the amount of arrears left here was the fact that when a farmer got into a half-year's arrears he was taken to court, and, after a couple of weeks, instead of a half-year's arrears, he owed a sum to the Land Commission, when the costs were added, twice, and sometimes three times, his arrears. Once that burden of costs was put on the tenant it made it impossible for him to find his feet again. We are not going to put these costs on him.
Deputies spoke as if it was something new that Land Commissioners should be appointed and dismissed by the Executive Council. Deputy Cosgrave said that under the British régime the Land Commissioners were irremovable. He did not go on to say that it was his Government who turned the Land Commissioners from being irremovable officials into removable officials. Deputy Cosgrave and Deputy Hogan tried to leave the Dáil under the impression that there was some dark plot on to confiscate the land in this country and that, in order to do so, we were going to put two removable men in charge of the Land Commission to whom we could dictate policy. As a matter of fact, the Land Commissioners at present are removable. During the 18 months that we have been in office the Land Commissioners held their office at the will of the Executive Council. We did not interfere with them. During these 18 months while we had control of removable officers we had also a provision that was put into the 1923 Act by Deputy Hogan and Deputy Cosgrave which gave the Land Commission power to take every sod of land from the 80,000 farmers who had yet to be vested. People who in the Dáil and down the country make speeches trying to alarm the tenant farmers really do so not to guard the rights of the ordinary hard-working farmer but to make it impossible for the Land Commission to deal justly with the small uneconomic holders and the landless man who knows how to work land and who has some capital to go on the land. The people who will make alarming speeches will be trying to keep uneconomic holders still uneconomic and the landless man, who has capital and a knowledge of working land, on the road looking over the ditch at land going to loss. What has been the position since 1923? When the 1923 Act was introduced Deputies were told that it was designed to put an end to congestion. As time went on, it was discovered that there were certain things in that Act which made it impossible for the Land Commission to carry out the work which the Government said they should be at. The Land Commission officials during the last ten years have been abused by every section of the community and they have been abused, in my opinion, in the wrong. The people were told that the Land Commission had power to divide land and to deal rapidly with congestion. As a matter of fact, in practice, the Land Commission had not power to do it. Take this last 18 months since we came into office. Were the questions about the division of land confined to the Fianna Fáil Party? Deputy Nally and other Cumann na nGaedheal Deputies and Deputies of the Centre Party were putting question after question about particular estates in their constituencies and asking why the Land Commission did not divide the land. When the Minister in charge had to get up and say the matter was still under consideration, that inspectors were looking after it, or something like that, there was a snigger all round the House. The people who should have been abused for that state of affairs were not the Land Commission officials, but those who told the people that the Land Commission were to do certain work and then did not put the tools into the hands of the Land Commission to do the work.
We have to make up our minds once and for all whether it is right to relieve congestion or not. If we want to relieve congestion we will have to give the people who are responsible for the relief of congestion the proper legal powers to do the work. What we are doing under this Bill is just that and no more. Who in the Fianna Fáil Party wants to render the small farmers insecure in their tenure? I should like to know that.
Every damn one of them.
I do not know whether the two Babes in the Wood own an acre of land, but I was born and reared on a farm, and I am working a farm, and I hope to die on a farm.
It is a pity you did not stay on the farm.
I did not sit in an armchair or stay on the farm; I went out and fought for my country when fighting had to be done. If I had been resting in an armchair for the same number of years as Deputy Dillon, I would be ashamed of myself if I did not know what was in the Land Bill of 1923. Who on the Fianna Fáil Benches wants to render the small farmer insecure?
The Bill does it.
We want to see one tenure in this country rendered insecure, and one tenure only. We want to see the man whom Deputy MacDermot talked of, who is using his land in a definitely anti-social manner, rendered insecure. The best fixity of tenure that any man can have on his land is to be able to say to anybody who comes along the road: "There is my land; it is being used to the best possible advantage to the nation; no man could use it better."
I paid my annuity and I paid my rates—that is the best answer.
The landlords could have said that.
They could not.
The landlords paid rates and a lot of them paid rents to other landlords.
The farmer is in a different position altogether. He did not confiscate the land.
The landlords, according to some of the principles outlined here by Deputies, should never have been disturbed in their fixity of tenure. Why were they disturbed? They were disturbed because their tenure was anti-social. Neither the farmers on the Fianna Fáil Benches nor those farmers who supported Cumann na nGaedheal or the Centre Party want to see the small working farmer disturbed in his tenure. All of us have the same desire to see him secure. But what was the state in which Cumann na nGaedheal left us? They left the Land Commission in this condition, that in certain districts, where there was dire congestion and where there were rotten slum conditions with people with large families housed together on a couple of pounds valuation, they could not relieve that congestion unless they took the powers given to them under the 1923 Act to dispossess the man who had a judicial rent fixed under the old Acts. It happened that in certain districts where there was congestion the Land Commission were being compelled to do something by reason of local agitation and they had to take land off a small farmer who was not protected by the 1923 Act and to leave undisturbed a large farmer who was protected by that Act. A couple of old ladies with about 1,500 acres were left undisturbed and 100 acres had to be taken from a small farmer. Is that the sort of fixity of tenure that any Deputy in this House wants to continue? If some of the Deputies in this House want to relieve congestion and want to do something more than merely talking balderdash here in the House and down at the cross-roads, they will have to give the Land Commission the powers to relieve congestion.
What will they do with the land, when they get it, to make it pay?
I thought it was tobacco you were growing.
Deputy Moore asked me about sporting rights. When the Committee Stage is reached, we hope to introduce an amendment which will give the Land Commission power to take the sporting rights that were left with the landlords in the Acts prior to the 1923 Act. Under the 1923 Act the sporting rights all vested in the Land Commission and the practice has been since then to vest those sporting rights in the tenant. We intend to take power to do the same thing with the sporting rights vested in the landlords in the Acts prior to 1923.
Deputy Moore also raised the question of a further reduction for the people who bought land under the Soldiers and Sailors Acts. I must confess that the 55 per cent. flat reduction is not an ideal solution, and if any Deputy here on any side of the House can give me an ideal solution of the problem, and one that is practicable—so that instead of giving a flat rate reduction on any of the cases under the Soldiers and Sailors Acts and the 1923 Act, we can deal only with the hard cases—I will be quite prepared to accept it. However, quite a lot of research and a lot of thinking was done, and every sort of solution that was put up meant that the Land Commission would have to undertake again the complete revision of the 20,000 holdings that were fixed. It would have meant that, instead of getting on with very necessary work, they would have to retrace their steps and do work which would have taken them about another three years to complete, in order to enable them to sort out the cases which were hard from those in which a fair rate had been fixed. We found that it was absolutely impossible to do it. We examined the price at which the land had been bought, and the rents which had been apportioned on them, and we tried to get some rough and ready standard of value by which we could judge whether or not the rents fixed on these tenants were fair or not. I had some idea myself that, if possible, wherever the land annuity exceeds £1 per pound valuation we should reduce it to £1, but on further examination and after going into certain specific cases we discovered that what we suspected to be true was true, and that the Poor Law Valuation bore no relation at all to the present value of land.
We found that all sorts of things had happened since the Griffith days and that certain lands had been improved while other lands had been allowed to go back to their natural state, so that the valuation on the lands to-day has no relationship at all to their real value. We could get no ready or quick way to do it and that was the reason we had, reluctantly, to adopt the system of giving a flat 55 per cent. reduction to the tenants who secured holdings under the Soldiers and Sailors and the 1923 Acts. Deputy Cosgrave alluding to one section of the Bill where we were taking power to review judicial rents, said that it was immoral and unjust to reduce the sum which the tenant had agreed to pay to the landlord. There has been a lot of new morality preached in these last few years. I wish Deputy Cosgrave would take a few of the old farmers, down through the country, into a room and give them a lecture on the immorality of the fight they put up in order to get a reduction in the rents which the tenants had agreed to pay the landlords. In what way were these rents fixed, I wonder? They were fixed at the point of the gun. The tenants had to agree to pay the rents fixed or to get out, and all we are intending to do in this Bill is that where an unfair and an unjust rent was fixed on the tenant and where the landlord is still being paid for it, we are only going to pay him a just price and we will put that just price on the incoming tenant. If Deputy Cosgrave wants to fight the landlord's battle let him go along, but do not let him be coming in here and telling us that it is bad form, that it is immoral. I do not want lectures on good form or morality from Deputy Cosgrave or from anybody on those benches. I want to conclude by saying this: that if we want the Land Commission to deal with certain problems, problems of congestion, we have to go and give the Land Commission power to do it. All we are asking for in this Bill are the powers to enable the Land Commission to carry out the work that Cumann na nGaedheal promised the people they were going to carry out.
If we are not going to pass this Bill, well, then, let us, for goodness sake, drop the idea of the division of land. There is no use in fooling about it. The Land Commission have only succeeded in dividing about 30,000 acres of land per year, and the price the country had to pay for that was much too expensive. If there was any way of doing what Deputy MacDermot talked about, of letting ordinary economic pressure sub-divide the land, it would be much cheaper and much more effective than the way we are doing it. But it cannot be done at the moment. One thing more I want to allude to is that Deputy Roddy said we had 250,000 acres of land on hands. He gave Deputy O'Higgins a tip afterwards to mend his hand in that regard. Deputy Roddy should know that there is a lot of difference between land registered on a file and the land on hands. One acre of land on hands is worth ten acres on the files.
Surely the Minister is not going to repudiate his own statement made on the Land Commission Estimates last April when he told us that there were 430,000 acres of land acquired by the Land Commission?
Read the statement and show me where it is.
My statement made here to-day was that there were 240,000 acres on hands. According to the Minister's statement made here in this House, there were 480,000 acres in the course of acquisition.
Yes, in the process of acquisition. It is quite a different thing to say that there are 480,000 acres in the process of acquisition to saying that there are 250,000 acres of land to be divided.
There is considerably more, according to the Minister's own statement.
Does Deputy Roddy not know the difference between the process of acquisition and land on the hands of the Land Commission?
Well I am afraid that the Minister does not know it himself. I have a statement here made by the Minister, and I will read it:—
"As regards untenanted land, the present position is approximately that over 430,000 acres have been actually acquired by the Land Commission ... of which some 360,000 acres had already been divided among some 18,500 allottees. This leaves about 74,000 acres on hands, but not yet formally divided."
I said 60,000 acres.
The Deputy said 240,000 acres.
No. The Minister went on, to say:
"This leaves about 74,000 acres on hands ... in addition prices have been agreed upon or fixed for over 42,000 acres and offers have been made or provisional lists published in respect of a further 76,000 acres. ... Then the Land Commission have under investigation with a view to its suitability for acquisition an area of some 700,000 acres of which 256,000 acres have been inspected, apart from a considerable area which has been put aside after preliminary examination as unsuitable for present action but with the possibility of revival if necessary."
Is that the Minister's statement?
It is the Minister's statement.
I thought it was from the Irish Press the Deputy was quoting.
Deputy Roddy was trying to leave the House under the impression that we had 250,000 acres on hands ready for division and that for some reason we would not divide it and that in face of that we came to the Dáil asking for powers which we did not want.
I am not going to allow the Minister to mis-quote me. I said 250,000 acres in process of acquisition and I said there were 60,000 or 70,000 acres on hands. According to the Minister's own statement there are 74,000 acres on hands. I have it here.
Not alone did the Deputy say there were 250,000 acres on hand but he was quoted by some innocent Deputies on the Farmers' Benches as saying that. He gave the tip to Deputy O'Higgins to mend his hand.
I never said a word to Deputy O'Higgins about it.
Well then Deputy O'Higgins was not so simple as the others. The fact is the Land Commission has the balance of the lands that were not distributed. There is a big difference between lands that were taken over for distribution and lands on hand. There is also a big difference between lands in process of acquisition and lands acquired.
The Minister himself said 500,000 acres.
Nobody wants to know anything about land to see the difference between lands in process of acquisition and lands on hands.
May I ask why the Minister has not distributed the 74,000 acres? Portions of that land have been lying there for 18 months.
A lot of it will lie there for the next hundred years because it is mountainy land which can be given to no one. But we will drop that now.
Oh yes, the Minister will.
The Minister does not want to go into it.
We will drop it by saying this, that it is quite evident to everybody in the House that Deputy Roddy was trying to leave the Dáil under the impression that we had 250,000 acres of land on hands.
You have a considerably larger area of land on hands than that.
I think Deputy Fitzgerald-Kenney should take out Deputy Roddy and give him a few lessons.
The Minister cannot get out of it in that way.
It is impossible to put any sense into Deputy Roddy's head or Deputy Fitzgerald-Kenney's head.
We are still awaiting the Minister's explanation as to why the 74,000 acres are not divided.
Oh then it is now down to 74,000 acres.
It is 500,000 acres on the Minister's own figures.
It is higher than 74,000 acres on the Minister's own figures.
We are not going to be satisfied with a distribution at the rate of 30,000 acres per year. We want the Dáil to give us power to divide the lands as quickly as possible. If the Dáil is not prepared to give us the powers to divide land quickly, well, then, we are not prepared to carry on. We believe that one of the greatest social needs of the moment is to see that the land of this country is utilised to the best possible advantage. We want an outlet for men who have experience—and some of them have a little capital to work lands that are not now being worked. We are asking the Dáil for those powers, and we are not going to fool the country or the Dáil as Cumann na nGaedheal did for a number of years by pretending that the Land Commission had the power to do the work but that there was something wrong with the machine.
Why has the rate of distribution fallen from 50,000 to 30,000 acres a year?
What is the distribution of 30,000 acres a year? It is a mere bagatelle.
It has dropped since the Minister took over control.
The distribution has been carried on at, roughly, the same average for the last ten years.
Nonsense. The average heretofore was 50,000 acres.
In one year the number of acres went up by putting into it a lot of work done by the Congested Districts Board years ago. The average was 30,000 to 35,000 acres, but we are not satisfied with that. That is only tinkering with the problem. Either the Dáil will give us powers to go on with the work or they will have to give them to somebody else.
How much does the Minister aim at dividing per year in the future, and what amount of money does he expect will need to be provided by the Oireachtas in order to achieve that distribution?
We intend going ahead as rapidly as it is possible for human beings to go.
Not one word was said here with regard to the evicted tenants. I would like to know from the Minister if they will get priority when land is being divided.
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- Dockrell, Henry Morgan.
- Dolan, James Nicholas.
- Doyle, Peadar S.
- Esmonde, Osmond Grattan.
- Fagan, Charles.
- Finlay, John.
- Fitzgerald, Desmond.
- Fitzgerald-Kenney, James.
- Holohan, Richard.
- Keating, John.
- Kent, William Rice.
- Lynch, Finian.
- MacDermot, Frank.
- MacEoin, Seán.
- Bourke, Séamus.
- Brennan, Michael.
- Broderick, William Joseph.
- Brodrick, Seán.
- Burke, James Michael.
- McGilligan, Patrick.
- McGovern, Patrick.
- McGuire, James Ivan.
- McMenamin, Daniel.
- Minch, Sydney B.
- Morrisroe, James.
- Morrissey, Daniel.
- Mulcahy, Richard.
- Murphy, James Edward.
- Myles, James Sproule.
- Nally, Martin.
- O'Connor, Batt.
- O'Higgins, Thomas Francis.
- O'Leary, Daniel.
- O'Mahony, The.
- O'Sullivan, Gearoid.
- O'Sullivan, John Marcus.
- Redmond, Bridget Mary.
- Rice, Vincent.
- Roddy, Martin.
- Rogers, Patrick James.
- Wall, Nicholas.
When will the Committee Stage be taken?
On Tuesday next.
What is the date for amendments? I suggest Wednesday next.
It has been arranged already that Tuesday will be the date.
May I ask with whom was the arrangement made?
It was definitely arranged in the House, when it was agreed to postpone the Second Reading, that the Committee Stage be taken on the 25th July.
I understood the Minister to say it had been arranged——
Nothing can be arranged with Cumann na nGaedheal.
The Committee Stage of a Bill cannot be fixed until the Second Stage is passed.
Surely a little longer might be allowed to draft amendments to the Bill. Surely it would not unduly inconvenience the Government if the Committee Stage is taken on Wednesday, Thursday and Friday.
If there were any means by which we could get one member of the Cumann na nGaedheal Party and one member of the Centre Party to speak for each Party we might be able to make some arrangement. I will say that if the Centre Party makes an arrangement they will keep to it, but it has been found hopeless to get an agreement with the Cumann na nGaedheal Party. You will get an agreement with one man, and it is repudiated by all the others. The Committee Stage was fixed three weeks ago for the 25th July. This Bill has been before the Dáil for three or four weeks.
Does the Government Whip suggest that there was any difficulty in making an arrangement in connection with the Committee Stage of this Land Bill? Whom did he make any arrangement with?
It was agreed here by the President to postpone the Second Reading, and in doing so he announced that the Committee Stage would be taken on the 25th July.
If the Minister remembers, the President consented to the postponement of the Bill until Tuesday if the Minister could produce the Bill. The Minister was unable to produce the Bill, whereupon it was further postponed to Thursday. Surely if it were agreed that the Committee Stage would be disposed of on Wednesday, Thursday and Friday—and finished on Friday—that would meet the Government fully.
If that can be arranged. Meantime, the Committee Stage is fixed for Tuesday next.
It is not fixed for Tuesday.
Say, provisionally fixed?
There was a provisional announcement, but it is usual to fix the date for the Committee Stage when the Second Stage is passed. It so happened that the Minister in charge of this Bill knew nothing whatever of what he was talking about. In the first place, we were approached last week as to whether or not the Appropriation Bill and the Estimates would be taken by 12 o'clock at night. It was under consideration, and was put to us whether we would have a long sitting on Thursday or Friday. We heard nothing about it until Friday morning. No decision was taken. It so happens that nobody on the Government side knows the first thing about any business that is before the Dáil, and they are blundering on, from day to day, in that fashion. This evening, for the first time, there has been an attempt, so far as the Opposition is concerned, to work out a programme for the Government, and a sort of provisional agreement was reached to take the Committee Stage on Wednesday. We will divide on the motion to take the Committee Stage on Tuesday.
Will Deputy Cosgrave nominate somebody in his Party who can speak authoritatively for his Party in the arrangement of business?
To the Government Whip.
The poor man has my greatest sympathy.
We have never found it possible to ascertain what the Government wants. Might I point out that the case the Minister makes on this matter is that a certain date was fixed for the Second Reading and a certain date announced by the President for Committee Stage, allowing a certain interval between the Second Reading and Committee Stages. The Second Reading was postponed from the date announced by the Government and is it not obvious that the Committee Stage should equally be postponed?
Is it not a fact that the Second Stage of this Bill was postponed because it took three meetings of the Fianna Fáil Party to agree amongst themselves about the Bill?
- Aiken, Frank.
- Bartley, Gerald.
- Beegan, Patrick.
- Blaney, Neal.
- Boland, Gerald.
- Bourke, Daniel.
- Brady, Brian.
- Brady, Seán.
- Breathnach, Cormac.
- Breen, Daniel.
- Briscoe, Robert.
- Browne, William Frazer.
- Carty, Frank.
- Clery, Micheál.
- Concannon, Helena.
- Harris, Thomas.
- Hayes, Seán.
- Hogan, Patrick (Clare).
- Houlihan, Patrick.
- Jordan, Stephen.
- Keely, Séamus P.
- Kehoe, Patrick.
- Kelly, James Patrick.
- Kelly, Thomas.
- Kennedy, Michael Joseph.
- Killilea, Mark.
- Kissane, Eamonn.
- Lemass, Seán F.
- Little, Patrick John.
- Lynch, James B.
- Maguire, Conor Alexander.
- Moane, Edward.
- Moore, Séamus.
- Moylan, Seán.
- Corish, Richard.
- Corkery, Daniel.
- Corry, Martin John.
- Crowley, Fred. Hugh.
- Crowley, Timothy.
- Daly, Denis.
- Derrig, Thomas.
- De Valera, Eamon.
- Doherty, Hugh.
- Everett, James.
- Flynn, Stephen.
- Geoghegan, James.
- Gibbons, Seán.
- Goulding, John.
- Hales, Thomas.
- Murphy, Patrick Stephen.
- O'Briain, Donnchadh.
- O'Doherty, Joseph.
- O'Dowd, Patrick.
- O'Grady, Seán.
- O'Kelly, Seán Thomas.
- O'Reilly, Matthew.
- Pattison, James P.
- Pearse, Margaret Mary.
- Rice, Edward.
- Ruttledge, Patrick Joseph.
- Ryan, James.
- Ryan, Martin.
- Sheridan, Michael.
- Smith, Patrick.
- Traynor, Oscar.
- Victory, James.
- Walsh, Richard.
- Ward, Francis C. (Dr.).
- Alton, Ernest Henry.
- Anthony, Richard.
- Beckett, James Walter.
- Belton, Patrick.
- Bennett, George Cecil.
- Bourke, Séamus.
- Brennan, Michael.
- Broderick, William Joseph.
- Brodrick, Seán.
- Burke, James Michael.
- Burke, Patrick.
- Byrne, Alfred.
- Cosgrave, William T.
- Costello, John Aloysius.
- Curran, Richard.
- Daly, Patrick.
- Davis, Michael.
- Davitt, Robert Emmet.
- Desmond, William.
- Dillon, James M,
- Dockrell, Henry Morgan.
- Dolan, James Nicholas.
- Doyle, Peadar S.
- Esmonde, Osmond Grattan.
- Fagan, Charles.
- Finlay, John.
- Fitzgerald, Desmond.
- Fitzgerald-Kenney, James.
- Holohan, Richard.
- Keating, John.
- Kent, William Rice.
- Lynch, Finian.
- MacDermot, Frank.
- MacEoin, Seán.
- McGilligan, Patrick.
- McGovern, Patrick.
- McGuire, James Ivan.
- McMenamin, Daniel.
- Minch, Sydney B.
- Morrisroe, James.
- Morrissey, Daniel.
- Mulcahy, Richard.
- Myles, James Sproule.
- Nally, Martin.
- O'Connor, Batt.
- O'Higgins, Thomas Francis.
- O'Leary, Daniel.
- O'Mahony, The.
- O'Sullivan, Gearoid.
- O'Sullivan, John Marcus.
- Redmond, Bridget Mary.
- Rice, Vincent.
- Roddy, Martin.
- Rogers, Patrick James.
- Wall, Nicholas.
Amendments should be in by mid-day on Saturday.
For the Land Bill?
Without disrespect, sir— what a hope!
If amendments have to be in by that date for the Committee Stage, will there be a certain amount of latitude allowed in putting in amendments for the Report Stage?
It is rather soon to put that question. I stated that amendments should be in by 12 o'clock on Saturday, but Deputies might remember that the Chair is never unmindful of the interests of various Parties.
The Dáil adjourned at 10.25 p.m. until 3 p.m. on Thursday, 20th July, 1933.