Even when the prices were good I know very few cases where graziers came along and bought purchased land. I know a few cases where they did, but were they not doing considerably better than the man who sold it? I take it the Acting-Minister does not stand up for the man who got 40 or 50 acres of good land under the 1923 Act at a very low annuity, who had all the benefits of the good times, and then sold out? There are such cases. Does it matter who gets his land? As a rule, it is the son of a good small farmer in the neighbourhood, who has made a success of his own land, who gets it. Even if it were a man who had 200 acres, is he not doing far better than the man who had to sell it? What I am concerned to point out is that there is no problem in that direction at all. If the small farmers of the country are broken on such a scale that a huge number of their holdings are sold out, and get into the possession of one man, then the problem will arise for some Dáil to deal with. As the Acting-Minister mentioned the Seanad, when the Land Bill of 1923 was being put through the Seanad one Senator made a great point that the Land Act of 1903 was not a success. I want to point out that in the County Galway there has been more land purchased than in any four counties in Ireland, and I know only one farm where the tenants failed. That was a farm bought in 1904, and bought 75 per cent. too dear. The tenants failed in that case. It is the only farm in Galway where the tenants failed. It is only in an odd case that the tenant purchasers have failed, through their own fault, and I do not think any Party in this House should have much sympathy for them, or bother too much what way their land goes. Let the man who is able to buy do so. There is, therefore, no such problem. There is no reason on earth for doing the injury to the country you are doing. Why should you shake security and deter and discourage the really good farmers in the country? And when you do take their land—100 acres here and there—you have got very little way with your problem. You are doing a tremendous amount of harm on the one side, and on the other side you are doing very little good.
Again, take the instance of my own County of Galway. It is a very big county and I know it very well. There has been a considerable amount of land purchase carried out there, but there is still an amount of land hunger. If you take a hundred acres of land from a man who has 150 acres or 200 or 300 acres how far will you have got? I do not believe that you will be able to deal with 500 congests, not to talk at all of the landless men. What is the problem? There are five or six thousand people looking for land. You may say that only shows how severe the problem is, but you cannot deal with it in this way. You cannot deal with these people no matter what measures you take. If you are serious about this problem of land purchase, deal with it as a business proposition without any political considerations as if your idea was to solve the problem efficiently and economically. If you did that there is no doubt you would confine your operations to the congests. The problem of congestion is there still, and I do not see how it can be solved in its entirety. If you confine yourself to the problem of congestion you will be able to do something with it. What you have done is, you have diffused yourself. You are trying to deal with the question of congestion and, also, with the problem of landless men. That will leave every landless man expectant, and the landless men are well able to organise themselves. They are a younger body of men. For every landless man you deal with you will leave three congests undealt with. You cannot deal with landless men without giving each 25 or 30 acres of land. But that amount of land would deal with three average congests. You cannot deal with both. When this Bill is finished and squeezed dry you will have done no good to either class. You will only have effected one positive thing and that is that you will shaken security and the tenure of the best class of farmers in the country—men who are farming and working from two to three hundred acres of land. There are many farmers with two or three hundred acres of land who, needless to say, are not ranchers, and who are not men supposed to be doing nothing with their land. There is a tremendous number of such farmers to be found in the counties of Wexford, Cork, Louth. These are the men who produce the best stock at the Dublin shows in every line of farming. They produce the best pigs, cattle, beef, dairy produce. They are a type of farmers, and there are a great many of them, who are a credit to the farming community. These are the type of farmers who have made Scotland the greatest agricultural country in the world.
I do not really know what your intentions are and what impression you are going to create in the minds of that class of farmer. I am afraid the impression you are going to create in the minds of these men is that whatever may happen to-day or to-morrow, it looks as if their security was gone and that their land can be taken from them any time, and that they are to-day in the same position that they were in 20, 30 or 40 years ago. In these circumstances the sons of these men, who have the best brains and the most enterprising spirits that could be put to work for the country, will leave the land, and will go in for professions or something else. I regard this Bill as very unsound from that point of view. However, we are in Committee Stage now, and our view is to try to improve it. The Minister himself admits that he sees difficulty.
Under the Bill as it stood originally, where a man owned one holding upon which he resides, and which may be quite a small holding, and owns another holding perhaps a mile away, he gets no protection in regard to the second holding which, can be taken from him without any condition at all. The Minister has endeavoured to change that when he introduced this section. Dealing with this new section specifically, I draw the Minister's attention to the words "immediate neighbourhood." To my mind that will lead to constant litigation. I do not think that expression can be interpreted by reference to any other Land Act. I do not remember such an expression in any other Land Act and I am perfectly satisfied it will lead to an immense amount of litigation. I confess I do not know the meaning of it. What do you mean by the words "immediate neighbourhood?" When this comes before the appeal tribunal and the question to be decided is whether land in the same village is in the immediate neighbourhood you will be immediately faced with the difficulty, because another case, in exactly the same circumstances, may come before the appeal tribunal, but the land in question may be in the next village. Are they then to decide that because it is in the next village and not in the same village it is not in the "immediate neighbourhood?" The words are most unnecessary. Why should they decide, for instance, that land because it is in the next village is not in the immediate neighbourhood, while land in the same village is, when the men are both in the same circumstances, both bought their land? And why should one man be penalised because his second holding is four or five miles away?
Take any county you like. You have men holding land under these circumstances. You have a man with a second holding of 40 or 50 acres, five or six miles away from his other holding. You may have another man whose holdings are only one mile apart. The man whose holdings are six miles apart has to suffer all the inconvenience when he wants to change his stock. If it is a question of tillage, and I know cases where such holdings are in tillage, the man will have to cart manure long distances. Such a man is penalised by the fact that the outside farm is several miles away. In the one case, where the out holding is near, the judge may decide that it is in the immediate neighbourhood. In the other case he may decide that it is not in the immediate neighbourhood and so it goes. I do say that is a most arbitrary distinction. There is no scientific, equitable or considered basis for making that distinction. What I would suggest to the Minister is this: I take it his intention is not to take £2,000 worth of land at all unless where it is absolutely essential to take it, if it is farmed as an ordinary farmer would farm it. Would it not improve that if he struck these words out altogether? As the Bill stands sub-section (3) of Section 28 reads:—
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 exerciseable unless such tenant or proprietor satisfies the Land Commission:—
(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;
Supposing he strikes out "resides on the declared land and that he or she," as suggested by Deputy Roddy's amendment, then it would read "that he or his wife uses such land in the same manner as an ordinary farmer." What would your objection be?
As regards the residential holding, anybody who uses land as an ordinary farmer must have a residential holding. At least one of the holdings must be residential; he must reside on it. In order to make that sure, why not alter the section "that he or his wife has a residential holding," and uses the land at issue in the same manner as an ordinary farmer? I do not think the words "as a residential holding" are necessary, because a man who uses land in accordance with proper methods of husbandry must have a residence on one of his bits of land. I think it would meet the purpose if you accepted Deputy Roddy's amendment.
I will ask the Minister to consider that there is likely to be a lot of litigation on this question of the immediate neighbourhood. No matter how you interpret it, you will have a lot of injustice. Take the case of a man residing in Wexford, who gets a chance of buying land near the market in Dublin or Drogheda. This man fattens cattle, has a lot of stall-feeding, and gives a lot of employment. He is the sort of man who employs a lot of labour. It would be a great advantage to him to have land close to the market at Drogheda or Dublin, or land at Trim, where he could leave stock for a couple of days before selling them. He is the type of farmer who finishes animals. Now you rule him out because his second bit of land is not in the immediate neighbourhood. It is bought with an eye to the market where he sells his finished products. He buys this land in order to market his produce efficiently. Under this measure you propose to take that land from him. No commercial price you pay him for that land, even in good times, will compensate him. I suggest that the Minister's amendment is unsatisfactory. He ought to adopt Deputy Roddy's amendment, which gives him every safeguard he wants.