Land Bill, 1945—Second Stage (Resumed).

I have very little to subscribe to the debate to supplement what I said on this Bill last night. I honestly believe that it is a Bill which should be considered very carefully by every Deputy before he goes to the Division Lobby. I am going to oppose the Bill and my reason for doing so is that I am of opinion that the real title which the Minister should have given to the Bill is the Vote Controlling Land Bill, 1945, because I believe the Bill is brought in for the purpose of dealing with ungrateful and disloyal Fianna Fáil supporters who secured land through the influence of the Fianna Fáil organisation and who, for reasons of their own and probably because they have since gained intelligence, now see fit to support another political Party.

I am honestly of opinion that if this Bill is passed it will be used at every election by the Fianna Fáil Party as a threat over those holding land. They will be told that, unless they support the Government, this Bill will be implemented against them. The unfortunate people are going to be compelled to vote in certain directions through fear that they may lose their land under the powers which the Government are assuming under this Bill. I think it most unfair that Section 4 should be passed in its present shape and I strongly urge the Parties in this House, who have the advantage of better advice than I have, to see that suitable amendments will be introduced under which an allottee will have some tribunal to appeal to. According to the Bill, Land Commission officials, civil servants, will be the divine architects of proper methods of husbandry. What does a civil servant know of good methods of husbandry? I think that is a most unfair proposal and that there should be some provision made for an appeal to a proper tribunal so that the unfortunate allottee will have an opportunity of having his case dealt with by some independent people.

For example, I think it is not right to provide that the appeal should be to the land court or to the Land Commission, simply because it is exactly the same as appealing to the people who want to take the land. In my opinion, that is the very same as having the devil as a justice and holding the court in hell. I think there should be some independent person appointed to deal with such appeals, such as an ordinary High Court judge or the Chief Justice, so that there would be an impartial decision. I think it most unfair that legislation of this kind, which has a very serious effect on the rights of the citizens, should be introduced. I am sorry to see legislation introduced for the purpose of evicting people from land to which they are justly entitled. I, at least, as one Deputy am going to oppose it because I am not going to be a bailiff for any Minister for Lands. I ask the Minister to state when he is replying what benefits will follow from this Bill or what good results he has in view. Assuming that the Bill will be passed, what hope has he that it is going to bring good results? We should like to know what were his reasons for introducing legislation of this kind. I think it is a Bill that will meet with very serious opposition from the country people in general.

I thought, when I heard that a Land Bill was going to be introduced, that it would be a constructive Bill, not a destructive one. I thought the Government was going to seek powers whereby it would be possible to deal more speedily with lands held up in the Bankruptcy Court or to acquire more speedily the large ranches which for many years have been on the list for the attention of the Land Commission. I thought that the Minister would apply for powers to the House to acquire these large ranches, many of which are situated in my own constituency, and in the vicinity of which there are large numbers of small holders who are well prepared and equipped to work the land.

As I said in the House last night, I am sorry that the Government saw fit to bring in a Bill as a result of which they will throw unfortunate victims on the roadside. I asked the Minister last night what provision it is proposed to make for the unfortunate people who are going to be the victims of this legislation. Where are they going to go? Will they have to migrate or go into the local poorhouse, or what is going to happen them in these circumstances? I think it is most regrettable that any Minister should have sponsored a Bill of this kind. I would not be at all surprised to read that Joe Stalin had introduced legislation of this type, but when we see an Irish Minister for Lands seeking these powers, I think it is most unchristian and undemocratic. I would not be at all surprised if Stalin were seeking these powers, but we have come to the stage now when the Communistic powers of Stalin are being adopted by the present Government. As I pointed out last night, I think that we——

The Deputy should not repeat so extensively what he said last night.

I want to remind the Minister——

The Deputy may not repeat what he said last night.

We should get some information when the Minister is replying as to what he proposes to do in order to provide for these people who will be victimised by this legislation. Instead of the Government introducing a Bill of this character, I think it would be of far greater advantage to the people if a Bill were introduced to encourage people to live on the land, to help them in every way to do so, and not to drive them off it. Listening to speeches at Fianna Fáil meetings at elections throughout my constituency, I always understood it to be the policy of the Government to keep the people on the land. This is a Bill to drive the people off the land. I cannot see how the Government are able to sit on two stools. Between the two stools, they are bound to come to the ground. In my opinion this is a Bill that gives very dictatorial powers to civil servants. I shall oppose it, and I hope it will receive very severe criticism and opposition from all sides of the House.

In considering a Bill of this kind, Deputies have, first of all, to make up their minds whether the fundamental principle of the Bill is sound or otherwise. If we are satisfied that the fundamental principle of the Bill is sound, we may support it, even though we may differ with some sections of the Bill. What is the main principle of this Bill? The main principle, as I see it, is to give the Minister power to restrict the work of courts in protecting the ordinary citizens. We have in this country a Constitution of which I think we should be proud. I say that realising that the Constitution under which we live was drafted by the Government, possibly by the Taoiseach himself. In applauding the Constitution, I would be paying tribute to the Government Party to which I am opposed, but I want to approach every question of national importance fairly. I want to add, honestly and fairly, that I think our Constitution compares very favourably with the constitutions of other democratic countries. One of the principles of our Constitution is that justice shall be administered in the courts established by law, by judges appointed in the manner provided by the Constitution. Now, what are we seeking to do in this Bill? We are seeking to prevent justice from being administered in the courts established by law, by judges appointed under this Constitution. We are seeking to place the Minister and his Department above the courts of justice in this country.

The Minister made a plausible case in introducing this Bill. He told us that there were a good many unsatisfactory features which had become noticeable in the administration of the distribution of land, and in the manner in which land which had been allocated to allottees was being worked. He suggested that he was merely coming to this House to ask that the law be tightened up. If that were what he was asking from this House, I think he would get it from all Parties. I think all Parties would be agreeable to a tightening up of the law so as to prevent abuses, but I do not think any Party in this House should be agreeable to a tightening up of the courts, to a restriction of the powers of our judiciary to decide as between man and man in this State, because it must be remembered that the Minister is only a man just the same as the humblest citizen in this State.

Our Constitution also provides in Article 40 that all citizens as human beings be held equal before the law. The issue which has arisen, and which has been brought to the notice of the Minister by the inspectors of his Department, is that, in the opinion of the Minister's Department, citizens who were allotted land have violated the terms of the contract under which they obtained their holdings. A contract is a very solemn thing, whether it be entered into between one citizen and another, or between one citizen and the State. If one party to a contract holds that that contract has been violated by the other party, he is entitled to go into court and state his case. But in this Bill it is sought that one party to the contract shall have the right, by a certificate, to declare that the other party has violated the contract, and that there shall be no appeal whatever to any court over the decision of that party. That does not appear to me to be law or justice. It violates and outrages our traditional Irish sense of justice and fair play. As has been pointed out, in a court of justice even the most incompetent, the most useless allottee, can go before an independent judge and make some case at least. He may make the case that through illness in his family, or through some misfortune, he has been unable to work his land properly. He may make the case that the misfortune which has prevented him from carrying out the terms of his agreement is of a purely temporary nature, and that, if given a chance, in a year or so he may be able to recover his position and carry out fully the terms of his agreement. In a case like that, an independent tribunal would view the matter from the standpoint of equity, justice and fair play. But the unfortunate thing is that we have a Minister in a hurry, and we have a Department in a hurry. They want to get something done quickly, and in order to get it done quickly they are prepared to crush and override the rights of ordinary individuals. I know that the Minister and a good many of us in this House have been brought up in a tradition in which the laws, the courts, have not been held in the highest possible esteem, but, if this country is to remain free, if our people are to remain free, and if we are not to be relegated to a condition in which we will all be slaves, it is essential that the authority and dignity of the courts should be upheld, and that they should have the right to decide at all times between the Executive and the citizen.

The Minister, of course, may seek to establish a case for the Bill on the ground that he has no alternative to this measure; that there is no other way of overcoming the abuses which have arisen except by this drastic piece of legislation. I do not believe that at all. I believe that it is not outside the bounds of human intelligence and ingenuity to devise ways and means by which the law can be tightened up so that it will not be so easy to evade in the future. For example, when an ordinary property owner sets a house to a neighbour, we all know how difficult it is to get that neighbour out of the house, but we know too that an intelligent person who is setting property to another will get over the difficulty by a caretaker's agreement or something of that kind. There are always ways and means of overcoming the difficulties which arise, without restricting the courts.

I want to know, first of all, why the Minister is in such a hurry now to rectify all those mistakes. The conditions of which he complains have prevailed over a long term of years. A certain number of people have not been living in the houses allotted to them. Over a long term of years people have been subletting portions of the land allotted to them, and it seems to me that the fact that they were doing so was due to lax administration; due to the fact that it was not brought to the notice of those people by the officials of the Minister's Department that they were violating the agreement under which they accepted those holdings. Now, to remedy that lax administration which has gone on over a long term of years, the Minister seeks to take away from citizens their ordinary rights. That is what I object to. I think that by tightening up the administration of his own Department, by ensuring efficiency in his own Department, the Minister could see that the land which is allocated is worked in a proper way.

No indication has been given by the Minister as to what he intends to do in regard to people who will lose their holdings now through the administration of this Act. We shall have in this country a problem somewhat similar to that which prevails in Eastern Europe—a large number of displaced persons who, with their wives and families, have to seek accommodation somewhere. Those people are human beings, men, women and children. They are going to be thrown out of the homes which have been given to them, and which, by reason of the fact that they have had them for a number of years, they have come to regard as their own. Those people will be thrown out. No provision is made for them, except under the degrading poor law system. They can go to the workhouse, to the county home, or to some other institution of that kind. Now, I think that those people are the victims of inefficiency, as the Minister will admit, in his Department, either with regard to the manner in which they framed the law or the manner in which the agreements were entered into. When it comes to a matter of examination and supervision, those people should not be harshly or unfairly treated, and I hold that if they are thrown out of their homes, they are being treated unfairly and harshly. I do not think that the Minister means to be unfair or unjust in this manner—in fact, I am sure that he does not—but would it not be better if, instead of violating all the principles of law and justice, his Department should turn over a new leaf, and see that in the allocation of land in future there would be more care taken in the selection of allottees and that there would be no political pull or influence of that kind? I would ask him to see that, in connection with the administration of his Department, there should be nothing of that kind to interfere with the efficient administration of his Department. It is unfortunate for the Minister and for the Fianna Fáil Party that a great many supporters of that Party are now drifting out of it in a steady stream. People, who are actively associated with the Fianna Fáil organisation, and who know the tricks which were carried on by that organisation, are now drifting out of it because they know that, in general, in the matter of the allocation of land, political influence was allowed to interfere with the discretion and the efficiency of the permanently established officers of the Land Commission. That exposure has now appeared. I know that the Minister may be trying to do things better in the future, and I am sure that he is endeavouring to do so, but in trying to rectify one mistake, or a series of mistakes, it seems to me that he is proceeding in the opposite direction, and that he will make another series of mistakes. It seems that he is seeking to make himself or the officials of his Department supreme in this matter, and to override the decisions of the ordinary courts. It would seem that the Minister wants to make himself the Supreme Court in this matter, in order to decide whether people have violated agreements or not, and I hold that that is a thing that the Minister or the officials of his Department should not be allowed to do.

I deplore the fact that the tone of this debate should have run on this low level. It seems to me to be a pity, not merely in this instance, but in every other instance in which legislation is introduced by the Government, that the members of the Opposition Parties should take it for granted and immediately decide that whatever the aim and object of the legislation may be, and however it may be calculated to improve the welfare and the happiness of our people, since it was introduced by the Government, it must have been planned in Hell and presided over by Satan. Do the Deputies who speak in that way think that they are doing their duty to the people of this country, or upholding the dignity of this House, or even enhancing the dignity of their own Party?

I suppose that we are now raising the tone of the debate!

Do these people think that, in speaking as they do, they are supporting the aspirations of the Irish people, who have sent them here? This Bill is rendered necessary because, in the working of the Land Commission, it has been found that persons have got land to which they were not entitled.

Hear, hear!

The Deputy is entitled to a hearing.

Surely, Sir, he is entitled to a cordial assent to the proposition that he is advancing.

The Deputy is entitled to a hearing, and an alleged approval of his remarks might be regarded as an interruption.

I do not propose to descend to the very low level which Deputy Dillon set in the course of his remarks on this Bill last night. Lots of charges have been levelled about political corruption and influence, but I think that the public can come to a conclusion as to the value that may be placed on these various allegations, by examining the statements made by Deputy Dillon last night. He challenged me to come to this House to defend my actions during the time that. I was Minister for Lands. Now, in refuting Deputy Dillon's charges, I may point out in a sentence that, as every Deputy in the House, other than Deputy Dillon, I suppose, is aware, I was never Minister for Lands. Furthermore, for the information of some of the newer Deputies here, who have recently come into the House and who seem to be inclined to follow along the lines laid down by Deputy Dillon, I may say that although I have had the honour of serving under various Ministers as Parliamentary Secretary, I was never charged with the responsibility for the administration of the Land Commission—never, for a moment. I do not make that statement with a view to evading any blame in connection with the administration of that Department, if blame there be, but I was never a man to run away from my responsibilities. Can Deputy Dillon say as much? I always stand by my convictions. Can Deputy Dillon assert that he will do the same? I hope he can.

Now, let us examine the various charges that have been bandied around the House in connection with the various Ministers charged with the administration of this Department. I am not endeavouring to anticipate the reply of the present Minister, or of other Ministers who have been in charge of that Department. I know these men. I have had the honour of working with them. They are men who have rendered good service to this country. They are men who have served this country in times of danger and of risk. They are men of the highest personal honour and integrity, and it is against these men that Deputy Dillon would seek to fling these baseless charges.

What has been the record of Fianna Fáil in connection with land division, and their attempts to see that those best entitled to the division of land would get it? Shortly after the Fianna Fáil Government came into power, Senator Connolly, who was then Minister for Lands; introduced the Land Act of 1933. I ask Deputy Dillon if he knows anything about Section 6 of that Land Act and its meaning. The Deputy is supposed to be a lawyer. He ought to know something of the meaning of a section of an Act of Parliament. In that section of the Act of 1933 there are certain reserved matters, which are taken out of the hands of the Minister, and reserved to the Land Commissioners, who were given the status of High Court judges, in order that they would be above Party, and not be mere pawns of any political Party while it was in power. That was the first step taken by Fianna Fáil to clean up the mess created by our predecessors in office. In the past, many people—and the old prejudice has continued— thought for instance, as Deputy Dillon thought, that because my predecessor in office, Deputy Roddy, was in charge of the Land Commission, hey presto, I had exactly similar functions. Similarly, up and down the country I have from time to time taken considerable pains to disillusion people on various aspects of the question of land division. I have been receiving letters from various parts of the country from people who are as ill-informed as Deputy Dillon, and I took the extraordinary step—I think it was an unprecedented step—of drafting a circular letter for the information of those whom it might concern. I sent that letter, not merely to the secretary of every Fianna Fáil cumann in Clare, but I sent it for publication in the local paper, the Clare Champion. I crave the permission of the Ceann Comhairle to quote this letter, in refutation of the many allegations levelled against various Ministers who had charge of the Land Commission, as well as against Fianna Fáil and Fianna Fáil Deputies. I ask Deputy Dillon to listen with both his ears. The letter is as follows:—

"The illusion that the division of land rests in the hands of Deputies seems to be widespread judging by the number of letters I receive from people who seem to be under that impression.

The division of land is a matter confined exclusively to the staff of the Land Commission subject to approval by the Commissioners. Under Section VI of the Land Act of 1933 even the Minister is prohibited from interference in such matters as the selection of allottees or of the parcels of land to be given to allottees, and when the Minister is prohibited by law from interference in such matters people should understand that a Deputy is also bound by the same law. Deputies can, of course, recommend suitable persons as allottees, and such recommendations must be considered by the staff dealing with an estate, but the final decision in all such matters rests with the commissioners."

I appeal to Deputy Dillon and to others who followed in the same despicable campaign of mud-slinging, to listen to this:—

"Again, some people imagine that membership of some political Party or organisation entitles them to consideration by the commissioners. Nothing could be further from the truth. Land must be divided amongst those most entitled to it according to economic necessity, and politics as such can have no bearing whatever on the matter. This must not be confused in any way with the special preference to be given to ex-I.R.A. men having proved national services in each category of persons entitled to land.

Trusting that the above may help to remove at least some of the many misconceptions regarding land division so widely held by people generally up and down the country."

What is the date of that circular?

About ten years ago. I have repeated it time and time again. That has been my standard. I wonder would Deputy Dillon, if placed in a similar position to mine, have had the moral courage, or the physical courage to write such a letter and have it published in the local papers. I have done it. It has not done any damage. I have been honest with my people and, as a result, they have grown from strength to strength and, in that constituency to-day, thank God, not a single representative of Fine Gael is left. That is why these baseless allegations were levelled against me last night. At a later stage when you returned to the House, a Chinn Comhairle, you ruled that a Minister who had been in charge of a Department at one time but had left it, should not be charged with anything done in that Department for the time being, as the Minister at present in charge is the only one responsible for its policy. Deputy Dillon took advantage of your absence, sir, to level a charge against a man who never had anything to do with administration.

This Bill is rendered necessary because a number of people chosen in the first instance by inspectors were given divisions of land, houses and out-offices approximately value for £1,000, as a free gift from the community. Does Deputy Dillon, Deputy Flanagan, or any Deputy on the Opposition Benches, think that men who were given divisions of land, houses and out-offices to the value, approximately, of £1,000 by their neighbours, and by the community, and who for years have left the houses unoccupied and permitted them to go to rack and ruin, should be left there while other people, perhaps, much more deserving, are left without houses and land? Are the others not entitled to consideration? I grant that mistakes will be made. I do not want to blame the officials of the Land Commission. I know how the machinery works and while human nature is human nature there will be errors of judgment, and men will make mistakes by sometimes choosing the wrong persons. No man who has any concern for the taxpayers of this country can stand idly by and look on houses lying derelict and the land growing weeds. The houses are going to rack and ruin. That is the necessity for the introduction of this Bill and, for that reason, I support it and commend the Minister for introducing it.

I do not know if the Parliamentary Secretary has helped the Minister to prepare this Bill. Except for the last two sentences of his speech, the Parliamentary Secretary refrained from making any useful comment on the Bill that has been presented to the House. He rather lapsed into a type of debate which I, for one, resent. The Parliamentary Secretary accused this Party of using the privileges of this House for a political campaign, or for political debate, but he immediately started to give an example of one of the most political speeches ever made in this House.

It was necessary.

I always say that if an accusation, perhaps a wrong accusation, is made against any person or Deputy, if it is not true, he need not lose his wool. He is able to contradict it in a sensible, peaceful and legitimate way. The Parliamentary Secretary waxed furious because Deputy Dillon and some other Deputies made speeches which, he thought, reflected on his administration. I have never used debates in this House to serve my political ends. No member of any Party can allege that against me. I listened to several speeches in the debate last night. One of those speeches was made by Deputy Flanagan, a one-time member of the Fianna Fáil Party. He made accusations, which if correct—I presume the Deputy was speaking with knowledge—are astounding. I could hardly believe then, and I can hardly believe now, that such things took place.

It would not surprise me.

I have correspondence with the Fianna Fáil Party to prove it.

If it is correct, it is lamentable. I shall say nothing further on that point. The Parliamentary Secretary accused Fine Gael, in tremendously extravagant terms, of opposing every measure that the Government bring in as if it were planned in Hell. That is hardly a proper parliamentary reference by a semi-Minister of State. I shall commence my speech in a different tone. I congratulate the Minister on having the courage to come to the House with a Bill to remedy a state of affairs which he found existing in his Department when he took office. Members of the House should have the courage of their convictions and should appreciate their responsibilities as Deputies. Members of every Party should recognise that, even if it is only by chance, there is some good in the Party opposed to his. I am willing to admit, straightway, that, for once, I see some good in this endeavour by the Government to rectify an existing evil. Everybody with eyes to look and ears to hear knows the position in regard to land distribution. All of us know that houses, built at considerable expense to the taxpayers, are in many cases uninhabited and that the lands attached are being neglected. The Parliamentary Secretary mentioned that the cost to the Government in some of those cases was about £1,000. Does any Deputy, as an honest, conscientious representative, believe that the taxpayers' money should be wasted in such a manner? I, for one, shall not subscribe to conduct of that sort.

We heard speeches from Deputy Dillon and others, in glorious terms, pointing out that, under this Bill, there will be another period of evictions and that families will be thrown out of their homes. I do not believe that anything of the kind will take place and I shall endeavour to secure that it will not take place. The number of families; if any, to be affected by this Bill will be very small. Even if there is to be a single case of hardship, are we to refuse to pass this Bill because of that single case? What about the hardships which were imposed when the land was being distributed? Did not the people from whom the land was taken undergo hardships? Was not the land taken from them—at confiscation prices, in some cases—so that those allottees would be given an opportunity of living and working in their own country? They were presented with houses and land up to a value, as the Parliamentary Secretary stated, of £1,000 in some cases. It was hoped that they would made good on those lands. To their credit, many thousands of decent, honest persons did make good and have become useful citizens. Are the men who lagged behind, the men who refused to work or to reside on their holdings, to receive special privileges and to be allowed to continue to do as they are doing?

I accept the principle of this Bill. I think that the Minister is perfectly right in trying to remedy the state of affairs he found in his Department when he took office—to remedy the scandals which, he knows, exist. I believe that all of us should accept the principle of this Bill. The Bill needs amendment and we propose to put in amendments. Two or three sections of the Bill should not, in my opinion, be passed by this House in the precise form in which they appear at present. However, that will come up on Committee Stage. We hope to put in amendments to those sections so as to prevent extreme hardship. The allottee should have an opportunity of making representations to some body other than the Land Commission. Deputy Dillon referred to fixity of tenure and said that we were undoing all that had been done to fix the people in the land. If there is any Deputy in this House who has fought for fixity of tenure for farmers, it is I. On Land Bill after Land Bill for the past 19 or 20 years, I have been fighting for fixity of tenure for the farmers —even for the people from whom the land was taken. It was taken from them by both Governments, I hope, for good reasons. It was expected that the people to whom the land was given would make proper use of it. It was felt that they should be compelled, if necessary, to make good use of it. I have no doubt that grave mistakes have been made in the allotment of land. I shall go no further than that.

Enough heat has been engendered in this debate. The Minister is right in trying to correct the mistakes which were made. I should have liked to see land administered in a manner different from that in which it has been administered here. When land was being given to allottees, I should have liked to see some definite conditions imposed. I should have liked to see something similar to the system in operation in Canada and other countries introduced. I realise more than any other Deputy the difficulties of the ordinary allottee. Probably that is because I was an allottee myself, under conditions that no allottee of land in this country ever endured, and I believe it was the proper system. Years ago, when I was in Canada, we were given 160 acres of land, on certain conditions. We were not given a parcel of good, useful, cultivated land, already fenced, and presented with a house, and told to go ahead and farm the land and live on it. We were given acres of waste, mostly scrub land, and told: "If you do the following things within a number of years, if you clear so much of it, if you cultivate so much of it, if you build a house and a barn on it, and live on it for six months of each year for so many years, we will give you a title and it is yours." It was to the credit of a great number of pioneers in Canada that they did so and it was the pioneers who made that country great. It was their sweat and their work which earned them the title to their holdings.

In this country, no allottee of land was given it on extremely hard conditions of that kind. There should be some similar conditions here, some defined conditions under which the allottee would take the land, that he was to do certain things on it and improve it, if possible, from the state in which he got it. That was the real intention of the Land Acts. Land was supposed to be taken from those people who were using it badly. In regard to every estate I saw divided, one of the cases made was that the late owner was not making efficient use of it. It was hoped that the new owner would improve on that and would use the land more for the benefit of the nation generally than did the man who had held it. When we see land taken from one holder and handed over to a new holder, we expect that the new man will make better use of it, since it is land given to him at the expense of the community.

Deputy Cogan waxed eloquent on the liberty of the subject. There is no attempt whatsoever in this Bill to interfere with that. Deputy Dillon spoke in the same terms last night, saying that there was interference with the liberty of the subject. If there were ever any logical attempt to do so, in regard to land division, or to interfere with the real rights in the ownership of land it was done in the case of the people from whom the land was taken. When new men were put on to the land, they were put on in the expectation that they would become eventually the vested owners, with the same rights and privileges as we hope the ordinary small farmer has at present. However, they have got to earn their title to that, by making some demonstration that they have used the land, rightly for a number of years before they become vested. There should be some definite conditions and it should be made certain that they fulfil them. When that has been done, the land should be vested quickly.

I do not care a snap of my fingers if a decent allottee, having got land and having worked hard and decently for four or five years on it, and having become vested in it, sells it then to someone else. I do not see that any great harm has been done to the State or to the people in general, if an allottee, having got a small parcel of land and having worked it for four or five years, decides, for some reason or another, to sell it. Why should he not do so? What would it mean but the passing over of the land from one small allottee to another? The change will not do any harm. One of the things which may have led up to the difficulty is the delay in vesting. There should be a quickening up of the system. Those allottees who are there at present should have their holdings vested. There are many decent men who have been working their holdings for ten or 15 years but still are not the owners. I know of estates in my own county which were well divided by the Land Commission, where there are very few delinquents, where the land is worked well and is manned by men who are a credit to the country, and whose farms are a credit to them; but they are not yet vested and they do not own the land. That is a lamentable state of affairs and should be corrected.

In accepting the principles of this Bill I repeat that an attempt must be made, and that the Minister was right in making it, to undo the mischief which had been created, to set right the conditions he found in his Department when he came into it. I am familiar with particular cases in my own county, where people got farms worth up to £1,000 many years ago, who have made no endeavour whatsoever either to work the land or to live in the houses, which are now falling down. I know that the Department made efforts to warn those people year after year that if they continued in that way the land would be taken from them. They went so far as to ask them to give up possessions, but it seems that the Minister found that, for some reason, he was not able to go further. He brings in this Bill now on that account. Should we refuse to give him the power to deal with such people? These are the people with whom the Minister primarily wishes to deal.

We have the extravagant case made by Deputy Dillon and others, that this Bill is levelled directly at the allottee with ten or 15 children, who miraculously grew up since he was given the farm. It is to be hoped that some of the farmers were not such a long term there, that is, for some 15 or more years. As to the figures mentioned by Deputy Dillon and Deputy Giles, regarding the unfortunate families of 15 or 16 children, planted there and now to be evicted, when did they get their land? They must have got it before this State existed, as they could not have raised 15 or 16 children in the last few years.

The Deputy is not a married man.

I am a bachelor. There is talk of raising these huge families in the last few years, since they got the land. These are the cases that anyone can bring ín, if he wants to make an extravagant opposition to this Bill. I do not believe there will be two families such as described by Deputy Dillon, Deputy Giles and other speakers, evicted under this Bill, when it becomes an Act. If there are one or two sections which do not appeal to any Deputy, let him put down amendments. I intend to propose some amendments myself. I believe that any honest Deputy, who has any regard for his responsibilities to the people who put him in and to the taxpayers in general must support the principle of this Bill. Anybody who has any regard for decent allottees, for the great majority of people who have worked the land well, will not rise here and and make a case for the deliquent, who is useless in this country, as he is useless in any other country.

I would like to congratulate Deputy Bennett on the speech he has made now and the explanation he gave about this particular measure. Indeed, I do not think he need have troubled to go into such detail, since I hope that he did not presume for a moment that anyone paid much attention either to Deputy Giles or Deputy Dillon—or to a few others who spoke in the same strain. It is a sort of calamity that these extravagances are used here. I would not mind so much about these extravagances being used so far as the intentions of the Bill before the House are concerned—perhaps there is a licence to exaggerate. But when you come to attacking bodies of very decent people here, attacking their characters, it is a very different matter.

References were made to the migrants who have come into County Meath. They did not come in with my approval—I would prefer to see the members of the community in County Meath getting those lands— but it was a national policy and under that policy those migrants came into holdings in the County Meath. They are doing well there. They were welcomed into County Meath. They are looked upon by the majority of the people of County Meath as decent, respectable, honest persons and I think it is a calamity to malign them in the way Deputy Giles attempted to malign them. I know that what he said has not any weight; possibly they know him as well as we do, or as well as anybody else does, but at the same time, in case there are people here who may not know it, I want to say as regards these people who were maligned that there is nothing wrong with them. They are quite good citizens and excellent neighbours. What has been said about them might, perhaps, create animosity and bitterness. It is a pity that such a thing as this should arise and I simply make this statement in order to be satisfied and to assure myself that nobody here believes a single word that was said about these people.

It is almost as amusing to hear Deputy O'Reilly reproving people for extravagance of speech as it was to hear Parliamentary Secretary O'Grady chastising people on this side of the House because they had not more regard for truth, honour, justice and fair play—of all things, in connection with the distribution and division of land. We have had that coming from Deputy O'Grady, who is, perhaps, more responsible than any other member of this House for the fact that this Bill has been introduced. I doubt if any man used more effort with such success in getting people placed on the land, given allotments, not on merit, but merely, from Deputy O'Grady's point of view, because they were digging, and were prepared to continue to dig, with the right foot. However, that is that.

It will not serve any useful purpose to go back in detail on what has happened over the last 12 or 13 years in connection with the division of land. I can only speak from my own personal experience and I say that, so far as the division of land in my county is concerned, generally speaking it was done in a fair and straight way and the land was given to allottees on merit. No matter how conscientious the inspector may be, or how conscientious the Department may be, and no matter how efficient, it is quite possible that a person may get land and will not use it subsequently to the best advantage.

There are one or two principles in connection with land that we ought to get into the backs of our minds. One is that the State did not set up machinery, at tremendous cost, in order to give land to individuals merely for the sake of the individual. It was and is done for the welfare of the nation, not for the welfare of the individual, because if that were done, then of course you might as well leave the land to one individual as to another. It ought to be understood that the main purpose of this Bill—I hope this is the purpose; I think it is —is not to put people out of their homes; but to see that they will live in the homes that the State has provided for them. That is the position as I see it.

Those who opposed the Bill are justified to this extent. There are, undoubtedly, one or two objectionable sections in the Bill. Unfortunately, that is one of the weaknesses, one of the failings, of the present Government, and we see it repeated in Bill after Bill—in the Public Health Bill, in this and in many other Bills. Parts of the legislation are excellent, but then it is spoiled by bringing in one or two sections that it is impossible to justify. I do not know what the reason for that may be, but I suggest that no question of expediency and no question of saving trouble or labour or expense can justify the section in this Bill relating to certificates and proposing that, without the right of going into court, a man can be dealt with in the manner in which the Bill seeks power to deal with him. So far as some of us here are concerned we will, as Deputy Bennett said, do our part on the Committee Stage to see that that section is remedied.

We must remember that as regards all land that was allocated in the last ten, 20 or 25 years, no matter what is paid by way of annuity by the person to whom the land was given, that land is still subsidised by the general taxpayer, and the general taxpayer has some right in the matter. Land is divided, not for the sake of the individual, but because it is considered in this Legislature that it is in the national interest to divide it. If a person gets land, he gets it in the hope that he will produce food from that land for his family, with the surplus going to the nation. If he fails to do that, he fails in his contract and it is not the Land Commission that fails.

With regard to the case made about the eviction of people with six, seven, eight, ten or 12 children, I cannot see that arising because you can take it from me as a married man, unlike Deputy Bennett who is a bachelor, that if you have an allotment and you have a wife and six, seven, eight or ten children to provide for, even though you may be inclined to be lazy you will, because of your wife and family, have to work.

Those people are generally the best occupiers.

I have listened to a lot of the speeches made on this Bill and to the Minister's opening address and I take this opportunity to refer to certain remarks made by Deputy Dillon last night. Deputy Dillon is a man who claimed the privilege of this House on one occasion when he was attacked. He said that from the point of view of decorum and decency this House should not descend to personalities and then that very honourable Deputy last night refused to practice what he preached and he descended to the very level he was arguing against and for which, on another occasion, he wanted the protection of the House.

Listening to the various Opposition speakers, I am inclined to think that their remarks are typical of those that have been used here from time to time. Looking at this from a logical point of view, are we to allow the rural part of our country to be made up of ruins and to allow people who have been allotted holdings to live elsewhere? Are we to allow a wholesale movement to the towns and cities? This Bill has been brought in by the Government to deal with the existing state of affairs, and I must compliment the Minister on the very serious and sincere attitude he has taken up with regard to land since he was appointed Minister. He is not another Stalin; he is a decent charitable man who will not evict anybody without very good reason for doing so.

I know cases in my own constituency of people who have refused to live on holdings allotted to them. They are not Fianna Fáil supporters and were not recommended by a Fianna Fáil club. If I had power in the morning to recommend a particular man for a holding, I would refuse to do so. I prefer to leave it to the Land Commission. The opposition have criticised this proposal when they know that, while the Minister has power in relation to his Department, the decision as to who should get land and what land should be acquired is a matter for the Land Commissioners duly set up under the 1933 Act. There is no Deputy who, when he gets a letter from a constituent about land, will not forward that letter to the Land Commission, and if any Deputy denies that I suggest that his denial is a terminological inexactitude.

If we are to advance as a nation we should at least try to be honest and should not allow a man with a holding of land to refuse to live on it. We should not allow him to live elsewhere and to get work on the roads which the man who has no land should get. Not alone is he a burden on the State but he is depriving the unemployed man who has no other means of livelihood of work on the roads. A man who has a holding and who is making a decent effort to work it, should get every encouragement from the Government. I know also that, in County Dublin especially, many men who are making an honest effort to work their land are anxious to get their holdings vested, but we have been promised by the Minister that that will be done in due course, and I know well that the Minister will not take undue advantage of any allottee who is inclined to work his land.

While dealing with this question, I should like to give my views on certain land division in County Dublin which has come to my notice. While the Land Commission inspectors whom I know are decent, honourable men who do their jobs in a conscientious manner, it must be admitted that anything human cannot be perfect and we cannot expect that every inspector will do the right thing all the time. We could make mistakes from time to time in regard to the allotting of lands and the one thing which I definitely disagree with, and have disagreed with so long as I have been in public life, is the allotting of small holdings. My idea of an economic holding is a holding on which a man can keep two horses, that is, 30 acres.

How many acres?

Mr. P. Burke

30 acres. My point is that if you give 30 acres between three men, they are neither farmers not labourers, but if you give one man 30 acres, he will employ another man and two people will get a livelihood out of the holding. If, however, we are to protect the land in this country and to ensure that we will not have a country consisting of derelict farms, something must be done. I see no suggestion of a Stalin attitude in this Bill. It is a Bill designed for the general good of the majority of the people. I should like to see it go even further than it goes. I should like to see provision made by which a man who has land will be compelled to live on it, because we have too many people with land who live elsewhere. If that state of affairs continues, I do not know where this country will go.

The Clann na Talmhan Party are the people who should at least give a headline in this matter. They have criticised the Minister for introducing a Bill which is for the benefit of the people, but what good to this nation, to themselves or their families, are the men who have land and who make no effort to do anything with it? No country in the world, no matter how democratic, would allow such a state of affairs to continue. I may be speaking against my own interests and may be told later on that I adopted a rather high-handed attitude on this matter, but I believe in what I am saying. I come from a family which was associated with the Land League since its inception and I am deeply interested in these matters. I think the Minister is taking a very honourable attitude and that the Bill will be for the benefit of everybody. In conclusion, I ask the Minister to see to it that, when the occasion does arise to dispossess anybody, due consideration will be given to each case and that no undue hardship will be inflicted on the persons concerned. I also urge him to insist on people who have large holdings living on them.

I had no desire to take part in this debate, but this House seems to have got hot and bothered in 1946, after having sat dormant for ten or 12 years and having permitted to develop the state of affairs which has brought about the necessity for this Bill. Some years ago, I ceased to put forward the matters with which I then dealt with which have, in my opinion, brought about that necessity. These allottees are attacked from two angles: first, that they are lazy and wasters; and, secondly, that many have been placed on land through political influence who did not want land at all. That may or may not be true. It is quite easy to make allegations against poor people and I do not say that these allegations are true or untrue, but the case I put forward to this House 12, 13 and 14 years ago, when this legislation was first introduced, was that the whole approach to land division was wrong. This Bill confirms me in that view. My contention was that 20 acres of land of any kind—and the better it was, the worse it was for the allottee to live on—was not sufficient. Deputies yesterday and to-day spoke about what is to be done with the fathers and mothers who have ten, 12 and 13 children who will be evicted under the Bill. These are the people who should have been considered at the time this policy was being adopted.

I move the adjournment of the debate.

Debate adjourned.