I wish to draw attention to the increase in the number of the staff in the present year which involves an additional expenditure of £64,000. In the supervisory and clerical side of the division there is an increase of 28 in the indoor staff and 48 in the outdoor staff. If he has not already done so, I would like the Minister to give some explanation of the necessity for that increase in this present year of financial stringency. I should like also if the Minister would give the House some figures as to the cost of the renovation of Shelton Abbey. This work was recently undertaken by the Minister's Department and, as pointed out by Deputy Brennan, a very good job was done there. I understand there was a lot of dry rot and fungus encountered there. Most of these old buildings taken over by private individuals or the State in recent years have been found to contain dry rot. Under sub-head C (2), in regard to forestry development and maintenance, there is an item of £25,000 in regard to the cost of purchase and construction of buildings. What buildings are concerned there? Would that be Shelton Abbey?
Committee on Finance. - Vote 48—Forestry (Resumed).
That would be foresters' houses and shelters for the workers.
The sub-head increased from £7,000 to £25,000. I thought that the Minister might have had to buy old mansions——
No, the price of those would be taken out of the Grant-in-Aid.
——in order to get the land. If he had to buy those mansions, he should not value them very highly because they are all nearly full of dry rot and fungus.
All that sub-head is in respect of foresters' houses and workmen's shelters.
The Minister would be fully justified in giving the foresters better houses. Is it the intention of the Department to provide more houses for the workers where they are badly housed? I think that would be a desirable development.
No. We are providing the forestry work; the local authority should provide the houses.
As far as the Forestry Division is concerned, the trend has been to get rid of workmen's houses on lands they acquire, if they have no use for such houses. They are not inclined to retain very many houses, but I suppose, while the local authorities are providing houses, there is not much we can say to the Minister on that point. I hope the Minister will tell me when he is concluding why the additional——
The Minister will not have much to tell. The Deputy has been asking him questions all the time.
Does the Deputy wish to speak after me?
I have already made my speech.
The Deputy might be allowed speak again. The Minister hopes to acquire a lot more land this year, but one wonders if he is acquiring land that will grow good forest trees at any time in the future. Forestry is more than a social service, and I hope it will always be so considered. I hope that some time it will be an economic service. That will not be in our time, but it may be so in the next century. I hope the generations who will be there then will reap the benefit of it.
Because of the price the Minister is prepared to pay for most of the land being acquired, he cannot possibly hope to get land of much value. I often said in this House, and I repeat again, that poor land or very scraggy land will give very poor, scraggy timber. There is no doubt about that. You cannot hope to grow good timber in very poor land. From the social point of view of giving employment, there probably is justification for trying to do so. Every activity in this country, whether by the Government or private individuals, has been accompanied by increased costs within the last two years, but the price offered by the Minister for lands suitable for planting has been reduced.
I hope the Minister, as a fair-minded, honest man coming from a rural area, will use his persuasive powers with the Department of Finance. He cannot hope to get reasonably good plantable land for £3 or £4 an acre. The poorest mountain in the country is worth that for sheep grazing or something else. I hope that the trend at the moment is not to bring into the pool a type of land which, a few years ago, would have been considered unplantable and which forestry directors all down the years have described as unplantable. I hope there is not a race on the part of the Forestry Division to see how many thousand extra acres can be planted in order to please Deputy MacBride or anybody else. I hope the Minister will not direct the activities of the Forestry Division in that way, and that his instructions to them will ensure that there is a reasonable hope of growing timber economically on the lands planted. The Minister should see that very little planting is done on land about whose quality there is very grave doubt.
I should like to turn now to the question of the price the Minister pays for land. If he gave a little more for land, he would get better class land. It is estimated that, between bog and mountain and valley in the Twenty-Six Counties, there are 15,000,000 acres. A quarter of a million of acres of that is under State forests. It is thought that there are 2,000,000 acres of non-arable land. You can spend public money for the sake of stepping up your acreage under forests in order to be able to satisfy public demand on the number of acres planted. It is all right for the Department of Lands to say they are doing their stuff, that they have so many acres planted, but are these acres composed of land that will grow timber? At best, I suppose forestry is 60 per cent. a social service from the point of view of the cost of planting and maintenance.
However, there is the most important question of whether, when the timber is mature in 50 or 60 years, it will be good timber. We all know that throughout the country the best land produces the best growth of hedgerow or trees. That will be pointed out to you by anyone who has given the matter attention. The same applies to forestry: the best trees will be grown on the best land.
I hope that if the Minister comes here again with another Estimate—his health will remain good, we hope, but he may have to shift his tent—that he will be able to tell the House that he has persuaded the Government to allow him to increase the price he will pay for land for afforestation. The Minister is not handling a depressed Department; there is plenty of money provided in all other directions. I wonder why the Minister has the "neck" to come in here and say he will acquire another 30,000 acres this year at the price for which it was acquired 30 years ago.
No land is acquired by compulsion; it is all acquired by agreement.
The Minister passed a Bill last year which gives that statement a bit of a twist. He has compulsory powers for the acquisition of land. I agree that some of the land is acquired by agreement——
It is not "some of it" at all. All is acquired by voluntary purchase.
There is good reason for the fear I have at the back of my mind. While every other movable and immovable piece of property in the country has gone up by from 100 to 300 per cent., it is hard to see how the Minister could now get the same type of land for the same price as was paid for it 30 years ago. It is very hard to believe that. I hope the Minister will not be niggardly in the prices he will pay for the land, because, if he is not, it will ensure that better class land will be acquired and that better class forests will be the result.
In the past 40 or 50 years, State activity has provided 250,000 acres of forests throughout the country. That could be supplemented very much if there was any real encouragement to get people who own land to plant even half an acre each over a five or ten year period. If that could be done—it could be achieved through a national campaign of propaganda—it would add very much to the pool of woodlands in this country; it would add much more to it than any forestry section ever could do, or could ever hope to do, out of funds provided by the community. Our whole outlook has been based on how much the State can plant, how much the Forestry Division can arrange to have planted each year.
There is far more scope in the other direction and we should seriously concern ourselves with endeavouring to step up the amount of private planting throughout the country. Every encouragement should be given to the owners of the 12,000,000 or 13,000,000 acres of land in the country to plant a certain amount each year. It would require only a very small amount out of each holding. The fact that only the same £5 grant is available now as was given 40 years ago does not give that encouragement. The same type of restrictions are there in relation to the width, the depth of planting.
The Minister has given a figure of £3,500 for the provision of grants last year. I have not with me the accounts for other years. I wonder how much of that £3,500 was given in grants in the last financial year. I should think it was a very small amount. I want to suggest seriously that the Minister should see to it that the officials attached to his Department engage themselves, by lectures and other sorts of propaganda, in encouraging landowners throughout the country to plant any suitable patches they might have.
During the first and second world wars—the Minister may not be old enough to remember the first world war, though I am unfortunately old enough to remember it—large tracts of land were denuded of timber which has not been replaced. The Department of Agriculture is now reclaiming, at no little expense, a considerable area of those lands which could have been replanted, had the owners been given any little encouragement. Every half acre that our landowners are prepared to plant is an addition to our pool of woodlands. The Government should encourage such private planting by giving substantial grants. It should be Government policy also to enlist the aid of local authorities, to see that each local authority will have a forester on its staff in order to give local landowners advice on afforestation. There are nearly 400,000 farmers in this country and even if they planted half an acre or quarter of an acre, it would mean a substantial growth of trees in five or ten years' time. It would be at least as beneficial as what the Minister has planned in connection with this Estimate for almost £2,000,000.
This is the approach we must adopt if we are serious about wanting more woodland and not merely wanting to provide more employment, although I agree that is very necessary and desirable. To give more employment to rural workers is of great importance in itself, but this other assistance from the private owners of land to step up the amount of woodland will enrich the country much faster than the Forestry Division can ever hope to do. I do not want the Minister to reply to me to-day in this connection. I have mentioned this matter here year after year and I am fully convinced that, with a little effort, much can be achieved. It is like trying to get more tillage, to get more barley, wheat or other crops sown. Encouragement should come from the top through lectures, advertisements and the numerous other ways that are available.
In addition employment would be given in private nurseries in producing the plants, and so on. We often hear complaints that private nurseries are unable to provide trees and the Forestry Division, if they have mature trees, will not make them available to private individuals even for sale. I suppose there is something to be said for that policy, because the State does not wish to compete with private nurseries, but I think that, where the private nurseries cannot provide the trees, the Forestry Division should pass on to the public, through the private nurseries, whatever is required. That would not injure the private nurseries in any way. I hope the Minister will do something to ensure a stepping up in the amount of private planting.
With regard to pit props which are being exported—I see loads and loads of them passing on the roads every day—has the size of the pit prop to be exported been increased in recent years? At one time, during the war and after the war, there was a limit on the size that could be exported for pit prop purposes. There is much of this timber which is probably not required in the country and it is quite all right, if there is no better use for it, to have it exported. The total the Minister hopes to get by way of appropriations-in-aid from timber this year is something around £230,000 or £240,000.
We have estimated £200,000, but we hope to go much beyond that.
Mainly from thinnings?
Thinnings and also some mature timber; not so much of the latter but a certain amount.
The total amount of fully mature timber that is available would not be very great. However, it is a great thing to see the first of the income materialising as a result of the activities in planting and the more the Minister can step up that, the better. It would be an encouragement to the House to give the Forestry Division more money in future years for more and more planting. There is a great deal of nonsense talked about what the Minister and the State can do in the matter of providing all the timber for this country. As the years go on, the Minister will find that the pool of land will become smaller, because most of the land that could be acquired will be in the possession of people who need it for their own livelihood and profit. So long as land can feed sheep, cattle, and be used for other purposes, the land that will come in each year will not, I am afraid, amount to 30,000 acres. It may be coming in now, but the Minister has acquired a great deal of land that was refused in the years past.
As the Minister has pointed out, we must regard forestry as a long-term policy. There is no use in having a sudden burst of activity for four or five years and then finding that a large number of men must be laid off. It would be much better to grow up gradually, always keeping in mind the long-term policy and that the men should be maintained in constant employment. The greatest damage that could be done to the community and to forestry activity would be to have substantial laying off of men. I must pay tribute to the work of the Forestry Division. They have always got the work done and done well. I have never yet heard a complaint from the members of the public about the way they do their work. They have always achieved a satisfactory output and done the necessary work of fencing and planting. While you may hear criticism of other Government Departments, you will never hear anything but praise for the Forestry Division.
I am sure the Minister is maintaining the good tradition that was handed on to him and I have no doubt that he will continue to ensure a good output and that the largest possible number of acres each year will be planted. He certainly should not fall for the clamour that we can plant 30,000 or 50,000 acres in any year and that it does not matter what type of land you plant, so long as you are planting trees and employing men, who, in my opinion, would be better employed in some other way. I have no doubt the Minister will not stand for that type of forestry policy. He has not stood for it in the past and I hope he will be careful in the future.
I hope the Minister will give us some figures as to what our actual timber requirements would be because that information would be of great assistance to Deputies in making up their minds on the question of reaching a certain target. Would we have use for 25,000 acres of timber? If we come to the time when we will be planting 25,000 acres every year, we must take it that we will be using that amount annually. The Minister has not given us any idea of what our annual requirements may be when that time comes and it is a point on which he should give us some information. When we are asked to vote money to enable us to reach a certain target, we would like to know if we have use for that target.
Deputy Allen made a point which I had intended raising myself, that is, the question of private planting. Around my part of the country, there is a lot of land that was planted, but during the war the timber was taken out. No attempt has been made to plant that land since and so there is quite an amount of land lying in scrub and waste. Something could be done about land of that description. It is an eyesore in the country, as well as being land that is lost.
We have also got land where young plantings were burned out. The people who own such lands got huge amounts in compensation and they were not even asked to replant. The land is there with the timber standing up on it in a half-burned condition. The law should be amended so that it would be made compulsory on these people who have got compensation for plantations destroyed by fire to replant them. I do not think that would be any great hardship on such people.
I see from the statement made by the Minister on the Land Commission Vote that the land in Mayo, which was intended for the grass meal factory, is now being planted. I know from my own knowledge that that bog is a very deep bog and I wonder is it wise to plant a bog of that description which has a large amount of turf underneath, while there is so much land from which the turf has been cut away going waste around it. I think that planting on that class of land is a great mistake. There is plenty of land from which the turf has been cut away completely in that neighbourhood and planting could be carried on there.
In that connection, I wonder if the Land Commission keeps an eye on these cutaway bogs to make sure that they are not destroyed to such an extent that they will be of no use for planting. If the bog is cut down to the stone and everything is taken out of it, it will be no good for anything, but if a certain amount of turf was left on it, it would make very useful planting land. Does the Forestry Department or the Land Commission keep an eye on these bogs to see that they are properly cut and to make sure that they will come into use for planting later on? I ask the Minister to look into that matter and see that something is done to ensure that these bogs are not destroyed in that way.
Another point which I thought the Minister would have dealt with in his opening statement is the amount of land that has come into his possession as a result of the passing of the 1955 Act. During the debate on that Act, the Minister told us that he expected great things from it. I thought he would have given us an idea of the results from that Act, but so far he has given no indication of such results. All I can say it that I do not see any results as far as Sligo or Leitrim are concerned. I wonder has that Act been the success the Minister expected it to be or was it just so much time lost?
Another difficulty I see in regard to forestry is that from now on the area available for acquisition will be very small. I think the Minister should take some steps to take up these small areas and try to get them as convenient as possible to other centres. In the West of Ireland, especially, there are very few large centres to be got, but there are plenty of small areas that are available and which could be quite easily obtained.
These are some of the points I wanted to put before the Minister. The most important one is that dealing with private plantations which have been cut out. The timber has been gone for a number of years and the land is now waste and scrub and is an eyesore. There is no reason in the world why the Minister should not take power to compel these people to plant this land, or why he should not take over the land and plant it himself.
Deputy Allen has dealt with the question of price. In addition to the price offered being small, many people to whom I have spoken about the activities of the Forestry Division in the taking over of land say that they never get their money. During the debate on the Forestry Bill last year, I drew the attention of the Minister to the case of a man whose land was taken over for forestry nine or ten years ago. That man is still there and he has not got his money. This is one of the reasons why we cannot get land for planting. Until something is done to speed up the taking over of such land and to speed up the getting of title, there is very little use in talking about the planting of big areas.
Is the Deputy mixing up forestry land with Land Commission land?
No. What I say applies to both the Land Commission and the Forestry Department.
The Forestry Department always pay before they take possession.
In this case, it is a matter of title. When the Minister brought in that Bill last year, he left us under the impression that it would settle all questions of title. There are many instances in which the title is not clear and the man cannot afford to go into court. He has not got the money to do so. I understood from the Minister last year that that Forestry Bill would speed up the getting of title in these cases. I do not know if there has been any result from it yet. I should like the Minister to give us an idea of what has been the result of the working of that Act and how many acres of land have been acquired, either by the Forestry Division or the Land Commission, as a result of it.
When talking here about planting 25,000 acres a year, we would like to know what our annual requirements are. It may be difficult to give us these figures. These are the questions that will be asked when we go down the country. These debates are read by the people and we will be asked: "You are planning for 25,000 acres per year; will you have a use for that timber or will you have any expectation of exporting it?" These are fair questions. The only reason why I pose these questions now to the Minister is to get these figures from the Minister and be able to answer my constituents when they put these questions to me.
I wish to endorse what other speakers have said about encouraging private landowners to do as much planting as possible. The Minister's statement has not dealt with the matter in any great detail, but there is a type of land the Forestry Division is not inclined to take over in large areas. Possibly, the reason for their reluctance is that they have doubts as to the commercial quality of the timber such land will produce. Nevertheless, as various speakers have pointed out, the small plots, if numerous enough, could make a great deal of difference, if planted, in raising temperature, absorbing excessive moisture, providing shelter, and so forth.
The Minister's statement is a peculiar mixture. There is an attempt to take credit for his own Party's efforts in the matter of increased afforestation and, at the same time, there is a tribute to both sides of the House for their common interest in the main objective. The Minister detracts from national achievement in relation to forestry by this attempt to put a Party label on part performance. After all, the defects and shortcomings, which he instances as a want of proper effort on the part of his predecessor, are explained in the statement which he made.
Early in the statement he has set out the four stages in forestry development. He gives the period of 18 years from 1904 to 1922, which was, according to his statement, an experimental period only. Then there is the period from 1922 to 1934, in which an average planting of 3,000 acres was achieved. That period, too, was regarded as being to a very large extent purely experimental. The period of real production began in 1934. The Minister's third period covers the years from 1934 to 1950. The eight war years are discounted because of the difficulties then inherent in an intensive afforestation programme. Now, I understand that an effort has been made by Deputies on the Government Benches to write down, so to speak, these difficulties because these Deputies are anxious to throw the achievements of the present Minister and his Government into greater relief. The fact remains, however, that a full-scale afforestation effort was not possible during the war years because of the very practical difficulty of protecting young forests through lack of fencing materials, and so forth.
In relation to the period up to 1934 the Minister says:—
"Looking back now, it is easy to be critical of the fact that more was not accomplished in this period but studying the records of the period in my Department it is quite clear that the whole project was still too young to have undertaken more than it did."
That is a pretty fair summing-up of forestry experience over that period. There is a good deal more in the same strain in this statement. For instance, the Minister says:—
"Prior to the war, it was quite understandable for a Government to pursue such a limited afforestation policy as the annual target of 10,000 acres then envisaged. It is true that the envisaged target was not reached but so far as my knowledge goes, every country in the world which sets itself an afforestation target takes a long time to bring performance into line with the target."
The statement continues:—
"That is true even of countries with large existing forest areas and the concomitant availability of existing organisation, trained personnel and other resources."
There, again, the Minister shows a reasonably analytic outlook in relation to forestry development here. I wish to emphasise these comments on the various stages of development so that the attempts to attach political labels to achievements in any particular period may be nullified. I do not think such attempts are worthy of the Minister or of the Government, particularly in view of the national importance which the Minister himself attaches to this important question of forestry development.
In relation to the period up to 1934, the Minister says:—
"The increase in the annual planting from 4,000 acres in 1933-34 to 7,600 acres in 1938-39 was a solid, if not a spectacular, achievement, and one I would hesitate to criticise."
Once more, the Minister shows the same reasoned and practical analysis of the position in relation to afforestation policy and its implementation. A further remark of his is also worthy of note. He sets out a great many of the difficulties in achieving our desired objectives in relation to tree planting.
Here is one sentence which I think also requires pin-pointing and emphasis: "Even with all these steps"—these are the steps which he has outlined to overcome the difficulties—"there was little prospect of attaining and continuing an annual planting of as high an order as 25,000 acres unless land of a quality and nature formerly treated as incapable of economic afforestation could be made to produce three crops at a reasonable cost by the use of heavy machinery developed during and after the war." That statement is by far the most important in relation to this examination of why more rapid progress was not made in afforestation.
How obvious the importance of machines developed during the war has been, and is, has been exemplified very forcibly in the matter of arterial drainage. We know that arterial drainage has been undertaken since the war that was not capable of being undertaken before the advent of these machines. I think, therefore, that when the Minister says: "Nothing was done on this score,"—the score being of aiming at a higher target—"however, until the first inter-Party Government took office in 1948", that statement, examined in conjunction with the quotations I have given, is a contradiction and, in fact, takes from the clarity and impartiality of the critical character of the analysis which the Minister has applied to the whole question.
I understand that, whether it was his own personal urge or whether it was the pressure brought to bear upon him by other elements in the political setup of the Coalition between 1948 and 1951, the Minister did accelerate a little bit too fast and induced the Forestry Division to plant young seedlings which, in the ordinary course of forestry practice, would not have been planted quite so soon. As a result, when he left office, he left his successor with a paucity of plantlings so that the rate which had been forced— for whatever reason, I do not know— could not be maintained.
On page 8, the Minister states: "It would be easy for me to make political capital out of the regression in planting in 1952-53 and the lack of further upward progress until the inter-Party Government again came into office." Then he says: "I would be dishonest to do so and I have no such intention." However, he has done it. Could he not have left out such a reference, knowing, as he must, the reason why such a regression occurred, if indeed it did?
Forestry is one of the principal means by which we hope to exploit the natural resources of the country, that is, the productivity of land. It has the advantage that it can be distributed over practically the entire country. Unfortunately, it is not so ready and available a source for checking emigration from the areas where emigration is greatest for the reason that land that would quite readily be parted with in other parts of the country for afforestation is being used for ordinary agricultural purpose in those areas. If it is capable of any sort of reclamation, the labour which is plentiful in those areas applies itself to the problem of increasing the area of their arable land. That being so, there is scope in those areas for an intensification of private planting.
People who have good land and who have means do not require any urging or inducement to do this very laudable work, but no such activity can be hoped for on a large scale where the people have not got the means to undertake it. Because of the presence of labour, a good deal is possible at the smallest possible cost for tree planting by the system of private grants. I believe the better-off landowners in other countries and, to some extent, in Ireland utilise this method of making private plantations as a means of fortuning off their daughters. A child is born and a plantation is made. When the young lady reaches marriageable age, this plantation has become an asset of considerable value, and the young lady is thereby enabled to cash in on a very valuable asset without in any way depleting the liquid resources of the family.
Unfortunately, we cannot do that in the Gaeltacht areas, but, to the extent to which the Minister might help in the matter, he will find that his efforts will receive the fullest co-operation. After all, the great Sinn Féin organisation established a tradition in respect of private tree planting. It made the public of nearly 40 years ago tree-conscious by the declaration of an Arbor Day in November, 1918. It was only quite recently that one of the woodlands, which was created by the efforts of the Sinn Féin organisation in that year, was cut down in my constituency. I do not know how many more are still extant around the country, but it is quite obvious that the Minister will have help, from patriotic incentives, in any effort to encourage and promote private plantings.
One very satisfactory figure which the Minister gives in his statement is that in relation to the sale of timber. Last year the figure was £130,000 and this year it is £200,000, an increase of 50 per cent. As there has been so large an increase in the Appropriations-in-Aid in respect of this one item, I would ask the House and those interested, to pause and consider how that became possible or when the planting was done which produced the timber which was saleable last year, and which will be saleable this year. That, in my opinion, is an effective comment on the statements which try to create the impression that nothing was done. These figures are, in themselves, sufficient commentary on any tendency to produce a belief or feeling of that sort.
The Party on this side of the House, in spite of great difficulties during the war, kept the work of afforestation alive. The Minister himself has said that during those war years there were over 4,000 acres per year planted. In view of all the difficulties I think that was very creditable. I want to assure the Minister that we, on this side of the House, are not going to attach, or attempt to attach, any tag or political label to this work of afforestation. We give him the fullest credit for his enthusiasm and for any achievement which he may make possible. As in respect of other fields of national endeavour, we want to see afforestation raised above Party politics. We want to see any efforts which this House can make to foster this work of national importance pushed forward so that the future generation of legislators will, on some Estimate for Forestry, be able to look back, and say that the generation which went before them did well and laid solid foundations.
Táim brónach nach rabhas anseo i rith na díospóireachta ar an Meastachán seo. Bhíos fén dtuath ag cruinniú ar a raibh an tAire Sláinte i láthair, ach tar éis éisteacht leis an Teachta Mac Pharthaláin, tá saghas eolais agam ar na rudaí a bhí ar siúl.
I would like to ask the Minister what interpretation exactly he puts on his efforts in forestry. Does he plant for the sake of the climate, or for the sake of the commercial value of the timber, or does he take a combination of both, or, again, does he plant for the purpose of avoiding soil erosion? Does he plant, in conjunction with the Board of Works, to carry out effective drainage, and indirectly to help the climate? It is all very well to talk and make political capital out of the afforestation programme if you plant acres of mountain with knotty, twisted and gnarled timber that is no good even for burning. You can plant the barren lands in the country in that way and you get no results. Deputy Bartley referred to the financial turnover in sales of timber. I bet a dollar to a button that that was timber planted in the last 30 years on good land which gave straight, upright timber which, when it went to the mill, gave planks which were usable commercially. That is really what counts. An acre of timber on good land, which will have a commercial value, is better than 50 acres on the side of a mountain which will grow stunted, gnarled fir trees which are no good even for burning. That is the real test of afforestation. We went in for that kind of thing under our Ministers here.
In Tipperary, I have seen the effect of Fianna Fáil work and it is good. I have also seen it in my own county and it is good. I have seen the Castle-pollard unit doing good work on good land and I invite my colleague from County Mayo to see it. That brings me to my real reason for intervening in this debate. I put the query to the Minister: what is the approach to land offered to the Department which, when it is drained, will be good for agriculture or forestry? What consideration does the Minister for Lands, or his section of the Department, give it? Will they say: "When this is drained it will be good for growing oats or wheat and we will not plant it?" Do they consider its effect on continuous employment in the area?
I have submitted, as a Deputy from my constituency, hundreds of acres to the Minister in the Inny catchment area. It is on offer still. Why is it not accepted? Is there a shortage of staff, or are they running up and down barren lands that are not one-tenth as good and, if that is so, is that the Minister's policy? If it is, it is a wrong policy. In a forest area, where there is potentially good land available, the Minister should jump at it and take it at the price at which it is offered. It is a small price and when the drainage comes along he will have land worth tackling and timber which will be worth looking at. We offered land before, in the Brosna catchment area, but the Department had no time to accept the offer or to inspect the land. What is the result? Before the Brosna drainage scheme, there was land offered to the Department on which a goat could not walk safely.
It would sink in the morass. Now cattle are grazing on that land. Farmers whose land is being improved will not give it up for forestry, unless they are forced to do so by legislation.
When land which will be drained at some other time is on offer in other areas, why does the Department not avail of it and plant it? That is the point of view I am putting. I put it to the Parliamentary Secretary that there is land available along the Corrib and along the Moy and that, before the drainage is effective, the Department should jump at it and take it and replant it, because that would be for the national good.
They will not get it later on.
That is the point I am trying to make. The Minister should concentrate on these lands before they are drained and take them over and get them into the possession of the Department of Lands. He will have far better timber there in the long run than he will get on the side of a mountain.
Did the Deputy read Mr. Cameron's report?
I am not much of an individual for reports. The education I got was obtained in mixing among the ordinary people and keeping my eyes open. Whether Camerons are coming or going is no concern of mine. I live in the midst of a forest unit that has been a success and I want to see the employment that is being given there continued. When I see a big acreage of land being offered, the draining and planting of which would continue employment for heads of families, I am not concerned with Mr. Cameron or anybody else. I am putting the facts before the Minister and the House.
The Minister, if he wants credit for forestry, should deal with a matter I drew to his attention when he was Minister in the previous inter-Party Government, in the 1948-51 period, namely, the replanting of the large belts in the Midlands, the timber on which was sold for sums running into thousands of pounds and that made rich men of the men who sold it. They bought over a very large acreage there and got for the timber twice, and in many cases three times the money they paid for the land and they never planted a whin bush on that land since.
If there is no period specified in the statute for replanting, it is for the Minister to bring in amending legislation and to make these gentlemen, who made a fortune in a short period, do their duty by the State and replant the areas they have cashed in on. At the time, 1948-51, the Minister explained that fencing was not freely available. That was the case. Fencing is available now. If there is an omission in the statute, it is up to the Minister to repair it and to make these gentlemen do their duty.
The debate on the Estimate this year was very constructive and very helpful, and I want to compliment the Deputies who spoke in that they kept their feet more firmly on the ground than was the custom in previous years. There used to be a tendency to indulge in wishful thinking, which was not of much help and I am glad to see that that air of unreality has disappeared.
Many Deputies made very useful points. The points made by Deputies, when the Estimate is brought before the House each year, help towards improvement in the design and shape of the work and I hope to give full consideration to every point made.
Deputy Derrig made the point that increased planting was possible only because of the mechanical technique that had been developed and that we introduced in 1950. I think Deputy Derrig is under a misapprehension there. He appears to think that the mechanical preparation of ground is responsible for about 5,000 acres and that that is all that the increased planting amounts to. Such is not the case. For instance, we planted 15,000 acres last year and will plant 17,500 acres this year coming and about 5,000 to 6,000 acres in each of the years will be done by mechanical ground preparation. That leaves the position that, in the coming year, we will be planting about 12,500 acres by the old manual method. Mechanical ground preparation is a great advance, but there is a great deal of ground that does not need it and there is ground that we plant that is too difficult, too steep, too stony or too rocky and on which ploughs and tractors cannot be operated. Planting on that ground has to be done by the old method.
Deputy Derrig asked me did I push the inspectors in the case of planting. I replied by way of interruption that I did. I believe that, while it is the duty of the forestry technicians to advise the Minister as to what the result of any given proposal will be, it is the Minister who is responsible to the Dáil and the people for the conduct of the Department, and not the officials, and it is the duty of the Minister to weigh up the advice he gets, to weigh the national interest and to consider what the people demand, to use his judgement and, having considered all the aspects of the matter, he is perfectly justified in directing the officials to go ahead, even against their advice. I did insist on the officials taking a broader view of the type of ground being planted.
I want to put it on the records of the House that, if the forestry technicians were left to themselves, they would plant only that ground on which it was absolutely certain that first-class commercial timber would grow. That would be all very fine if we had places like South Africa or the prairies of America or Canada to play with. We have not. In this country, the intensive user of land must play a very large part in determining the type of ground on which forests will be planted.
I said in the House on previous occasions, and I think it will bear repetition, that the land of this country is our principal asset. We do not seem to have much minerals to develop, as our neighbour, Great Britain has or as some continental countries have. We must depend on what is produced on the surface of the land for the standard of living of our people, to provide exports and to pay for imports.
The user of that land is all-important. The arable and semi-arable land goes to food production, but there is a sizable acreage that cannot be described as arable but that is yielding some food—land that is mostly used as hill grazing for sheep and some cattle. Seeing that we are paying this year over £13,000,000 for wood and wood products, I maintain that some of that land could be much better utilised by putting it under timber. Coupled with that is the glaring fact that the last census revealed that it is from areas where the quality of the land is poorest that the flight from the land is greatest. The holdings, which once supported families in a fair measure of comfort, according to the then standard of living, will not now support them. The reason is that the people are demanding a better standard of living and they are entitled to it. A second point, which many do not seem to appreciate, is that it is only about 180 or 200 years ago that all the mountainous and forest type of ground was covered with timber. It has been so covered from time immemorial. That timber was clear-felled about 200 years ago, leaving our country the most barren in Europe in regard to timber.
With the constant shedding of the foliage of the trees, by the time the timber was felled the land had a high grazing capacity with the result that it could give a much higher standard of living to those who lived on the land than is possible to-day. The rain is eroding not only the soil but its mineral riches. It is an acknowledged fact that, with the passage of the years, the mountain land is getting poorer and poorer for, unlike the land in the plain, it has no means of enriching itself. The little fertility that is in the soil is being constantly washed away. Hence the people are flying from the land. That flight will become much worse if we do not do something to arrest it.
It is regrettable that we have little or no minerals and the only way we can hope to arrest the flight from the land is to use the land in the areas from which the flight is greatest to the best advantage. I hold that afforestation can contribute more than any other aspect of State development towards arresting the flight from the land. That is why we are pushing forestry so hard in those areas.
Deputy Derrig mentioned a very cogent point. He wanted to know what exactly was happening in the congested districts. I feel sure that the figures revealed in the recent census returns prompted his question. It was a very fair question and I have some figures here to prove that under the first inter-Party Government, the Fianna Fáil Government and the present inter-Party Government, the Forestry Division and the Department of Lands have not been unmindful of the congested areas. In 1948-49 there were 1,600 acres planted in the congested districts, being 20 per cent. of the total planted for that year. In 1954-55 there were 5,130 acres planted or 37 per cent. of the total planted for the country. Last year, there were 6,650 acres planted, representing 42 per cent. of the total planted for the country. In 1948-49 only 500 men were employed in forestry in the congested districts and last year 1,520 men were employed; when the thinning stage is reached, the employment increase will be much steeper.
Several Deputies mentioned that the labour employed in actual planting was low; I think one Deputy said it was disappointingly low and so it is. It amounts to one man per ten acres and involves 1,750 men for this year's planting of 17,500 acres. The establishment of plantations on virgin ground, although it has a very high labour content, does not give at all as much employment as is given when the thinning stage and the maturity stage are reached. Even though the initial employment is low, we are justified in laying the foundations although we may not live long enough to see the full fruits of what is being done. In 1948-49, £60,000 was spent on forestry wages in the congested counties. In the year 1955-56 we spent £340,000 on wages in the congested counties. Next year we will spend over £400,000 in wages there.
Deputies O'Hara, Calleary and Blaney were anxious to know how Glenamoy is doing. Deputy Blaney in fact seemed to be under the impression some kind of slipshod methods were being operated in Glenamoy. There is no truth in that.
He goes out there at night.
He must be wearing coloured glasses. The planting in Glenamoy will be largely experimental for that particular type of ground. Not alone is Glenamoy being planted but it is benefiting from the experience gained in two other sites—one in Cloosh in Deputy Bartley's constituency and the other in Nephin Beg in the western portion of the constituency of North Mayo. The experience gained in these two places will contribute to the success of Glenamoy.
I admit that it was I who pushed the forestry people into the planting of that kind of ground in 1948-49 and, if there is any blame, it ought not be placed at the door of the officials of the Forestry Department because they advised me against it. I do not want to put the blame, if any, on to the shoulders of others. Nevertheless, both in Cloosh, County Galway, and Nephin Beg, County Mayo, two areas of the poorest land in the hands of the Forestry Department to-day, the application of certain fertilisers and other aids given to the young trees, have produced results which to my eyes are astonishingly good.
There was a notion in this country —it was an imported notion—that trees could not be grown in any place West of the Shannon. I know where the notion originated but I do not know why.
The idea was not so much that it would not grow trees as commercial timber.
There is a vast area West of the Stannon that will grow timber. I want to pull that skeleton out of the cupboard and hang him up for all to see.
With regard to Cloosh is it the same place that was cut down during the first World War?
No. It is a vast expanse of very poor quality peat land that would not grow heather. I do not believe it was ever under timber. Deputy Gilbride mentioned that it was rather a pity to have 3,000 acres of bog at Glenamoy planted. It was Bord na Móna bought it for Min-Fhéir Teoranta. Bord na Móna knew the Government was taking over and were handing it over to either the Forestry Department or the Department of Agriculture or both. If Bord na Móna said they were interested in using the area for turf production we would have handed it to them. If they are interested now, I will give it to them. I hold that the best management for deep bogs is to utilise the turf and then plant the cutaway. As far as my information goes, Bord na Móna is not interested in it.
Deputy Allen raised the question of providing houses for forestry workers. We cannot go into that beyond saying that when we introduce forestry schemes into counties we bring them a very great advantage. While I was getting out some figures for this debate I found that in County Galway alone £99,000 was paid out in wages for forestry workers last year. That is a very big figure covering a big number of forestry workers compared with my own county of Mayo. Seeing that that big amount of money is being spent, surely the ratepayers in these counties where there are large forestry schemes should have no hesitation in building houses for forestry workers. The Government is putting a great amount of money into forestry schemes which will be not only a benefit, but a growing benefit, to these counties.
Deputy Allen wanted to know where the increase of £64,000 for indoor and outdoor staff arose. If the Deputy had been in the House when I was introducing the Estimate for the Department he would have heard of the expansion of work that is taking place. That cannot be done without extra staff and the trouble is that I have not got enough staff yet. He mentioned that forestry is, to the extent of 60 per cent., a social service. That is so. It is a social service only according to the proportion of land of doubtful plantability that is deliberately planted. Only to that extent is it a social service.
Many Deputies raised the question of the price of land and seemed to think that we are not paying enough. I want to say that I know of no case where negotiations with the Department have broken down on the matter of the price of land. I think I said it by way of interjection when Deputy Allen was speaking but I want to say it again now. The Forestry Division pays a higher price for the land it is buying than can be obtained by the vendor in the open market. When a man sells land for forestry purposes, I do not think he does it for patriotic motives. First he wants to sell his land; secondly he wants to get the highest figure possible for it. It is only reasonable to assume that when the deal goes through, the Department of Lands or the Forestry Division is the highest bidder. The argument on price falls to the ground when I say that no deal fell through because we would not meet the vendor's reasonable demands as regards price.
Deputy Brennan of Wicklow complained that foresters' houses are badly constructed. That is somewhat of a surprise because I have had no complaint about them. In certain instances, in the case of houses taken over on estates, they may perhaps need some repairs or reconstruction and we never hesitate to do that. I would like to know where is the forester who is not satisfied with the wooden houses specially designed by the Department and constructed at a cost of £1,800 with hot and cold water, etc? I have been in many of them myself and I only wish that all private families had houses half as good.
We are planting about 100 acres of ash per year so that those who are afraid that the good old Irish game of hurling will die out for want of a supply of ash to make hurleys may lay their fears aside.
The question of fires has been mentioned. In the first half of this year no less than 338 fires occurred at or near State forests and, of these, 44 fires actually caused damage estimated at a total of £5,000. Most of the fires are caused by holiday-makers and picnickers and here I must issue a warning. When I came home this year from a tour in Sweden, entirely connected with forestry, the first news that met me was that 44 acres of a 20-year-old plantation within a few miles of Dublin had been burned the previous night and only tremendous efforts by the foresters, Gardaí and the armed forces had prevented further damage.
That damned carelessness must cease. If the punishment that the present law provides for those who are careless enough to leave fires burning behind them or throw cigarette butts into highly inflammable dry grass, destroying 20 years of hard work, is not a sufficient deterrent, I shall have no hesitation in asking the Government for permission to bring in legislation to provide imprisonment, a considerable term of imprisonment, for that type of offence. Such a penalty would be little enough for those who are so careless of public property. These people seem to ignore the fact that when forests so near cities are burned, it will have the effect of scaring off the forestry people from planting within 20 or 30 miles of Dublin, Cork, Waterford or Galway in future.
Deputies MacBride and Derrig mentioned comparisons with England. I do not think it fair to make an unqualified comparison with England. It was stated that we had more waste land in Ireland than in England but the first thing we should remember is that Ireland is a land depending entirely on agriculture for its existence. England is not. Ireland has only 3,000,000 of a population and only about quarter of the total land area—I am speaking of the Twenty-Six Counties—of England, Scotland and Wales. In Ireland's case, we are down to the stage where we are thankful to get an offer of even 20 acres of land for forestry purposes. There are no Dukes of Buccleuch to come forward and hand us over 100,000 acres of land for forestry in one block. I was on an estate in Yorkshire where 70,000 acres in one estate had been handed over.
We would have been very glad to have that land for Land Commission purposes for the establishment of families and holdings because it was good quality land which we would not dream of putting under forestry in this country. We have none of these advantages in Ireland. In Scotland the Forestry Commission can get huge blocks of land but we are depending for a livelihood on our farm land and the farmers are very land minded and very conscious of their ownership— something that I am proud to see. But the very fact that no Minister or Government has dared even to hint at compulsory acquisition of land should dispose of the idea straight away that more land is available than is being acquired.
At the present time, on a population basis, we are providing and planting much more per head of the population than England and Scotland. Deputy Derrig mentioned that we do not seem to be getting as much planting done for the amount of employment we give as they do in England. The actual returns for England are rather misleading because the Forestry Commission in England gets a good deal of work done by private contractors using their own gangs of men and that labour force is not accounted for in the Forestry Commission employment figures.
I would say that almost one-third, and certainly a quarter, of their work is done by that means.
Deputy Palmer mentioned that we should accept offers of land as small as 60 acres. Let me say, we shall consider taking a plot of even 20 acres provided it is near an existing forest and can be integrated with it or provided it can be made to form the nucleus of a new forest.
We still have difficulties in regard to title and these difficulties cannot be easily overcome. Our people are rather careless about matters of title and these have to be cleared up because we cannot afford to take over land, pay somebody for it, plant trees on it and find in five or ten years' time when there is a nice plantation in existence that somebody comes home from America, goes to the local solicitor and discovers that he or she has a claim on a particular piece of that forest. That would be negligence that neither the Minister nor the Government could stand over.
Deputy MacBride thought that the Civil Service was the wrong vehicle— I think that was the word he used— to secure a vigorous planting. I do not agree with him, and I want to say that I do not think any private or State-sponsored board could rise as rapidly to the occasion as our Forestry Section did when they got the word of command to get going in 1949 on the 25,000 acre programme. They have done a magnificent job of work. The fact that they are attempting a programme of 25,000 acres in a small country like Ireland is a magnificent achievement and something of which we can be proud, but expansion of work takes time. Take it, for example, that we are planting 15,000 acres per year. Some new Government may come along and say: "Right; we will have a planting programme of 50,000 acres." Extra land will be needed and extra nurseries, extra seeds will have to be put down and extra trained staff will be needed to carry out the programme. We can get the staff all right, but there are two types of staff I do not want to see and that I will not allow in the Department. One is the incompetent bungler who does not know his job and who wants a soft job doing nothing; the other fellow is the visionary with his head in the clouds and his feet miles off the ground. What we want to get into the forestry service are good solid men who can advise the Government on what is best to be done.
As regards the question of a board, which will come up in connection with motions on the Order Paper but which was mentioned in this debate, I want to say that, when the time comes for these motions to be taken, I will have a definite Government decision to announce to the House. My advice to the Government so far has been, and my advice will be, that a board would be a retrograde step and one that would strike a blow at forestry from which it would never recover, and I will not stand for it.
Deputy Derrig mentioned that in areas like the Comeragh Mountains there should be plantings over the 1,400 foot contour level. We are actually planting at about 1,800 feet at the moment in that area. The higher we go, the more the trees are apt to suffer from lack of nutrition and from exposure. The height at which planting can be done in any particular area will be governed by these two factors. I am not an expert myself but I know enough about growing crops on land to know what is suitable nourishment for them and to know that they require a certain amount of protection from the wind. Anybody down in the West of Ireland recently would have been astonished to see how trees of 50, 80 or 100 years of age, particularly beech trees and other deciduous trees, have been scorched on the west side by the storm that occurred there recently. Turn your back to the west, and look east and you find that the trees, hedges, and everything else are brown. Turn and look west, and you see they are quite green.
Deputy Bartley seemed to be under the impression that I made an attack not alone on his Government but on previous Governments. I did not. I thought the House deserved to be given a short history of forestry in this country right from the beginning, when Avondale House, the home of Charles Stewart Parnell, was handed over to the State away back in 1903. I took the House down through the years and, where I might have been tempted to have been caustic, I deliberately refrained. I hold that the gradual growth of forestry should be appreciated. A point not appreciated is that very few countries are planting trees as Ireland and England are. In most other countries in the world the trouble is to care and preserve the existing forests.
I was astonished to find that in Sweden they plant little or no trees, but they have five times the size of Ireland under forestry. Their trouble is to care for the present forests and to deal with them in such a way as to bring them into full production over a number of years. We are trying out a new experiment, and we have no countries with a comparable climate or comparable soil conditions to turn to for experience. We are pioneers in the matter of planting in virgin ground and we are entitled to take a certain pride in that. When we are branching out into completely new ground, it is not the same as growing crops or anything like that. Those who benefit will be future generations. The youngest of us here will be dead and gone before the results of these experiments come to fruition.
I hope that future Dála will give full marks to our present forestry people who are being forced by me and by other Ministers into doing something against their better judgement. If there are failures in the future, I want to make it quite clear and put in on the records of the House, that it is necessarily coupled with our pioneering policy that there must be a certain amount of failure. So far, there has been none worth talking about, and I am proud of that. But that indicates over-caution on the part of the forestry service, and for that reason I saw fit to force them into taking land they definitely advised against or, at least, on which they said a first-class crop could not be got on the first rotation.
For Deputy Bartley's information, in 1948 the plantable reserve of land was 30,500 acres; the intake for the year 1948-49 was 3,446 acres. At that time there were only two inspectors, one forestry inspector and one Land Commission officer engaged on the work of acquisition for the whole country. To-day there are 17. That is a big advance. If I do claim a certain amount of credit, it is only just, right and natural that our Government should claim credit but in doing so, we are casting no slur on Fianna Fáil. I am proud of what we did and I want to thank the House for the support they have given. When Fianna Fáil came back into office in 1951, it was in their power, and within the power of Deputy Derrig as Minister for Lands, to destroy the forestry programme we had built up.
I want to pay a compliment to Deputy Derrig and his Government because they took up my policy and the policy of the inter-Party Government and kept the machine going. The result was that when we came back into office, Deputy Derrig was able to hand over to me a fully running machine in a better condition than that in which it had been given to him three years before. To use Deputy Bartley's word, the only occasion on which I would be justified in castigating him would be if he had gone back on our programme.
At that time, in 1948, there were 160 foresters; now there are 240. At that time there were 367 acres of nurseries; now there are 577 acres. The total planted area at that time was 116,235 acres; now there are 210,000 acres. That means that, in eight years, the total area planted has almost doubled. In addition to that, the machine has been built up and put in gear now for a 25,000 acre planting programme in four years' time. Every four years after 1960, 100,000 acres of fresh plantation will go down. I think that is no mean achievement. Without casting any reflection on previous Ministers or my colleagues in the Government, let me say that if every Department did half as well as the Forestry Division, perhaps we would not have such a flight from the land, and perhaps we would not have so much grumbling from people all over the country.
There are quite a few points I wish to deal with, but I notice the clock is going round. Many Deputies spoke of the question of the grant for private planting. I would have no hesitation in increasing the grant provided it met with any response. The free £10 grant at the present time is not bad, but very few seem to be taking advantage of it. I want to conclude by thanking——
I have no objection to the Minister concluding, but if I am in order, may I ask a question?
If the House is in agreement.
I am agreeable.
The question is about the matter of the reserve and about the reference the Minister has made to the 20 acres—that we were very glad to get 20 acres. I would like to encourage anybody who has 20 acres to come along and give it to us, but it might be interpreted to mean that we are so hard up for land that we are looking for areas of 20 acres. I want the Minister to tell us the position in regard to the additional acquisitions that he hopes will result from the operations of the new Forestry Act, and when he hopes he may be in a position to say we will have some results.
The annual planting programme must be determined by the amount of plantable reserve on hand. I was drawing the bow a bit far when I fixed 17,500 acres for this year. I should not have done that without having three times that amount on hands. When I said we would be glad to get 20 acres, what I meant was this. At one time there was a chance that, if an offer like this was made to us, it might be automatically rejected. Now it will not be rejected. Every offer of 20 acres will be examined. I believe that when the new Forestry Act comes into full force, within twelve months from now, it will make possible a plantable reserve which will ensure that our 25,000 acre programme will be a dead certainty.