I move that the Bill be now read a Second Time. Its purpose is to transfer Johnstown Castle Agricultural College from my Department to An Foras Talúntais.
In July, 1945, when the then Minister for Agriculture moved the Second Reading of the Johnstown Castle Agricultural College Bill, 1945, he expressed to the donors, Mr. Maurice Victor Lakin and Mrs. Dorothy Violet Jefferies, the Dáil's appreciation of their generosity in presenting Johnstown Castle and its demesne to the nation. I think I can say that very good use has been made of the property. During the fourteen years which have elapsed since the property passed to the Department of Agriculture, Johnstown Castle Agricultural College has acquired an international reputation as a scientific centre. The lands, nearly 1,000 acres in extent, have been used by my Department for the conduct of extensive and detailed programmes of field experiments touching on very important aspects of practical agriculture. Since my Department took possession of the property, roughly £250,000 has been spent by the State on its development, including the provision of buildings and equipment for the well known Soils Laboratory there. The total staff employed there at present is over 140.
Now that An Foras Talúntais has been set up for the purpose of furthering agricultural research, it is considered desirable to transfer the College and Estate to it. I have already transferred to the Institute the Department's farm at Grange, County Meath, which had been used for research on cattle breeding and which now forms the headquarters of the Institute's Division of Grassland Research. I have also transferred the Peatland Experimental Station at Glenamoy, County Mayo, and certain facilities my Department had from Bórd na Móna at Derrybrennan and Clonsast bogs. In each of these cases, all the Department's buildings, with the equipment and stock on the lands at the date of transfer, were also handed over without charge.
The transfer of the Department's properties at Grange and Glenamoy did not require special legislation. The position in regard to Johnstown Castle is different. This property was donated to the country to be held by the State for the purposes of a lay agricultural college, and was accepted as such by the Act of 1945. In order to vary the terms of the trust and Statute so as to permit the transfer of the property to An Foras Talúntais, and its further development by that body as a research centre, it is necessary to amend the 1945 Act. The donors have, of course, been consulted and have agreed to the transfer. We are very grateful to them for their agreement.
In giving his consent, Mr. Lakin has asked that certain conditions be observed, and I have accepted these. They are, so far as is necessary, included in the Bill. He has asked that, in order to preserve the architectural quality and historic interest of the castle and its surroundings, no exterior demolition or alteration to the castle or the main gates shall be undertaken without consulting him, and that no construction shall be undertaken within view of the castle or of the main avenues which is not architecturally in harmony with the castle. This is provided for in Section 6 of the Bill.
He has also asked that the present Jubilee Nurse who, by virtue of the 1945 Act, occupies a cottage free of rent and rates on the estate, should retain tenure of the cottage on the same terms for her lifetime. This is covered by Section 5 of the Bill. In addition, the Institute has undertaken to make certain improvements to the cottage at Mr. Lakin's request. It has also been thought desirable to safeguard certain interests of the donors by specifying in particular that Sections 6, 7 and 8 of the Act of 1945 shall continue in operation.
The Bill also provides that the safeguards granted to the former employees of the Johnstown Estate who were taken over by the Department in 1945 shall not be affected by their transfer to the service of the Institute.
Under the Counterpart Agreement with the United States Government in regard to An Foras Talúntais, the Irish Government has undertaken to make grants annually to An Foras, in respect of any services transferred to it from my Department, of amounts not less than the amounts currently spent by the State on such services before they were transferred.
Johnstown Castle Agricultural College has been one of the proudest possessions of my Department, and I am certain that under the new Institute it will earn even greater lustre not only for itself but for the country.