Ceisteanna—Questions. Oral Answers. - Abolition of Ground Rents.

34.

asked the Minister for Justice if as a matter of urgency he will introduce amending legislation to abolish the ground rents of the Proby Estate in the Constituency of Dún Laoghaire-Rathdown comprising (a) part of the lands of Bullock, Glasthule and Sandycove containing 345 acres, (b) part of the lands of Dalkey and Parkmore, containing 44 acres and (c) part of lands of Stillorgan and Newtown containing 852 acres.

The Landlord and Tenant (Ground Rents) Act, 1967, provides, in effect, for the abolition of ground rents by enabling the lessee or tenant to purchase, compulsorily, the landlord's interest. The Act applies to the bulk of tenancies covered by the Deputy's question. However, it has come to notice that the Act does not apply to a relatively small number of tenancies on the Proby Estate. This matter was specifically dealt with by the Landlord and Tenant Commission in their second report, published last year. I expect to bring my legislative proposals based on the commission's recommendations before the Government in the near future.

As I have explained to the House on previous occasions, the new legislation will not cover cases where tenants have already made binding agreements with the estate for the purchase of the fee simple or for a new lease.

May I ask how the Minister in general reconciles his reply in defence of ground rents and the purchase of ground rents by people if they so wish, which is not very much availed of, with the much vaunted Republican aspects of his party, bearing in mind that this is to protect property of a questionable kind owned by the much maligned absentee landlords who have been periodically vilified by his party and who are now given such adequate defence in the context of ground rents?

The Deputy's first statement is a lie. I am sorry. It is untrue. This legislation was introduced for the purpose of enabling tenants to buy out their ground rents. This legislation is being extended and expanded under the proposals I am now bringing before the Government. As far as dealing with ground rents and landlords this party have a record that the Deputy or his party can never hope to touch or smell if they live for 1,000 years.

Since the Minister says that the legislation has been expanded and amended how does he reconcile in equity the fact that some people have been caught by the legislation, as it previously was, within a period of two to three years before this amendment?

The position is that in connection with a few cases in this estate the people had freely made agreements to purchase their houses the same as people normally do and form agreements for new leases. You could not have retrospective legislation to provide for those people getting their purchase money back because, to start off, it would be unconstitutional and, secondly, I believe it would be unfair and unjust.

Does the Minister seriously contend that agreements were, as he describes, freely made, when in fact, as he is aware from repeated submissions by those tenants and, indeed, by the leader of the other Opposition party, Deputy Cosgrave, that those agreements were entered into under considerable duress by the ground landlord concerned?

The people who did not make agreements with the ground landlord concerned came within this legislation. Some few people who had made those agreements, who had signed contracts and who had I understand paid over what they considered to be the value of the house concerned —there were a couple of houses involved at that time—had to live up to their contracts. My information is those who did purchase got very good value.