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Seanad Éireann debate -
Tuesday, 3 Jul 1928

Vol. 10 No. 20


I beg to move that the Forestry Bill be read a second time. In my opinion this Bill is, if anything, overdue. I remember that in February, 1924, a conference was held at the office of the Department of Agriculture, and that conference was concerned with the question of the afforestation of this country. Proposals somewhat in the nature of what are now embodied in the Bill were discussed that day by officials of the Department of Agriculture, and by representatives of such organisations and institutions as the Surveyors' Institute, the Irish Saw Millers' Association, the Irish Farmers' Union, and such bodies. The proposals that were then put forward are practically the basis of the Bill we are now considering, so that we have had a delay of four and a half years in the presentation of the Bill. I think I am justified in saying this Bill is somewhat overdue. I hope on that account the attitude will not be taken up in this House, as it was by members of the other House, that because the Bill is late it should be opposed. The statement was made that it was a question of locking the stable door after the horse was gone. If there is any legislation of a special kind required in this country it is never too late to introduce that legislation. I am inclined to think, from what I know of the Minister on this matter, that the factors which made for delay in introducing this Bill were outside his control. I am satisfied he would have introduced the Bill earlier if it had been in his competence to do so.

The position is that during the War, and the years succeeding it, our wood area was simply devastated of trees. We cut them down wholesale and there was an absolute massacre of trees in this country. Men did it, of course, for a purpose, and that purpose was to make a profit. For the individuals who made the profit it was all right, but for the nation it was nothing short of sheer vandalism, and where you had once, as the poet said, waving forests, you have now nothing but bare patches of clay, sickly bits of shrub, and the gaunt white stems of trees. You find these all over the countryside, while together with these you find broken walls and fences, and animals straying through the few trees that remain standing, an unhappy picture, and one we ought to change. This Bill has for its purpose bringing about a change in that. Those responsible for cutting down the trees during the War and post-War days did not, I suppose, sin against any moral law or legislative code, but there is no doubt if this Bill had been retrospective they would have been punished. They have been able to get away with it. They have been the gainers and somebody else has to put things right. I hope we will contribute to put the position right. In Ireland there are 220,000 acres of forests, a wretchedly small amount when we take the percentage of forest areas in other countries. The unhappy prospect is that at the present rate of cutting down the country will be absolutely denuded of trees within fifty years. That is a sad prospect when you consider that at present we have organisations or public bodies which are concerning themselves with the development of tourist traffic.

If there was anything to which we should give more attention, if we had it in our power to do so, it would be towards making our climate more amiable. One of the methods that is conducive to that end is an extension of the forest area. Trees are an advantage in any country. To begin with, they make the country more beautiful and also more healthy and attractive. They protect the surface soil from erosion, and as well they form areas of forest floor which absorb large quantities of water, preventing floods and acting as catchment areas for reservoirs and springs. Trees supply employment for a portion of the rural population, and they supply the necessary timber for which huge sums are paid out every year to foreign countries. Trees form a shelter for farm stock, prevent extreme heat and cold, and provide the raw material for industries which follow in their train. These are some of the advantages to be gained by the extension of the area under trees. I think these objects should commend themselves to the House.

Certain opposition is being taken to this Bill. Reading the reports of the debates in the other House, I noticed that considerable opposition was taken to it because it was not an Afforestation Bill, because the Minister for Lands and Agriculture did not enunciate any scheme for preserving the forest areas and for extending them. This is not, after all, a Bill that you might call of a constructive nature; it is more or less a preventive measure, acting in one direction to allow constructive measures to be carried out in another. It is a rather peculiar type of measure in that respect, and it should be considered in that respect, and in that respect only. The Minister for Lands and Agriculture and his Department have all the powers that they need under the Forestry Act of 1919, and their work is limited only in one respect, that is in respect of the amount of money which they have available for their purposes. The Forestry Vote last year was £156,000, and the Forestry section of the Department was responsible last year for planting 3,200 acres. If the grant were doubled, there is no doubt about it but that more than double the area could be planted. The Forestry section of the Department has, accordingly, all the powers it requires, subject to the one limitation of finance. and subject to that only. This Bill has nothing to do with that; it has nothing at all to do with what I might call the constructive side of Forestry development.

As I said, this is, more than anything else, a preventive measure, and it is a preventive measure which has its uses. We might as well admit at the very beginning that this Bill will inflict little hardships, as I consider them, in some cases, and in my opinion it may inflict a large hardship in one particular case to which I will call attention. But really the hardships which may be inflicted, could, practically speaking, only result if the Minister chose deliberately to misinterpret the spirit of the Bill. If he did not chose deliberately to misinterpret the spirit of the Bill, I do not see how any great hardships could be inflicted. It is possible that a farmer who wanted to cut trees would be put to the tremendous hardship of having to send in a written felling notice once a year to the Civic Guard station. Possibly he would growl about it, but I would be inclined to let him suffer on in that respect; he would not be much worse. But I would call attention to one matter, and I hope that the Minister will give due regard to it. Might I state a case? Supposing a man planted trees for commercial purposes twenty years ago, and in twenty years' time, let us say, the trees in that plantation had matured. The son, or the successor in title to that man, might wish to make sale of these trees—quite a legitimate object—and the Minister, for reasons which to him appeared fit, might refuse to grant a licence. The cause for the refusal might be something of this nature perhaps, that the forestry area might be situated close to one of our beauty spots which are frequented by tourists, and perhaps a local committee of the Tourist Association might make representations to him that the absence of these trees would be detrimental to the attractions of the locality.

Such representations as that might be quite legitimately made to the Minister, and the Minister, rather legitimately too, might be rather slow to give a licence for the cutting of such trees. These trees would have been planted for quite a legitimate purpose —a commercial one. The owner only wants to make sale of them; the trees are matured; they will make more money if sold at that stage than at a later stage when they are past maturity. After all, it does seem a little like confiscation of property, if the owner of these trees undertakes to replant the area, that the Minister should have power to refuse him permission to cut the trees. I think that in such a case as that, where an individual is made to suffer for the good of the greater number, and where his own private interests are subordinated in the common good, the very least the owner should be entitled to would be reasonable compensation. I should be very interested in having the opinion of the Minister as to whether he has said the last word in such a case.

There is another matter in respect of this Bill on which I am not too clear. As I interpret it, certain classes of trees are exempted. You have trees that are lifted for the purpose of transplantation, trees which are growing in a county borough or in an urban district, trees standing within a hundred feet of a house used for domestic purposes, trees the timber of which may be required for construction or repair of buildings, fences, or for such purposes, trees which may be required for domestic fuel, and trees dead or irredeemably damaged or decayed. In such cases as that, I take it, you have exemption. The procedure is that a felling notice is deposited with the local Civic Guards, and immediately after the felling notice has been submitted to them the owner can proceed to fell the trees. But where the trees are not exempted I am not quite sure as to the position. Notice is served at the local Civic Guard station in the case of trees which it is required to fell. If during twenty-one days afterwards the Department does not issue a prohibition order, the owner can proceed to cut the trees. That is in a sense what I might call permission by default, but what I do not understand is this: Is a licence issued only where a prohibition order has been given? I see from the Minister that that is so. There is no general scheme of licences, then; the licence only comes in where a prohibition order has been issued. Therefore it is permission by default, and I am glad to have the Minister's assurance in that respect.

Another objection taken to the Bill was of this nature. It is stated that this will be rather a difficult form of legislation and it will simply mean in carrying it out that the Civic Guard force, for instance, might have to be doubled in number, that you will have members of the Civic Guard running hither and thither, examining every tree which is to be felled in the ordinary way, and examining, after it is felled, every tree which is exempt. I think that is rather a ridiculous criticism, and at once there comes to my mind certain parallels. It is quite likely that trees will be cut which should not be cut, notwithstanding the Bill. The Bill will not prevent wrong-doing in respect of the felling of trees. It will not simply secure the maximum good in this respect, and it does not mean that every tree is to be inspected and that Civic Guards are to be running hither and thither. You might take as a parallel case the case of a man who secures a licence to fish for salmon. Does that mean that the Civic Guards go round watching that man when he is fishing, watching him in the close season as well as in the open season, watching every salmon he kills and examining it? It is nothing at all like that, and the Civic Guards will be quite competent to look after the law—this law as well as any other. This Bill is more than anything else a deterrent. All thieves are not caught; all drunks are not apprehended. Some are caught and some are punished, and the punishment inflicted on these serves as a deterrent. Some people will be caught and will be punished under this Bill, and that punishment will act as a deterrent to those who may be inclined to do wrong in this respect also. A few hardships will be inflicted. But we have to admit that the present condition of things cannot continue and cannot be allowed to continue.

The individual cannot go very far in this respect, because the call on his capital would be too much and he would have to wait too long for a return. The State has to step in and take a hand. In this Bill the State is bringing to its aid a rather powerful weapon. If the Minister had gone to the other House and asked that the grant-in-aid of afforestation be doubled, I do not think he would have rendered such a service to the object which he has in mind as he has rendered by the introduction of this Bill, which is by no means a popular Bill. It is because this is the business-like way of getting things done, going straight to his object, that I think he is to be commended. A few hardships will be inflicted but, after all, we must be prepared to bear these sometimes if we are to gain our ends. We must change the present condition of things, and I think the House should have no hesitation in passing the Second Reading of the Bill.


I quite agree with Senator O'Hanlon that a Forestry Bill is required, and is, indeed, overdue, and I am sure that all of us applaud the intention of the Minister in bringing forward such a Bill. But, at the same time, I think some of us, myself included, have grave doubts whether the Bill as it now stands will achieve the objects which are aimed at. The problem as it presents itself to me is one that has two sides to it. There are two kinds of woods that it is necessary to protect. There is first of all the large well fenced and well defined woods which, I suppose, have in almost all cases, remained in the hands of the former owners, whom we might call the landlords, although that term is not one which now applies in Ireland. Besides these woods there are the scattered trees, the hedgerow, and roadside timber, and little odd clumps which are to be seen here and there in the country-side, very often unfenced, but trees which have got big enough to look after themselves without further care, and which cattle cannot interfere with. I take it that these have in almost all cases passed under the various Land Purchase Acts into the hands of the purchased tenants. The first class I suggest would be looked upon as a present or potential national asset, from the point of view of timber supplies of the country, and in the second case, it is rather a matter of the amenities and the beauties of the country-side. But, in both cases, I suggest that we are all one in wishing to preserve the trees. To deal with the first class, the large woods, which, as I have just said, remain in the hands of the former landlords for the most part, it seems to me that this Bill—unless the Minister was very liberal in the exemption order he is empowered to give—would entail a very great interference with the right of property in respect of these woods. These woods were planted by someone at sometime, probably with a view to ultimate cutting. In the pursuit of sound forestry they should be cut, I suppose, when they arrive at a certain stage of maturity. They should then, no doubt, be replanted. What I suppose the Minister and everyone else would wish to avoid would be that in future no one should be able to cut down these trees, leaving the land quite waste, and not replanting, making a sore of the country-side and diverting a piece of land from a useful purpose to one that is of no use to anyone. That I thought could be done by making it obligatory where a whole wood was cut down to replant it.

Apart from that, surely there would be a most tremendous interference with the owners of such woods, who have to go to the Civic Guards or the Minister, and possibly on appeal to the Judicial Commissioner, if they want to cut down a certain tree or if they want to open the wood up a little bit. Not long ago, in a wood belonging to myself I cut a ride through the middle of it, to make it more accessible. The work is finished now. Under the Bill, I should have to go to the Minister and probably be involved in very much correspondence before I got permission to make my ride. That is only a small thing that I have in mind, but it seems a little bit hard if every owner of a wood has to go through all this paraphernalia before getting permission. Another thing that presents itself to me is that if there is such a wood cut down, and if a replanting order is made, that is not the whole story. From the point of view of the Government, probably, it is not enough to replant the wood; you have to make sure that it is looked after when it is replanted, that the land is properly drained, properly fenced, that the trees are relieved from time to time, or else the whole object will be wasted. Then there is something else from the owner's point of view. He wants to make sure that he has some sort of protection for the young trees. I will again give my own experience. I made a little experiment last year in the way of planting near my own house. There was a certain little bare patch in the wood close to where I live. I put down thirty or forty young fir trees behind a very good fence. I thought they would be all right, but within three weeks they had been all pulled up and carried away. That is not encouraging, and it makes one hesitate before embarking on a larger scheme, fearing that the same thing would happen. So much for the larger woods. Now for the scattered trees on purchased holdings. I think it is there the Bill will surely fail to achieve its object, if the Minister's object is to preserve these scattered trees. I am thinking of that part of Ireland which I know best—Kerry and the south-west —and I cannot think of any trees anywhere which could not be quite easily cut down under one of the three exemptions which the Minister provides in this Bill. A tree would either be within a hundred feet of a dwelling—a great many of these scattered trees are just around the homestead—or if it were not, the purchased proprietor could perfectly truthfully say that he wanted to cut down the tree in order to put up a new hay barn, a cowshed, something of that kind or for the construction of a house. If these two reasons failed he could say, very likely quite truly, that he needed it to burn.

A few years ago when there was a great shortage of turf, not through the fault of any individuals but because of the weather, it was very necessary for many of those tenants to cut down trees for that purpose. But how easy it would be for some man who, through laziness, failed to save his turf when others had done so, to go to the Civic Guard and say: "Here is my turf rick with nothing in it. I want to cut a certain tree because I want to burn it." In that way those scattered trees which exist, not in ones but in tens and very often in hundreds and which are very prominent features in the landscape, would be done away with and the object of the Bill would fail to be achieved. That is how it strikes me.

As Senator O'Hanlon said, the question of the depredator of trees is another thing. He will cut an odd tree whatever you do, and no matter how you deal with him by legislation. That has gone on in the past, and will continue. The penalties in this Bill are, however, great, and we can only hope that some of those depredators will be caught and made an example of. Senator O'Hanlon talked of the limitation of finance. What about the finance of this? I should like to hear something from the Minister about it. Must it not cost a great deal of money? That is perhaps more his affair than ours. The mere correspondence involved in this— letters from the Civic Guard to the Land Commission, answers to the Civic Guard—must run into a certain amount. We know the hands of the police are full enough. All that would involve large expense to the State, quite apart from the expense the individual would be subjected to. As to the Civic Guards, they would no doubt learn in time. They are very adaptable, but I think the Minister would have to make them all forestry experts to enable them to carry out their work efficiently in matters put upon them by this Bill. It seems to me that the Bill requires considerable amendment to make it achieve the objects in view. As it is it seems to me to carry with it the maximum of interference and the minimum of probable result. What we would agree on calling legitimate cutting would involve endless correspondence, and illegitimate cutting may go on freely in the future. The cost to the State and the trouble to all concerned would be very large. To sum up, it seems to me as it is now, unless the Minister alters important features in it, it is a Bill which is not worthy of the Minister who has been responsible for so very much useful legislation since he has been in office. I hope, therefore, that this House will insert important amendments in the Bill and that the Minister will be able to reassure me on some of the points I have raised.

I have seldom found as much difficulty in making up my mind as to my attitude in regard to a Bill as in the case of this one. On the one hand, I am a lover of trees, and as such am fully aware of the urgency of the problem in this country, but, on the other hand, I am also a lover of liberty, and, with the exception of giving freedom to criminal activities, I am all for the maximum of individual rights, and consider that everyone should be allowed to do, as far as possible, what he likes with his own. Besides, I have considerable practical experience of this question of forestry or arboriculture, and that experience causes me to realise the great difficulties which surround this question. There are others in this House who possibly know more about forestry than I do. Certainly some have had experience on a larger scale than I have had, but I do not think that those with greater knowledge or wider experience will be inclined to differ from me when I say that I gravely doubt that legislation of this kind, of a prohibitive and coercive nature, will satisfactorily effect the object which it has in view. What are the arguments in favour of this Bill? Ireland was never a well-wooded country in our time, and during the past generation it has been tending more and more in the direction of being a treeless country. That is generally acknowledged, and no one deplores it more than I do. The question we have to consider is: is this Bill the right cure? Will it be effective, or is there a possibility of the cure being worse than the disease? In a case of this kind especially, where the legislation is of such a novel character and so very drastic in certain respects, I think it is legitimate and desirable to examine the causes which gave rise to the legislation and see exactly what they are, because a clear knowledge of them is the best guide we can have as to how to provide a cure.

There are a variety of causes for this state of affairs. I am afraid I cannot agree with Senator O'Hanlon that this trouble began as recently as the time of the Great War. I think it began long before that, and I suggest the first and most important factor in the diminution of the area under timber was the Land Purchase Acts. The Land Purchase Acts broke up large estates and caused a change in the ownership of the trees. The trees went from the ownership of those who were well disposed towards the growth of trees and who understood a good deal about them. In a great many cases the trees belonged to men who planted more than they cut. Under the Land Purchase Acts these trees came to be owned not so much by a class who understood them as by another section who had very little regard for trees, largely through ignorance, and who, generally speaking, were almost hostile to trees. That is not a situation peculiar to Ireland. It happens to be the case in countries where the system of land tenure is that of small proprietors, and it happens in Italy and France and in similar countries where there is a good deal of Government control. I will only now say that in those countries, with which I am tolerably well acquainted, conditions are very different and lend themselves to Government control very much more than here. The second of the main causes which brought about this treelessness is the break-up of demesnes. That is not peculiar to Ireland either, because heavy taxation, death duties, and agricultural depression have a similar effect in other countries.

There are certain reasons why this particular cause has been more accentuated in Ireland than in other countries—certainly more than in England. Here we had a civil war, in addition to the Great War, and there was a great deal of burning, tree-stealing and general spoliation of property. There is still another reason which causes this country to be more treeless than other countries. In England, when a landed estate becomes no longer a remunerative concern—when it becomes practically a financial failure—the owner may have town property, the value of which is very much increased. That enables him to keep his landed estate together and to keep the trees on it. That may not be very satisfactory or economic, but at all events it makes for the preservation of the trees. Then, again, when property on which there is a lot of timber is offered for sale on the other side of the Channel there is a greater chance than there is here of its being bought by a man who has not only owned that kind of property before, but who is able to afford to keep the trees and to spend money on looking after them. In that way the trees are preserved. Here, unfortunately, the tendency has been for the ownership of the trees to pass into the hands of people who do not care about them. Very often large estates have been bought by speculative timber merchants—there was nothing wrong or immoral about their doing so; it was their business—and, as a result, large areas of timber have been cut down and have not been replanted. These tendencies are destructive rather than constructive, and those are the three main reasons why the country has been losing its timber.

There is the question as to why it is an actual misfortune that the country should be denuded of its timber. There, again, we have three reasons. There is the question of the natural beauty of the country, which is impaired as a result of the loss of its timber. Ireland is naturally a beautiful country, but it is not a country which possesses natural scenery on so grand a scale that it can afford to cut down all its timber. Around the coast there is scenery on a more or less grand scale. Though poorly wooded, it is beautiful, because you find in the background mountains or sea or stretches of lake. But if you contrast the great central plain with a similar area in England you find the contrast a distressing one. The lower Thames Valley, which the Great Western Railway runs through, has no better natural features than the great central plain here, but whereas many people would say that a great part of the central plain is not only bare and bleak but positively ugly, it would never occur to anybody to say that the lower Thames Valley was ugly. It is the presence of the timber, as a result of individual planting, that makes the difference. That is why it is very desirable that this state of affairs should be remedied. That is, in the main, an æsthetic reason, but it has also a commercial aspect, which was referred to by a previous speaker. I refer to the development of the tourist traffic here, and to inducing people who would possibly spend money in the country to come here. They would be more likely to come if the country were more beautiful.

The second reason is largely a material one and it is concerned with the agricultural industry. The question of timber in respect to the farm is of special importance here, because it enables the farmer to winter out his stock. That is one of the greatest features of Irish farming, and, probably, one of its greatest assets. When you cut your hedgerow timber, it becomes difficult to provide shelter for the cattle. It is a great hardship to have them huddled together against a fence that does not provide half enough shelter, and it probably means a huge annual loss to the country. The third reason has to do with the provision here of a larger proportion of the country's requirements in the way of sawn timber. It would be better to keep the money here than to be sending it out of the country. That is a much more questionable reason than the other two, because Ireland, from the point of view of commercial timber, is a more doubtful proposition. I do not know that there will be ever much economic planting in the country, for a variety of reasons. The actual planting of young trees is very expensive. The land which gives us such splendid grass also gives us a luxurious undergrowth which stifles the young trees. To attend to the trees after planting represents a much greater annual burden than is the case in England and it is much more difficult. In England, there are very large areas which have practically sown themselves. In England, there are large forests which have been self-sown. That is almost impossible here, and the outlay in planting and tending young trees is rather heavy. Then, again, we have only small-scale planting, with few exceptions, in this country. That makes it difficult to deal with timber on a large scale. Transit, also, is very expensive. We have no rivers here on which you can float down timber. We have no snow that enables other countries to transfer great logs of timber at very small cost from one place to another. Here the timber has to be cut and put on carts, and that is very expensive. Again the actual conversion of timber into scantling boards, or whatever form it is to take, costs a good deal of money for the same reason—that the woods are scattered and you cannot concentrate sufficiently on one spot to enable sawing enterprise to be pursued on a large scale and in a really economic way. We are competing with people in countries where the sawing is carried on on an enormous scale and where a man does not hesitate to scrap old machinery and bring in new machinery, because he is dealing with enormous quantities of stuff. Lastly, our timber is not, in the main, of the first class. There are some classes of timber which are not at all bad but, in the main, Irish timber is not first-class. It is a very windy country and wind tends to branching, so that the timber is knotted. Then, again, the difference between our summer and winter has a good deal to do with the class of timber that we produce. Foreign timber tends to be harder and less knotty, and we know that builders prefer foreign timber for windows and such things because it is, in fact, better than the home timber Nothing that we can do can overcome that natural disadvantage.

Then there is one class of timber which is, perhaps, in the least disadvantageous position in regard to being commercially satisfactory, namely, pit-prop timber. You can grow, for instance, Scotch fir all right in the country, but even there the business is not very remunerative. South Wales, for the South of Ireland, is the principal market, but it has to a considerable extent been captured by French timber grown in large forests. All the conditions which I have referred to already exist there on a larger scale, and water enters more extensively into the total cost of transit than it does here. Again, rate of exchange gives the French producer an undue advantage. In late years the production of pit-prop timber has not been very remunerative. One of the principal difficulties is that we are planting on a comparatively small scale and in a scattered way, and that we must always do so. One result is that in this country we have not, as they have in other countries, large classes of persons skilled in the management of timber as regards planting, looking after it, and sawing it afterwards. For these reasons it is questionable whether there is a future for profitable afforestation in Ireland. If the capital cost of planting one area amounted, say, to £1,000, and if that were put away in some gilt-edged securities and invested at compound interest over a period of years it would, in a great number of instances, show a more profitable return than money invested in timber. Nevertheless it is quite true that we can grow some good timber, and I think the Forestry Department are freer from the handicaps to which I have referred than private owners, because they can avail of skilled advice and have skilled persons employed in the business which is done on a large scale.

To revert to the actual problem, we are suffering a considerable æsthetic loss in natural beauty by trees being cut down wholesale. Then there is also a loss which is not strictly definable, and which is caused by the cutting down of hedgerow timber. It has long been recognised, especially by those in the community most familiar with the question, that something should be done in the matter, and many people, no doubt, are inclined to say to the Minister who is responsible for this Bill: "It is about time you did something, otherwise you will not have a tree left in the country." It is easy to say that. The question is: is this the right remedy? It is a very comprehensive Bill, but whether it will work in such a way as to effect a real cure, or whether the cure may not be worse than the disease in some respects is a matter of opinion. In my view, at any rate, the Bill does not provide the best way in which the problem could be tackled. I do not think it is a bad Bill, but, as I say, I would prefer to see the problem tackled in another way. I would like the Seanad to refuse a Second Reading to the Bill, as I do not think it could be amended in Committee so as to get over my main objections. I would like to see the Minister withdraw the Bill and substitute action of a different kind. It may be said by those who are listening to me: "How can a man who claims to be a tree-lover be so hostile to a Bill of this kind as not to be willing to give a Second Reading?" I shall give my reasons for that.

First, I wish to say that I have every sympathy with the Minister in the difficulties which he encounters in trying to meet this problem. It is the first comprehensive attempt ever made to deal with it. The problem bristles with difficulties, and I regret that I find myself compelled to oppose the Bill through conviction. That is no figure of speech, and I hope the Minister will agree with me when I say that because I want to convince him that we feel confident the Bill will not in some respects be effective. A large number of owners of land on which there is timber are either indifferent or hostile to this Bill, as they regard it as an interference with their private rights. Therefore nothing but prohibitive measures of a strong kind could, in my opinion, be effective. Apart from the wholesale interference with individual rights I object to the Bill for practical reasons, mainly on the grounds that it would be difficult to enforce it. I think, before transferring the control from the individual to the State, and before establishing in a wholesale way the principle that a man may not do what he likes with his own property, but only what the Government likes, a principle which is very autocratic, we should be assured that the change is going to work for the better. One reason which may be said to be a good reason for transferring control of trees from the individual to the Government is that the individual record is pretty bad. Undoubtedly it is. But the Bill is only justifiable on the grounds that individual effort is so bad that it is useless to expect anything from it, and that the Government control would make it very much better. In that connection it is fair to examine what the record of Government control is. I propose to demonstrate that it is not better than the individual record, and my remarks refer not to the present Government but to all previous Governments here.

The effects of the Land Acts on trees were foreseen, and provision was made to prevent purchasing tenants from cutting trees down. These provisions, however, were hardly ever enforced, and that is the prime reason why we find the land at present in such a state of nakedness. Legislation already in existence has never been given effect to. Then we have a forestry scheme which has been operating for some years. That is really the one bright spot, but even there the Government record is by no means perfect, because it has been responsible for a certain amount of unnecessary cutting. A large quantity of the timber on lands which were leased had to be cut because there was no money which would enable it to be transferred. The Local Government Act of 1925, Section 24, gave unlimited powers to county surveyors, county councils, urban councils and other authorities to order people to cut down trees which are prejudicial to roads. When that Bill was going through this House it was pointed out by various people that the powers given were very unlimited and were likely to have detrimental results. That advice, however, was not taken, with the result that absolutely indefinite powers were given, so that the word "prejudicial" was variously interpreted. In one county, for instance, people were told to cut all the trees within thirty yards of the road. That state of affairs directly came about through Government legislation, as a consequence of which all over the country you see instances along stretches of roads where these powers have been greatly abused. Thousands and thousands of trees have been cut and mutilated with very questionable advantage to the roads. I notice that in other countries they plant the roads, I mean in countries where there is an enormously greater forestry experience than here, so it cannot be the case that the county surveyors here alone are right in this question and that roads should have no trees alongside them, although in the great majority of countries entirely different views are held.

On those three considerations I think it is right to point out that the record of Government control is not by any means perfect and that we might do very much better, now that consciences have been awakened in regard to the problem, than by handing control over to the State. Timber is, of course, controlled in other countries pretty satisfactorily, but the conditions are very much different to those prevailing here. In France and Italy, for example, firewood is a matter of national importance, but it is not a matter of national importance here. There coal is frightfully expensive and it is not used on the same scale as in this country. It is so dear that the nation as a whole is driven to use firewood, and if private ownership of trees were not controlled a disastrous state of affairs might come about there. The Italian Government woke up to the importance of that a considerable number of years ago. I believe the rule in Italy is that a man cannot cut a tree unless he plants three more to the satisfaction of the Forestry Inspector. The difference between these countries and Ireland is that in Ireland the forestry question is such a small one that we can hardly afford to have an expensive forestry department or to have big forests such as they have in other countries where forestry is a great national asset and justifies a very much greater outlay. How the purposes of this Bill are to be effected without very considerable expenditure I fail to see. The administration of the Act will, to a large extent, depend on the efforts of the Civic Guard, but I hold that the average Civic Guard is hardly capable of attending to a matter of this kind. Every acre, except on mountains and in bogs, is practically involved under this Bill, so that supervision that would be required would be colossal. To make the Act really effective and to have a proper check on the cutting of timber which is prohibited under the Bill you would almost have to have a Civic Guard listening to the sound of an axe or a saw all day and all night as well, because the tree thief, who has been referred to previously, is not likely to be a law-abiding person and will not be at his work in the day. In my view, you can only have sporadic prosecutions under such circumstances, and it is almost impossible to take the worst cases as test cases.

We know that a man may be prosecuted for cutting down trees, but there may be a much more glaring case in the same neighbourhood in which no prosecution is taken. That will give rise to a great sense of injustice and bring the law into contempt. Whatever merits the Bill has got, it is now, to my mind, useless for most of the purposes for which it is intended. I wish to refer to a point which I trust you will not rule out of order on the ground that it is a Committee point, because, in my view, it bears directly on the question whether this Bill is useful or not and whether it should be given a Second Reading. Section 7, sub-section (5), paragraph (e) states: "a tree which is stated in the felling notice to be intended to be cut down for the purpose of using it as domestic fuel on the holding on which it stands." Such tree is deemed to be exempted. Paragraph (f) states that a tree which is dead or decayed or irremediably damaged and useless for commercial purposes shall also be exempt. There is no limitation, however, as in the previous paragraph (d), which deals with timber cut down for the construction or repair of buildings, "a tree which is not necessary for the ornament or protection of the holding on which it stands." To my mind an absurd position is created. A man may not, in some cases, cut down one tree, but he may cut down a whole row in other cases. If the clause which I have quoted now stands in the Bill—it was not in the original Bill as drafted—it strikes at a most vital principle of the measure, and although I am opposed to the Bill and would rather see the problem tackled in a different way, I would far rather see a Bill of such a drastic character based on some practical foundation. In the circumstances, I suggest to the Minister that it would be better if he withdrew the Bill. He could do so without loss of dignity or with diminution of prestige. I say that this Bill is an entirely different Bill from that originally introduced, and it has been so weakened in this respect that as a prohibitive measure it is no longer of very much value.

I would suggest that the Minister should withdraw the Bill and consider the matter afresh, and that it should be dealt with in an educative way. You must begin young, and I think some love for trees might be inculcated into the youth of the country. If people could be supplied with trees at a small cost and if they could be given advice about planting that would be all to the good. It is quite true that the alternative I have proposed to this Bill is likely to be very much less definite and of a character very much slower in action. As far as I am concerned it is not for lack of thinking about the subject, as I have thought a good deal about it, and tried to see what could be produced which would be free from some of the objections to this Bill. It occurred to me first that it would be very much better if we had a very much simpler measure.


I think the Senator is going outside the scope of the Bill. We are not considering future legislation—we are dealing with the Bill as it stands.

My view is that prohibitive legislation is not the right thing in this case, and that educative and facilitative lines should be sought instead. I think that the interference with the liberty of the individual is very great. The effect is to give rise to a lack of confidence, if people are not allowed to do what they want with their own. This is liable to bear hardly on a most deserving class of person—the person who has planted on a small scale and spent his own money on it. I think it is wrong that he should not be allowed to cut as he likes. That sort of thing tends to make people hate the law, and if people hate the law it is very bad. On the other hand, once you get the sympathy of a large part of the people in this matter of tree-planting, once you arouse a taste for it, very much more will be done, and done more effectively, than is possible by any drastic measure of Government control. I have no idea of what impression I have made on the Minister as regards the suggestion I have made that he should withdraw the Bill and tackle it on different lines. But if we are considering the Bill in Committee, I shall produce amendments. Although I have said that, in the main, the principle of the Bill is impossible of amendment, I do think that there are certain details in the Bill which could be improved. If a prohibitive, coercive Bill is to be passed, I would very much rather see it passed in such a form that it will be effective, rather than have a Bill which will not be effective and which will at the same time give rise to a great deal of dissatisfaction.

I should like to confine my remarks to the points which have not been touched upon yet. The most important point is the financial aspect of forestry. I observe in the Estimates for the year ending 31st March, 1929, that a sum of £57,851 was applied to carry on forestry operations. Out of that expenditure there appears a sum of £3,000 as an appropriation-in-aid, which I take to be the receipts on the sale of timber. I also observe that out of the expenditure here a very large sum is spent on labour—about £30,000. This sum of £57,000 differs from the sum mentioned by Senator O'Hanlon—I think he mentioned a sum of over £150,000 as the expenditure on forestry. Unless something is obtained from the Forestry Fund established in 1919, I do not know where the balance comes from.

My solution for the re-afforestation of the country would be that all the woodlands on which the timber has been cut should be taken over by the Minister. The land is of very little value for any other purpose than afforestation. It is of little value to the owner, and it could be got at a very nominal price. Under the existing Acts, and under the first part of this Bill, I think the Minister has that power if he wishes to avail of it. I do not at all approve of the restrictions on the people who have a few trees on their lands, and I think the Minister was of that opinion himself at one time, because during the First Reading debate on the Bill in the Dáil he made some remarks with which I thoroughly agree:

The problem in our minds to be considered on this section (that is, the restrictive section) is not the case of a farmer cutting one tree on his land, but what we really want to look after is the case of woods of fifteen, twenty, one hundred or two hundred acres being cut down, and I do not see any way of dealing with that situation except by such a section as this. If you try to draw a distinction between two, three or four trees and a wood, you will be up against almost impossible difficulties in drafting.

I do not agree it is impossible to provide words in the Bill that would carry out the intention of the Minister, because if he confined its operations to areas of 15 acres of timber and over, it would relieve all the occupiers who have smaller portions of woods on their lands from any restrictions whatever. I think if this Bill passed now with all those restrictions it would be the end to private planting, and any afforestation which would take its place afterwards would have to be by the State. No man would be so foolish as to spend money planting timber and then waiting for a long number of years and never knowing whether the Minister then in power would give him permission to realise his crop or not.

I agree with part of the statement of Senator Bagwell as to the rights of the people who plant trees, and who have for years paid rent, rates and taxes on their lands. There should be no restrictions on their action as to harvesting their property when the time comes for it. If the State wishes to have the countryside beautified and if it is not in a position to afford it, it ought to pay the private individual for keeping his trees in the countryside in order that the prospect may attract tourists. The section, as regards the fencing of woods already in existence is one which will work considerable hardship in several cases. It provides that where there are seedlings or saplings in woods, cattle, horses, etc., will have to be kept out. I know some cases where woods are actually used for the wintering of cattle and for affording them shelter, and in some cases they afford the cattle feeding in the springtime. I refer to the hazelwoods which are to be met with in Clare. I think it would be a great hardship upon the people who own land of that description that they should be prevented from allowing their cattle to winter in these sheltered places.

I do not intend to oppose the Second Reading of the Bill. I think that the insertion of certain amendments on the Committee Stage will have the effect of making it work better. If the Minister's intention, as indicated in the words I have quoted, could be carried out it would remove from my mind my strongest objection to the Bill.

A few years ago, I should be somewhat alarmed at a measure of this kind, but by indoctrination by easy doses I am getting used to this class of restrictive legislation, though my faith in individualism is in no way weakened. I certainly would support Senator Bagwell's ideas if it would do any good, but I do not think this House ever refused a Second Reading to any measure before, and I think nothing more can be done than make a protest. As we are distinctly committed to an endless vista of restrictive legislation I think we should examine this Bill for a moment and see if there are any principles behind this class of business. I supported, although I objected in detail, the Minister in legislation dealing with eggs, butter and matters of that kind. In fact, I was on the Commission that recommended it, but there was justification for it because it was an important export trade where one small minority of defaulters could taint the bulk, and there was reason for that. In these matters I should have much preferred if things could be left to individual understanding and goodwill, but there we were legislating to maintain the quality of our export trade. Here there is nothing of the kind. We are starting now in the domain of aesthetics in order to preserve the amenities of the countryside.

Senator O'Hanlon drew a most appalling and most startling picture of a movement or agitation on behalf of the tourists' organisation to prevent the owner of land from cutting down and dealing with his own property, because it might offend the susceptibilities of our visitors or of a few people who happen to take their airing in motor rides in that direction. We are all aware that that is an invasion into the domain of æsthetics. Then, again, we are to have an invasion into the domain of morals through some censorship of imported literature. If this thing was going to be any good and to be really effective I might be more tolerant in my attitude towards it, but it does seem the height of absurdity to expect to get anything really substantial from it and to avoid a great deal of underground and hidden discontent which will be thoroughly bad, although it will not be obvious. Of course, other speakers dealt with the reasons for all this. The reason for all this is lack of security in the country in the ownership of property—partly that and the financial burdens that have been put on ownership. For years past this has been going on, because under the land legislation people felt unsettled and turned to their liquid property to realise what they could. During the War there were other reasons. There was a distinct profit in the sale of timber, but the prohibitive cost of labour prevented any replanting, so the woods were not replanted. How the Minister expects to get any replanting in the felled areas I do not know. I do not think he could expect that. Of course, this is out of the question here. What are you going to get in replanting? How the Minister is going to get any spiritual performance by people who do not want to play the game I do not see at all. The only thing in all these matters is good-will. If you have got settlement and people in love with their surroundings and educated they would do it and all might be well. You are going to get a certain small spurious improvement by restrictive legislation, but you have against that the large element of internal discontent and lack of willing co-operation with the law.

Just look at the position. The State comes along and says: "You have to replant." Well, there are certain experts—one of them is at present sitting behind the Minister—and they know perfectly well that there are a dozen ways in which you can replant. If a man is not going to replant with his heart in the work he can carry out the replanting in a totally inefficient, cheap, bad, useless way. If a man has not security he will do that sort of thing; he will buy cheap trees, and he will run them all over the place, and he will carry out the scheme in a most unsatisfactory way. We know that in many parts of the country the chief difficulty is the cost of tending young trees. The luxuriousness of the undergrowth is so great that in the first ten years it requires as much attention as the actual scheme of replanting. In connection with this measure, if you are going to be logical, it will mean that there is going to be a constant stream of Government control over each individual and over each tree planted; it will mean that the State will have to follow up each man who plants trees in order to see that he has planted a proper and suitable variety. Perhaps the suitable variety in many instances will be a very expensive variety.

Then, again there is in this Bill a most glaring omission. There is no provision at all made in respect of possible damage by rabbits. Everybody knows that cattle, sheep, or the larger four-footed animals generally do not create the most trouble in regard to plantations. Quite a lot of the expense is caused through damage done by rabbits, and there is nothing at all about rabbits in the Bill. If you do not make some provision in respect of rabbits there is scarcely any use in planting at all.

I may say that planting is not at all economical. You will get people with all the good-will in the world and plenty of understanding of the subject, and they do not do much work of the sort. If they know anything about compound interest and increment tables, they will not do it with any gain to themselves. In the case of private ownership, I, for instance, or any individual, might be prepared to spend money in tree planting, but then my son may not interest himself in the matter, and perhaps he will do away with timber in an immature state.

I would like to mention this to the Minister, that afforestation is one of the matters in which State activity to the fullest extent is justified. When one embarks upon a large scheme of afforestation, it means a long wait until the timber is sufficiently matured. If it is going to be an economical scheme, it will need expert management over a long period, and State assistance in such a matter is really essential. I dare say the State may not wish to touch this sort of thing. The only way to get bare patches planted is to get interested the people who really value the amenities of the countryside. There are some county surveyors who smash up and mutilate our roadsides. In order to have a scheme successful we must first educate the people, and throughout the country we must have settlement, security and good-will and a feeling amongst the people that they are not going to be regulated and that they can do largely what they like with their own property.

I must say I was rather surprised at the mentality of some Senators on this subject of afforestation. The general idea of those who have spoken seems to be that we cannot do in this country what is done in other countries. The case of France has been instanced here and we have been told that it is a beautifully-wooded country. Those who know about the conditions existing in France in regard to afforestation are aware that the people are placed under certain restrictions there and they must comply with the law. If they do take up a tree it is seen by the State that they plant one or two other trees at the same time. Hence the country is not denuded and there is always a continuity of growth. Similarly, in Japan, you have beautifully-wooded areas. Large parts of that country are beautifully timbered. The law is very strict there and the people abide by the law. They have a civic spirit there, just as they have in France and also in other countries where afforestation is regulated. In Japan, if a man wants to cut down a tree, whether it is near his own house, in a hedge, or in an open field, he has to apply for permission and the Government send an expert along. If he cuts down the tree they provide other trees for replanting, trees of a suitable character for the land, particularly suited for the place where they are planted. There is a penalty attaching to the man if he does not take care of those trees afterwards, and to ensure that he does so there is an inspection frequently.

All these things, we are told, are impossible in this country. Senators will not have to go back very far to find out the cause for the first great denudation in Ireland. We could, if necessary, go back to the Elizabethan period, but possibly it might be better for me not to refer in detail to the causes of the wholesale destruction of the timber of this country. One can traverse the period down to the various Land Acts and down to the period of private ownerships, but all that is past history and we all know and regret that, right through those years, through want of protective restrictive legislation, the country has been gradully denuded of its timber.

Now we come to the position that we are to make our minds up as to whether that process of denudation shall be allowed to continue or whether we can retrieve the situation. The first step towards retrieving the position is calling a halt to the present reckless destruction and indiscriminate cutting-down of the timber in the country. That is what this Bill sets out to do. It may not be sufficient for its purpose, but at any rate it is a first step. We are told that what is proposed in this measure is utterly impossible and that unless you get the good-will of the people no scheme could be successful. We are told that afforestation is a matter for education from the schools upward. When you have planted the seed in the mind of the schoolboy or the schoolgirl of to-day, by the time they have grown up to manhood or womanhood and then begin to show their good-will towards re-planting, what will be the position of the country? It is, no doubt, an admirable suggestion, but while we are waiting for it to materialise what is going to happen? Surely something more has to be done. You have to save the position until that admirable suggestion comes to the stage of realisation and until the country is re-timbered in the course of time.

There is talk here about restrictive legislation. We must be prepared, if we are to get ourselves out of the rut, to face restrictive legislation in more senses than one. There is not enough work in the country and there is not enough production. Every Minister of the Government when he moves in the direction of producing more timber, getting more land under cultivation— in short, digging wealth out of the land—has me behind him every time, even though the legislation he suggests is restrictive legislation. People in the country must realise that restrictive legislation is for their own good. Until we get out of the habit of not brooking any interference and trying to do things in our own way, there can be no real progress.

There is no use in going back to the causes which have brought us to the position in the matter of timber as it stands to-day. Senators who are interested possibly in large wooded areas may have some cause at least for fear or anxiety as to who will be the arbiter in these matters. When a man sends his notice to the nearest Gárda station, he possibly wants one, ten or a hundred trees cut. After sending that notice he waits for 21 days. Can the Minister lift the veil and tell us what is to happen in those 21 days? Who is to decide? Is the prohibition order to be issued or is the permit to be granted at the end of those 21 days by the man who is an expert in forestry? Will the prohibition notice state the reasons why the order is being made? Is the decision to be by an expert who has taken out his degrees in forestry or who has some other particular qualifications, or is it, as has been expressed here by some of the Senators, that the Gárda is the man who is to decide? I do not know whether that is so or not. The Bill does not say who will put the machinery in motion on the receipt by the Gárda of a felling notice which is passed over to the Department, or whether the Department will send down an inspector or a man versed in forestry to advise what is to be done. Want of information on these matters may possibly be the reason that some of the Senators have expressed the views they have put before the Seanad this evening. Senator Linehan has some fears for the consequences to the smaller wood owners, and Senator Bagwell gave expression to that view too. The question that arises, of course, is whether this Bill, being the first step towards getting our country wooded again, is going to be worth the trouble and expense of doing so; the question arises whether it is going to be an economic proposition to do this thing or whether, as Senator Bagwell said, it may not be better for the country to invest this money in some other way rather than in forestry because of the unsuitability of our climate. One Senator said that if the money were invested it would bring far more profit to the country in the course of years than is to be made by embarking on tree planting; he spoke also of the absence of a proper market.

There is a market for our timber to-day. There has always been a market. Some of the Senators spoke about the soil and climate as being unsuitable for tree planting. As to that, I will say just take the climate of Australia, where you have blizzards and tornadoes. Yet in that climate some beautiful timber grows. At the end of the wood you may find some tangled, gnarled, scrubby, and a poor class of timber, but in the heart of these woods there is beautiful timber. Similarly, in this country, when the land was wooded, very beautiful timber grew. Look at the House of Commons in London. The beams of that building were got in this country. That shows that notwithstanding all that has been said about the winds and the climate here, and any other unsuitability, you have a natural growth of timber here of a very fine class. The fact remains that notwithstanding the timber they were able to grow in England, and whatever advantages the climate gave them yet when they wanted straight and sufficiently long timber they had to come to our country. Has the climate changed so very much in the meantime? No. It has changed in this way, that to-day you have not got the shelter-belts that you had in the old days. When you have shelter-belts in this country you can grow timber other than the routine timber. As a matter of fact, eucalyptus wood can be grown in this country, and the camphor trees that are grown in the island of Formosa will grow here. I spoke to Mr. Russell and the late Major Stewart about that, and we were making arrangements to grow camphor trees in a certain situation. That, however, is not apropos of the Bill as it is set out here. This Bill deals largely with the policy of this State. These larger proposals are going on, but it does not follow that they are going to mature. I think so far as those larger proposals are concerned the schemes put up by the Forestry Department are very satisfactory, and give promise of success.

Regarding the incidents cited here, in which it was stated that legislation is interfering very much with the ordinary amenities of the private owner, and restricting the individual liberty, I have only to mention that down in Waterford we have instances of where trees are growing along the roadside and there has been no objection at all to the trees. There was no extreme course taken with the owners of timber growing along the roadside. In some cases, however, you had trees growing out over the road and meeting the trees at the other side. This was more destructive to the roads than the ordinary traffic. In such cases there is no use in talking about a man doing what he likes with his own. It is all very well, as the Senator said, for a man to do what he likes with his own, but where trees overhang the road—fifty per cent. of the road—it is a very serious matter in the upkeep of the roads. We have all driven through long avenues of trees in this country in places where, even in mid-summer, one could not see the sky. That is certainly absolutely destructive to the roads. In a case like that a man cannot reasonably say that he can do whatever he likes with his own. Surely other people's convenience must be considered as well as his. A Senator spoke as if it were a great tyranny that in a matter like that there should be any restriction on individual liberty, but if the matter is looked at in a reasonable way there is a lot to be said for State interference.

I am sorry to interrupt the Senator, but I beg to move that the House do now adjourn until 3 o'clock to-morrow. I do so because a large number of the Senators have expressed the desire to participate in the reception to be given to the heroes who have made the first flight across the Atlantic from East to West. I think it would be a pity if an opportunity should not be given to the Senators who want to take part in that welcome to do so.

I beg to second that.

I beg to move that the hour of meeting to-morrow be altered from 3 o'clock to 12 o'clock.


I cannot accept that amendment.

Cannot we suspend the Standing Orders and then take a motion on the matter?


Not without notice.

I beg to propose that we meet at 12 o'clock to-morrow.


The Standing Orders cannot be suspended without notice.

Is it not within the power of the House to adjourn now until 12 o'clock to-morrow? There are certain functions taking place to-morrow also.


The Standing Orders cannot be suspended without motion.

I beg to move now that we suspend the Standing Orders.


I cannot accept that motion, but I do accept the motion that the House now stands adjourned until 3 o'clock to-morrow.

Motion put and agreed to.
The House adjourned at 5 o'clock until 3 p.m. on the 4th July.