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Seanad Éireann debate -
Wednesday, 8 May 1929

Vol. 12 No. 8

Housing Bill, 1929—Report Stage.

Senator The McGillycuddy has an amendment, and he has asked me if I would allow him to intervene before I move my amendment, so that he could make some explanation with regard to his. It covers mine, but it also includes something else.

If my amendment were taken before Senator Milroy's, it would clear the air. It is as follows:

Section 3, sub-section (1). To delete to the end of the sub-section paragraph (e), inserted in Committee, and to substitute therefor a new paragraph as follows:—

"(e) to any person being the tenant or owner of a house which is certified by the Country Medical Officer of Health as being insanitary and unfit for human habitation and who erects on the same site a house to which this Act applies, a grant not exceeding £60 in respect of the said house."

I regret the necessity for inconveniencing the House by moving an amendment which ought properly to have been suggested on the Committee Stage of this Bill, but the Cathaoirleach called upon the Minister in charge to reply to the debate before I could screw up sufficient courage to rise to address the House. I do not think that the House saw this matter in the correct perspective, and as a result they have, without due consideration, given preference to a particular class of the population of the Saorstát. I have an intimate knowledge of, and a deep sympathy with, the small farmer, and if injustice were not done to others, I would desire to advance his cause, but I think that he has some advantages over the artisan. The latter has only his hands, and when they fail he has nothing to fall back upon; on the other hand, the farmer, however small, has an abiding place in the country districts; he can exist where the artisan is starving, and he gets, for reasons which I do not intend to explain in detail to the House, credit which will tide him over a bad time and which the artisan can seldom command.

Experience gained in local government leads me to believe that a scheme based on poor law valuation is difficult to administer by reason of the fact that valuation is by no means a correct method of estimating a man's real wealth or poverty, and I have often seen it discarded and for that reason alone I consider the amendment unsound and liable to give rise to injustice. The speakers in support of the amendment laid stress on the necessity for this concession on medical grounds, and that being so, I suggest that the substituted wording which I have submitted to the House meets the case better than the original, and makes provision for all classes instead of one. In view, however, of Senator Johnson's remarks on the Committee Stage I very much doubt whether an amendment to the Bill is necessary at all.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

I move:—

Section 3, sub-section (1). To delete at the end of the sub-section paragraph (e), inserted in Committee.

There are, I think, a considerable number of reasons for the amendment which is tabled in my name, and I think that we should consider this amendment which was proposed by Senator MacEllin, and which was adopted by the Seanad last week, before we make up our minds on the matter. I take it that Senator MacEllin had in mind a desire to give a special benefit to a special class, that he believed the particular circumstances merited special consideration, that, in other words, they had a claim to the extra grant of £15 which people of a similar status in other walks of life could not make. In opposing that amendment, the Minister very effectively pointed out that this particular class is one which could afford the reduced grant better than other classes; that no site value was involved; that stone and sand, and often lime, can be conveniently got by them without payment, and so on, so that these people in these respects—and they are very important considerations— are better able to bear a reduction in the grant than people living in urban areas. Now, I understand that the purpose of this Bill is to induce the investment of money in house building, and that if that is not achieved one particular purpose of the Bill is not achieved.

Senator MacEllin described these people in a way which would lead one to believe that they have very little money to invest for this purpose. But there are one or two considerations which seem to me, without discussing the merits or the intentions of the amendment, to render it unworkable. I read the report today, and it struck me as very curious that Senator Comyn, who seconded the amendment, said that it had been very carefully drafted. I may be wrong, and in this matter I speak subject to correction, but it seemed to me that instead of being carefully drafted, it was quite the reverse.

There were several serious defects in it, I think, which would raise considerable obstacles if the Bill became a statute. For instance, take the term "agricultural holding." I have tried to ascertain if there is any statutory definition of an agricultural holding, and so far as my investigations went there is none. There are legal definitions; cases have been tried and legal judgments have been given that such and such was an agricultural holding. But these decisions were contingent upon certain particular circumstances, and they could hardly be quoted as definitions for the purpose of this amendment. They were such, in any case, as made it clear to my mind that without a proper definition of an agricultural holding the acceptance of the amendment would lead to the widening of the scope of the Bill in a way which was never contemplated, either by the Bill or the mover of the amendment. For instance, in one or two cases that I noticed in looking for a definition of an agricultural holding I found, "A plot of ground used as a market garden in an urban area." Another case was a piece of land devoted to the cultivation of strawberries, which was defined as an agricultural holding.

I am quite sure that those responsible for that amendment had a particular class in their minds who should benefit by this increased grant, that is, the small farmers in rural areas, and that it was not their intention to include people living in urban areas who have plots of ground devoted to agricultural purposes to an extent which would bring them under the legal definition of an agricultural holding. But still the fact remains that if this amendment were allowed to remain in the Bill without a specific definition ruling out these urban areas, they would be entitled, under these judgments and under the Bill, to claim the increased grant. I take it that that is not the intention of the movers of the amendment. At least I would be glad to hear Senator Comyn on the matter. He may be able to tell us if there is a definition of the term "agricultural holding" which would define rigidly what is intended for the purpose of the amendment, because I think he will agree that without such the amendment would widen the scope of the Bill in a manner which was not contemplated.

There is another point with regard to the phrase "sole or main source of livelihood." Do not take me as hostile to the spirit or the intention of that amendment. It is simply because I think it is not drafted in a way which would secure the object, even if the object were acceptable, that I am criticising it. Who is to ascertain if it is the sole or main source of livelihood? If that amendment remains as it is worded, would it not necessitate an enquiry by the Department to ascertain what is the means of livelihood of the applicant, and whether or not the information given is accurate? If so, that would involve an expenditure which I do not think was contemplated by the Bill, or by the mover of the amendment. I think, as Senator The McGillycuddy of the Reeks said, that the valuation is not an accurate criterion by which to judge this. It might very well be that one person on a holding with a £15 valuation would be in a much better position than a person on holding with a valuation of £40 £50. To my mind this amendment, apart altogether from the idea that the mover of it has in mind, has intrinsic defects. If it were to remain in the Bill it would, I think, involve the Department charged with the administration of it when it became an Act in a whole series of complicated inquiries, the end of which it is very hard to see. We are at the stage now that, even if it were possible to have a definition of an agricultural holding made clear, it is too late to have that put in. Consideration of the drafting of such a definition would involve considerable time, and for that and the other reasons that I have indicated, I think the amendment is seriously defective. The amendment was passed in a moment of unguardedness on the part of the Seanad, and I think it is one that ought to be deleted from the Bill.


So that Senators may be conversant with the terms of the amendment inserted on the Committee Stage, perhaps I had better read it. It is in the following ing terms:—"Section 3, sub-section (1). To add at the end of the sub-section a new paragraph as follows:—

"(e) to any person being the tenant or owner of an agricultural holding which constitutes his sole or main source of livelihood and the poor law valuation of which does not exceed £15, erecting on the said holding a house to which this Act applies a grant not exceeding £60 in respect of the said house."

That is what Senator Milroy wishes to delete.

I am much indebted to you, sir, for having read the sub-section which was proposed from these benches and carried unanimously, or almost unanimously in a full House. I would like Senators to recall that there was no surprise about this amendment. It was brought forward openly, and was argued plainly and fully. It was discussed from all sides of the House, and was carried on the Committee Stage on a show of hands. During the time that I have been a member of the House I do not recollect any other proposal which received such an amount of general approval from all sections of the House. I must say that I am greatly surprised that the Minister, who must be thoroughly conversant with the weighty reasons put forward from these benches in support of that amendment, should now come back on the Report Stage and try to reverse the decision arrived at on the Committee Stage of this Bill not by surprise, not by fraud, but after open discussion and with the full assent of the House.

As there are some Senators who may not have been present at the original debate on this amendment, I would like to state shortly some of the arguments which we put forward in support of it. I am doing that because I am most anxious to secure that this section should not be lost to the Bill. As the amendment indicated, it is intended that labouring men, who are not the less labouring men because they have £15 worth of a holding in which to occupy their labour, should get a grant of £60 when the artisan gets £45. I will not dwell very much now upon the claims of that particular class. These claims must be obvious to Senators. What I do say is that up to the present that class has not been very articulate. I do not think that in the past three or four years they have been very generously treated. In fact I would go so far as to say that the small farming class in the legislation that has taken place in the last two or three years have been very badly treated. They are not articulate at present, but when they speak they will speak with force. In explaining why we requested from the House a larger sum for them than is given to the ordinary artisan, I pointed out that the small farmer's house is used, to some extent at least, for farming purposes, and that therefore it must of necessity be a little larger than the house of the artisan in a town or a city. Of course, the Minister was quite right in saying that the small farmer can build at less expense than, say, an artisan in the city of Dublin or the city of Cork. We know very well that he can employ his own labour, the labour of himself and of his sons, that he can quarry stones, and with his horses draw them to the building site. We know that, and the Minister knows it, too, but if that gives the small farmer an opportunity of earning a few pounds, why should he not have them? I see in this House, and in another place, a disposition to adopt a hostile attitude towards a class that is not at present vocal.


But, if they do become vocal, I can tell Senators that they will talk. Of course, there was the argument which, if I may say so, was put forward very clearly by the Minister, that the small farmer can do a lot of this building work by means of his own labour and the labour of his sons. That was put very clearly by the Minister, but notwithstanding that we still press that £60 should be the amount of the grant in the case of a small agricultural holding. Now I come to the elaborate and very acute legal argument put forward by my friend, Senator Milroy. He says that this amendment was not very carefully drafted. Of course, he is entitled to his opinion, and the House is entitled to accept his opinion. I will not complain as regards that. I say that the amendment was very carefully drafted to include a certain class that are deserving of special consideration. If Senator Milroy differs with me on that, of course, I can only reiterate the opinion that I have already expressed. This I will say, that I do not expect the Minister will agree with Senator Milroy. There were two points taken up by Senator Milroy. He says that we have no definition here of an agricultural holding. There is no necessity for a definition of an agricultural holding. If there are any two words in the language, English or Irish, that are so clearly defined or closely limited, these are the two words.

Might I ask the Senator, when he says clearly defined, does he mean defined by statute or by law, and, if so,, would he give the House an instance?

I agree with Senator Comyn.


Senator Brown agrees with Senator Comyn.

Perhaps Senator Milroy will be unable to accept what we say.

I did not hear what Senator Brown said.


Senator Brown seems to agree with Senator Comyn.

I hope the Senator will inform us where the definition can be found.

In at least six Land Acts.

Of course, we will inform Senator Milroy when he comes to the Bar—at least, before he comes to the Bar. In any case, I do not wish to press my view against his view. He says one thing and I say another. I ask the House to accept what I say in regard to that. The Senator has shown a considerable amount of learning on this subject, because he referred to the case of market gardens. That is a case that actually arose in reference to this question of an agricultural holding. It was the famous Limerick market garden case. I think that if there are any small farmers near Ardnacrusha who have 3 or 4 acres of a cabbage garden they ought to have good houses as well. So much for the arguments which have been urged by Senator Milroy. In regard to these small farmers, I would urged on the Minister not to press on the Report Stage the rescinding of the amendment carried in Committee. I think that these small farmers are entitled to special consideration. On the last occasion I pointed out that our desire was not to get for these small farmers a great share of this £200,000. We do not expect much of that, but it seems to us that this is an occasion upon which we can get the small farmer into an advantageous position in legislation in preparation for the time when the Minister will have some comprehensive scheme to bring before the House. I have only one other matter to deal with, and when I have dealt with it to the satisfaction of Senator Johnson, I hope that we will have his support.

The Senator's argument will have to be much stronger than it has been so far.

I have not answered the Senator's case yet. I hope I have not aroused the hostility of any particular section while arguing for the small farmer. I know that there are some people who represent Labour who think that there is competition between the two.


In regard to what Senator Johnson said as to why these small farmers do not form themselves into a public utility society, I can imagine a small farmer who wants £60 going around and getting seven names. I suggest it would be easier to get seven names on a promissory note than to get seven farmers over a countryside to form themselves into a public utility society for the purpose of getting £60 when they can get £45 without being obliged to do anything of the sort. I think, with all respect to Senator Johnson——

The Senator and his colleagues could form themselves into a public utility society.

I do not happen at the moment to want £60 for the building of a house. I might want it for something else, but I think that is a sufficient answer to Senator Johnson's argument. The argument which the Senator put up on the last occasion was, and I say it with respect, quite untenable in the mind of anybody who understands the country. I submit that if the Minister does press for the rescinding of the amendment carried in Committee, it is really a challenge to the House. If he presses that, I hope that the House will not reverse the decision which it gave by an overwhelming majority on a show of hands on a most important question.

This amendment deals with a class of people constituting part of the population of Ireland who have gone through more difficulties, troubles and sufferings during hundreds and hundreds of years than any other section of the population. They live, as I have seen them myself, in mud houses on the side of the road—houses which are several feet below the level of the road. Many of these mud houses are in the midst of bogs, practically surrounded by water. I have seen many of these houses myself in the west of Ireland. They are wretchedly bad. I have seen some very bad cabins indeed. While saying that, I do not want in the least to minimise the sufferings of the people who are obliged to live in congested areas in the City of Dublin. Great numbers of these people suffer seriously. Nothing could be worse than the habitations they have. In supporting this amendment, I am not therefore to be taken as in any way minimising the sufferings of these people in Dublin. My feelings are quite the opposite. Senator Milroy, in looking for a definition of an agricultural holding, even though I am not a lawyer, made me smile, because I have been hearing about that all my life.

Could the Senator, who is so much amused, state definitely the Act or the statute in which the definition of an agricultural holding is to be found?

When it is considered that two lawyer-members of the House have just answered Senator Milroy's question, I think it would be absurd for me to enter into that.

The Senator seemed to be so fully informed on the matter that he appeared to think it was a matter for amusement. I spoke subject to correction when I stated that I had not been able to discover such a definition myself. I hope, when Senator Brown speaks, that he will be able to inform the House that the definitions that he states are in Acts of Parliament are such as will suit the purposes of this particular amendment which deals with a particular class.

I will leave that matter to somebody else to speak on. The point has been made that the people living in the agricultural areas in Ireland can provide more help themselves as regards the actual work of house building than people living in the towns and in the cities. I suppose there is something in that. I have seen them building their own houses in the West. I have seen them improve their houses there. I have seen them build some mud cabins. Generally they built their houses of rough stones without possessing much knowledge of the art of house-building. These people are not masons, and I have seen them build some cabins which would not, I think, be now accepted by the inspectors who go around and whose duty it is to inspect houses. These houses that I have seen had clay floors. They were small houses and were badly built. I do not think the people ought to be encouraged to build that class of house. These, of course, are the only sort of houses that they can build at their own expense. I think there is no section of the population which is more deserving of a little help than these small farmers who live in the West of Ireland. They live in wretched little houses on the side of the road. They ought to be encouraged to build better houses for themselves, and I see no reason why they should not be encouraged by means of the amendment carried on the Committee Stage on the motion of Senator MacEllin.

On the Committee Stage of this Bill I listened with great attention to the case that was made for his amendment by Senator MacEllin. I supported his amendment on that occasion, and I propose supporting it to-day. I think that the Senator made a good case for increasing the grant for these people from £45 to £60. I do not think that the question raised to-day about the definition of an agricultural holding should lead Senators who supported the amendment on the last occasion to change their opinions to-day. There is only this difference of £15, and in my opinion the people concerned deserve to be treated with a little generosity. They are a most deserving class, and this extra sum of £15 will be a great help to them houses for themselves. I intend to support the retention of that amendment in the Bill.

As I was the mover of the amendment, perhaps I ought to say something on this. As far as I could understand his attitude, the Minister on the last day did not seem to have any great objection to the acceptance of my amendment. In fact, the only objection he urged was that these small farmers and people of that class were not so badly hit at all. I think that was an absolutely ridiculous objection to raise, considering the present position of those engaged in agriculture. In the case of a small farmer who has a holding with a £15 valuation, his income at the very outside would be about £80 a year. Out of that he has to pay rent and rates, which would account for about £20. Then he has to pay for feeding-stuffs, manures, and one thing and another. When he has all these charges met he is left with about 10/- a week for the support of himself and his family. The number in family in the case of most of these people would be eight or ten, more often ten than eight, and all that they are left to live on is ten shillings a week. I think it is time that something should be done to help these people to provide themselves with houses, and to get out of the hovels in which they are living at present.

Is not the Senator's amendment based on the argument that these people have saved about £200?

That, I submit, is the Senator's suggestion: that a private person of this particular class who wants to build a house will get a grant of £60 towards the building of that house?

Assuming that the house costs £260, where is the other £200 to come from?

I understand that the cost of building materials has been reduced during the last couple of years. As far as I know, I think myself that the cost to a small farmer of building a house would be in or about £100. I do not know that for certain, because I have no technical knowledge on the subject. What I do submit to the House is that a grant of £45 would be no inducement whatever to these poor people to make a start in the building of a house. If they got the extra sum of £15 provided for in my amendment, it would be a great help to them. It may be said that £15 is not so much in the building of a house, but I can tell Senators that £15 means a lot to these poor people in the country living on holdings with a valuation of £15. Fifteen pounds means a great deal to them, and would encourage them to set about the building of a house. On the last occasion Senator Johnson referred to the formation of public utility societies, and said that if they were formed the grant of £60 could be got. Anybody who lives in the country, or anyone acquainted with conditions in the country, knows perfectly well that it is almost impossible sometimes to get people to move, even in their own interests. Take, for instance, the case of a rural area in which you have ten or fifteen families. Let us assume that one man there wants to build a house, and that he goes around to his neighbours and asks them to form themselves into a public utility society so that he may be able to get a grant of £60 to build a house for himself. The first thing that would happen would be this: the people he approached for the purpose would at once become suspicious. They might get the idea into their heads that this man would not be able to pay for the house when built, and that the liability, whatever it was that remained over, would fall on themselves.

Senator Milroy stated that some people might term a market garden, or even an acre of land, an agricultural holding. Anyone who reads my amendment could not come to the conclusion that I ever intended to include as an agricultural holding a market garden or an acre of land, because it most specifically sets out that the increased grant is only to apply to persons who are the tenants or owners of an agricultural holding which constitutes their sole or main source of livelihood. In the case of a man who had only an acre of land his sole or main source of livelihood would not come from that. Further, a man living on an acre of land would come under the part of the Bill dealing with workers. My amendment that was accepted on Committee Stage in no way interferes with such a person. World conditions are such at the moment that the Governments of practically every country are doing something to help the farmer. Even the wealthy United States of America has realised the necessity of coming to the assistance of the farmers in that country in order to help them over the difficulties that face those engaged in agriculture. The position here is very critical at the moment. I hope that this House is not now going to say that it is not prepared to help these poor people to build new houses. I think that my amendment is a very reasonable one. It merely asks the State to give this little extra help to the small farmers of the country as an inducement to them to get out of the hovels in which they are living, and to provide themselves with decent houses. I ask the House to support the case that has been made to give these people the necessary assistance they require in order that they may be able to build new houses for themselves.

There is no question of any hostility to the small farmer in offering my opinion on this particular matter. There is a provision in the Bill whereby any small farmer, or unfortunate person with no land at all, can under certain conditions get a grant from the State of £45 to build a three-roomed house. If people have any sense, or have any friends willing to help them, and they require to get a grant of £60, all they have to do is to form a public utility society. There is nothing preventing those who have sympathy with the small farmers doing the preliminary work in regard to the formation of a public utility society on their behalf. Moreover, the amendment is picking out one particular section of the community and putting it in a privileged position.

Not at all.

The Senator may say that but the facts speak for themselves. The amendment means that the farmers with holdings of less than £15 valuation are to be entitled to a grant of £60, while a man with no land would get only £45. I voted against the amendment the last day, and I will vote against it to-day, and not because I am lacking in sympathy with the small farmers. Senator Comyn may shake his head and think that nobody has as much sympathy with the small farmer as he has, but I can assure him that we have every sympathy with the small farmer. It is not, however, a question of sympathy, but a question of dealing fairly with everybody and not placing one particular section in a privileged position. It is unfair to give one class £60 and another class, who may be worse off, only £45. I want to point out to Senator Comyn that under previous Acts, if these small farmers wanted to take advantage of the £60 grant, there was nothing to prevent them from doing so. It is nonsense to speak in connection with this Bill of hitting people in the countryside. Any person of average intelligence who has the interest of the small farmer at heart can do the little preliminary work that is necessary as regards the formation of a public utility society, and every farmer who is a member of that society will get the £60. In that way the making of special legislation for one particular section of the community can be avoided.

I supported the amendment last week, and it is my intention to vote against the proposal for its deletion on this stage. I have no hesitation in saying that if the vote last week had been recorded and published in the journals of this House, Senator Milroy's amendment would never have appeared. It is only waste of time discussing it, and it is merely treating the House with contempt to ask it to reverse a decision deliberately arrived at this day week.

It would be a mistake if we adopted the principle that we should not discuss, when necessary, matters fully on the Report Stage. The reason for the Report Stage is to give an opportunity for such discussion. Whatever opinions we hold, or whatever way we vote in regard to this amendment, we should not be influenced by the suggestion that the House should not reverse its decision. A great deal has been said on this amendment that we did not hear the last time, and the House should not object to have a good discussion on the Report Stage. Another point I want to make is that the promoters of this amendment cannot convince me that this extra £15 given to a man who has such a wretched house that it is uninhabitable, will enable him to build a new house. The difference between £60 and £45 will not enable a person to build a house unless he has very considerable resources to fall back upon. We have been told again and again that the small farmer cannot get his neighbours to join with him to form a public utility society, so that he might get the grant of £60. It seems to me that the amendment which was brought forward on the last occasion by Senator MacEllin would make the measure extremely difficult to administer. I would not like to be sitting in the Department that had to deal with the claims for grants from those with a valuation of £15 or under. I really think the House should consider whether it should pass a loosely worded section which would give no end of trouble to the Department. The House should be convinced that what it is proposed to do in the amendment brought forward on the last occasion by Senator MacEllin can be done. I doubt it, and I think the Bill would be better without it.

I am entirely with Senator Farren that the principle of the amendment which we adopted last week is entirely wrong considered in relation to the rest of the Bill. I deprecate the talk about hostility to the small farmers. Talk of that description is only lowering the level of the debate. I come from a district where there are small farmers, and is it conceivable that I would come to the House and be hostile to their interests? We come here to speak for the good of the whole people. That is why I put down an amendment, and that is why the Minister drafted the Bill in the terms he did. The cost of building materials, I suppose, has fallen a certain amount, but not a great deal. It still remains a great deal higher in the towns than in the country on account of the cost of transport, apart from anything else. The small farmer, when he is building a house, collects the material for it bit by bit —a load of stones now and a load of gravel then. He goes to the market with his produce, and he brings back a little lime one week and some timber another week, and so on until, finally, he has got to the position where he can start with the actual building of the house. He is, in most cases, a handy man himself, and there are plenty of handymen to help in the work at a cheap rate. He is undoubtedly in a better position than any man in a town. It must be also considered that a £15 valuation in the poorer districts is a pretty high one, and to base a grant on that basis is entirely wrong.

I think Senator MacEllin rather objects to the fact that I did not speak strongly enough against this amendment on the Committee Stage here. My point of view on the Committee Stage was that the Seanad had the opportunity of discussing whatever principle was involved, and, personally, I would like to interfere as little as possible except to help Senators to understand certain aspects of the matter. If a matter is raised on review on the Report Stage I do not see why, if I object to an amendment, it should be regarded as an insult. The Report Stage is simply the machinery which the Seanad has adopted for review, and I think a very reasonable machinery. If, as Senator Fanning suggests, matters were to be irrevocably decided on the Committee Stage we might very well prolong our discussions to a very great length.

As far as I can see, Senator MacEllin, Senator O'Connor and Senator Fanning did not seem to appreciate the policy in the background of our housing legislation up to the present, that is, where we accept the moral responsibility and place it in part on the local authorities to provide houses for the working classes. We have gone beyond that in the present state of the scarcity of finances and the cost of building. We have done what was not done before: that is, we are giving grants to private persons who are putting their own money into small-sized houses. Having regard to smallness of size is one way we have of seeing that people who are rich were not unnecessarily dipping into the public purse. Grants to private persons in respect of houses were given only for the purpose of bringing private money into house-building at a time when money was scarce and costs high. This is the second step down in grants for private persons since grants were introduced in 1924.

Senator Milroy suggests that this amendment is widening the scope of the Bill. It is introducing a completely new principle under the heading of grants to private persons. It is discriminating in the matter of private persons who shall get grants. If there is to be any discrimination in the matter of private persons getting grants the discrimination, on the face of this Bill here, would be against the person living in a rural district. If Senators will look at the Bill they will see that under Section 3 (1) (a) a private person may get a grant of £45, but a public body building for the working class can get a grant of £60, and in certain circumstances a grant of £72, so while we can give £60 at least, and in some cases can give as much as £72 to a public authority, we can give the private person only £45. We cannot differentiate in this matter, provided people build houses to the limitations specified here. We cannot examine into the matter of means, as in the case of old age pensions, because the cost of administration of the Act would go up very high if we had to do that. Taking a comparison between a private person and a local authority in an urban district, the figures are £45 as against £60 or £72. According to Section 3 (1) (d) a public authority building labourers' cottages can get a grant of £50, and not £60. If we are to have anything like the same relationship between the private person and the public authority in the rural districts, then that £50 should be reduced in respect of private persons.

The principle that is enshrined in the £50 as against £60 is that it is cheaper to build in a rural district than in an urban area. If there is to be any discrimination, and we are against any discrimination, it should be the discrimination I indicated on the Committee Stage, that for definite reasons it is cheaper to build houses in a rural district than in a town. Passing from that, we come to this, the Senator proposes that a particular class of persons should get special terms, that is, that as against £45 they should get £60, and the only reason adduced is that they are a most deserving class, hard working and in very poor circumstances.

And they require bigger houses.

Yes. Take the owner of a house on a holding of £15 valuation in Mayo. A person like that to benefit under this particular Act is offered £45. That is on the understanding that he has a certain amount of money, and we want to draw that capital into building. If there is no money to draw upon to build houses, then the case for giving grants to private persons fails even more rapidly than it has been failing since 1924.

Is it not a fact that, in addition to the £60 grant which can be got through membership of a public utility society, a grant of £60 might also be got from a local authority?

That would be £120.

The point is that if every cabin with a mud floor on holdings of £15 valuation and under in the country is to be replaced by public money, then we are up against a bigger proposition than some people understand. The case made for this class of people is that they are hard working and deserving and have been badly hit. Senator Comyn wants for them bigger houses than are provided for the ordinary person. There is a restriction with regard to houses in the Bill so far as floor space is concerned. I take it it is floor space the Senator is talking about. If Mayo County Council becomes as generous as the Seanad, which it shows no sign of becoming, then the person on a holding like that mentioned is to get public assistance from the State and the County Council to an extent that is denied to the road-worker and the farm labourer in Mayo.

There are hardly any agricultural labourers in Mayo.

There is a certain percentage in Mayo, but it is small compared with Meath. There would be about 80 persons in every 1,000 engaged as hired persons in agricultural work. I do not accept the case that these people are a less deserving class from the point of view of requiring public assistance for the building of their houses than the persons with small holdings.

They have already got £5,000,000 under the Labourers Act.

I am speaking of people living in mud floored cabins. The McGillycuddy of the Reeks raised another aspect, that is, with regard to persons living in an insanitary class of house and to widows with a number of children. The question of health has been introduced, and reference has been made to a family with a tendency to tuberculosis, so that any special class might be brought into it. My point is that in the making of grants to private persons for the purpose of building houses we cannot enter into any class of discrimination as to the people who will be helped. If we do, on the figures enshrined there in the Bill, and they have not been attacked, there ought to be less grants for the type of person for whom the grant is asked here than for others. I would like to add, and this has been repeated again and again, that grants are made to private persons in our recent housing legislation for the purpose of bringing capital into house building and if any particular class, or any particular set of classes, desire to get more money than is available for the private person it simply means shutting down at an earlier date the passing of public money into private hands for the purpose of building houses, and bringing about at an earlier date a situation in which the State contribution to the building of houses will be given solely through the medium of public authorities. We inevitably will pass to that stage.

If we could settle the position by which suitable credit facilities are provided for local authorities which would enable us to meet the housing shortage through the local authorities there would be no case for giving public money to private persons. As to the sanitary side that Senator MacEllin introduced in his amendment, the whole aspect of things was fully considered and kept in mind in dealing with our legislation. Such houses as are being built are gradually wiping away insanitary houses. The definite responsibility rests with the local authorities of wiping out insanitary houses in respect of those people for whom they have the moral obligation to provide houses. In respect of the people of the higher class who have got money to put into houses, if they have insanitary houses it is to their own discredit, and as the law stands they could be proceeded against by the local sanitary authority to get them to have their houses put into a proper sanitary condition.

That is a point that was answered by Senator Gogarty on the Committee Stage.

The insanitary houses are being dealt with gradually by the progress of house-building under legislation. As Senator Johnson pointed out, the key to the solution of the problem is credit for public authorities, and we are only jeopardising that position as regards credit if we put public authorities into the position of attacking the housing problem at a point which is not the most attractive and effective point on which it should be attacked.

In discussing this question to-day we are somewhat at a disadvantage compared with the Committee Stage, when we had the advantage of having a number of medical members of the Seanad present who gave us their opinions on the subject. One expression used has stuck in my memory. A Senator said that tuberculosis was commonly alluded to as being in certain families, whereas as a matter of fact it was not in the families but in the houses. It was also said that the medical officers were unable to condemn these houses because there was no other place for the people living in them to go. That is a matter which moved me to vote for this amendment, and another consideration which moved me to do so was what has been still more prominently brought out by the Minister to-day, and that is, I doubt very strongly when this Act comes to be administered whether it will be sympathetically administered, after the remarks that have fallen from the Minister. The Minister, in the course of his speech, said that there should be discrimination in administering this Act against people living in rural districts. These are his words:

"I am very much afraid that a great many of the insanitary houses and a great many of the people who need assistance will be ruled out. It is not so much a question of the £15 valuation, but as to whether these people will come in at all under the provisions of this measure. Unless this amendment is adhered to, I very much fear when the Act comes to be administered they will be ruled out altogether." The Minister said that the grant of £60 as regards the building of a house was neither here nor there, and that people would want more capital of at least £200. I think Senator The McGillycuddy of the Reeks has very clearly explained the principle upon which these people work. They may not have capital in the bank, but they can accumulate capital day by day and week by week in the manner that has been explained by the Senator, I do not agree with Senator Comyn's suggestion that out of the £60 grant a man might make a few pounds. £60 would go but a short way towards building a house, but it would probably just enable it to be done. For those reasons, I hope the Seanad will not reverse its decision. I firmly believe that if this amendment, or some amendment similar to it, is not adhered to, the removal of insanitary houses throughout the country will not take place.

As a personal matter, do I understand the Senator to say that I stated that rural districts should be discriminated against in this matter?

I took down the words—"should be."

"If there is any discrimination at all that it should be against them."

The Minister used the words that there should be discrimination in the administering of this Bill against people living in the rural districts.

If there is to be any discrimination, it would be on the implications of Section 3, subsection (1), (a) and (c), compared with (d). The Senator may have got lost in one of my long sentences.

I did not wish to intervene in the discussion, but as Senator Barrington has brought in the question of tuberculosis, I feel that I must say something. If it is important to provide better houses in the rural districts, surely it is more important to provide better houses in the urban districts? Take the slum areas of Dublin, where tuberculosis is rampant; where in very many cases families are living in single rooms, with one or two tubercular children living in a room with them. To my mind it is far more important to help cases like that than it is to help in the rural districts, where there are fresh air, fresh food, fresh milk and various advantages. Although I am not against the country districts, and would like to support their claims, at the same time we should not discriminate against town areas. That is what is being proposed; and it was very definitely pointed out by Senator Farren that this is a discrimination in favour of the country as against the slums.

Amendment put.
The Seanad divided: Tá, 22; Níl, 18.

  • John Bagwell.
  • Dr. Henry L. Barniville.
  • Sir Edward Coey Bigger.
  • Samuel L. Brown, K.C.
  • Mrs. Costello.
  • John C. Counihan.
  • The Countess of Desart.
  • James G. Douglas.
  • Thomas Farren.
  • P.J. Hooper.
  • Right Hon. Andrew Jameson.
  • Thomas Johnson.
  • Sir John Keane.
  • Patrick W. Kenny.
  • The McGillycuddy of the Reeks.
  • James MacKean.
  • John MacLoughlin.
  • Seán Milroy.
  • James Moran.
  • Bernard O'Rourke.
  • Dr. William O'Sullivan.
  • Siobhán Bean an Phaoraigh.


  • William Barrington.
  • Sir Edward Bellingham.
  • Caitlín Bean Ui Chléirigh.
  • Michael Comyn, K.C.
  • James Dillon.
  • Michael Duffy.
  • Sir Nugent Everard.
  • Michael Fanning.
  • Thomas Foran.
  • Sir John Purser Griffith.
  • Major-General Sir William Hickie.
  • Cornelius Kennedy.
  • Séan E. MacEllin.
  • Colonel Moore.
  • Joseph O'Connor.
  • Joseph O'Doherty.
  • Séumas Robinson.
  • Thomas Toal.
Amendment declared carried.


That means that the amendment inserted on Committee is now deleted from the Bill.