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Seanad Éireann debate -
Wednesday, 25 Apr 1934

Vol. 18 No. 16

Public Assistance (Acquisition of Land) Bill, 1934—Final Stages.


There are four amendments on the Order Paper and I would ask that No. 4 be first considered, because if that be passed, it will invalidate, so to speak, the other amendments.


I move amendment No. 4:—

Section 9, sub-section (1). After the word "Act" in line 2 to insert the words "or that the acquisition of the lands proposed to be taken would seriously interfere with the amenity of the residence of the owner of such lands and that there are other sites which are, or another site which is, reasonably suitable for the purpose for which the lands are being compulsorily acquired."

This amendment embodies in a considered form a matter that was discussed on the Committee Stage. The object is to prevent a local authority from compulsorily taking over land for public purposes if its acquisition would seriously interfere with the amenities of a residence. The object of the amendment is to be reasonable to all parties. If there is no other site available, then the amenities have to give way. But, where another reasonably alternative site is available, the order will be annulled and the Minister and the local authority will have to start again and acquire that alternative site. The whole of the discretion in that matter is left to the judge. A judge, who will have the whole of the evidence before him, will be able to say whether the amenities of the place are being interfered with and whether there is any reasonable, alternative site elsewhere. It is for the judge to pronounce on the facts. That would appear to me to be more reasonable, more equitable and to be more in the interests of justice, than to leave the whole matter to the arbitrary decision of the Minister. I do not think that the Government need be afraid of an endless flood of litigation. Litigation is not cheap. It will be a very unusual occurrence when accommodation cannot be found between a party and the Minister. Where that fails, if it is only once a year, it is a reasonable proposition that a man should be allowed to go to the courts. The public is fully protected, because if no reasonable site is available, the appellant must give way and his amenities are allowed to suffer.

The foundation of this amendment and the real reason for it is that you cannot get monetary compensation for injury to amenities. It cannot be given. There is no measure for it and it is no part of the compensation that is given where lands or buildings are compulsorily taken. For that reason if there is a reasonably suitable alternative site, an injury which cannot be compensated for by money ought not to take place. That is the real ground for the amendment. I respectfully suggest that it is a better amendment than any of the three previous amendments, which really depend on the finding of a local inquiry.

The issue raised on this amendment is as to whether the Minister is to determine if the alternative site is reasonably suitable or whether that is to be determined in a court of law. It appears to me that the function of determining whether a possible alternative site is reasonably suitable for the purposes of the Bill— that is for the purpose of providing a hospital site—should devolve upon the Minister. It was suggested by one of the Senators interested in this amendment that it would not involve the endless litigation that some of us have in mind. But it appears to me that the owner of a parcel of land, which it is proposed to acquire by compulsory order, can make the case, in almost any particular instance, that the amenities will be seriously interfered with if the site is acquired for the purpose of erecting a hospital. While there may be no substance in his case, while his chance of success may be very remote indeed, if he succeeds in holding up the acquisition of a site for 12 months the local authority will, by force of circumstances, be obliged to abandon the site and find an alternative site, because the scheme of hospitalisation must be proceeded with. So, that while there may be no substance in the complaint, he may achieve his object by taking the matter to court and delaying the acquisition. Senators are well aware of the machinery that will be set in motion if the owner objects to the compulsory order. A public inquiry will be held. All the evidence will be submitted to the Minister. The owner of the land will have ample opportunity of putting forward every possible argument that can be adduced against the acquisition of his land or portion of it. The Minister will have all these arguments before him in determining whether he shall confirm the order, modify it or cancel it entirely. I submit that there are no real grounds for apprehension and that the question of determining an important matter like that may with safety be left in the hands of the Minister.

Before the amendment is put, I should like to refer to the point raised by the Parliamentary Secretary in saying that the Minister is a better judge than the courts. Why should that be? The Minister has no more technical knowledge than the judge. The judge is accustomed to weighing up evidence and the Minister is not. I think, consequently, the judge is better able to arrive at a fair decision than the Minister, who we all know may, in certain cases, be liable to certain pressure. We cannot go round like ostriches with our heads in the sand. We know there are cases where Ministers are subject to pressure. I think that, where an essential provision of justice is concerned, the courts should be the last resort. I cannot agree with the Parliamentary Secretary that there will be endless litigation. There will be very few cases, because it will cost something to bring such cases into court. If a case goes against the complainant, presumably he will have to pay the cost of the local authority as well. At any rate, whether he does or not, he will be put to very considerable expense. I do ask the House to support the view that in the last resort justice to the individual must prevail. We are very much inclined nowadays to set aside the rights of the individual as against the community, but the object of the amendment is to hold a fair balance between the parties.

Amendment put.
The Seanad divided: Tá, 23; Níl, 15.

  • Bagwell, John.
  • Bellingham, Sir Edward.
  • Bigger, Sir Edward Coey.
  • Blythe, Ernest.
  • Brown, Samuel L., K.C.
  • Browne, Miss Kathleen.
  • Costello, Mrs.
  • Counihan, John C.
  • Douglas, James G.
  • Gogarty, Dr. O. St. J.
  • Griffith, Sir John Purser.
  • Guinness, Henry S.
  • Hickie, Major-General Sir William.
  • Keane, Sir John.
  • McGillycuddy of the Reeks, The.
  • MacLoughlin, John.
  • Moran, James.
  • O'Connor, Joseph.
  • O'Hanlon, M.F.
  • O'Rourke, Brian.
  • Staines, Michael.
  • Toal, Thomas.
  • Wilson, Richard.


  • Chléirigh, Caitlín Bean Uí.
  • Comyn, Michael, K.C.
  • Connolly, Joseph.
  • Cummins, William.
  • Duffy, Michael.
  • Foran, Thomas.
  • Johnson, Thomas.
  • Keyes, Raphael P.
  • Moore, Colonel.
  • O'Neill, L.
  • O'Sullivan, Dr. William.
  • Phaoraigh, Siobhán Bean an.
  • Quirke, William.
  • Robinson, David L.
  • Robinson, Séumas.
Tellers:—Tá: Senators Sir John Keane and Bagwell; Níl: Senators Séumas and D.L. Robinson.
Amendment declared carried.
Amendments 1, 2, and 3 not moved.
Question—"That the Bill be received for final consideration"—put and agreed to.
Agreed: That the Final Stage be taken now.
Question—"That the Bill do now pass"—put and agreed to.
The Seanad adjourned at 5.55 p.m. until Wednesday, 2nd May, at 3 p.m.