I thought, when speaking yesterday evening, that I might possibly be able to finish, but I omitted to quote some of the cases in respect of which I have had experience of dealing with the Land Commission. I should explain that, in perhaps half-a dozen cases, results satisfactory to every side were obtained. Every consideration was given by the Land Commission and everybody connected with the estate in each case was quite satisfied. The cases which did not leave a happy feeling were those calling for the implementing of this measure, which seeks one thing and one thing only—the market value of all land. The State has found, and I cannot say that I differ, that from time to time lands must be acquired. That may be taken as settled law. I claim that in a democratic country the market value should be paid so that no grievance will exist thereafter, and I claim further that it should be obtained in open court where the most careful scrutiny will be given to every argument which may be advanced. In some of the cases, what is most hurtful and what reacts against the prestige of the nation is the conflict which will arise, and which has arisen, not only where mortgagees are cut off absolutely from all consideration, but where the State itself steps in, through its other Departments, and demands and obtains of the owner far more in payment of duties than is subsequently obtained for the property when sold to the Land Commission.
Last night I did not give names, but I have the files and if they are of any use whatever, I am quite prepared to hand them over. Record No. S.7343, County Meath, was a property valued for probate at £5,674 10s. in 1930. Some few years after this was increased by the Valuation Office to £7,000, on which figure, on the advice of the ablest counsel we could consult, the executors agreed to pay duty. Estate duty was paid on that value. The lands were acquired in the same year and were vested on 31st December, 1935. The price the Land Commission paid was £4,000, being £3,000 less than the amount on which estate duty was paid. A very able and learned representative of Fianna Fáil remarked to me some time ago that, of course, the difference was recoverable, but the answer to that is that it was not recoverable and could not be recovered on the advice of the same counsel.
There was another estate valued at £11,455 14s. That valuation was increased by the Valuation Office to £13,000. The lands were subsequently acquired by the Land Commission and vested on 3rd April, 1926, at a price of £11,460. When the redemption value of the Land Commission annuity was deducted from this price, the amount remaining was £7,650, being £5,350 less than the figure on which estate duty was paid. This was a retained holding. The Land Commission agreed to advance £7,000 in respect of the standard price and with very light hearts we put up £4,455 14s. and were delighted. Of the £7,650 ultimately received by the estate, £4,555 14s. had been paid in cash three years previously and estate duty had been paid on £13,000.
Another estate was valued at £9,122 in the schedule of assets and this figure was agreed to by the Valuation Office and duty paid on it. The lands were taken over by the Land Commission and vested on 31st December, 1935, for £7,402, being £1,720 less than the amount that estate duty was paid on. To my mind, so long as that is liable to happen, it is too much for us to hope that people with cash and, above all, with capital will take the risk of living the life that this country could readily afford to give if run on correct, stable, and a fair-to-all parties basis. It cannot truthfully be said that I am prejudiced in this matter, because I have already explained that I have had excellent deals with the Land Commission and the most encouraging advice that I ever got was some four or five years ago, when these cases were most annoying to me, and that was from no less a personage than the present Minister for Finance, Mr. Seán T. O Ceallaigh. Hence, for my part, I am not using my position for any benefit that may accrue to myself and most certainly not for any political benefit. When elected, I think it is for Ireland's sake I am elected, and I believe that in bringing up this matter I am doing a good day's work for the credit and well-being of the country and the employment that the country can give.
If I were asked what I would suggest as the proper method by which Irish land should be dealt with, I would say that I have advocated before in this House something on the lines of the procedure of the Gladstone Act of 1881. Under that Act, when a grievance as to rent arose, or practical inability to live on the land arose, the tenant was entitled to go to court to have his grievance redressed. The landlord was represented—in this instance the State could be represented—and the owner was represented. An inspection was made of the farm. Its proximity to transport, its development in regard to housing were taken into consideration, and, last, but by no means least, every drain that had been opened on the farm for the 15 or 20 years previously was carefully and thoroughly examined and credit given to the farmer for it. I should like to think that every improvement that any go-ahead farmer may have made was given similar consideration when the State took over his land. A farmer has no answer whatever if it is so given. No landowner has the right to object, or should be permitted to object, so long as everything that he has done is given its market value. Without that there would be fear of loss and fear of the consequences and fear, I submit, is the greatest of all human emotions. All progress will be prejudiced and prevented by fear of loss on the part of any man who owns land. All deeply thought out schemes are impeded and all initiative is impeded and throttled by the idea that they may be commandeered without any compensation.
Of all Parties in the State, I have been surprised that during the last 20 years, so far as I am aware, the Labour Party have made no serious representations against this opening to confiscation. Yet, of all people who have been scarified, none have suffered more than the labourers because, when a farm was taken over, some small farmer belonging to Fine Gael or Fianna Fáil, who had some little bit of capital, or a pair of horses, or ten acres of land would get something. But it must be obvious that it is nearly impossible for a labouring man to hope to carry on a farm and therefore he gets nothing. Not only that, but the absence of the owner with capital prevents what I alluded to last night, the giving of a just wage and a decent way of living which can be given by a man who has capital and who has sufficient land at his disposal to permit it to go down in the right rotation, give a good crop and give good and healthy employment. I know estates with which the same labouring families have been connected for 50 years. Some of these estates have been acquired and these men have been left to depend on whatever modest resources they can command. The Labour Party have not as yet become articulate on this matter so as to see to it that these farms, which are in themselves in many ways institutions, will be guarded just as zealously as the deposits in our Irish banks because the men who own them have given positive proof down the years that they would try to continue to give the same amount of employment.
I trust that I have explained my position in the matter fully. I regard this matter as all important. It is painful to many of us, it is particularly painful to those of us who have seen it in operation. Some 40 years ago, when my people were thinking of sending me to school, we had a neighbour belonging to the Church of Ireland who also had a family to educate. In one of his hundreds of conversations with my people I recall that he asked what fee they had to pay for me at school. The fee was something like £30 or £35 a year in St. Mary's College, Dundalk. At that time he was faced with the payment of £80 a year in the Campbell College, Belfast. Why? As he explained, it was because the sons of, perhaps, the most extensive farmers in Louth had left their homes, had left everything this world had for them, and were the leaders, the Provincials and the Superiors in religious orders and they placed their services, their very lives, indeed, at the disposal of the community here in order to educate the future Ireland. Within the last 20 years two farms on which such people were reared have been commandeered at prices well below their value. I submit we have an unanswerable case. I fail to see why, in any Christian community, less than the market value is given. Several generations have contributed to create these holdings and I fail to see why, with the basis of the Act of 1881 before us, something on more generous lines has not been implemented.