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Seanad Éireann debate -
Thursday, 23 Nov 1944

Vol. 29 No. 7

Land Bill, 1944 (Seanad)—Second Stage (Resumed).

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.

Gach duine dá dtáinig romhainn in Eirinn leis na céata blian, ba feilméaraí iad nó mhaireadar ar shaothar na talún. Níorbh iongna, mar sin, go mbéadh luighe agamsa leis an muintir a bhí ag maireachtáil ar an talamh. Tá a fhios againn uilig an seanchas a bhí ag baint le seilbh na talún in Eirinn. Na Gaeil a raibh an talamh acu, caitheadh amach iad imeasc na bportach agus na sléibhte, agus tugadh a gcuid áitreabha do dhaoine a tháinig isteach chugainn thar sáile.

Nuair a chuir na Gaeil le chéile, gar do chéad bliain ó shoin, chuireadar iachall ar Rialtas Shasana roinn cirt a thabhairt san éagóir a bhí déanta. San Acht Talún a cuireadh ar bun i bhFeis Shasana in 1870, tugadh roinnt greama ar a gcuid gabháltas dóibh. Aon bhliain déag ina dhiadh sin, de bharr an achrainn a bhí ar bun sa tír seo, b'éigean do Phárlaimint Shasana dul níos fuide agus cead a thabhairt do thionóntaí cíos cothrom a fháil measta ar a gcuid talún.

San Acht a cuireadh ar bun i 1903, tugadh meas áithrid do thiarna talún— agus cíos trí mblian ina theannta sin, lena dheifriú—a dhíol a chuid talún ar dhea-thoil. Luigheann sé le nádúr go dtug lucht Phárlaimint Shasana níos mó den cheart do oidhre talún ar a chuid dúiche, mar ba iad a ndream féin iad.

Ins na hAchta a cuireadh ar bun i 1923 agus ó shoin anuas, tugadh tús do fhurmhór na ndaoine, agus b'éidir gur luigheadh ró-throm go minic ar an muintir ar baineadh an talamh uathu. Níl neart air sin, mar caithfidh an Rialtas toil fhurmhór na ndaoine a chur in éifeacht.

Bhí mé ag éisteacht leis an Seanadóir Mag Aoidh ag tabhairt samplaí ar luach talún a díoladh ó 1931 anuas. Tá a fhios againn ar fad gur athraigh luach na talún ar feadh na ndeich mblian roimhe sin. Bhí sé sin amhlaidh arís ar feadh na ndeich mblian ina dhiaidh sin. Níor chóir leanuint go dlúth do shamplaí mar sin, mar ní bhíonn siad ceart i gcómhnaí: an rud a bhíonn ceart i mbliain áirithe, bíonn sé mí-cheart an bhliain dar gcionn.

We all understand the historical position of Irish land tenure. The rightful owners of the lands of Ireland were dispossessed, without any compensation, and they were forced to go to the poor, waste lands of the country to try to eke out an existence. Through years of agitation, the question became so pressing that even the English Parliament, which had no sympathy at all with the rights of individuals in this country, was forced in 1870 to give the Irish tenants some right to their land. That right was further increased and strengthened by the Land Act of 1881.

All of us know the history preceding the Wyndham Land Act of 1903. Little sympathy as the English Government had with the people of this country, they felt it was up to them to try to find a solution to the problem. They specified a certain number of years' purchase for the landlords who sold within a given period. They also gave three years' bonus to the landlords who sold voluntarily. It would not be natural to expect the members of an English Parliament, whose ancestors in England gave the previous owners of the land the rights of conquest, to do more than that. All those Acts, one after another, have been trying to undo the conquest and to give possession of the land to the rightful owners.

Senator McGee has given some very interesting instances of prices obtained in different years for land sold to the Land Commission and other bodies, but those prices were due more to the changes in currency and in the value of money in the different periods, which brought about the slump in the prices of land. I was closely connected with the owner of a farm of land in the Country Dublin. That farm was bought in the year 1924 at £4,875. It was put up for public auction in 1931 and failed to find a purchaser, whereupon it was sold privately, in the fall of that season, for £2,700, without counting transfer fees and legal expenses, which meant a loss in seven years of £2,300.

As I understand it, the spirit of all Land Acts passed from 1923 onwards has been that, even if the rights of individuals should suffer—and I deplore the loss any one should sustain —that should be borne for the sake of the common good. There are two sides to every question and you cannot bring about a social or other revolution without loss to individuals. There is no use in harping on what happened in the past; we all know how land went down in value during different periods and how it has gone up in value again. The main thing is to put the best and most progressive owners, as far as possible, into possesion of the soil. For that reason, and on account of the historical causes connected with this, I intend to vote against this measure.

It would be very unsatisfactory indeed if the discussion on this Bill should develop into a debate on land distribution and the improvement of economic holdings, as if those points were at issue now. I would like to congratulate Senator Sweetman on the splendid way in which he put the issue before the House last evening and on the industry and intelligence with which he marshalled his facts. It would help the House considerably if we could hear the Minister's point of view in replying. I am puzzled as to what the answer is to the case made by Senator Sweetman. Senator Ó Máille is the first we have heard comment against the measure, but there is no enlightenment coming to us from his speech.

I do not approach this problem from the angle or with the information of either Senator Sweetman or Senator McGee, but perhaps somewhat with the attitude of a Senator Ó Máille or a Senator Ruane. In my part of the country, we have distributed very little land, as there was no more land there to distribute, and any benefits that have come from land distribution have really come in a limited number of cases, where natives of my county have been removed to the better lands beyond. That is not an issue at all on this Bill. I take it that there are no differences of opinion between Senator Sweetman, the Minister or the rest of us on the value or the purpose to be served by putting people in possession of land. That issue should not be raised now. It would not be fair to the House to raise it, in trying to come to a wise decision on Senator Sweetman's Bill, and it would be most unfair to Senator Sweetman himself.

What is the problem the Senator is asking this House to solve? One may say that it is a narrow point or a small matter, but the truth is that there is a great question of justice and fair play enshrined in this measure to which Senator Sweetman wishes this House to subscribe. That is the real issue and, in justice to all of us, it should not be looked upon by the representatives of the people in this House or in the other House as a Party issue at all. Let us hope that we can raise the question of justice above Party consideration as, otherwise, we will get nowhere. This House is being asked to pass judgment, and let no one attempt to segregate us into goats and sheep, especially when we must have a perverted sense of justice if we do one thing and the other type of justice if we do the other. Let us all try, in accordance with our own conscience, to look at this issue as to whether or not the case made by Senator Sweetman is something taken from his own imagination. Let us examine the facts put before the House by Senator McGee, facts which can easily be checked.

I have been cudgelling my brains to find what objection the Minister can have to acceptance of the principle embodied in the Bill. The whole problem is really the question of the value of land. The Minister may have in mind certain difficulties that may be created by acceptance of the Bill in this form. I know nothing of that, but it must be remembered that, in part at least, the principle of the Bill is actually being operated by the Land Commission at the present time, and has been so for a great many years.

There are two types of land taken over by the Land Commission for purposes of subdivision. One is the resumed holding and the other the acquired holding. I am a farmer in a small way, but if you ask me or any farmer in the Seanad—some farmers are absent just now—to value a farm, what would he do? He would first go on the land and look at its potentialities, its condition at the moment, its fertility, and consider whether it was rich land, medium land, submarginal land, and so on. He will look at what number of cattle it is going to carry; he will try to find out what the income and the outgoings are going to be, and in that way will calculate what his net income is likely to be. That is the basis on which a man will value land. It seems to me to be immaterial whether a holding is a resumed holding, according to the interpretation of the Land Commission, or whether it is an acquired holding, there is only one basis you can take to put a fair value on it. On every possible possession that a man has, even his own physique, there is such a thing as a just price. St. Thomas Aquinas, in his own day, taught the world that. I do not know whether there is a type of mind that, in certain circumstances, would desire to renege that conception. I do not think it is possible to do so. On that question there can be no in-and-out policy. A man's labour in the field or in the factory is worth so much; a man's house or his business in a town has a certain market value; a man's professional services are worth so much; a man's profession, in the sense that he has a business and that its possession means so much to him, can be valued. A man's farm of land has its value, too in terms of cash. The real issue, therefore, is whether a man is entitled to hold his land, if you concede him ownership. Is there such a thing as a limited ownership?

Senator Magennis says there is. Suppose Senator Magennis had a holding that was to be acquired by the Land Commission, and that I had a holding that was classified as a retained holding. Let us suppose, further, that the Senator's 100-acre farm, which was in process of acquisition by the Land Commission, had a valuation which was equivalent to mine and a rental, in so far as that was a criterion of outgoings, such as rates, that was equivalent to mine, if he got £1,000 less for his holding than I got for mine, I would say, and I am convinced he would believe, that he had been treated very unjustly indeed. That, roughly, is what is taking place.

Senator Magennis says there is a limited ownership in land. I would be glad to hear him define what a limited ownership in land is. I am prepared to concede that the manner in which you discharge your functions as an owner may, in the minds of certain people at certain times, impose limitations on your rights as an owner.

If you misuse your land, or if you do not use it at a particular time in such a way that the demands of the community will be best served, then the Government, in the name of the community, may impose limitations upon you. But that, as I say, is in certain circumstances. That, however, is rather different from the kind of possession which Senator Sweetman is dealing with in this measure. I think it is an aspect of the case which really need not be introduced, because it is not present in the minds of any of us who are asking the House to agree to the propositions embodied in Senator Sweetman's Bill. I know quite well that if you have a farmer who is not using his land to the best advantage, and you have another man who is, and if the State is going to take over land for the purposes of subdivision so as to add to the number of owners or to help uneconomic holders, there can be no question of choice there. The man who is not using his land to the best advantage will come under the hammer, and rightly so. He will suffer in this way, that when it is taken over by the Land Commission the price at which it will be valued will not be anything like as big as the price at which the other man's holding must necessarily be valued. Sometimes it does not work out like that.

On this question, the first and the main consideration for us is this: that the State should be just in the administration of its affairs. There is a grave and a terrible responsibility on it to set the example to its own citizens of being just. The Minister has a colleague in the Cabinet who is Minister for Justice. The members of the judiciary are charged with the heavy responsibility of administering the laws passed by the Oireachtas. They are sworn to do justice as between man and man. How can we, in the name of the State, set up an authority or machinery for the administration of important affairs whereby, when the State intervenes between the citizen and his property, it can act towards that citizen in a way that one citizen would not act towards another in similar circumstances? Suppose the Minister were to take my holding he has machinery which enables him to put a certain value upon it. I am not a free man. If, however, I am permitted to put my property in the open market my neighbour, Senator O'Dea, is prepared to go into the market and give a much better price for it than the Minister for Lands, who acquires it through the machinery of the Land Commission.

I hear Senator Honan ask Senator O'Dea "Is that right?" It is right. It is what is actually taking place. It took place before the present Minister came into office. It has been taking place, to a greater or a lesser extent, since 1923, because that is how the 1923 Act was worded. I know a good deal about that Act. I was not a member of the Dáil when it was going through. I was outside then amongst the unpurchased tenants' association with Senator McCabe. At that time we were very active in my county. That, however, is what has been taking place. It is a bad thing, I think. If the State has any function in the matter at all, and if a man's holding is being taken off him, the very disturbance which he is subjected to is in itself hardship, and consideration ought to be given to that. The net result of the administration of the Land Commission over a considerable period has been this, that a number of citizens have been really unfairly treated. They have got less than the value of their property. I can quote one case. A man had agreed to sell his farm for £6,000. The Land Commission stepped in, and all they gave him for the farm was £4,000. I do not know how any of us would feel, if that were our case. I know how I would feel. I would be very rebellious. I want to say definitely on the question of ownership that, when land is put in the market for sale, there can be no question of a limited ownership. In common justice I am entitled to the full value of the land. I do not know what the answer to that would be from the standpoint of ethics or theology.

There are wider implications in this whole matter which have to be considered. When the last Land Bill was going through this House, the Minister's predecessor told us that there were probably 600,000 acres of land still to be divided. That may be an outside figure. Perhaps it depended a good deal upon the mentality of the people who were then in control in the Land Commission. At that period the people there may have been much more extreme than any of us—than even the present Minister. They may have been prepared to hold that the broad acres which are in the possession of some people are more than are necessary for their subsistence. I wonder if that figure of 600,000 acres has been very considerably extended? Quite obviously, if there are still 600,000 acres of land to be divided it is possible that a great many more injustices are to be added to the ones already committed. That is a situation which ought to be faced. Senator McGee referred last night to the instability created by that section. It is true that, although Senator Sweetman's Bill is narrow in scope, the implications of a refusal to accept the principle embodied in the Bill would be grave and would become more grave as the days go by. It would add to the feeling of insecurity which exists among a considerable number of the farming community. I am referring to the larger farmers in those parts of the country where large farms are the order. If you are to have a successful agriculture, you must have agricultural stability. The stability of agriculture provides the strongest basis available for a stable State. There cannot be a stable agriculture unless there are, in the industry, possibilities of progress and development. Certain things are essential for stability and progress. It would not be in order to discuss some of them on this Bill, but the possibility of securing additional capital for development will have an immense influence on the future stability of the industry. A couple of years ago, Senator Johnston produced figures which, I think he, as an economist, could stand over, showing that the capital value of our agricultural assets was in the region of £400,000,000. I am one of those people who believe that, possibly, £100,000,000 could be put into the agricultural industry for its proper development and to improve its stability.


I did not catch what the Senator said.

If you put £100,000,000 into agriculture without technically educating the farmers as to how to make the best use of it, you will demoralise agriculture.

We can have a debate on that question when Senator Tunney's motion comes before us. The Senator would be surprised to learn how it takes from a man's demoralisation on the land if he has enough capital to get on with his job and how demoralising it is to have to look at buildings which one has not capital to improve, to have to look at cattle perished in the fields in frost and rain and standing in soil up to their knees because capital cannot be found to house them.

Now, Senator, I suggest that aspect is outside the scope of the debate.

I hope to demonstrate very clearly that it is well within the scope of the debate. Senator McGee dealt with this matter last evening and it is of very great importance. The possibility of the further development and improvement of the larger farms is considerably hampered and hindered by doubts as to whether the land is to be left in the possession of the owners or not. There are graver doubts as to whether, if the land is taken for subdivision, it will be paid for at the market value or not. The net result is that men in that position, when seeking credit, are tied hand and foot. Up and down the country, there are hundreds and thousands of acres which could produce almost 100 per cent. more than they are doing if buildings could be reconstructed and other possibilities of development exploited—things which are beyond the power of the men in possession to-day because of the operations and administration of the Land Commission in certain instances.

I am sure that the Minister is a practical realist. He is not a person without knowledge of the value of property or without respect for property. He realises that, if a man has property, he must be made tolerably secure in its possession and be at liberty fully to enjoy its use, at the same time helped by the State, if help does not come from any other source, further to develop the property. If it can be proven—as I think is clear to anybody who has given a little study to the matter—that a considerable number of people have been harshly and unjustly treated under the operation of the Land Acts, there is justification for an examination of the position. As I said in the beginning, it is not justifiable to make the plea that, because some of the people of another generation were driven to hell or Connacht, only one method can be adopted to restore the successors of those people to lands now in the possession of persons who had them passed on to them by those who did not get them fairly or honestly. The truth is that to-day the land is again mainly in the possession of the O's and the Mac's. A great deal of the land which is being taken up by the Land Commission is being taken from the O's and the Mac's. They got it honestly. Some of their fathers had to fight to hold on to it. A number of those people bought the land out of the hard earnings of those who went before them. Many a man raised himself from a 50- to a 100-acre farm and those are the farms on which the Land Commission are going in. These are the men who are being treated in some instances as Senator McGee described.

Senator Sweetman's argument is that, whether the Land Commission are taking up a retained holding or acquiring a farm for division, the price should be fixed by one method, which should hold in both cases. I do not know what the reply to that is. I can see no answer in justice to the argument. I suggest to Senators on the other side and, perhaps, to some Senators on this side who may not hold with Senator Sweetman, that if they were in possession of a farm which was taken up by the Land Commission, and saw another holding of similar land close to them treated on a different and better basis as regards price, they would consider they were the victims of grave injustice. That is an example which should not be set by this State. Senator Ó Máille made a most extraordinary declaration. He said that even the rights of individuals should suffer and hardships should be borne for the common good. If our social problems are to be solved on the basis of hardship being imposed on some people because others must have their status raised or their conditions improved, we shall shortly reach the stage when the group of people who were at one time able to carry burdens will have to have those benefits which the State can confer accorded to them so as to raise them to the level of those who were previously below their level. In this case I do not think the argument of Senator Ó Máille can hold. If it is good and wise on the part of the State to acquire land for the purpose of improving the conditions of uneconomic holders or making new holdings, it is not the owner in possession who should be made to carry the burden. The policy is the policy of the State; it is in the interests of the community as a whole that the policy should be carried out. The onus should, therefore, be on the community as a whole.

That, it seems to me anyhow, is the only stand which we, as just men, can justly take up in this matter, and I hope that the Minister will really face that situation in the way we ought to face it, as between man and man, because, in the last analysis, none of us can adumbrate a policy or stand over its administration anywhere, up or down the country, unless it is carried out in such a way that we, in our own conscience, could say that we would do exactly the same thing, and that, if the methods were to be applied to ourselves either way, then we would be satisfied to take the consequences of that method of administration. I am quite convinced that none of us would like administration to press so hardly as it has on a number of those who have come under the lash of the Land Commission—in a limited number of cases no doubt, but to a large number of cases up to the present. It is in order to put this matter right that Senator Sweetman has introduced this measure, and I urge that there is no course open to us, in the interests of justice and fair play, except to give the measure the support of the whole House.

In connection with the speeches made before the House on this Bill, so far, I am pleased to note, from the remarks of the last speakers, that they have no objection whatever to land in this country being acquired in order that the farms should be made economic. Most of us remember that during the last 50 years or so there has been a strong land agitation in this country. Unfortunately, men lost their lives in order that the land would be divided and that they should have homes in the future. The land agitation continued, and the people who were fighting for the division of lands that had been owned by their ancestors felt that they had every moral right to get a portion of that land and that it was only just and fair that they should get it. As I say, they continued to agitate and, in a great many cases, the people who owned the land and who had got it by anything but fair methods—there is no question about that—agreed, owing to the strong pressure of public opinion that was against them, to give the land back to the people of Ireland, or to give the Land Commission, or even the British Government, every opportunity of taking the land over from these landlords so as to divide it amongst the Irish people, if the Irish people were prepared to buy it.

Now, since this Government, or rather since the Irish people became masters in their own house, they have done a great deal of work in order that the division of land in this country would be expedited and that the people entitled to the land should get a fair share of it, but there is a good deal still to be done. There are still many large farms or big ranches throughout the country that the Government will have to divide in the near future, and while I advocate the division of land, in order to provide farms for the people who are entitled to them and in order to keep our people on the land in this country, I may say that I am in thorough agreement with the last speakers as regards the prices that should be paid for that land. It is all very well for people to say: "We know the value of land, and we will offer you a certain figure for that land, and if you do not accept that price, then we will take the land off you." That is not a clear or decent principle, and it is a thing that no Government should be guilty of. If a man is prepared to hand over his land, or if the Government proposes to seize his land because, through labour troubles, possibly, or some other causes, he has not been able properly to develop that land, then it is only just and fair, when the land is being taken over from him, that he should get the last farthing that the land is worth, and then let the Government have the matter dealt with later and make whatever adjustments may be necessary. I think it is only the duty of the Government to do so, and I hope that the Government will seriously consider that aspect of the question. As has been pointed out by other speakers, this is not a political matter. It is the duty of this House to try to induce the Minister and the Government to give a fair and reasonable price to the owners of land, and then proceed to the division of that land, so that everything will be in apple-pie order in due course.

Having listened to some of the remarks made by previous speakers, I should like to base my remarks by way of a reply to what has been said by some of these speakers. Senator Ó Máille implied that because of the relation between certain governing classes in England and the land-owning classes in Ireland, compensation, over and above the market value, was given when lands in this country were being appropriated. I think it was also Senator Ó Máille who stated that there was no harm in imposing injustice on individuals if the public good was to be met. Now, last night, by pure accident I came across a book written by a rather eminent English economist, and this man lays down in cold and calm fashion the principles which should guide Governments when compensation is to be assessed in such cases. There could be no historical bias from our point of view in this man's argument, since the principles he advocates are to be applied to the English people themselves. If the House will bear with me I shall read some of the points put forward by this writer, and I think the House will have the actual arguments for and against this question of compensation, given in a way that is disconnected from all possibilities of prejudice. I, therefore, would ask for the forbearance of the House while I go through these arguments as rapidly as possible. To begin with, he says:—

"Fundamental to the problem of compensation is the principle of equity. This principle in its barest form asserts that similar persons should be treated similarly by the public powers as by anybody else."

He then goes on to say:—

"In real life no two persons are exactly similar. Different persons should be treated similarly unless they are dissimilar in some relevant respect. The importation of relevance raises difficult issues; for we have to decide what similarities are, and what are not, relevant. In the last resort, this can only be decided by direct judgment applied to particular cases."

He then gives an example of the expropriation of particular pieces of land, specially fitted for small holdings, and he goes on to say:—

"The principle of equity clearly requires that the owners of those particular items should not be hit harder by Government public action than owners of similar items. They should be paid such amount of compensation as is required to prevent this. It may be suggested that true equity requires us to take into account the wealth and family estate and, perhaps, age of the several persons affected. This, however, is not so. These things are indeed highly relevant to the amount of taxation that the several owners should be made to bear. They are also relevant when what is contemplated is a compassionate allowance to deal, of grace, with hard cases to which the principle of compensation is held to be inapplicable. But they are not relevant to the question whether that principle is applicable—whether, in fact, compensation should be paid for certain people's motor cars or land. When we have to deal with the expropriation of particular items of property within a general class, considerations connected with the character of that class as a whole are not relevant."

That I think is the answer to some of the suggestions made by previous speakers.

"If it is held that the class is one on which special burdens should be assessed this should be done by taxes affecting the whole of that class, not by arbitrary blows at particular items within the class. The principle of compensation is established but the amount that will put a man whose field has been commandeered in the same position as one whose similar field has not been commandeered has not yet been defined. A particular piece of land or a house or even a motor car may have a special value to the owner greater than its market value. To part with a piece of land may involve loss to the owner of what he values at £10,000 though the market values it at £2,000. In these circumstances what value ought to be taken as the basis? The principle of equity suggests—‘The monetary representative of the special value of the property right to the owner'. For if the market value is taken, the owner is hit harder than other people because he happens to own this particular piece of property. This conclusion must, however, be modified in practice. When the particular piece of land or a house has a special value to its owner because of its association with him, it carries goodwill, e.g., a shop in the place where the owner is known. This goodwill can be valued without great difficulty and reckoned in the compensation money. But, when it has a special value due to sentiment and so on, no such objective valuation is feasible and account cannot therefore be taken of it. We must content ourselves with such rough justice as is afforded by the payment of something, say 10 per cent., in excess of the market value as compensation for disturbance."

That in a nutshell is the opinion of one of the most eminent English economists I know of. It puts the whole case for and against this amending Bill. Both sides are calmly and dispassionately considered. A speaker last night said that he would vote for this Bill provided he was satisfied that it would not inflict injustice or impose a burden on those taking over the land greater than they could conveniently bear but I say that, in a Christian State like this, the old proverb—"Let justice be done though the heavens should fall"—holds. Since everybody is agreed that it is in the interests of the nation there should be a division of land—I would almost venture to say that not alone is it in the interests of the nation but in the interests of the people owning the land—since it is generally agreed that there should be division of land, that means that it is in the public interest that it should be done and it follows at once that it is the public who should bear the expense. Losses may be imposed on the owner and, if so, why not compensate him? That may involve a burden which the person taking over the land is not able to bear. That is where the State comes in. Since the hypothesis is that the land is being taken by the State, then the victim, as he very often considers himself, even if he has got the land at a very reduced price, should also be compensated. That is to say the Government here, by adopting the bad example, if you like, of the old British Government, could give a bonus from its funds which would enable the property to be transferred at a price which the tenant could afford.

I feel very strongly on this subject because I happen to come from a county which has been more affected by this land expropriation than any other county in this country. I have seen cases of people who were in possession of lands for hundreds of years and who were treated in the cruellest possible fashion. Many of them are not of my religion and they may not have the same national views but I have a great belief in the ideas of Thomas Davis, that, as these people are living within the four walls of the nation, we should try to absorb them, and they will never be truly absorbed unless we can show that, as a nation, we are putting into practice the high ideals set forth in our Constitution. I would say also, having considered some of the legislation which has been adopted since national self-government was restored to us, that it would be very hard to find a parallel in any country for the injustice which has been embodied in it. There is a very great conflict there between our beautiful ideals and our actual practice as exemplified in legislation. I hope, therefore, that Senators will consider carefully the arguments which I have put before the House, second-hand if you like, and will give reasonable consideration to the Bill submitted by Senator Sweetman.

At least there are some of us whose hands are clean in this matter. I claim to have clean hands and I think Senator Counihan also can claim to have clean hands, but this question comes before the House as if it were a new matter. My recollection goes back and I have refreshed my memory in regard to this legislation. Like Senator Sweetman, I have done some research in the matter and I think there are aspects of the case of which the House should be informed. To use what one might call modern vernacular slang, I can give the House the "low-down" on this whole sorry business, and I should like to quote some extracts from the debate in this House 21 years ago dealing with this identical subject. The speaker had said that when land is taken for different purposes, it should be taken at the market price under arbitration and that even an additional percentage should be added to the price because of compulsory acquisition. Then the speaker went on to say with reference to this very proposal that we are trying to repeal now:

"The Government propose to take that land and there is a statutory direction that the judge has got to take cognisance of these facts. They direct his attention, on the one hand, to the value to the Land Commission, and, on the other hand, to the value to the owner. The value to the Land Commission implies also the value to the taxpayer. This is a Government Department and the Land Commission have primarily to regard the interests of the taxpayer. The Land Commission is taking this land from the individual who, with his family, has built up its value by years of work and enterprise and they are giving it possibly to a congest without experience as to how to work a larger farm, and with no capital by which to finance his increased activities and possibly no house and suitable buildings on the land. If the Land Commission are going to do that, they have to have regard to the price which will enable this person to enter into that farm properly equipped. Otherwise it is only making the thing worse than before. They must, in the nature of the case, be very conservative as to price, and it would be in most cases impossible to finance the incoming tenants on anything like the fair market value of that land. So, in essence, I argue that the provision of the Bill, as it now stands, is a direction to the judge to give substantially less than the land is worth, and, for that reason, I have used the word ‘confiscation' in its limited sense, of course, because confiscation may be taking away everything and giving nothing."

Then on the Fifth Stage of the Bill, where this iniquity was perpetrated, I read this:—

"You give a definition which cannot possibly be fair to either side. You have two peoples; one who wants to get it—the Government, to do their duty, should get it very cheap—and the other person who owns the land and who has a right to get its full value. To give a judge a direction to be fair to both when it is impossible to be fair to either is to reduce the whole thing to absurdity."

Then I look at the division list, and I see that the Bill was opposed by a minority of two, Senator Sir John Keane and Senator Counihan being the two. Then I wonder why I am not more than satisfied when I am frequently in this House in a minority of one or two. After 21 years, we now have Senator McGee, a good full-blooded patriot——

I am sorry, but I have not had 21 years of the benefits of this establishment.

We have Senator McGee, a full-blooded patriot, using the word "confiscation", for the use of which I was soundly castigated by the then Minister. The "low-down" in this thing is perfectly clear. Do not let us have any departure from abstract justice. At the time this Bill was passed, most of that land was used by landlords, and they were not going to get a fair price; I fought for a fair price but they never got it. I warned the House at the time, but Senator Counihan was the only one who saw the evil. He saw that this land would be only the hors d'oeuvre in this orgy, this banquet that was in prospect. Senator McGee and others, men of the people, are now having meted out to them the treatment that was given to the bad old ascendancy class, and they are squealing. You cannot get away from the principles of abstract justice. If you try, you will get into difficulties. You applied unjust principles because you thought they would apply only to an unpopular and discredited class, and now you are having them applied to yourselves. Throughout, I stand for justice, but I do feel a certain cynicism and irony, a sort of poetic justice, in this whole matter. Of course, what was perfectly clear 21 years ago is perfectly clear to-day. I think Senator Douglas was a member of that old House 21 years ago. He did not then oppose the Bill, but that is another matter. I hope he is going to support us to-day. The principle is still there and still should be hallowed in our legislation. There is no question about it; whether it is the rich man or the poor man, whether it is the discredited landlord or the hard-working farmer, whether it is a member of the old ascendancy or a veteran of the land war, he is entitled to justice, and I hope the House will see that he gets it.

I am not either financially or professionally interested in the goose or the gander, but I am interested in the sauce. As Senator Sir John Keane has pointed out, the sauce which was first applied to the goose and is now being applied to the gander is a sauce which is flavoured with injustice. Let the House make no mistake as to what is the effect of the present principles. You may have two farms, beside each other, identical in acreage, identical in quality. One of those farms may have been vested in the tenant in July, 1923, and the other due to be vested in August, 1923, as a result of the operations of the Land Act. If both those farms are now taken for the purpose of relieving congestion, or for any other purpose for which the Land Commission may require them, the owner of one of them will get his fair market price, what he would get if he sold in the market, while the owner of the other will get a sum which practically never exceeds half the market price and which is frequently less than a quarter of it. Before I gave those percentages I took the trouble of consulting all those who most frequently practise in the court of the Land Commission or the Appeal Tribunal, and when I state that in an acquisition case such as I have described, the owner of the farm scarcely ever gets more than half and frequently less than a quarter of the market value, you may take it that that represents the experience, and the universal experience, of members of my profession practising in those courts. It has even been reduced to this: were it not for the fact that the land annuities have been halved, many of those people whose land is being acquired would be in the position that the State could demand money from them for the privilege of having their land taken away from them, because cases of ten arise in which the capitalised value of the original annuity is more than the sum which is being paid.

I do not propose to weary this House by the quotation of sections. I ask the House to support this Bill upon the same principles which, as far as I have heard, have been called to his aid by everybody who has spoken, principles so wide and universally accepted that to state them is sufficient. The first principle is this, that if a man owns property it should not be taken from him except for some very good reason. The second is this, that State necessity or the requirements of social justice may in some, circumstances produce a state of affairs in which it it necessary to take from a man his own property. I need do nothing more than refer you to Article 43 of the Constitution, where you will find those principles enshrined. The third principle is this, that if you take from a man that which is his own, in order to meet State necessity or to meet social justice, you must pay him a fair market price for it. The Land Act was passed in 1923, and for that last proposition I will refer to two cases decided in the highest courts in the land in 1920, one in the House of Lords and one in the Court of Appeal as it then was in Ireland. In 1920 the Crown in England put forward the claim that during the war they could take a big hotel for the purpose of housing in it the Air Ministry and that they themselves were to be the judge of what sum of money they were to give to the owners of that hotel in return for taking their property away from them though it was only temporarily. They offered a sum of money. The owners of the hotel were dissatisfied and they took the case to the House of Lords. For "the Crown" you may read "the State" in Ireland because what is done by State prerogative in Ireland is done by Crown prerogative in England. The Crown maintained that it was not under any legal liability to pay full compensation but that it was the judge itself of what compensation it should pay. A great Irish judge, Lord Atkinson, said that "neither public safety nor defence of the realm requires that the Crown be relieved of its legal liability to pay for the property it takes from one of its subjects." Another great judge said that "the feeling that it is equitable that burdens borne for the good of the nation should be distributed over the whole nation has grown to be a national sentiment." It is more than a national sentiment; it is an elementary principle of social justice. In the same year in our own Court of Appeal it was said: "In all legislation dealing with the compulsory acquisition of land the basis of compensation is the value of the property to the owner and not to the person acquiring it."

These are the broad principles upon which I appeal to this House to support the Bill and I do not intend to expatiate upon them because I am waiting to hear if there is any member of this House who has the hardihood on any grounds of morality or equity to challenge any of them; but I will occupy your attention for a few more minutes in explaining just how the present anomaly has arisen—again in a very untechnical way. As I have been either accused or congratulated by one of my friends on the other side of the House of not sacrificing accuracy to brevity on another occasion, I will now try to make amends and, in the interests of brevity, may possibly not go into all the minutiæ of qualifications which would be necessary if I were addressing a judicial tribunal.

In 1923 the position was this: The Government of the time found itself faced with a widespread and insistent demand for the vesting of land in tenants and in those people who were called by the comprehensive title of landless men. Under the title of landless men came two classes—those who had no land at all and those who had not sufficient land to make their holding economic and to enable them to rear their families.

The Government looked around and it saw that in the case of those who were still yearly tenants the matter could be solved easily enough. It did so by a compulsory vesting of the land in the Land Commission with consequential provisions for vesting it in the tenants subject to an annuity, and it provided that the landlord should be paid compensation—not full compensation, because it worked out on an average at 15 or 16 years' purchase —but compensation which was from two-thirds to three-quarters of the actual value of the landlord's interests. Senator Sir John Keane has pointed out that that was not fair to the landlords in that they did not get the full market price, but they did at least get about three-quarters of the price and, owing to the rise in land bonds, it has represented a little bit more than that. That problem is done and over. The landlords complained that they were not getting enough, but that problem is not now before the House.

But the second problem which had to be faced by the Government of the day is the one which has given rise to this Bill. If you were to get land for the landless men you had to take land from somebody and, looking around to see where they could get land, the Government found that there were two main classes. There was first of all the class of people who owned their land in perpetuity either free from rent or subject to what is known as a fee farm rent, there were the long leaseholders, and, most important, there were those people who had been yearly tenants but who had purchased out under some of the earlier Acts and held their land subject to a terminable annuity. That is one broad class. Secondly, there were the big tenants who had not taken advantage of the earlier Acts to purchase out but whose holdings were about to be vested in them, also subject to annuities, by the benefit of the 1923 Act. In principle, there is absolutely no distinction between a yearly tenant who had just completed his purchase under the 1909 Act and a yearly tenant who was just beginning his purchase under the 1923 Act. In each case they were people who had been yearly tenants and whom the Government had considered would be better off and better treated and more fairly treated if instead of a yearly tenancy they were given a perpetual interest subject to a determinable annuity.

The effect of the provisions which were put into the Act is as follows: In the case of the tenant who was beginning to purchase out under the 1923 Act, if the Government come along and say: "We want your land for somebody else" he receives what he would get if he were to sell it in the market, but in the case of all other classes, by an exceedingly unfortunate wording, it was provided that compensation was to be paid on a basis which took into account the "value to the Land Commission and the value to the owner." The value to the owner is a very simple thing. It involves, first of all, market price. I think everybody will agree that if you have property its value to you is at least the market price. Before that the value to the owner—which, you may remember, was classed as being the correct basis of compensation in 1920 by our Supreme Court—was considered to be a little bit more than market price because how often have you heard a person say when he is being made an offer of the market price: "I would not sell for twice the amount?" In other words, it had to the owner sometimes a sentimental value.

There was another element which in the past had been taken into consideration—that if you take a thing compulsorily from a person who does not want to give it you should pay a little because you are taking it from him compulsorily. It seems to me that in the minds of those who adopted the somewhat peculiar wording which you find in the Land Act, the wording did not mean any more than that when you were acquiring land compulsorily the owner of it should not be allowed to claim either a bonus for compulsory acquisition, or a bonus for sentimental associations, or a peculiar value to him over and above the market value. But that is not the way it has been interpreted. The way it has been interpreted is this—that the value to the Land Commission is paramount and, as the Land Commission are taking frequently land which is adapted both by nature, by art and by work, to a particular purpose of farming and intend to devote it to an entirely different purpose, it follows that the Land Commission are going to make a lot of expenditure, economic or not, for that purpose, and that they have, when making an offer, to take into account the amount they will have to spend in turning the land from the purpose for which it was devised to the purpose for which they require it.

In the addition to that the Land Commission are entitled to demand the capitalised value of the land annuities, though in practice, as was admitted in this House more than once, if you sell land subject to an annuity, it fetches practically the same price as if held free from any charge. That is the way this injustice has come about casually—I think, unintentionally—and I believe that you are faced with this position, that a yearly tenant, whose holding was vested in July, 1923, gets from one-fourth to one-half of the market value, and sometimes gets nothing, while a man in whom land was due to be vested the next month, is going to get the full amount. I appeal to Senators to put an end to a state of affairs which can be justified on no grounds whatever, other than that of disinclination to alter a practice which has its roots so deep in the foundations of the Land Commission, that they feel that if this evil upas tree had to be pulled up the edifice would come down. I have no such fears. There is no reason why this cannot be altered. It may be that the Land Commission can say: "We have not sufficient money at our immediate disposal to carry out as large a programme as we want if we have to pay a man what we ought to pay him." Let the Land Commission, through the Minister, come to the Oireachtas and say: "This is the policy of the State; this is in the interests of social justice, and all must contribute to it." Do not let us undertake that policy of social justice at the expense of the pockets of isolated individuals, who have no say in the matter, but who are victims in order that it may not appear that the cost of pursuing this policy is as great as it is.

I support this Bill. While I support it, I do not altogether agree with its contents. I am supporting the principle of the Bill in the hope that if it receives a Second Reading it will be amended in Committee to carry out what I think is the object. The Bill is concerned with the fixing of the price of untenanted land, namely land that is acquired compulsorily by the Land Commission for the purposes set out in the Land Acts. It is concerned mainly with the prices which ought to be paid to the owners of land when it is compulsorily acquired. Compulsory acquisition of land did not commence in the year 1923. It commenced over 100 years ago when land was acquired compulsorily for the purpose of making railways and works of public utility, but the Legislature so framed its legislation that, although it gave power to the promoters of these undertakings to acquire land compulsorily for their purposes, it laid down specifically the basis upon which compensation should be given to owners of land compulsorily acquired. When we look at Section 63 of the Land Clauses Consolidation Act, 1845, we find there that the value of the land is to be taken on the basis of its value to the owner. I am speaking now of the judicial interpretation of Section 63 of that Act which laid down the following:—

"The fundamental principle of assessing compensation is to discover what a person will lose by having his land or his interest in it taken from him. It is the value of the land to the owner that is the subject of compensation, not merely its market value nor its value to the promoters taking it. It is its value to him."

These were the principles laid down 100 years ago by the British Parliament when it enacted the Land Clauses Consolidation Act of 1845. The basis of compensation was the value of the land to the owner, and not the value of the land to the persons taking it from him. Until the year 1923 that basis prevailed in England and in this country. As regards the Land Purchase Acts, up to the year 1923 landlords received their purchase price by agreement with the tenants. They were at liberty either to refuse or accept offers made by tenants for the purchase of their holdings, but in 1923 the Legislature introduced a Land Bill which gave power to the Land Commission to acquire land from owners for the purpose of distribution or otherwise, whether the owners were willing to deal with them or not. Since 1923 the Constitution of Ireland has been enacted. Senator Kingsmill Moore referred to Article 43 of the Constitution. The Senator said he would not weary the Seanad by reading the Article, but as it is a short one I shall do so. It reads:—

"1º The State acknowledges that man, in virtue of his rational being, has the natural right, antecedent to positive law, to the private ownership of external goods.

2º The State accordingly guarantees to pass no law attempting to abolish the right of private ownership or the general right to transfer, bequeath, and inherit property."

If a man owns property under that Article of the Constitution he has a right to transfer it to whomsoever he pleases. The Article proceeds:

"The State recognises, however, that the exercise of the rights mentioned in the foregoing provisions of this Article ought, in civil society, to be regulated by the principles of social justice."

The final paragraph reads:

"The State, accordingly, may as occasion requires delimit by law the exercise of the said rights with a view to reconciling their exercise with the exigencies of the common good."

In other words, the State may, as the occasion requires, in accordance with the principles of social justice and in relation to the exigencies of the common good, delimit the right of a citizen to the ownership of property or to transfer property, and for that reason the Constitution empowers the State to acquire property compulsorily, but only for certain purposes. It empowers it to do so only in relation to the common good and in accordance with the principles of social justice. Land which is acquired compulsorily for the purposes of the Land Acts will be held to be land acquired for the common good, because the Constitution provides in Article 45, under the heading "Directive Principles of Social Policy," which the Legislature is requested to note, but which the courts cannot construe:

"That there may be established on the land in economic security as many families as in the circumstances shall be practicable."

The Constitution directs the Legislature to take steps to settle as many families on the land in economic security as may be practicable, so therefore we cannot say that the division of land shall cease. The division of land must go on, so as to place these families in economic security on the land. Land will be required in order to implement that Article of the Constitution, and therefore the compulsory acquisition of land will be a very live question in the future.

It is 21 years since the Land Act, 1923, was passed and since the basis of the compensation to be paid to the owner of land compulsorily acquired was laid down by Section 25 (2) of that Act. That section prescribes:—

"As regards untenanted land the price shall, in default of agreement, be such an amount as may be fixed by the Land Commission (other than the Judicial Commissioner), or by the Judicial Commissioner on appeal from the Land Commission, and in fixing such sum regard shall be had to the fair value of the land to the Land Commission and the owner respectively."

This section reversed therefore all the previous legislation as regards compensation for compulsory acquisition of land. The basis of compensation formerly was that a price should be paid to the owner for the loss he suffered. That price was not the value of the land to the promoters of the undertaking, but this section gives the Land Commission, which is actually taking the land, power to say what is fair. The Land Commission can say: "I am taking your land and strictly I must give you a price which is fair to you and to me." It puts the Land Commission in a very difficult position. It gives rise to a conflict of interest and duty, to a conflict between its duty under the section and its own interest. The time has come for reconsidering that section and for reconsidering the whole question of the price of untenanted land.

This Bill refers to the resumption of holdings. Personally, I think that the basis of compensation for resumed holdings is not, or cannot, accurately and strictly be applied to the acquisition of untenanted land. The Bill refers to Section 5 of the Land Law (Ireland) Act, 1881, which gave a landlord power to resume a holding of his tenant, but laid down that he could do so only by the payment of full compensation. The words in the section are "full compensation", and it was judicially defined as what would be got for the tenancy if sold in the open market at a fair price. Therefore, apart altogether from the question of compensation for disturbance which may arise in the case of resumption, the owner of untenanted land should be allowed at least the market value of his holding, that is, its value to him, even though he may not be allowed anything extra for the compulsory acquisition of the land. In fact, he is now allowed very much less than the market value, and I therefore think that the principle laid down here is worthy of consideration by the House.

I am not a representative of agricultural interests here. I look at this matter more from the viewpoint of a lawyer and more from the point of view of what I might call social justice. I regard Section 25 (2) of the Land Act, 1923, as a legislative anomaly, and for that reason I would like to see it removed from the Statute Book. Furthermore, since the Land Act of 1923 was passed, a number of other Land Bills have been passed and the position to-day is not the same as it was 21 years ago. When the 1923 Act was passed, the Land Commission was empowered, under Section 31, to acquire land for certain specific purposes. These purposes have been considerably enlarged since by subsequent Land Acts, and in fact they may now acquire land from an owner for the purpose of a sports field. Assuming that the Land Commission can acquire land compulsorily for a sports field, it may be for the common good, but is the owner of the land to be the person who is to pay for the common good?

I say that if there should be any difference between the price paid to the owner of the land based on market value and the price which the Land Commission would obtain for the land when divided among landless men or given for a sports field or other purpose, the State should bridge the gap. When the Constitution speaks about the common good, is the individual the man who is to finance the common good? If Article 43 of the Constitution means what it says, that the common good must be the benefit of the community as a whole, the community as a whole must pay. In this case, under Article 43 of the Constitution, the individual's rights are limited to the extent that his lands may be taken from him, that his right to retain private property or to transfer it may be taken from him. But that Article never said that his property should be taken from him at a sacrifice; in other words, that it should be confiscated, using that word in a moderate sense. Therefore, I respectfully say that, although the Land Commission may have what I call a stereotyped feeling in this matter, the time has come to reconsider this section. This Bill is not, in my opinion, perfect— nothing can be perfect in law—but, at all events, it forms the nucleus of a Bill which could be made effective, a Bill to amend Section 25 (2) of the Act of 1923 and say that, as regards untenanted land, the price shall be the market value, or some words to that effect. The object would then be achieved.

There is another aspect of this Bill to which I should like to refer briefly, and that is contained in Section 3 of the Bill, namely, the procedure before the Appeal Tribunal and before the Land Commission. The Land Commission is partly an administrative body and partly a quasi-judicial body. The Land Commissioners sit to hear cases in court, as it were, and, at the same time, they are in their offices every day carrying out administrative work. It is rather unusual to have persons placed in such a dual capacity. It is very difficult to imagine that they can be perfect in every way. The result is that the Land Commissioner will have his ear to the witness and his eye on the Land Commission file. He has before him the report of the Land Commission inspector as to the value of the land to the Land Commission and he is hearing what the owner says as to the value of the land to him. Therefore, there is a conflict between his eye and his ear. He is placed in a very difficult position in making up his mind as to what would be the ultimate price allowed. I consider, therefore, that it would help him considerably if the Land Commission inspectors or valuers would come out into the open, face cross-examination in court and come on the same level as the valuer on behalf of the owner or the tenant, as the case may be. Then we would no longer have what I consider to be too much hugger-mugger in the hearing of these cases on the question of the valuation of land.

Therefore, on that principle alone, the principle that no judge should ever hear any evidence except that evidence is given in open court and is subject to cross-examination, I consider that this practice which has grown up in the Land Commission of looking at files instead of hearing all the evidence in court should be terminated and brought to an end as soon as possible. For these reasons I support the Bill.

I am tempted to intervene for a moment or two by the polite query addressed to me by my friend, Senator Baxter, and by the specious speech of Senator Kingsmill Moore. Senator Baxter, notwithstanding the Articles of the Constitution, declared himself unable to understand limited ownership. Both he and some other speakers have forgotten the fact of eminent domain. Article 43 of the Constitution asserts the rights of dominion in the private owner, but a later Article proceeds to assert the right of eminent domain, where the State, that is to say the Government administering the State, must promote the common weal. Its efforts must be directed to the advantage of the community as a whole. In answer then to my friend, Senator Baxter, I will say that all ownership is limited ownership in view of these facts. The land of Ireland belongs to the nation fundamentally and radically and the use of it can be given to farmers. There may be unlimited time in leases and so on, but always there is the unspoken condition that the land is to be worked and used by the occupant for the common good. It has always to be directed to the interests of the nation. There is a reserved power, therefore, involved in that. If the occupier is not so using it, is disregarding his duty, is oblivious of the requirements of the common good, there is a reserved power to take it from him and transfer it to other ownership. We are accustomed to call these fundamental things that assert what has been called the horse sense of public affairs, Communism, Socialism, and I do not know what, and forget they are the ordinary basic facts of Christianity.

Now, with regard to this limited ownership which Senator Baxter forgot the possibility of, there has been a lot of talk about market price, and market price belongs to a wholly different plane from the determination of the value to the Land Commission. Senator Kingsmill Moore quoted two cases. One of them was the case of the Savoy Hotel.

The De Keyzer Hotel.

There was also the case of the taking over of the Savoy Hotel on the Strand for Government offices. In the case referred to by implication by one of the last speakers it was stated that the transferee was to use the house as a house. In the case that Senator Ryan referred to, the transfer of the land was to promoters who are engaged in some company enterprise, let us say constructing a railway. When you come to think of that market value, in regard to which Senator Baxter tried to appeal to the emotional side of my nature by supposing my being grievously wronged in regard to a farm of which I am possessed, the market value for me in this is what I can get from another farmer who wants the place and will use it as a farmer, will stand in my shoes and be a farmer on that line. All the amenities of which it is possessed with regard to markets for produce, its position in regard to sunshine, its watering, and its excellent fencing are all contributory factors to enhance the market value. But when we come to consider the taking over in the public interest by a public functionary or a public body created legislatively for the purpose, here the transfer of occupation is not to use it for the same purposes. The Land Commission do not take over my farm to farm; they take it over to stripe it and divide it; they take it over to make uneconomic holdings economic by the addition of acres, or to give the land to the landless men. That is a wholly different purpose, an absolutely different dealing with the land, and market value has nothing whatever to say to that.

Market value is concerned with another thing, to transfer from farmer to farmer a piece of land. I am sorry to go into this historic detail, but it is necessary in view of the specious speeches of Senator Sir John Keane and Senator Kingsmill Moore. The Land Act of 1923 was described by Senator Sir John Keane as a compulsory Act, and it was also so described by other speakers. It is, technically, but I know that it was not compulsory in the sense which the words bear to the ordinary man in the street. It was one of the items of the settlement after the revolution in Ireland. The Earl of Donoghmore, Lord Midleton and other great landlords met Arthur Griffith in consultation. Griffith was accompanied by the late Kevin O'Higgins.

On a point of order. Is this relevant to the Bill—the history of the 1923 Act—and, if so, will other speakers be allowed to pursue the history of the Land Act passed 21 years ago?

The historical aspect of this is needed to correct the specious arguments on the other side. As usual, privilege is claimed. It used to be the privilege of property to demand just as great penalties for alleged abuses of the rights of property as there were for the taking of human life. We are not now in the days when men were hanged for stealing sheep. The year 1923 brought to an end the period in which the Sir John Keanes were able to stifle criticism.

Senator Kingsmill Moore spoke of the Act of 1893 as a type of settlement which I know that it was not, and I am entitled to correct his account of it because the account of it has a very important bearing on that section of the Land Act which Senator Ryan spoke of as an anomaly of which we have to get rid. You must take the Act of 1923 as what it was in the time in which it was enacted. It was part of the settlement between Great Britain and Ireland after the revolution. Lord Donoghmore, I repeat, even though it offends Senator Sir John Keane to hear his name, and Lord Midleton and others, agreed to support the Truce, on which the Treaty was consequent, but on condition of a Land Purchase Act which would buy out the landlords, as they contemplated, on the most favourable terms. A Land Purchase Act was backed by the British State, by its credit—a very important fact.

Will it be in order for any member of the House to correct these supposed facts, because what the Senator has stated is probably not a fact? Are we to have the history of the Truce and the Treaty as well as of the 1923 Act?

Perhaps it would be better to leave history now and come down to the terms of the Bill.

With all respect, I submit that what I have stated is a fact and I can prove it.

May I put this to the Chair as a point of order? Will it be relevant on this Bill for people to prove that before the Truce certain landlords were in favour of the Treaty?

I have not said that.


One hopes the attempt will not be made.

This is an historical fact which can be seen by anyone who takes the trouble to read the debates on the Land Act of 1923——


These records do not seem to me to be relevant.

My submission is that Senator Kingsmill Moore's argument is not relevant.

Will the Senator show me how he is going——?

If you will allow me to continue I shall show you everything.

I am asking the Senator to show where the landlords agreed to a formula, such as this Bill is trying to repeal, for fixing the price of land.


It would be much better if the Senator did not touch further on that aspect.

Out of deference to the Chair, I am quite prepared to do so.

Mr. O'Donovan

I should like to know on what point is Senator Sir John Keane objecting to reference to the 1923 Act?


That is not a point of order.

The 1923 Land Act was introduced to settle an outstanding problem of the land question in Ireland. I presume it is permissible to say that. I am afraid I cannot deal with Senator Kingsmill Moore's argument unless I am allowed to explain the circumstances. The important fact, however, is this. The clause was put into that Act to which exception has been taken because it was well understood that the transfer was to be in so many cases from those who represented the settlers. Senator Sir John Keane quoted, without disclosing the authorship, speeches from the official debates of 1923.

I was the author— I should like to state that now.

He claimed that he spoke of the Act as confiscation. So did I, in the Dáil, refer to it as confiscation, naked and unashamed and rightly unashamed, because we were confiscating what was confiscated; we were getting back into the possession of the Irish nation the land that belonged to the Irish nation and there was compensation being paid to the contemporary representatives of those robber chiefs who had come into possession of the land.

Including Senator Counihan?

I am speaking of the 1923 Land Act and its relation to what went immediately before it. The 1923 Act was dealing with complex problems of the time, and if I am not allowed to go into detail as to what these items were, it would scarcely be worth my while continuing.

Is the Senator distressed on behalf of the unfortunate people who had all their lands taken from them by the inroads of the Celts? If he goes back historically that is what it comes to.

That is all so much nisi prius humbug.

It is my good humour.

It is nisi prius humbug, because we are not going back any further than to the set of facts with which the 1923 Act was dealing. I say it was a courageous, a magnificent attempt on the part of the new Government in Ireland to deal effectually with a highly complex problem, with all sorts of not merely economic but of political complications. The clause was deliberately put in that the valuation was to be either the value to the owner or the value to the Land Commission. The value to the Land Commission was a wholly different thing from the value to the owner. It is quite obvious, from what Senator Sweetman so clearly and ably stated, that these two things were not to be identified. They could not be identified and, in the circumstances we had, they should not be identified. The machinery was provided by means of the Land Commission and they were to consider the cost of the various things connected with the transfer and with the handing over to the new occupants of the land in a favourable condition for their occupation. It was not, therefore, stupidity on the part of the Minister for Agriculture in that Parliament. It was a wide-awake recognition of what were the real issues. That is what dictated it.

But there were two values.

There were two values recognised. There is nothing new in Article 45 of the Constitution; it is merely asserting the right of the people as a whole to have equity done to them and aberrations corrected. The attempt to bring in market value into the considerations of the Land Commission is conflicting, fallacious, because they belong to two different orders. The Land Commission, under the Act of 1923, taking over lands and redistributing them, was an attempt to undo the confiscations and, in that way, it was an attempt to undo the Conquest as well and to start a new life, a new orientation, for the Irish people. I am saying that in defence of the Act of 1923.

I rise to support the Bill, and I shall try not to repeat any of the arguments that have been used already. If I have to touch on them. I shall do so as briefly as possible.

I sympathise with Senator Magennis in his statement as to the reason why the Land Act was passed in 1923. Of course, the whole history of the Land Acts from 1870 onwards is very interesting. The Act of 1870 gave a very small measure of hope to the tenant and a small amount of compensation, if the tenant was disturbed. Then we come down to the Land Act of 1881, which gave him fixity of tenure. We had various agitations and fights in this country for the three F's, as they were called at the time. We then had the Act of 1885—that is, the Ashbourne Act—and then the 1903 Act and the 1923 Act.

In the year 1933 the Oireachtas tried to give certain security to certain tenants who had been left out in the cold under the Act of 1923. There were certain tenants who entered into agreements for the taking of land as a temporary convenience and there were others who took land for the purpose of grazing it—pasturage only—and it was held that they did not come within the 1923 Act. Under Section 40 of the 1933 Act it was set out that if they were really genuine tenants, a provision of that kind would not debar them from coming under the 1923 Act, and they were brought within its scope. So this Oireachtas did realise, and does realise, the right of certain people to property in land.

I quite agree that the State has the right to limit the right of the owner of all property, whether it is land or house property or any other type of property. At the same time, I submit the rights are only enforced in very special cases. There are various Acts giving the right to acquire land compulsorily, to acquire property compulsorily. I think that up to 1919 it was always recognised that the taking of land compulsorily did entitle the owner to, if anything, more than the market value. In the year 1919 there was a Compulsory Acquisition of Land Act passed in which it was provided that the owner was not to get more for the land by reason of the fact that it was taken from him compulsorily. I think that was a very good proposition because, of course, you could not go into the sentimental value of that land.

If a man owns property, I think he ought to be paid the market value of it. It is all right to say that his right is limited. I quite agree it is limited, but supposing I have a holding of land in a certain townland and there is no demand made for it—there are no people looking for it—I am left in full possession. In another townland a tenant has a similar amount of land, but there is a demand for land in that townland and he has some of his land taken. It is bad enough to be deprived of that land, but when you see the land taken from him at a price much less than he could get for it in the open market, that is evidently unjust; it is making fish of one and flesh of another, and that should not happen. If we are to be just to people we should not do that; our aim should be the greater good of the greater number. I think the State should supply any deficiency that would arise in that respect. That is one of the reasons why I would like to impress on the Minister that if there is any opposition to this, it ought to be withdrawn and the Bill carefully considered.

There are certain clauses that I do not quite approve of. For instance, there is a clause that says that if the Land Commission acquire land subject to an annuity, it should vest in the Land Commission subject to that annuity. I do not quite agree to that because the Land Commission may be taking land subject to an annuity payable to themselves and that would be inconsistent. I would regard an annuity as an ordinary mortgage which will have to be cleared off in the event of land being purchased. Possibly that should be done away with.

Another question is market value. I do not think that market value would represent the price paid during the peak years when the price for land was very high as it was in the period 1914 to 1921 and during the present war. At the same time, it should not be the price paid when prices are very low as they were from 1921 up to a few years ago. It should be the average price. Probably it will be suggested that if this Bill is passed it will leave the door open for a certain amount of fraud being committed on the Land Commission: that people who think their land is about to be taken from them may get bogus bids made so as to increase the price of the land to three or four times its value. If that were attempted I think it could be very easily dealt with.

Leave the boys who make the bogus bids to carry the baby.

There may be ways of dealing with them.

The same argument would be equally effective in the case of resumed holdings under the 1933 Act.

It would, but they were not so numerous as the others. The question of market value can be considered and dealt with and possibly explained more fully. I would say that where land is compulsorily acquired from people they ought to get the market value of it. I also agree with Section 3 of the Bill. I never liked the system by which the Judicial Commissioner could ask a valuer to value land and then have the valuation kept more or less secret in the court, the valuer not having to come into court to justify his valuation. I think it is right that that should be altered, and that the valuer should have to come into open court and give his valuation. There is another point in connection with market value which has to be considered. The Land Acts themselves are rather strict. Most of the land in the country has now been acquired. We must not lose sight of that fact. My friend, Senator Ó Máille, did seem to lose sight of it when speaking, and also Senator Magennis. It is true, of course, that people were planted in this country and got land to which they had no right whatever. But what we must not forget is that under the 1923 Act all the land of the country was vested, acquired or purchased, so that we are now dealing with tenant purchasers— with our own people.

Hear, hear!

We ought to treat them as such. They are people who have been living on that land for years. They grew up on it, or it may be that they bought it for very big sums of money. Therefore, they are entitled to whatever rights they have. I never liked the provision in Section 25 (2) of the Land Act of 1923. It provided that land was to be valued at a price which was fair to the owner and fair to the Land Commission. That, to my mind, is a contradiction in terms. It could not possibly be fair to both, and the idea behind that section is a wrong one. If the price is to be fair to the Land Commission, which means fair to the tenant who is going into possession of the land, you must, as Senator Sweetman pointed out, provide for drains, walls, the building of a house and a lot of other things. If the cost of these is to be deducted from the price paid to the owner, then the price will not be fair to the man from whom the land is taken. At the present time, if portion of a holding has been acquired, even though it is vested, it cannot be sold without the consent of the Land Commission. Therefore, the Land Commission have a very strong pull over the owner. That would prevent any large increase in the market value because the Land Commission could say to the owner: "You cannot sell without our consent." In that way the owner cannot claim a price that some individual might be willing to pay him for the land. Under that power, the Land Commission could say that the price was an exorbitant one. If this Bill were certified as a Money Bill by the other House there might be some means of inserting a clause to deal with that.

I hesitated to take part in this debate because the Bill, in some of its aspects, deals with highly technical matters, and I felt a certain fear lest I might be tripped up about the difference between a resumed holding and an acquired holding, which, apparently, is one of considerable legal importance. Some of the things that have been said in the course of this debate have been such as seem to me to require an answer. In my view this whole matter is one of elementary justice and commonsense. Therefore, even in my nontechnical way I may possibly be able to make some contribution to the debate. From the point of view of elementary justice, is there any justice in confiscating the property of people in this generation because the property of certain other people 200 or 300 years ago was confiscated? No one denies the grievances or the injustices that were suffered by the victims of the Cromwellian and Williamite confiscations, but is it going to do those victims any good to acquire at less than its full market value the land of Mr. X or Mr. Y, whether such persons belong to the so-called ascendancy class or not? What is that but confiscation? It surely is not going to be seriously argued that the people whose social position it is sought to raise by such a policy are in that low social position because of the fact that their ancestors backed the wrong king in the 17th century. It would be very difficult to prove that contention. It might be equally true in some cases to say that their present economic misfortunes are due to the fact that they backed the wrong horse in a more recent generation. That is a matter that would be capable of reaching greater certainty on.

Anyhow, there can be no possible justice in confiscating land now merely because land was unjustly confiscated 300 years ago. You cannot cure one injustice by inflicting another injustice. The owners of land whose interests are in question belong not to one section but to more than one section of the community. No doubt, an important section of them at one time were people who were disparagingly called the old ascendancy class. But even though they were the only persons whose property was in question, they are, under the Treaty and under the Constitution, full citizens and have the right to equal treatment with other citizens in the same category with regard to this and all other matters in so far as their interests are affected by the policy of the State. I think that in this matter we should try to remember something of the spirit of Thomas Davis in our attitude to this class which is almost non-existent, although there are some survivals of it. he wrote in one of his poems:—

"What matter that at different shrines We pray unto one God—

What matter that at different times Our fathers won this sod—

In fortune and in name we're bound By stronger links than steel;

And neither can be safe nor sound But in the other's weal."

If there is any idea of social justice or any question of promoting the common good, you are not going to do it by inflicting injustice on any section of the community, whether that section be the old ascendancy class or any other class. It is not only the interests of the old ascendancy class that are concerned but the interests of every substantial holder of land, whether he belongs to that class or whether his kith or kin are of the majority of the people of this country. To take land at less than its market value from anybody in any circumstances is simply a form of robbery, whether you call it legal or not. It is a form of differential taxation which is quite incapable of justification from the point of view of constitutional equity or recognised democratic practice. If a man has a property—whether it be land or any other kind of property—which he could sell in a free market at £6,000 and the State comes along and takes that property from him for £4,000, it is exactly the same as if the State inflicted a tax of £2,000 on him and him alone. The fact that the tax will be used to promote the common good is neither here nor there; it does not affect the question. It is a differential tax, imposed on one citizen or on a number of citizens—a tax which is not equally distributed amongst all persons of the same class and, therefore, is contrary to the spirit of any democratic constitution. In some ways it resembles the procedure of Henry VII who, if I remember rightly, was in the habit of extracting what he called "benevolences" from rich men whom he was occasionally able to bring pressure to bear upon. "Benevolences" were regarded at the time as a form of injustice and, in the later development of the British Constitution, they became constitutionally impossible. I should think that our Constitution, which embodies the last word in democratic constitutions, also includes some clause or clauses which would make that kind of taxation unconstitutional. However, it is happening under the form of the law and, to that extent, the law is contrary to the spirit of the Constitution and ought to be modified so as to bring it into line with that spirit.

The matter has other aspects. It creates insecurity of tenure. It creates uncertainty about the future on the part of the owners of land who feel that they have the Sword of Damocles hanging over them and who know not when they may be called upon to surrender their holdings to the Land Commission at less than their full value. That situation is completely destructive of the credit which would normally belong to the ownership of land and it is likely to be destructive of the enterprise which might adequately utilise that credit in order to make the fullest possible use of that land with a view to the common good, as well as the profit of the owner. The only important source of credit for any farmer, large or small, is his title deeds—the amount of long-term loan he can secure by mortgaging his farm. That, in turn, is based on an estimate of the market value of his land. If that value is to be completely undermined by the danger that the Land Commission may take over his land at much less than its market value, then the credit value of that land for the purpose of mortgaging it to acquire capital for any purpose whatever is, to that extent, diminished, if not practically wiped out. Nothing is more important for the future of our agriculture than that the credit of our farmers should be placed upon an unassailable foundation and that they should make adequate use of that credit to increase the productive capacity of their farms in every direction.

The amount of money that could be wisely used in expanding Irish agriculture is very considerable. I dare say I did estimate it at £100,000,000, not to be incurred in a single year but to be spread over a period of, perhaps, ten or 20 years. But I am satisfied that our farmers will not invest 100,000,000 pence in the development of their land if the foundations of their credit are to remain threatened, as they are now, by the policy of the Land Commission and by the law determining the value at which land may be resumed or acquired. The amount of new money which, it is estimated, will be required for the expansion of British agriculture has been seriously stated to be £1,000,000,000. If that be so, then the total amount of capital expenditure we might well incur within the next 20 or 30 years in developing the productive capacity of our land is, probably, quite modestly estimated at a figure of the order of £100,000,000. You are not going to get that kind of desirable development of agriculture if you destroy the very foundations of agricultural credit.

It is with a certain amount of trepidation I intervene in this debate at all because, from what I have heard in the debate so far, I am inclined to think that the issue is more in the nature of a lawyer's bone than anything else. What struck me in the discussion during the evening was the continual reference to "injustice". What I have been wondering is whether "injustice" is really the word that should have been used or not. Would not "hardship" be the more correct word in this case. Irrespective of the word which is used, the question arises: Is this widespread?

I have the unfortunate habit of trying to look at things quantitatively, and I could not avoid asking myself during the discussion: "To what extent does hardship exist, due to the present system?" Sitting here and listening to Senators on the other side getting up and making their points, I am never without a great deal of sympathy with each of them because practically every time a Senator gets up to make a point he is sincere and he has certain grounds for making the point. The result of it all is that I feel that the very idea of casting legislation implies hardship. Somebody is going to suffer, because if somebody is not doing something out of the way, if something is not taking place that should not take place, then no legislation is called for. No matter how we may strive to make this land legislation perfect, I feel that there will always be somebody who will be hurt.

I quite agree.

Again, listening to the use of the phrase "market price", I had great difficulty in trying to visualise exactly what the users of the term had in mind. I commenced by visualising what might happen if the value of land under the circumstances in which the Land Commission come to take it over were to be fixed in accordance with "market price".

The market price of what? The market price of land. The market price of a commodity—of a most essential commodity. The market price of a monopoly, and a monopoly for which there is no substitute and from which there is no escape. Remembering then that land is a monopoly, and a monopoly of a most outstanding kind, I cannot but feel that there is every ground for the insertion of that section in the 1923 Act that has been so often adverted to, that the price shall be fixed in accordance with the interests of the owner and the interests of the Land Commission—those are not the exact words, but I think they convey the gist of the matter. We have, on the one hand, a monopolist, and we have, on the other hand, a monopoly, and we have public policy also and the interests of the community at large, which have also to be considered.

I cannot follow what the Senator means by a monopoly there.

What is a monopoly?

I think that Senator O Buachalla means that there is only a limited quantity of land.

Yes. Surely, in a responsible Assembly such as this there is hardly any need to define a monopoly. The fact remains that there is a monopoly in land, and that there is no substitute for it. For most monopolies there is a substitute, but there is no substitute for the monopoly in land, and if the holders of land are to be free to get a market price, knowing how markets may be rigged, and knowing what is likely to happen when people feel that, ultimately, the State must pay the bill, then it is quite easy to visualise what would result from the price being fixed at market level.

I do not want to interrupt, but on the other hand I do not want to misunderstand the Senator. Do I understand him as saying that he visualises a state of affairs in which all the land owners of the country at present would get into a rig to force prices up?

Not exactly, but I visualise this: that there is a certain amount of land on which the community has its eye for distribution amongst people who are land hungry, or amongst people who require land in order to bring their holdings into something approaching an economic level, and there is still there a greater degree of monopoly. It is because of that that I feel that there must be a brake, and because of the application of that brake the holders of land may feel that they are getting a raw deal if they do not get what would, in ordinary economic parlance, amount to the normal economic value.

I cannot understand that.

Well, the only thing that would prevent my going back over all that and, perhaps, explaining it in different terms, is the fact that, possibly, the debate has gone on long enough...

Tá an ceart agat!

... and that I do not think a further explanation is called for. However, to conclude, I should like to refer to Section 3 of the Bill, and I wonder whether if that section were implemented it would result in doing away with whatever dissatisfaction there may be. Let me give an example. A number of candidates go for a position. One man gets it, and the rest feel that an injustice has been done to them; or two people go into the courts, each believing he is right: one comes out the victor, and the other feels he has got a raw deal. The same will happen supposing you establish a tribunal on a basis where, you say, valuers will be called in to give evidence. There will still be a decision by the arbitrator, and people will come out feeling that they have got a raw deal. Those are the difficulties I have had in regard to this Bill. I believe that if there are injustices that can be resolved, they should be resolved, but I do not think they are being resolved by this measure and I do not think that the important factor in connection with the fixing of the price of land has been sufficiently adverted to in the course of the discussion: namely, the point with which I dealt at some length on the question of monopolies.

Business suspended at 6 p.m. and resumed at 7 p.m.

I should like, first of all, to add my mite to the meed of praise that has accrued to Senator Sweetman. Senator Sweetman's eloquence, to a rather tongue-tied person like me, is rather alarming but his objectivity is, again, rather disarming. It is very difficult to make any kind of vicious political attack on a man who refuses to make such an attack on you. Talking of legislation by reference, he spoke of the need for codification. Codification of the various Land Acts would be a tremendously long job and a very difficult and intricate one. Codification generally will, I suppose, be undertaken at some particular stage but Senators will remember that if we have to codify laws, it will possibly be a job that will occupy 12, 14 or 15 years. I do not know if there is the tremendous necessity for tackling the various Land Acts as there is in relation to Acts covering the work of other Departments because, after all, if we do pursue the idea of land acquisition and land division, no matter how strongly we proceed, the pool of land for division has naturally become much smaller, has narrowed a good deal and at some particular date land division and land acquisition, as they have proceeded up to date, must come to an end. Many land laws relating to that particular activity will, therefore, become obsolete and I do not know that it is such an urgent matter as Senator Sweetman seems to think.

Senator Sweetman is good political timber. I like to see young men of his capacity and ability coming into politics, but even political timber might need to have the kiln-drying of more political thought and experience. It has been rather the fashion lately to deprecate Party, to suggest that the time for political Parties has gone by. Senator Sweetman assured me that he was not making any Party political capital out of this Bill. He need not have so assured me; I knew that myself, but he will find out when he is in politics a little longer that there is a great necessity for Party, and the debate, as pursued in support of the Bill here, is definite proof that only by methods of Party politics can success be achieved. Senator Sweetman certainly made a case that it would be difficult to meet, and I was rather in a quandary until I heard other speakers dealing with the Bill. Then I felt that Senator Sweetman might well say: "Lord, preserve me from my friends."

Senator O'Donovan was in the Chair when Senator Counihan began to speak on the Bill. Senator O'Donovan has been a member of that august body, the Cork County Council, for many years. At the Cork County Council a good deal of business is got through quickly and they are rather sticklers for order there. Senator O'Donovan, because of his training in the Cork County Council, believed that he should insist on order but I would have preferred if he had let Senator Counihan pursue the uneven tenor of his way. I would have liked to have followed him down the labyrinthine ways of his speculations. It might not be enlightening for Senator Counihan but it would be certainly interesting for a good many people here. The real idea entertained not by Senator Sweetman but by many of those who were indicating their desire to support the Bill was brought out very clearly by Senator Counihan and by Senator McGee. Senator Counihan said, and repeated portentously several times: "The time has come." I was reminded of the walrus when he started to discuss matters of social economics as a prelude to his eating up all the small fellows. All the uneconomic holders seemed to me like all the little oysters waiting in a row to be devoured by Senator Counihan. Senator Counihan pointed out definitely that what was wanted in the Bill was not more division. He and Senator McGee gave us what they called typical examples of injustice done by the Land Commission in regard to the purchase of land. Senator Kingsmill Moore suggested that, in the experience of his profession, people were paid only half price or even quarter price for the land. That is a general statement. I cannot very definitely contradict a general statement, but the examples which Senator Counihan and Senator McGee called typical were not typical. They were specially selected. Senator Counihan said he could prove it. Of course he could prove the things he said because all the information that he needs will be readily given to him by the Land Commission. Senator McGee had rather an economy of truth in regard to one of the cases with which he dealt. Senator McGee pointed out that, in regard to one case, the Land Commission made an offer of £4,550 for certain lands, and a year afterwards reduced their price to £2,400. In the first instance, something like four holdings were offered, three of them to be acquired by the Land Commission. In the second case three holdings were offered. They were two different offers for two different proposals.

On a point of order, there were not two offers. The holding was submitted to the Land Commission, who made the offer. It was accepted, and withdrawn, and a fresh offer made.

Let us have the truth, anyway.

That is the truth.

The exact truth.

That is the exact truth.

That is part of it. With the permission of the Chairman, I will read the whole thing. This is my note:—

"Senator McGee referred to the case of Mr. W.J. O'Reilly, Record No. S.7313, where the Land Commission is alleged in December, 1934, to have made an offer of £4,550 for certain lands, and in January, 1935, reduced their offer to £2,400."

Quite so.

The offer of £4,500 was made for 353 acres 1 rood and 27 perches, including valuable buildings, poor rate valuation £65, and of which 134 acres 3 roods and 37 perches was to be resold to the owner for £1,700.

Quite so.

This offer was not accepted by Mr. O'Reilly.

It was accepted.

And in January, 1935, an offer of £2,400 was made, not for 353 acres 1 rood and 27 perches but for 214 acres 2 roods and 20 perches, without the buildings.

The Minister is not correct.

This is the record of the Land Commission.

My records are here, too, from the Land Commission.

Senator Counihan mentioned the case of Mr. Wilson. Mr. Wilson made an offer of his land to the Land Commission. He made the offer with a view to, and in the hope of, bettering himself by securing from the Land Commission land which was more convenient for him. Apparently he did not get the land, and when the price of the land he offered was made up Mr. Wilson regarded the price as doing him a grave injustice. The Land Commission examined the situation, agreed that under the circumstances it would not be fair to acquire the land from Mr. Wilson, and did not acquire it. Senator McGee did very generously say that he had been treated fairly by the Land Commission and that they always met him generously.

Except in the cases quoted, which in my opinion were outrageous. The Minister is incorrect——

I think the dignity of the House will be better served if interjections and flat contradictions cease while the Minister is replying.

The Minister should be allowed to make his speech without interruption. When other speakers were dealing with the various points, the Minister did not intervene.

I am not quite familiar with the procedure in the Seanad. I am accustomed to interruptions. In pursuance of truth I do not mind how you fight. The point is that I, as Minister for Lands, am giving the records as given to me by my Department. Whether you accept them or not is for you to say. I will make an offer to Senator Counihan for what it is worth. Senator Counihan wants no more land division. I think Senator McGee does not want it either. I am sure a number of other Senators on that side of the House do not desire land division. The whole purpose of dealing with land tenures is a social economic one, an attempt to strengthen the social fibre of this nation. Times have changed since the time visualised by Senator Counihan when he spoke in the Seanad on 27/7/23. As reported at column 1501 of that particular debate, Senator Counihan said:—

"If we go back 60 or 70 years"—that is to 1853 or 1863—

"we will find, as compared with the present, that a greater percentage of the land in every county in Ireland was then occupied by small holdings. We must, therefore, naturally ask ourselves the question: What was the reason for the dispossession of all these small land holders? Some may say that it was due to the action of harsh landlords, but I say the explanation is that in great measure the tenants were not able to pay their rents because they could not live on the small holdings."

There was some play made this evening—if I may depart from my argument for the moment—about the old ascendancy. I have never kowtowed to the old ascendancy. I think that we Gaels are just as aristocratic a breed as any old ascendancy. In the years in respect of which Senator Counihan mentions the fact that there were so many small holdings it was not what might be called the old ascendancy who were the landlords; it was the gombeen men who purchased under the Encumbered Estates Act from the old landlords.

I make a present to Senator Counihan and to Senator McGee. Times have changed since 1853 and 1863. If I were sure that the soil of Ireland was being used or could be used to the fullest extent under the present system of ownership, I would not change the ownership of a sod of it, because the time has now come, very definitely, when the question of maximum production on the land must be considered all the time. A social economic purpose underlay the whole policy of land division and land acquisition. A social economic purpose must be served, particularly nowadays, by maximum production, and I say to Senator Counihan that if we could be sure that maximum production could be reached under present conditions—and I do not believe it can be so reached—I would not change the ownership of a sod of land in this country.

I am rather an intolerant person. I have been all my life. People who grow up in the environment that I grew up in, who participate in activities such as I have participated in, become very intolerant of evil and, perhaps, they see evil things where no evil is intended now and again. But I grew older and more experienced and one of the great modifying experiences I have had is my association with the Land Commission because, when I see the tolerance and patience of the Land Commission, not only with those who own land, but with those who look for land, I feel sure that no injustice will be deliberately done to any citizen of this State by the activities of the Land Commission.

I am really a comparative novice in regard to the question of land tenures and particularly in regard to land legislation. Coming by sheer accident of fortune into the Land Commission, I set about trying to acquire as much knowledge as I could in regard to land and land tenures. I noticed that two of the most interesting books in regard to land tenures and land holding in this country were written by Americans and in one of these books I read a reference to Mr. O'Connor Morris. I got a book of his recently—A Hundred Years of Irish History. One chapter deals with the period from 1848 to 1868, and the chapter, starting on the 1st January, 1848, says:—

"Famine in Ireland having been avoided".

This gentleman was the correspondent of the London Times during the Land League period here. When I hear Senator Counihan talking about the condition of things that obtained in Ireland in 1853 and 1863 and Senator Sir John Keane talking about the tremendous wrong that he thinks has been done to the landlords—whom he calls the old ascendants and I do not— I begin to believe that they are quite as blinded in regard to conditions here as the gentleman who wrote. A Hundred Years of Irish History and, in regard to the period 1847, said:—

"Famine in Ireland having been avoided".

The game in regard to this Bill was completely given away by Senator Ruane. Senator Ruane confessed that he was inclined to be very much against the Bill until he found out that any extra costs would not be placed on the Mayo allottee and the Mayo migrant but would be placed on the broad shoulders of John Citizen, showing that what Senator Ruane feared — and what is definitely intended in the Bill by many people— not by its introducer—that what is wanted is a speculative price, that we shall chase the price of land until we enter into competition with the best financial speculator there is in the market.

Senator McGee spoke about the Land Commission and the destruction of credit in the country by the action of the Land Commission. Farm credits have been a failure in this country. They have been a failure for two reasons: First of all, most farm credits have been issued to farmers to meet past commitments which have been a failure and not to enter into new commitments which might be a success. I have been as a politician dealing with banks, lawyers and corporations for the past 20 years in regard to these credits, and, as I say, most of these credits have gone down the drain because they have been credits issued to meet past commitments of failure. Senator Baxter thinks imperially in terms of £100,000,000. Widespread credits cannot in the ordinary commercial sense be made available to farmers. And why? Because of an ultra legal security of tenure. It is the fashion nowadays to say that since the Fianna Fáil Party got into power in this country, security of tenure has been destroyed, but the reason credits cannot be made available, the reason a man's title to his farm is no good in the bank is because of an ultra legal security of tenure.

Is fíor sin.

Because, even if a man defaults on the payment of the debt, the bank or the lender, whoever it is, is unable to sell the farm to pay the debt. Maybe that is not a bad thing.

I do not believe it. I tell you straight.

I am afraid I do.

That is not the reason why he does not get credit.

Senator Baxter wants £1,000,000 of credit. What the heck £1,000,000 of credit has to do with this particular Bill I do not know. The acoustics of this building are poor, and I am rather deaf, but I think I heard Senator Sir John Keane greeting his ancient comrade, Senator Counihan, as the only man who was with him in 1923. Then he welcomed under his banner Senator McGee. When speaking on this Bill, Senator Baxter reminded me of Swinburne's river: "Even the weariest river winds somewhere safe to sea", but Senator Baxter, while at sea all the time, did not seem to worry. Speaking on the Bill, he associated with himself Senator McCabe. He said that the two were arcades ambo, ancient friends, who had served this nation as comrades for the Tenants' League. The spokesman of the Tenants' League, in 1923, was Deputy Gorey. Here is the statement Deputy Gorey made as spokesman of the Tenants' League:—

"The price of land in this country is more than its real value. The price is not at all in proportion to the commercial value of the land."

Deputy Gorey was arguing on behalf of the tenants that 15 years' purchase offered under the 1923 Act was altogether too much for the old-pseudo Ascendancy. The two Senators who were members of the Tenants' League in 1923, and who argued through their spokesman, Deputy Gorey, that the price of land was altogether too high, are arguing here to-day that the price of land is altogether too low. I suggest they should be under the banner of Senator Sir John Keane. No legislation ever devised by human mind is entirely satisfactory. I think it was Senator Ryan made that point. Since I came to the Land Commission, in pursuit of knowledge, I have read through the debates of the 1923 Act and, after 20 years, it is very dismal reading, but there were two men who did discuss that Act, knew what the Bill contained, knew its purpose and had clarity of diction and clarity of mind, the Minister, the late Mr. Patrick Hogan and Deputy, now Senator, Magennis. These two men knew exactly what they were talking about. Very few of the others who spoke on the Bill did. The Minister for Agriculture at the time had two angles of a problem. He had the question of tenanted land and the question of untenanted land. In regard to tenanted land he had a soft thing. He had precedents to go on, and Senator Magennis rather outlined for us a while ago why it was that even Senator Hayes was vexed.

I was not vexed at all. I merely wanted to know where we were to stop. I am never vexed. Like the Minister, I am very tolerant, although, like the Minister, I pretend that I am not.

I am rather timid myself. In regard to the tenants of tenanted land, the Minister for Agriculture had precedents. Fifteen years' purchase was offered, ten-elevenths to be paid by the tenants and one-eleventh by the State. Deputy Gorey, on behalf of the Tenants' League, was very wroth about the amount being paid away to the enemies of the country, but the Minister faced up to the position straightforwardly and soundly. He made a case, which, I believe, was a good case, and, in spite of certain things said about the Act of 1923, did a good job for the country. In regard to untenanted land, the Minister for Agriculture was in a difficult position. He had no precedents to go on. I take the view that when a man owns property he must not be deprived of it without due payment of compensation. In bidding for property a State Department is at a tremendous disadvantage. The Minister for Agriculture had a number of advantages. He was a lawyer; he was a man of tremendous ability, and he was a Galway man. He also had family experience, through the fact that his father had done a great deal of work for the Land Commission and, being a lawyer in County Galway, he certainly should have known the mind of agriculturists and of the people. I think in regard to the mind of the Irish people the late Minister for Agriculture was as good a psychologist as I am. He was faced with the difficulty of securing land, and he devised by some inspiration the phrase or formula: "Fair to the Land Commission and fair to the owners." There was a certain amount of undue optimism about that part of the phrase: "Fair to the Land Commission," because, as far as I know, no one has been fair to the Land Commission, not even the Fianna Fáil Party. When a man of the capacity and honour of the late Minister for Agriculture stated that he would pay a price that was fair to the owners, surely he meant a price that was fair to the owners.

It is possible to select cases from the 2,000,000 acres of land acquired and divided by the Land Commission and to say that injustice has been done. No legislation can ever be framed which will do absolute abstract justice, and there will always be cases where a certain amount of unwitting and unwanted injustice is done. If Senator Kingsmill Moore was right in saying that the 2,000,000 acres acquired by the Land Commission during the past 20 years were purchased at one-fourth of the value, I think there would be more than one revolution in this country.

Coming back again to Senator Counihan—I like Senator Counihan— he made special reference to a parcel of land on the Hone estate which was sold an allottee for the sum of £1,050. This man got a parcel of land from the Land Commission as a migrant who had surrendered his own holding in another district. I have not had time to discover what the basis of this transaction was, but I assume that because he gave up a holding and got another, he probably had built a house on this land.

Very well. The man next door to him on the same estate sold a parcel of 20 acres of land at the same time for £300. If the Land Commission are to have to go out to purchase land for the purposes of division —and I still believe there is a necessity for changing the ownership of a certain amount of land in this country—and if it agrees to pay the market price, it will pay an inflated price. No Senator except Senator Louis O'Dea attempted to define a market price, and before he had finished defining it, he was rather a pitiable object, because he failed completely, and even admitted that he had failed completely, to define it. He pointed out very definitely what the danger would be to the Land Commission if they were to go out and purchase land in the open market as has been advocated here. The State has a duty not to one citizen, or one set of citizens, but to every citizen. It must be fair to every citizen. It is wrong that the owner of land should be mulcted for the general good, but the Land Commission, or any other Department of State, would be very foolish to permit it to be known that they would go into the open market in competition with the ordinary citizen. Some Senators will have read Letters from a Self-made Merchant to his Son. Old Gorgon Graham, a pork butcher from Chicago, said that whenever he entered a store in London there was immediately a bull movement in regard to all prices. I am afraid the Land Commission would be like old Gorgon Graham, in that immediately they went into the open market for any commodity they needed, there would be a bull movement.

Would the Minister say what he means when he speaks of the Land Commission going into the open market?

Senator O Buachalla a few moments ago had to make some attempt at explaining to this erudite body the meaning of the word "monopoly". I am sure Senator Baxter is not quite as innocent as his long speech earlier would suggest he is. If Senator Baxter will tell me how the Land Commission might secure land at what is really the market price and if he will define for me what is a market price, then perhaps, and only perhaps, we might do business; but until that is defined and I am placed in the position of knowing how the Land Commission will protect itself from an undue grab on the part of land owners, I am afraid I shall have to oppose the proposal that this Bill become law.

Senator Ruane was worried about the annuity which might be placed on the new allottee if this Bill came into force. Section 2 says:—

"On and after the date hereof all untenanted land which is subject to a land purchase annuity and which shall be declared to vest in the Land Commission, shall so vest subject to such annuity."

It would mean, for Senator Ruane's constituents, that an added annuity would be placed on them, or we would have an enormously increased State debt, if we were to allow ourselves to be imposed upon to the extent of paying a speculative price. What does this added annuity mean? Since I came to the Land Commission a year and a half ago, the Minister for Finance has pressed me time and again to try to avail of the comparatively good years which the farmers are now having to reduce the tremendous arrears of annuities which have accrued in the Land Commission. I have been pestering the collection branch to get these arrears down. They are still somewhere in the region of £500,000, and if we are to avoid a further addition to the deadweight debt of the State, through the payment of speculative prices for land, we shall have to place this annuity on the incoming allottee. If farmers find it difficult to-day, after all the years have not been bad to them, to clear off their annuities, what will be the position in the post-war years of an allottee who has to pay the double annuity? The passing of this Bill actually means the cessation of land division. If you want that, you will vote for the Bill; if you do not, you will not vote for the Bill.

I cannot see why landowners want Section 3. I do not see why they want to bring the inspectors of the Land Commission before the Judicial Commissioners whose business it would be to argue against any increase in the price which might be given to landowners. Apart from any disruption it would cause inside the administration of the Land Commission, it would be entirely a disadvantage to landowners. It would mean a complete hold-up of the work of the Land Commission. I notice that Senator Michael Ryan advocated it. I know him for many years and I would not like to attribute any ulterior motives to him, but when a lawyer suggests that something should be done which would provide a tremendous amount of work for lawyers, I begin to feel doubtful about it.

The politicians will always do that for him.

I happen to be a politician and I suppose Senator Douglas would really admit that he is one too. I do not think I have anything more to say on the subject. If the debate continues, I may have a few more words to say. But I really congratulate Senator Sweetman on the manner in which he presented the Bill and on the objectivity of his approach to the matter.

Unlike many of the speakers, I cannot claim to be in any sense an expert. But, as Senator Sir John Keane has rather unkindly reminded me, I have for about 20 years listened to a very large number of debates in relation to land problems. I have listened to this debate with very great care. It seems to me that, notwithstanding all the various interesting matters which have been introduced, there is only one issue and that is, whether there should or should not be a different basis of compensation for acquired as against resumed holdings. I heard it said a few days ago that one of the qualifications for being a good Senator was skill in bringing in the greatest possible number of irrelevancies into a debate on any particular subject. Apparently, the Minister has some such idea, because he chose the various arguments that might to some extent be regarded as irrelevant and more or less effectively dealt with them. Incidentally, I think he also qualified for being a Senator himself. Perhaps some day he will achieve that great distinction— whether it be up or down we need not argue.

I listened, as I always do, to the Minister with amusement, with great interest. But this time I listened in vain for any argument dealing with the one simple question. He congratulated Senator Sweetman at the beginning. He said it would be very difficult to reply to him. Then he replied to almost everything else in the debate and congratulated Senator Sweetman at the end. That is exactly how I feel myself. I feel that Senator Sweetman made a clear case for the underlying principle of this Bill. He was supported very well by several other Senators at great length and with many interesting side lines. But we come back to the position that this is a short Bill which, if it passes the Second Stage, may require amendment in Committee, but deals really with a simple issue. The reason I venture to speak is not for the purpose of repeating any argument made, but to suggest to the Seanad that this is exactly the kind of work which it is suitable for a House of this kind to do. Whether to the extent suggested by some or not does not matter, but there is clearly a certain amount of injustice. You can make all the jibes you like against lawyers, but the fact is that we cannot very well do without them on a matter of this kind, because they know better than anyone else how Acts of Parliament operate.

I do not like the word "jibe". I did not jibe at them.

I am sorry. I did not mean it as a jibe either. I meant "poke fun". Will that do? I am sure that is all it was meant to be. We who have been members of either House for a considerable time know perfectly well that, no matter what the Minister may, with perfect sincerity, tell us is the meaning of a particular section, and although in this case we were told by the late Mr. Patrick Hogan what he intended and believed would operate, it is only the lawyers who can tell us how it has, in effect, operated, and we must be, I think, influenced to a very considerable extent by their judgment. My point simply is this. Here we have brought in a simple Bill, a Private Member's Bill, introduced for the purpose of endeavouring to create a more equitable situation as between the acquired and resumed holdings. Surely that is the kind of Bill which the Seanad should agree to on the Second Stage without a division. I do not take the Minister too seriously when he says: "If you want cessation of land division, vote for this Bill." The reason I do not take him too seriously is that he simply made that assertion and did not produce one single argument or any evidence in support of it.

This is not a Government Bill. If you will look back at the earlier days of this House you will find that a good deal of useful work was done by the introduction of short measures which, when debated in Committee, frequently evolved a practical suggestion and were not infrequently adopted by the Government of the day. The Second Stage is not the time to find out what is the Government attitude in relation to a non-Party Bill of this kind. I suggest that there has been sufficient discussion to make a case for passing the Second Stage of the Bill, preferably without a division, seeing what Senators O'Dea, Ryan, Sweetman, Kingsmill Moore and others can do to put it in a better form, and deciding on the Third Stage whether or not it is something which should be sent to the Dáil for its consideration. I want to make a plea to get back to what was the practice in the earlier days of the Seanad. Individual members introduced Bills. When they were Private Bills, they were not, except on very rare occasions, debated on Party lines. They were debated by the Seanad on their merits. Sometimes the Minister intervened, giving more or less his point of view, but it was not regarded as in any sense an ultimatum. The Government decision was not made in this House; it was made afterwards, if and when a considered Bill did pass this House and was sent to the Dáil.

I should like to appeal to the Minister who, while he can be very humorous, can also be extremely reasonable, to let this Bill be debated here in Committee, and see, having regard to the difficulties which have been shown in debate, whether it is not possible for the House, without Party lines or Party debate, to evolve out of this Bill something which could be a practical suggestion to get over what I think is admittedly, in certain cases, causing inequity.

I should like to support this Bill, because I am quite convinced that, under the terms of the 1923 Act, an injustice was being done which was not intended to be done by the Minister who was responsible for that Act. It speaks very badly for us in this Christian and agricultural country that injustice should be done, even though it be done unwittingly, by the State in the acquisition of agricultural land as compared to the practice of the acquisition of land in urban areas. If the Dublin Corporation or the Cork Corporation or the Limerick Corporation, or any urban bodies, have to acquire land for the purpose of town planning, of public improvements, of the building of hospitals or mental homes, they have to pay the market price for that land. I think, therefore, that it is extremely unfair that it should be the agricultural community, who are, after all, the backbone of this country, who should be penalised when land has to be compulsorily acquired for social economic purposes.

Senator Magennis more or less enunciated the theory that the common good must be paid for by the individual; that that burden must rest on the individual rather than be spread over the shoulders of John Citizen in general. Knowing Senator Magennis's eloquence, I can imagine that the learned professor would be very eloquent indeed were the Corporation of Dublin to acquire his house for the purpose of widening a road. I should think that under such circumstances the learned professor would have very little difficulty in differentiating between market value and the value to the Dublin Corporation. I should think that his eloquence would be all in favour of market value.

The Minister has, to my mind, accepted the principle of this Bill when he stated that he believed that the owner of property was entitled to due and proper compensation when it became necessary to take his property in the interests of social economy. But the Minister put up, I think, as his principal objection to the operation of this Bill, the difficulty that the Land Commission would be placed in were it forced to go into the open market for the purpose of acquiring land. May I put this to the Minister, that in the case of resumed land we are all ad idem that the market price is paid? If it can be done in the case of a resumption, why can it not be done in the case of an acquisition?

I suggest to the Minister that, even though he may object to this Bill as drafted, and he may object to various clauses in it, that there is very little difference on the principle between himself and Senator Sweetman and, if he would prefer that this Bill should not be passed and would give an undertaking that he and his draftsman will produce a Bill which will embody its principle, we would have done a very good day's work to-day in this House.

At this hour I do not think that I should say very much concerning the Bill, but at the same time I feel that in the event of a division being challenged I could not vote without stating in advance the grounds on which my vote was based.

I have been confused to some extent by the speeches to which I have listened, because the weight of the discussion seems to have been concentrated on the market value of land, and there is nothing about the market value of land in the Bill. The Bill, as I understand it, proposes to repeal Section 14 and Section 25 (2) of the Land Act of 1923, and it sets out alternative proposals for the purpose of fixing the price of certain lands acquired by the Land Commission.

Would Senator Duffy speak up, so that we could hear him on this side of the House? It is very difficult to hear the Senator.

The Senator must make allowance for my shyness.

Your shyness? Oh, I see.

I am trying to make the case that the House should give a Second Reading to this Bill, without committing itself any further than that. That is to say, if the Bill gets a Second Reading, we can then examine its provisions in Committee, alter them if necessary and, in the long run, if we are dissatisfied when the Bill goes through Committee, we can then reject it.

Much discussion has centred round the principle of market value and I gather from the Minister that there is difficulty in determining market value in relation to land where the State is a buyer. I can see that if the State makes it known that it is in the market to buy land, the price will be inflated—there is no doubt about that in the circumstances. I suggest there are other methods by which you can determine the market value of land about to be acquired by the State. I want to say that I regard the State as representing the community, as being the supreme authority in this matter. Take one example as to the manner in which market value, or at least the value of the land, may be determined. If in a district a farm of average quality and with the average amenities were sold during the last three or six months at an average price of £10 an acre, I take it that it could be accepted, in the event of the State acquiring a neighbouring holding, that its value is £10 an acre.

There are other methods, of course. A fair valuation can be made in respect of land as in respect of any other commodity. Eighty years ago, a gentleman named Griffith made a valuation of all the land in Ireland. That valuation may be no longer relevant but, at any rate, machinery was devised for setting a value on land and the principles upon which that valuation is based are known, as they were set out in detail by the Department then responsible for having that valuation made. I am not advocating that as the correct basis for valuation; I am merely pointing to the fact that it is possible to achieve a basis which will be fair to the community and to the owner.

Senator McGee challenged some of us on these benches earlier to say what the Labour Party point of view was towards these matters. I think he was labouring under the false impression that the Labour Party consists of landless men. It does not. There are landless men in the Fianna Fáil Party and, I assume, in the Fine Gael Party.

I am sure there are.

The Labour Party has no special function in regard to a Bill of this kind, any more than any other Party, but all of us as citizens have the duty to see that, so far as we are responsible for shaping legislation, we do justice. I am not concerned with anything more. I am not concerned with raising the price of land, nor do I know whether the Land Commission is paying too much or too little for land. I am concerned only—and I think the Minister himself is concerned—with the view that machinery should be devised to ensure that the person whose property is being acquired will be reasonably compensated for what is being taken from him. I do not want to see the citizens who comprise this community being mulcted to provide a high rate of compensation for people whose property is required by the State for social purposes, nor would I subscribe to such a proposition. In his concluding remarks, the Minister rather suggested that, if the Bill were to become law, the process of land division would come to an end. I do not know if that is true, but I doubt it very much. If I thought that were so, I would vote against the Bill.

If that were so, I would not have introduced it.

I have a strong suspicion that there is some policy being pursued in regard to land division which is not at all clear. Recently, I took out some figures to find out what exactly was happening in regard to land division during the past ten or 12 years. I remember that the Taoiseach, in reply to a question in the Dáil as to Government policy in regard to the size of farms, stated that the Government was in favour of small farms, more farms and more farm workers. If that is the policy, it has not been achieved.

The number of small farms has decreased very materially during the past ten or 12 years. In 1933, the number of farms of between five and ten acres was 34,000 in round figures, while in 1942 it was 33,000, a decrease of 1,000. The number of farms of between ten and 15 acres in 1933 was 36,000, while in 1942, it was 32,000, a decrease of 4,000 in that period of ten years. If we omit the holdings of under one acre—which represent almost exclusively the plots attached to labourers' cottages—the total number of holdings under 15 acres decreased from 100,000 in 1933 to 93,000 in 1942, a drop of 7,000 holdings in a period of ten years. Therefore, if the Land Commission has been acquiring land to the extent that the Minister has just mentioned, it does not appear to have effected a redistribution in such a manner as to increase the number of holdings within the categories to which I have referred.

The idea ran through the argument of Senator Counihan that he does not like small holdings and I think that view does prevail, perhaps, even in Government circles, that is, that it is a better thing to have large holdings than small holdings. If that is so, it is bound to influence the opinion of the Government in regard to a measure of this kind.

One can always determine in advance the number of holdings there will be. I suggest that the area we have capable of cultivation is roughly 10,000,000 acres. We are told there are 11,500,000 or 12,000,000 acres, but a lot of land has gone out of cultivation during the past 20 years, and is going out of cultivation still because of the poverty of the owners. I think it would not be unreasonable to say that the area available for cultivation with us is approximately 10,000,000 acres. When you decide on the size of the holding—whether it is to be 15, 20 or 25 acres—you decide, not accurately, but in a general way, the number of holdings. If they are to be of 15 acres, you can afford 660,000 farms, which is almost double the number there is to-day. If you are satisfied with 10 acres, you can have 1,000,000 holdings. It is worth considering whether we cannot shape our economy so as to make it possible for the small holder, the person with 10 or 15 acres, to make a reasonable living. It has been found in other countries, particularly in Switzerland, that a holding of 12 acres produces almost double as much per acre as a 100-acre holding. The amount of food reaching the market in Switzerland from the small holdings of 12 acres is practically double the quantity sent to the market by the large farmers.

I would remind those who set great value on the provisions of the 1923 Act that that Act was designed to deal with a situation which no longer exists. In 1923, there was almost unanimity, with the exception of Senator Sir John Keane and, I think, Senator Counihan, in favour of the Act of 1923, because the representatives of the people recognised that the opportunity had arisen to undo the conquest, so far as it was possible, by reinstating the people of Ireland on the land of Ireland. That process has been going on. The people have been reinstated on the land, and, to all intents and purposes, they are the owners of the land that they cultivate. But the machinery of Government still operates the 1923 Land Act not against the confiscating landlord but against the peasant proprietor. If the land of a small holder is being acquired to-morrow by the Land Commission, the principles of the 1923 Land Act are invoked against him, whether they are good principles or bad principles. So it is not merely a question of dealing with the expropriation of landlordism, it is a question of dealing with poor people, in the main with people who will not have the resources that the landlords had to resist the Land Commission in any steps that they may take to apply the principles of the 1923 Land Act.

I can admire the Minister's attitude towards the Land Commission, over which he has presided for the last couple of years. I have not the slightest doubt in my mind of his sincerity or of the sincerity of those associated with him in applying the principles of law. I am concerned with the principles that they have got to apply, and these are the principles in the 1923 Land Act. I think that these principles require examination at least. I do not even presume to judge now that they are wrong, but, having heard the arguments advanced in this House during the last four or five hours, I am satisfied that a case has been made for a re-examination of the position. Accordingly, I propose to vote for the Second Reading of this Bill, so that the House will get an opportunity of examining the situation further, and of deciding later whether or not this House is capable of framing a measure which will secure the justice that we all aim at without doing injustice to the individual or to the community.

Senator Sweetman to conclude.

I must, in the first place, thank the Minister and certain other speakers for the quite undeserved tributes they have paid to me, tributes which should have been paid, not to me, but to those who were kind enough to help me in framing the Bill and in making up the information necessary to discuss it. I find the very greatest difficulty in replying to this debate, and in particular to what the Minister said. I felt that I and other Senators had made a case for the Bill, but I am afraid that the case—not the Bill itself —was not discussed at all. The Minister, like the capable politician that he is—he will appreciate, I am sure, that I am not using the word "politician" in any disparaging sense—seized on a red herring that was introduced, and proceeded to chase it away. He chased it so far away that he completely forgot about the provisions in this Bill. I welcome, however, one statement that he made, namely, that no injustice would be deliberately done to any citizen by the activities of the Land Commission.

I hope sincerely that he meant that in two ways. In the first way, I do not think that any of us, as Senator Duffy very correctly said, have suggested that the officials of the Land Commission are deliberately doing an injustice, so to speak, wantonly. Their work of carrying out the laws and rules framed by Parliament is done honestly and efficiently and to the best of their ability, and I certainly do not want to suggest otherwise. In the second way, I hope the Minister meant what he said, that he will consider again whether, in fact, an injustice was being done that could be remedied, and if so, that he would remedy it.

The Minister, in the slight references that he made to the Bill, seemed to base his objection to it on two grounds. The first was that if the provisions contained in it were accepted, the Land Commission would be asked to pay a speculative price for land. Secondly, he seemed to envisage—in case there should be any doubt about this I think it is important that it should be completely stressed—that in the Bill there was the suggestion so far as market value is concerned that the Land Commission would send its representatives to bid at auctions with the consequence that prices would be inflated. If that were the proposal, of course, prices would be inflated, but the fact is that there is not a word in the Bill about that, or as to the manner in which the Land Commission would acquire land.

As regards the latter, the position will remain exactly as it is to-day. I think it was under Section 32 of the Land Act of 1933 that more extensive powers for acquisition were given to the Land Commission. They can acquire land by certifying that they want it for their purposes. In such circumstances there can be no question whatever of the Land Commission going into the open market to bid for farms at a speculative price. If the Minister feels there is any provision in this Bill which does not adequately protect the Land Commission from having to go out and buy land at a speculative price—in the Minister's words, to go out and buy land in competition with the ordinary citizen—I want to assure him that I am prepared to move its deletion on the Committee Stage. I say that because I feel very strongly that to ask the Land Commission to go out and buy in the open market against the ordinary citizen at possibly speculative prices would be wrong for the State and for the individuals who comprise the State.

The Minister told us that the result of Section 2, if the Bill were enacted, would be the cessation of land division. That is not so. It cannot be so. The powers are there quite clearly, and no effort was made by the Minister or any of the speakers who opposed this Bill to explain in any detail why the price of resumed holdings should be treated in any way differently from the price of acquired holdings. That is the whole kernel of the measure. I did not frame Section 2 of this Bill in the way I myself should have preferred, because I wanted to frame it on the precedent set by the Land Commission themselves in the Land Act of 1939. If it were not for that precedent, I should have attempted to frame a provision which I would consider more equitable from the Land Commission's point of view. I thought it was better and more courteous to the House and to the Minister to frame the provision in exactly the same way that the Minister's predecessor had required this House to enact it in 1939. If the Minister feels that he could, by any scheme or machinery, by any wording of the section or by any alteration or addition make more clear and more certain that the Land Commission would not be imposed upon, would not be left liable to the risk that they might, in certain circumstances, be "bid up", I shall welcome any suggestion from him and readily adopt it, because I believe that it is entirely right that the Land Commission should be completely and absolutely protected.

Resumed holdings are, by and large —I made this assertion when opening this debate and it was not challenged by the Minister; if I was incorrect, I am quite certain he would have challenged it—larger and more valuable holdings than acquired holdings. Under the Land Act of 1923, as amended by the Act of 1927, the price of resumed holdings—I do not mean the value but the advance which the Land Commission have to make—must exceed £3,000 for certain types and £5,000 for certain other types. Therefore, you can associate with resumed holdings the idea of rather large holdings. Acquired holdings may be comparatively small. Yet, for the large holding you are giving a price higher than that which you are giving for the smaller holding. I referred in my opening remarks to the manner in which the Land Commission might have to spend money on roads, fences, drains and such things. Under the Act, and not because of any desire on the part of the officials of the Land Commission, those expenses must be taken into account. I referred to that and, again, it was not challenged by the Minister.

I appeal to the members of the House to consider this Bill from the angle from which I opened—that is to say, purely objectively, without regard to anything else. Despite what the Minister said—I do not know whether he seriously intended it or not—I do believe in political Parties. But I believe that the proper place for political Parties is the House to which the Government is responsible—the Dáil. The Government could not function there without a political Party. But if this House is to be of any use, if it is to achieve anything, it will do so by being able to consider objectively and, if I may say so, in an abstract way, provisions which might involve injustice even to one, two, three or four persons. The Minister said that it is only in a small number of cases that there has been—I do not think he used the word "injustice"; "hardship" was the word used by Senator Ó Buachalla.

If there is any method or machinery by virtue of which we can, without harming the structure of the State or the structure of social justice which is necessary to the State, ensure that there will not be hardship, much less injustice, even to a few individuals, then it is our duty to avail of that method or machinery. It is because I felt that there was a possibility of doing that and because I feel even more strongly, after hearing the Minister, that there is a possibility of doing that by some other verbal framework than the Minister mentioned—I do not think there is much between the Minister and myself in principle as to what a man should be paid—that I appealed, and do now appeal to this House to pass the Second Reading of this Bill and see, in Committee, if we cannot hammer out something which will make for the betterment of the State and the avoidance of hardship and possible injustice, if not actual injustice, to any individual.

Question put.
The Seanad divided: Tá, 20; Níl, 24.

  • Barniville, Henry L.
  • Baxter, Patrick F.
  • Campbell, Seán P.
  • Counihan, John J.
  • Crosbie, James.
  • Douglas, James G.
  • Duffy, Luke J.
  • Fearon, William R.
  • Hayden, Thomas.
  • Hayes, Michael.
  • Johnston, Joseph.
  • Keane, Sir John.
  • McGee, James T.
  • Moore, T.C. Kingsmill.
  • O'Reilly, Patrick John.
  • Parkinson, James J.
  • Ruane, Seán T.
  • Ryan, Michael J.
  • Smyth, Michael.
  • Sweetman, Gerard.


  • Clarkin, Andrew S.
  • Concannon, Helena.
  • Crowley, Tadhg.
  • Farnan, Robert P.
  • Healy, Denis D.
  • Hearne, Michael.
  • Hogan, Daniel.
  • Honan, Thomas V.
  • Johnston, Séamus.
  • Keane, John Thomas.
  • Kehoe, Patrick.
  • Kennedy, Margaret L.
  • Kennedy, Thomas.
  • Lynch, Peter T.
  • McCabe, Dominick.
  • Magennis, William.
  • O Buachalla, Liam.
  • O'Donovan, Seán.
  • O Máille, Pádraic.
  • O'Reilly, Patrick.
  • Nic Phiarais, Maighréad M.
  • Quirke, William.
  • Ruane, Thomas.
  • Stafford, Matthew.
Tellers:—Tá, Senators Crosbie and S weetman; Níl, Senators Hearne and Seán O'Donovan.
Motion negatived.
The Seanad adjourned at 9.50 p.m. until 3 p.m., Wednesday, 6th December.