That Seanad Éireann is of opinion that in any future division of land the Land Commission should take into consideration the claims of cottage holders.
I put down this motion knowing it is really a matter that concerns my part of North Tipperary very much. We feel that in North Tipperary for the past five or six years there has been some little difficulty regarding the allocation of additional plots to cottage holders, to people living on or near an estate. I know the Minister can make a case that in years gone by they gave a certain amount of land, five or six acres, to cottiers and perhaps he can bring forward figures to show that some of these cottiers have not made a success of their plots, but I am sure he can put forward figures also to show that some of them have made a very great success of them and that they are now working out into nice, big farms.
The case I want to make is this. Under the present rules of the Land Commission, I think, when the Land Commission moves in to take over a farm they give, or are bound to give, an allotment or compensation to a person already working on that farm. But under that system the Land Commission do not go in and take over a farm unless it is badly worked. Take the example of a farmer who is working fairly well and has four or five men employed. As times go against him, or maybe his health deteriorates, or for other financial reasons he is eventually compelled to let the men go, and he finally comes to a decision that he is not able to employ more than one.
Perhaps he offers the farm to the Land Commission or perhaps they acquire it compulsorily. The Land Commission is then bound only to give an allotment or portion of that land to the man who was there when they took over that farm, and the men who were let go a year or maybe two years previously after having worked there— perhaps their fathers worked there before them—up to a year or a year and a half previously, get no consideration from the Land Commission under the present rules.
I know there is nothing in the present rules and regulations of the Land Commission, nor in the Act, forbidding the Land Commission inspector to give an allotment to a cottier, but for some reason or other which I could never quite discover, for the past five, six or seven years, no cottier in my part of North Tipperary has got an allotment. I know of a farm at Bally-quirke where there were 11 cottiers living on the estate. Some of them had two cows and a couple of young cattle and when the Irish Land Commission took over that farm those people had to take their cattle off the land. They had to take some of the cows into the fair of Portumna on the following week and sell them. I thought it was a very grave injustice that because they were not actually working on the land when the land was taken over—some of them had left only a year, and others of them two years previously—they were left completely dependent for milk and everything else on the people around. I should like the Minister to say whether an order has been made by him or by a previous Minister directing the Land Commission not to entertain any application from a cottier living on the land to be divided or on adjoining land.
Another point I would like to make is that under the schemes concerning milk and the Milk Act, no farmer is allowed to sell milk who has not had his cows reared in certain ideal conditions, with the result that in rural Ireland to-day, whether we like it or not, many people cannot buy milk. They have to depend on buying a cow and getting some farmer to give them conacre on which to graze that cow. They have to go into the market to buy hay to feed the cow during the winter.
People living in cottages in rural Ireland to-day are actually sons and daughters of small farmers. Perhaps the farmer is unable to bring them up to the standard of education required to go into the cities and get jobs there; he may not be able to put them into a trade, so that they actually work as agricultural labourers and qualify as cottiers. They are capable of working an allotment of seven or eight acres and they can work for neighbouring farmers and keep cows or calves. This would make them independent, and the more independent people living in cottages are, the better the country will be.
I also believe the present system operated by the Land Commission has a good deal of bearing on the flight from the land and on emigration. Rightly or wrongly some years ago, if land were being divided the deserving people in the neighbourhood, cottiers and others, were all under the impression—sometimes wrongly—that they would get land. But when they got it, the father went out earning and the sons worked the land and they were all more content. Now the cry is: "Such-and-such a farm is divided but we cannot get any of it because we are living in cottages."
In my area, a lot of land has been divided. We have made representations to the Land Commission to the effect that where the people in cottages do not get an allotment they should at least be given cowparks. It will be appreciated that a cowpark is absolutely essential as a result of the milk regulations and also where there are young children. In some places, land was divided. I will not say that every cottier would actually be entitled to land because, to be honest, some of them would not be capable of working it. However, there were some people who took conacre or who had stock and who would be prepared to work a small bit of land. Those people were passed over. I am not saying now that these cases arose in the past 12 months because the truth is that this question has arisen in the past seven years or so. I should be very interested if the Minister, when he is replying, could give us even one case of a cottage holder in North Tipperary who has got an allotment of five, six or seven acres of land in the period I have in mind.
If the Minister wishes, I can give him the names of the farms that have been divided and particulars of the applications which were made for cowparks and for allotments. In some cases, up to 11 or 12 cottage holders who had been living on an estate made such applications. I put down this motion to try and get the Minister for Lands to make a statement so as to clarify the whole question. I want to hear the Minister say whether or not there is anything in the Act which debars a cottage holder from getting a portion of land. Can the Minister state whether or not any Minister has given a direction to the Irish Land Commission not to entertain any application from those people and, further, can the Minister say whether or not the applications have generally been successful?
I know a parish where men have got seven acres. They have expanded and now they are in a very good position. Some people here seem to think that this motion was put down in the hope that the tenant of every labourer's cottage would get a farm. Perhaps I worded the motion wrongly but I believe the Land Commission should give consideration to the claims of cottage-holders. There are cottages vested all over the country and, as was the practice up to a while ago, the tenants should get a holding or allotment of five or six acres.