Léim ar aghaidh chuig an bpríomhábhar

Dáil Éireann díospóireacht -
Monday, 28 May 1923

Vol. 3 No. 17


A Chinn Chomhairle, the Bill which I am now introducing has for its purpose the completion of Land Purchase, and, in view of its importance, I must ask the indulgence of the Dáil to make a longer statement than is usually made on a First Reading. It may be too much to say that it is the first Land Bill ever introduced in an Irish Parliament, but at least it is the first for more than a hundred years. It may be also too much to expect that it will be the last; but, such as it is, its main purpose is to complete the work that was begun in the year 1870, and which was continued all during the latter half of the last century, and which is still unfinished. This is the seventh measure of its kind. As a result of the operation of previous Land Acts, 400,000 homesteads have been set up, the property of the occupiers. A rental of £7,000,000 has been purchased and about £130,000,000 of Land Stock has been issued. These figures represent a great achievement, and they are in the main the work of the Land Act of 1903. We are all the captains of our time, and, for its time, the Wyndham Act of 1903 was a great measure. Its foundations were laid in Ireland by Irish representatives, by the Land Conference of 1902, and the men who composed that Conference and the man who was responsible for giving its findings legislative effect builded even better than they knew. They effected a revolution which, I do not think it is too much to say, ranks in importance above every other event since the Union until we come to the Revolution which ended with the Treaty and the repeal of the Union. Seventy thousand tenancies, with an annual rental of between £800,000 and £1,000,000, are still to be purchased. This figure includes all tenancies, judicial, non-judicial, present, future. I use, of course, the words "present" and "future" in their technical sense, future tenancies being tenancies created since 1883, and in respect of which the occupiers have not the right to go into the Land Courts. We are dealing with all tenancies, and when the operations under the Bill which I am now introducing are completed there will not be left, I hope, a single agricultural tenant or landlord in Ireland; there will only be owners of fee-simple. In one sense it is not a big problem. The unpurchased tenants are only a small minority compared with the tenants who have purchased, and an even smaller minority of the total population of the country. That is one point of view. From other points of view it is a very big and a very difficult question. It is a difficult question for many reasons. We have to deal with the problem at a time when we are only just emerging from an atmosphere of unreason and irresponsibility. The operations of this Bill will take between £25,000,000 and £30,000,000 to complete. Almost £50,000,000 in hard cash has been wasted during the last twelve months in wanton destruction, and it is quite impossible to compute the sum which has been wasted in consequential damage. Apart from these reasons there is an additional reason, that the State, in common with all its neighbours, is unable to borrow money on the terms on which money was borrowed for the purposes of previous Land Acts. These are some of the matters which make the task at the moment extremely difficult and intricate. We recognise, however, that these difficulties must be faced and, as far as possible, overcome, and we feel that we will have the co-operation of all parties in the Dáil and of every man of good-will in the country in that task.

The Dáil will recollect that at the recent Conference the representatives of the landlords and the tenants were unable to agree as to prices or arrears. The question in regard to prices can be stated quite simply; the difference is merely as to amount. The tenants have their own way of envisaging the question. They ask themselves what deduction shall annuities represent as compared with present rents. They ask for a flat rate reduction—that is to say, that the same reduction should apply to judicial tenants, first, second, and third. As far as the tenants who have had their rents fixed before 1911 are concerned, that is sound. If a tenant who had his rent fixed between 1881 and 1896 failed to go into court in order to have a second rent fixed between 1896 and 1911, it is only fair to say that the omission was due to his belief that he could not get a reduction. Tenants are like the rest of us— they are not particularly anxious to pay more than their legal liability; but different considerations apply to tenants who have had their rents fixed after 1911. There are only about 5,000 outstanding unpurchased tenants in the whole country. Practically all these tenants went into court between 1911 and 1914, and practically all who went into court got reductions. Their neighbours missed the opportunity; they could hardly be expected to foresee the European War, and after the European War broke out, with its effects on prices and profits, it was, from the tenants' angle, out of the question to go into court. I say there are only 5,000 tenancies involved out of a total of about 70,000; but such as they are, they have got an advantage which their neighbours missed, and they cannot therefore be put on the same level that the unpurchased tenants urged—that is, they have failed, that they are at a disadvantage as against tenants who purchased under the previous Acts, that they are paying higher rents, and that some concession must be made to them in view of that fact. There are a number of reasons for the failure of the existing tenants to purchase. In some cases the landlords refuse to sell, and in others the tenants refuse to buy. Land stock began to fall shortly after issue, and fell rapidly after the outbreak of the European War. During the period of the war the British Treasury curtailed its advances for land purchase, and in addition, as a result of the effect of the war on profits and prices, there was not the same inducement for either tenants or landlords to buy or sell. The rents had become relatively unimportant. These are all the reasons for the existence of the present problem, and in view of them we cannot go into rights. At the same time the facts remain, and the Government have tried to keep all the relative facts in mind when fixing the tenant's annuity. In the light of all these facts we recommend, and the Bill provides, that tenants who have had their rents fixed before 1911 shall pay an annuity which shall be 35 per cent. reduction on their existing rents, and that the small number of tenants who have had the advantage of going into court after 1911 shall pay an annuity which shall be a reduction of 30 per cent. on their present rents. That is the tenants' side of the question.

With regard to the vendor, what price is the State to pay for a rent of £100 fixed before 1911? This is the first occasion on which an Irish Parliament is faced with a problem of acquiring property compulsorily. It may not be the last, and I am sure we can all agree that the issues which such a necessity raises, the implications of acquiring property compulsorily, are serious, and are not to be decided at haphazard. I do not propose on First Reading to produce elaborate figures. The Government have given to the question the consideration which its importance demands, and the price they suggest is a figure which approximates to 15 years' purchase. The tenant's annuity, therefore, is, in the case of this £100 rent we have been considering, £65. The purchase money will be paid in bonds with interest 4½ per cent. and sinking fund ¼ per cent. The capital value of £65 at 4¾ per cent is £1,368, a figure which falls seriously short of the price. If we were able to borrow money at the rates current prewar we could meet the case easily; if we were able to borrow money, 3 per cent. land stock at the rates current between 1911 and 1914 would produce between £1,500 and £1,600 for an annuity of £65. There is no use, however, in regrets, and we are faced with the problem now, and in the circumstances the Minister for Finance recommends that there be a State contribution in relief of the purchase money of the tenant of 10 per cent., which brings the figure to exactly £1,505. With regard to tenants who have had their rents fixed after 1911, they are receiving 30 per cent. reduction. In the case we have been just considering, £100 rent, the annuity would, therefore, be £70. The price will be the capitalised value of £70 at 4¾ per cent, plus 10 per cent. State contribution. Non-judicial holdings must be valued by the Land Commission. Rents vary over a very wide range, and there are no standard figures in any way, and standard reductions cannot be applied to them. The State, however, will make the same contribution of 10 per cent. towards the purchase money. This contribution will be confined exclusively to tenanted land. The price of untenanted land will be fixed by the Land Commission at a price which will be fair both to the Land Commission and the vendor. In order to relieve encumbered estates the Bill provides to make up in some way for the bonus which was payable under previous Acts, and which we cannot afford to pay, that landlords may redeem their encumbrances and their head rents in bonds, and not in cash. These are the provisions of the Bill in regard to price.

As I say, I will not produce at this stage elaborate figures to justify it. I will only say this, that in fixing these terms the Government have kept in mind our financial credit, and they have also kept in mind something that is much more important—what I will call our national credit. They wish to be fair both to the landlord and tenant. They wish to do justice to both; and in approaching the question from that point of view, we are supported by the knowledge that we are truly representing our constituents—not only truly representing the great majority of our constituents, but also truly representing the authentic traditions of our country.

With regard to the scope of the Bill, all tenancies are to be dealt with as I have said, and in addition, as far as possible, all uneconomic tenancies will be made economic. The difficulty in the way of effecting that purpose is not so much the shortage of land, but the shortage of land in the right places. For the relief of congestion, we propose to take up any land of any kind anywhere. We propose to take up, in the first place, automatically, all untenanted land in the congested districts, and afterwards, as it is required, we will acquire, compulsorily, untenanted land outside those districts. Evicted tenants who have been evicted since 1881 will be dealt with; and power is taken to make advances wherever land is available, to the sons of tenants and labourers and other suitable persons of that sort. The machinery of the Bill is quite simple. On the appointed day the holdings will vest in the Land Commission. Different appointed days will be named for the different estates and districts. The appointed day is the date on which the holdings vest in the Land Commission. On and as from that day the purchase money will be placed to the credit of the vendor, and the tenant will receive his reduction of 30 or 35 per cent. as the case may be. The interest in lieu of rent period is abolished. We have endeavoured, in this way, to avoid the delays and obstructions of the previous Acts. The Bill, of course, is essentially a Land Purchase Bill. But we recognise the necessity of dealing with the question of arrears. Any arrears that have accured due up to the first gale day of the year 1920 shall no longer be payable; and arrears since that date shall be payable subject to 25 per cent. reduction. One year of these arrears, subject to 25 per cent. reduction, will be paid immediately on the passing of the Bill; the balance, where there is a balance, will be paid according to the regulations to be made by the Land Commission. In settling these terms with regard to arrears we have to keep in mind the fact that until the landlord has received his purchase money, and is in a position to redeem his mortgages and head rents, he is under the necessity of paying his rent and interest in full. These are the main provisions of the Bill.

Since the Treaty was signed in December, 1921, we have been engaged in a work of transition, laying and protecting the foundations of the new State. That work is now almost accomplished, and we can turn to the creative work. We have now an opportunity, after so many centuries, of turning to the creative work which the Treaty, for the first time, put in our power to do. We can at least begin to travel on the road that President Griffith indicated when he said, "Ireland is yours for the making; make it." It is as one step, and I hope a long step, on that road that I commend the Bill to the Dáil, and I beg leave to introduce it. The Bill will be ready for printing about Wednesday of next week.

I beg to second the motion.

In the absence of the measure which is foreshadowed, and which is certainly of a very comprehensive nature, I am not prepared to give an opinion, but I wish to state that, as far as I see, the Minister has endeavoured as well as he could to meet the problem. I have great pleasure in wishing that the Bill will get a Second Reading.

I would like to express my appreciation of the courageous manner in which the Minister has faced this question, and I would like to compliment him on the very clear statement he has given of the provisions of the Bill as revealed so far. I think, with regard to the landlords, he has gone as far as he could be expected to go. He has gone as far as circumstances would allow him. The actions of those men in the past put them completely out of court with regard to any claim they would have on our consideration. I think most of the landlords should have accepted the terms of the Wyndham Act. An Act that was drafted by a British Tory Government contained as much as they could reasonably expect. Terms arranged by the British House of Lords should have been good enough for the landlords here. They did not accept those. As the Minister has said, there was a great national pact agreed to then, and appeals were made to the landlords to come in for the sake of national peace and goodwill and accept the terms offered. They held out, however, for their full pound of flesh. The men who are to be dealt with are not an accidentally formed group of landlords. They are the Die-Hards of the old brigade. Nevertheless, I think they are deserving of reasonable treatment. It is but fair to ourselves and to the nation that they get the treatment proposed by the Minister. Perhaps it is fitting that they should have held out until a National Parliament would dispose of the last remnant of Irish landlordism. This Oireachtas will put an end to a system that was the curse of this country, and I hope we will hear no more of it in that shape.

The Minister had great difficulties owing to the financial situation in doing any better for the tenants. The part of the Bill that I am most interested in is that dealing with congestion. Of course, the small man will get a reduction as well as the big man, but a reduction to a man who has a small holding does not mean as much as a reduction to a man who has a reasonably-sized holding. In the West of Ireland there are, generally speaking, no farms; there are only little holdings, three or four or five of which, from the point of view of area or valuation, would scarcely make a decent farm. It is hardly possible to make a living on any of those holdings. In labour controversies here we occasionally hear the phrase "a living wage." In a similar way we could talk of a living farm or an economic farm, and there are few of those at present in the West of Ireland, in any of the congested districts from Donegal to Kerry. How the people living there held on for generations to those holdings, and how they did not yield to the attractions of the labour market in America or England, is a wonder. It shows the powerful grip a man's native place has upon him. At all events, those men in the past were disappointed time and again. The English Government knew well the cure for congestion. Mr. Balfour thirty years ago pointed out the remedy, but they never applied the remedy. Perhaps it is only a home Government could apply the remedy to a terrible situation. Those men had no hope and no outlet in the past. They were held in misery, and they could not get out of it. We have yet to see the machinery of this Bill, but I hope it will be satisfactory.

The announcement that all untenanted land will become the property of the State on an appointed day will go as a message of hope to the people in the West. They have looked upon those ranches as their own for generations. They saw bullocks grazing there while they were starving on bad land. That part of the Bill is excellent, but there is a very difficult task before the Minister. That task is the thinning out of the congested districts, putting small holdings together and making decent farms out of them. It will be a very difficult task, but I am sure the Dáil will give the Minister all the assistance in its power. If the Dáil perfects that machinery and makes it possible for this work to be done in a speedy fashion, it will be achieving great things. On a later Dáil will devolve the duty of seeing that the machinery put in motion is not allowed to lie idle, as was the case with many of the Acts connected with the C.D. Board. Those small holders do not want a soft deal. They never got one in their lives. Still, I am sure the Minister will not put too big a burden on them and handicap them in the position they will occupy when they take charge of their holdings. If they are given a fair chance they will justify the State experiment, and I am sure they will repay any expenditure that is made. Ireland is not alone in facing a problem like that. Greece has to find a home for farmers expelled from Asia Minor, and she is raising many millions to get homes for them. Many other countries have similar problems. We are not alone in facing this big problem to settle congestion in the West of Ireland. If this Dáil does its work well it will not only bring happiness to the congested districts, but will do material benefit to all Ireland.

Until the Bill is placed in the hands of Deputies, and circulated in the Dáil, I do not think it is for any Party to offer a definite opinion on it. Where there are so many concerned in our constituency at the present time, we cannot offer any definite opinion as to its merits or demerits I believe the Minister has made an honest effort to bring in a measure which, I hope, when got into shape will settle the differences between landlords and tenants all over the country.

I agree with Deputies Doyle and Wilson, that until we have the Bill in our hands it will not be possible to offer a useful criticism of this measure, but listening to the Minister in introducing the Bill, I would like to say that in my opinion it contains very many useful provisions. This question of dual ownership of land is one that has existed in this country for centuries, perhaps, and has caused a great deal of trouble, discontent and unhappiness to the people. It is interesting to know that the Government have come to the conclusion that if this system of Land Purchase is a good thing for the country it is necessary to apply powers which the Government has in such a case to complete land purchase. The question of acquiring untenanted land for division among people who have holdings which are not able to provide a living for the holder, is of the first importance. I note, with pleasure, that the Minister does not confine himself to clearing the untenanted land in the congested areas alone. He is prepared to go outside the congested area for that purpose. I do not know that the Minister referred in his statement to the question of the men who were engaged as labourers on those estates which will be acquired compulsorily. I have no doubt there will be many people looking for portions of those lands, and that many claims will not be met. I do hope that there is provision in the Bill for men who are engaged as labourers on those large ranches, and that their claims will not be forgotten when those lands are being acquired. On the whole, and speaking subject to what we may say when we see the Bill, we are prepared to do what we can to help towards a solution of this long-standing problem.

Is maith liom-sa mola do thabhairt do'n Bhille seo. Do réir mar a thuigim an miniú do thug an t-Aire dhuinn is mór an sasamh aigne a thugann sé do's na daoine nach féidir leo a gcuid talmhan do cheannach le blianta, go mbéidh deis acu a gcuid talmhan a fháil agus í fháil chó saor le na daoine a cheannuigh fe na Reachtanna dlí eile.

Is mór an t-athas dos na daoine san Iarthar go mbéidh deis acu talamh do cheannach agus go mbéidh deis acu iad féin agus a gclann a thogaint.

Ó thárla go mbéidh roinnt le rá agam nuair a thiocfaidh an Bille seo isteach an dara uair ní abroidh mé a thuille anois ach go bhfuil súil agam go mbéidh ré in a dhlí go rí-luath.

I do not know how far one may be acting in contravention of the Standing Orders which prescribe that there shall be no amendment or debate on this motion.

The Deputy has forgotten that on his own motion we deleted the words "or debate."

I think no one can doubt, and I do not think there was any necessity for anyone to refer to the honesty of the Minister in bringing forward this Bill. I do not think anybody who has come in contact with the Minister for Agriculture in any shape or form can have any doubt but that he is honest, and determined to do what he believes to be fair to every man, whether he be landlord, tenant, or anybody else. Doubtless, there will be many landlords and tenants who will question whether they have got justice, but I do not know whether anyone will question whether the Minister was not acting fairly. There will be many doubts on a question of this kind. Not having seen the details of this Bill, and not having heard publicly or privately anything until the Minister got up to-day, it seems to me I may add my voice to those who spoke on other benches, and in other places, that he seems to have gone very near to achieving fairness to everyone in the Bill. There is one thing I hope—if the details are not completely settled yet—he will devote sincere attention to, and that is, what is to happen between the period at which the purchase money comes to credit, and the time that the landlord who has sold succeeds in getting his encumbrances off his back. That has been the great block upon every attempt at land purchase in this country—the investigation of the claims that are made against the money that is coming to the landlord for the purchase of his estate. I think it was in many cases the fear almost of ruin that stood between the landlord and whatever money he was going to get, through the difficulty in clearing off charges upon which he was paying interest at full rate, between the time he sold to the tenant and the time he got the balance into his own pocket, that did a great deal to hinder many of the landlords from making use of the provisions of the Land Purchase Acts. I was sorry for something which was said by Deputy Sears. I think his remarks will read as if there were no landlords except Die-Hards, who were out for the last penny, and who never made use of the privileges conferred on them by former Acts.

I never heard of them.

I do not think that there is anybody who knows better than the Farmers' Party that there were plenty of landlords willing to sell at fair terms, but who, for one reason or another, were unable to sell. I had a letter just a few days ago from a landlord inquiring what was in this Bill. He had been trying to sell but, being a limited owner, he was limited as to terms. He stated that the tenants who started at low rents found that it was better to go periodically into the Land Courts and get a better price than to go in for land purchase. There is, however, no use in going into what has passed. It is the new Bill that really interests us, and we cannot make things better by enquiring whether this Bill was necessary or not. So far as the Minister has outlined his Bill it is, I know, an honest and, I think, a fair attempt to deal with the greatest question that is likely to face this or any future Parliament.

Like the other Deputies who have spoken, I welcome this Bill, and congratulate the Minister upon it. I do not know if it would be in order at present to ask an expression of opinion from the Minister with regard to what I know to be a burning question throughout the country. I refer to the unpurchased tenants who are at present served with Civil Bills, which are coming on at the Quarter Sessions. I have been approached by numbers of them to know, if these decrees are given for arrears of rent, at the coming Sessions, will they be executed in view of the introduction of this measure?

As one who happens to represent a constituency, and, also, a considerable number of unpurchased tenants, I recognise that the Bill is a serious and definite attempt to end for all time the question of land purchase. I have not seen the Bill, but from the speech of the Minister, I gather that its terms are not what our people demanded or expected. Considering the circumstances of the moment, the Bill is entitled to the most serious consideration of the people I represent, and it will have a fair and impartial consideration. I make no comment upon it. The most important matter is the question of price and arrears. I desire in no way to forestall the opinions of the people I represent. It will be for them to decide whether the Bill suits them or not. I welcome the fact that this question of arrears has been dealt with by legislation, as I recognise that that is the only way it can be dealt with. So far as I heard the Minister's speech, the Bill is only going back three years, and all money owing since 1920 is to be dealt with by it. I am aware that writs, civil bills and, worse still, bankruptcy proceedings have, and are being indulged in, by certain Shylocks all over the country—the type is not dead yet—trying to forestall this Bill; trying by every means in their power to stampede the people into doing something that the legislature did not intend that they should do. This Bill is going to deal with that question of arrears, and I take this opportunity of warning the people whom I represent not to be bullied, by any threats of law or otherwise, out of the position they have taken up; not to allow themselves to be stampeded by false alarms and the treachery of people who are inspired by personal ambition. We have some of them in our own ranks, or they were there until recently.

The Deputy means in the Association he represents, not in the Dáil?

No, in the Association I represent. These efforts of landlordism to forestall legislation can only be effective by lack of moral fibre in our own people—the people I come from. If they stand loyally together and do not pay, under any threat or otherwise, the thing will be dealt with by legislation. If they do pay I have no sympathy with them whatsoever. I am even glad the Minister has not introduced a retrospective measure. I have no sympathy with the man who runs away and who is not prepared to face the fight.

With regard to the question of bonus it is something we have not asked for. I do not like it, but it is probably inevitable. As the Minister said national credit is something that must be maintained. Something bigger than personal considerations or class considerations, probably, are at stake, and I will pass away from that. With regard to ranch breaking, I am glad the time has come when this question is going to be solved. It may not be a final solving. Other times may decree that the name of ranch will be transferred to very small holdings. It may be that this may not be quite a final settlement, but, for the moment, I am glad that this question of the big ranches is going to be dealt with. I know something of the circumstances in the West, and I know of vast tracts of land in the Midlands and some other counties round about which are absolutely untenanted. You can drive along the road in a motor car for miles and see nothing, perhaps, but a man mounted on a horse, and a dog or two. The class of individual who owns land like that and farms on those lines is no good to any country or nation. If the country were to be farmed and run on these lines we would not have a population of more than 400 or 500 in any county, and as a Nation we would not be 50,000. A decent standard of living must be provided for the people who have been all their lives in the West of Ireland and in some other districts outside the West of Ireland. Anybody who knows anything about civilisation, or about the standard of living on the land in other countries, and compares the conditions there with the conditions in the West of Ireland will be astonished at the contrast. A stranger coming into the country would be astonished how human beings could live under such conditions. I am glad that this question is going to be dealt with, and that the West will get a chance of awakening. It is time that it awoke.

Deputy Gorey has been there recently.

I have been there before, perhaps even before Deputy Whelehan. I have heard Deputy Fitzgibbon put in a good word for the men who have failed to take advantage of previous Acts. He said it was not all their fault. There may be one or two cases where it was not, but I scarcely have even heard of a landlord who could not sell if he wanted to sell. There may be a few exceptions to prove the rule. It was always, in my opinion, the landlord's fault, and I have considerable experience of the matter. I have heard men say they would not sell, that they were born landlords and would die landlords. Others asked prices which were absolutely impossible. I think you can take it that the sinners in the case are the landlords who have not sold. The Minister said that the purchase money will amount to 15 years' purchase. I think he meant that the purchase money and the bonus added will amount to 15 years' purchase.

I said the purchase money would amount approximately to 15 years' purchase and that there would be a contribution in relief to the tenant towards the purchase money of 10 per cent.

A contribution in relief of the 15 years' purchase.

I am unable to make myself any clearer.

The Minister can make himself clear at the end of the debate.

We will thank you for this bonus to the tenants which was previously known by another name. Perhaps this is a better name. I have only to say finally that I recognise it is an honest attempt by the Minister—and I have never known the Minister to be otherwise than honest in all matters—to deal with this question. I know he has a big responsibility, apart altogether from class interests. He cannot legislate for a nation from a class point of view. I can promise him, on our part, and for the people I represent, that this Bill will have careful consideration. It will be for them to decide if they like it or not, and I am sure they will get sufficient time to make up their minds. I do not know when the Second Reading will be taken, but I am sure the Minister will give plenty of time.

I do not propose to discuss the Bill in its terms or in its machinery, nor in any of its details. Neither do I propose in any way to endorse what has been said with regard to the honesty of the Minister for Agriculture. What I did hope was that it might be a suitable time to press the view that this Parliament exists for dealing with the problems of the country. It is recognised, I hope, by all that there are many and grave problems to be dealt with, but it is the right of dealing with our own problems that we have claimed back through the centuries, and people should learn, and learn quickly, to look to the Parliament to deal with them Within the last year, under cover of activities against the Government, men have gone out in an entirely selfish, wilful and criminal spirit to seize land by the strong hand, or by the hand which they thought was strong. It was our duty to show that the hand was not quite so strong and that there was a stronger hand. After all, if the hand of the State is not stronger than the hands of individuals within it then it is in a very precarious condition. We, even while barely passing out of a state of turmoil, have turned our attention to this big internal problem. People might have waited or people might have pressed the view on their representatives that they should ask in Parliament that this question be treated as one of great urgency and great magnitude. Instead of that we had the spectacle of men going out in almost every country in Ireland seizing land to which they had not a rag of legal, moral or equitable title. We dealt with that in the way Deputies and the public know of, and we will continue to deal with it in that way, while at the same time going ahead with this remedial measure to settle, so far as it can be settled by any one Bill, the land question.

I do not know any section in this country that disorder suits. I do not know any class of men within the country in whose interests it is that disorder should reign and continue. I know no one in whose interest it is beyond individuals who snatch a momentary and precarious profit from it. It will be a precarious profit and it will be momentary, because so far as we can effect it the men who go out in that way and in that spirit looking not to the Parliament but to their own violence and illegality to press their claims will, so far from making a profit, make a handsome loss. This at any rate will be submitted and urged on the Minister for Agriculture from my department, that the people who go out in that spirit, who go out in defiance of the law and in defiance of the Parliament to press their claims by their own violence and their own illegalities be placed definitely outside the benefits of this Bill. It is not for me to state by what process, but the general principle will be put up to the Minister for Agriculture that men cannot have it both ways, that they cannot deny the Parliament and profit by the acts of the Parliament. They must choose. If they think their hands are sufficiently strong to carry on in that way let them opt that way definitely and we will meet them on that basis. If they look to the Parliament to redress their grievances and to deal with their claims real or imaginary—and we can conceive that there may be real claims—then they must look to the Parliament exclusively. I want to press that point, as this is perhaps the psychological moment for pressing it. Having barely passed from the throes of a revolutionary period we have taken up this problem. I want to go perhaps even further and show with regard to other problems that we are able and willing to deal with them. Either this Parliament is to be a real thing dealing with all the grievances and all the evils of the country, or it is to be an unreal thing, with people not looking to it and trying to settle their own claims by their own violence. I would ask that thoughtful people of every class and of every section in the country would realise that no good can come out of mere tumult, of mere individual greed or violence, and that problems must be dealt with in the manner and in the spirit in which the Minister for Agriculture is dealing with the land problem.


As several other Deputies have remarked already I do not think this is a proper opportunity for detailed criticism of the Bill. However, in view of the importance of the occasion I would like to make a few general remarks. I think it is no exaggeration to say that we are now participating in perhaps one of the most important events of modern Irish history. A Bill has just been introduced which when its true nature is realised, when it is weighed and measured in all its implications and in all its ramifications, must be regarded as scarcely less significant than the Constitution itself. We have here an Irishman coming before an Irish Parliament with a measure which purports to dispose of the lands of Ireland in accordance with what he, on the advice, no doubt, of experts considers to be in the best interests of the Irish people, and we, as the elected representatives of that people, are called upon to pass judgment upon that Bill, and according as it meets with our approval or disapproval to accept or to reject it. I believe that implicit in this event alone is the undoing of the conquest of Ireland. For the conquest of Ireland was the conquest of the land of Ireland, the wresting of the lands of Ireland, held by Irish tenure, from the people of Ireland by foreigners who held by foreign tenure from a foreign king. In this even may be seen an outward sign and symbol of the victory of the Gael over the Gaul, the victory of the descendants of the clansmen whose territories and possessions at the time of the invasion were delimited and described in the wonderful topography of O'Heiran and O'Dugan many of whom are still rooted in the soil of the self same territories over which their ancestors ruled a thousand years ago; the victory of the Irish natured occupiers of the soil over the descendants of the followers of Strongbow and his successors who held the land of Ireland under the Feudal law. So complete and so absolute were the rights acquired under this Feudal tenure that nothing but the most unreserved and unrestricted service on the part of the occupiers was considered a fair equivalent for the advantages that it conferred. Such service was guaranteed by the Feudal Baron to his King, and where the interests of the King and country happened to coincide, the arrangement was, perhaps, as equitable as could be devised; but where, as in the case of Ireland, the interests of King and country happened to be diametrically opposed this Feudal tenure gave rise to intolerable hardships. Successive legislation gradually removed all the heavy burdens, such as military service, which at one time attached to this Feudal tenure, and it helped to balance the almost unlimited powers and privileges which it conferred, and the people were eventually confronted with the prospect of a country studded with great and petty tyrants having absolute dominion over the soil, acknowledging not the slightest obligation of any kind either to their country, as a whole, or to the unfortunate tenants who grovelled on the soil beneath them. The example of a landowning class who jealously insisted on all the rights while acknowledging none of the obligations of property provoked an attitude equally unjustifiable on the part of the non-landowning classes who now concentrated all their attention on asserting what they were pleased to call their rights, while remaining totally oblivious of their duties and obligations. This agrarian conflict has left us the unenviable legacy of a people in great measure uneducated with regard to the duties and obligations of property as viewed both from the point of view of the landowning and the non-landowning classes. This ignorance, if I may use the expression, has in recent years assumed a particularly irresponsible form. If for no other reason than because of this prevailing irresponsibility with regard to property it is necessary that the State should take a strong and unequivocal stand on this question. It is necessary that the State should recognise and acknowledge the mutual rights and obligations of landlords and tenants and tenant-purchasers as viewed from the point of view of the best interests of the State, a point of view which must take into consideration such things as security of title and possession, a free and open market for land, the sanctity of contract and our credit and prestige in foreign countries. That is why it is necessary that the landlord should have justice done to him. I hold no brief for the landlords. I know, as Deputy Gorey says, that in very many cases it was solely owing to his own stubborness that he did not sell out under much more favourable conditions than can be granted to him now; we must also remember, as it has been explained to us here, that in some cases it was the tenants' fault. In any case all the land was bought out for which facilities were provided under the previous Land Acts. But all that is beside the present question. No matter how obnoxious a landlord may be personally his legal position as vendor confers on him certain rights which cannot be ignored without running the risk of such diminution of the credit of the nation and the value of the property as would eventually detract far more from the value of the tenant's bargain than any advantage he might reap by reason of any injustice done to the landlord at the cost of the credit of the nation and the security of property. I believe that this measure represents an honest and, so far as it goes, a successful effort to deal with the remainder of the agrarian difficulty, one of the worst legacies of British misrule in Ireland. I believe when all the equities are taken into consideration that it does justice to the landlord; I believe it does very full justice to the tenant, and I believe that it does honour to the political capacity of the nation, and I for one am very glad to support it.

I also wish to mark my appreciation for the candid manner in which the Minister for Agriculture has produced his Land Bill to-day and, I have no doubt, that before this Bill leaves this Assembly we will see that it is a measure that will bring justice and equity as between both parties. At all events, the Minister for Agriculture has impressed the assembly that he intends, as far as in his power, to deal honestly in this matter, and in the usual and very candid and straightforward manner that he has handled all matters connected with his Department, and that he intends to do his part to see that, before this measure passes into law, all parties will be treated justly and with equity. Like previous speakers, I have not seen a copy of the Bill, and consequently do not wish to go into any details. We must bear in mind that in the past the farmers have suffered intolerably for numbers of years, and that now, when we have an opportunity in this Assembly to deal fairly with them, we must not lose that opportunity. We must also remember that the creation of this assembly is due in large measure to the stand the farming community has made for the last forty years. During the early eighties when the Parnellite Party were fighting the landlords of that period the farmers stood up and suffered intolerably, and it is also true to say that their sons had taken a strong part in the recent Anglo-Irish war which brought about the creation of the Treaty as between the two States and the setting up of this Assembly. The farmers have suffered severely in the last few years, and monetarily they have suffered very heavily in many parts of the country, and they are still suffering very heavily. We all realise the very great hardships the farmers, in many parts of Cork, Kerry and other places, suffered during the irregular campaign of the last 12 months. This is the reward that was meted out to the people who had to feed, and support, the Irish troops in the recent Anglo-Irish war. That was only reasonable, yet I came across farmers who have been roused at night from their beds, and confronted by gangs of marauders who, with revolvers to the heads of their victims, demanded £20 notes. These acts, to-day, no doubt, are few, but still they are there.

I am also glad that the Minister for Agriculture has stated definitely that the evicted tenants question is about to be settled in this Land Bill which he has introduced. Recently I met some evicted tenants from the Ponsonby Estate. We were all young at that time, but at the same time we have read of the Ponsonby tenants. I think that estate was a land mark in that war. From this very estate recently I met some evicted tenants, and I found that these people had a very just case, and I am very glad that the Minister for Agriculture is going to tackle the evicted tenants question and to settle it once and for all. We must go very slowly in this matter and consider carefully the farmers' position. This Assembly must give this Land Bill due and very careful consideration, and I am quite confident when this measure passes that all parties concerned will be thoroughly satisfied with the manner in which it has been dealt with.

For fear the Minister for Agriculture will not be able to wear his hat to-morrow, I want to say a few words to remind him that there is not quite the unanimity that the hat-makers would desire. There has been posted round the country a very attractive propaganda poster which shows a man looking over a vast expanse and raising his hand and saying "My land"; and attached thereto is a quotation from a speech of the Minister for Agriculture delivered at some date this year. I have not got the language of that speech by me, but he refers specially to the Parliament or Dáil, fully representative of all parts of the country, and where all sections of the people have a right to express their views, and he asserts it would be the decision of that Parliament that would determine the farmers' position in the land. Well, we are now dealing with a very comprehensive measure, and it is proposed to carry through this very big legislative enactment in a Parliament which is not at all representative of the people, and I would just ask the Minister to look at that quotation and ask himself frankly whether the Parliament that is now going to deal with this question is the Parliament he had in mind when he made that speech. At most we are about 60 members perhaps, attending here. A further number could attend but do not, but there are a number of vacancies— ten or 12, or more—and they are not being filled. It perhaps would not be too much to suggest that a measure of this kind ought to have some more representative body dealing with it before it is finally passed.

That is one point. The second point is prompted by a phrase used by one or two speakers about the rights of this matter when speaking of the landlords title, and the necessity for maintaining the credit of the country and so on. I just want to put in this demurrer. So far as there are legal rights on the part of the landlord, they ought to be conditioned by the services he renders in his connection with the land, and I am not going to admit any right to compensation, for compulsory purchase, to any landlord who is simply a rent receiver. It may be desirable, it may be convenient, it may be expedient—I have no doubt it is expedient—to secure that a man who has been living upon promises that have been made, and practices that have been carried through, and assented to by people for a long time, has a fair right to expect a certain income out of certain legal rights, and it may be expedient to acknowledge that for a period of years, but it is entirely a matter of expediency, and not a matter of right, I think that it should be understood and should be made known that in the country that the rights of property are conditioned by the amount of personal service given in the use of that property.

This is only the first reading of this Bill, and I propose to say very little, but I should like to add my tribute to the Minister for the honesty and courage he has shown in the introduction of this measure. While doing that, perhaps, I should be pardoned if I say that although it would be an inestimable boon for the country that this land question should be settled; still, such a settlement is bound to have ramifications that will leave some private individual and some private property owners and certain institutions suffering, as a result of this measure. I, like others, have no information before me as to what the details of this Bill are, but I made as hasty a calculation as I could make since the measure was introduced, and I think at this stage it would be well worth while to point out that as a result of this Bill the institution which I have the honour to represent will probably suffer, for the good of the country, to the extent of £6,000 a year. It is just as well that the bearings on both sides should be known. One of its difficulties is that it derives this income to a large extent from landed estates, and, therefore, if the Government think it right, as they are obliged to do, when they introduce a measure of this kind—I merely throw this out—that may do an injury to an institution such as that to which I refer, it should have the effect of strengthening the claim of that institution for the consideration of the Government when they come to deal with the claims of education in the country.

I have to thank the Dáil for the sympathetic way in which they received the Bill, and I agree that it is not useful to discuss it until it is printed and in the hands of Deputies. I will just try to answer the queries that have been asked by the various Deputies, and I will refer to a statement that Deputy Johnson made. I take him to deny the right of compensation on the acquisition of property. Well, I am not going to argue that. It is out-Heroding Herod. Even the tenants have not made that case, and, as I said, the difference is simply a difference of amount. I will not argue about that. As long as it is perfectly clear that that is the line the Deputy takes up—that when property is to be taken compulsorily there is no right to compensation—I am satisfied. That applies also to anyone who has dividends in a railway company or dividends in anything else.

What about the evicted tenants?

I agree with him that the rights of the property are conditioned by its users. I see that Deputy Gorey does not understand the provisions as to price and I will try to make them clear. The price which the Government recommends, and the price which the Bill provides, is a price which approximates to 15 years' purchase. In relief of the tenant, in view of a number of circumstances, in view of the fact that you cannot borrow money now, and consequently lend money now, at the same rates as the rates at which money was borrowed before the war, the Treasury have agreed to make a State contribution of 10 per cent. If the Deputy says that the tenants do not want that, or that they are willing to pay the purchase money——

Put it the other way about and suggest to the landlords to make an example.

With regard to Deputy Lavin's point, regarding the issuing of Civil Bills and the decrees that have already been obtained, as the law stands a man is entitled to issue a Civil Bill to recover a legal debt, and he is entitled to execute a decree and we are not in a position to stop him or to interfere with the sheriff. That is the position. We are dealing, in the Bill, with arrears. We are changing the law in regard to rent by the Bill. The Bill is introduced to-day, and we will go through it as quickly as possible. In the meantime, the existing law stands, and people are entitled to take advantage of the law to issue writs, to get decrees and to have them executed. We are endeavouring to change that law as quickly as possible in regard to rents, and we can do no more. Deputy O'Connell wishes to know whether labourers, who are being put out of employment by reason of the purchase of an estate, are being dealt with. They are being specifically provided for in this Bill. These are the only queries that have been raised, and I do not intend to discuss the Bill any further at this stage.

Might I intervene for a moment and, by one explanation, make it perfectly plain regarding the State's contribution? If the 15 years purchase be taken to equal a term of eleven-elevenths, the tenant's contribution is ten-elevenths, and the contribution of the State is one-eleventh. It is not 10 per cent. on 15 years that we are giving, but 10 per cent. of the tenant's price.

Question put: "That leave be given to introduce the Land Bill."

When is it proposed to take the next stage?

I expect that the Bill will not be printed until early next week. I would suggest the following Thursday, June 14th.

The Bill will be in the hands of Deputies at least before Thursday, the 7th of June, and possibly earlier?

Second Stage ordered for Thursday, June 14th.