Of course everyone inserts the word "deserving" before the particular noun, whether it be landless men, congests or evicted tenants but as I said, there are only about 40,000 parcels of land, whether they are to be for one or other of these three classes, and there are 140,000 congests alone. A few evicted tenants and a few landless men may be dealt with, but we would still be unable to deal with anything except the fringe of the congests. There is a way out of it, of course, and parties should face up to it; I should not be carrying the baby always. We could reduce every holding in Ireland to twenty-five acres. That could be done by the Dáil, and it raises a very important issue. I have stated my position, but what I do object to is that people ask me to do something which could not be done unless we take some such action as that, reduce every holding in Ireland to twenty-five acres, but at the same time refrain very carefully from advocating any such course. That is what I object to. Let all Parties face up to the problem. Let the Labour Party tell me whether we are to deal with landless men only, or all congests, and if they do not, if they say, "Do the best you can," then do not blame me if there are only very few of both dealt with. There are only 4,846,632 acres of land unpurchased up to the present in the whole of the Free State. Of these 4,846,632 there are 3,000,000 acres of tenanted land, and that leaves 1,800,000 acres of untenanted land, what would be demesne land or otherwise, undealt with. In other words, if we took every perch of untenanted land, including demesne lands, every perch of land left except tenanted land or purchased land, we could only deal with 50,000 cases at the very outside. And yet, listening to Deputies pressing the claims of landless men, pressing the claims of evicted tenants, and pressing the claims of congests, all in the one breath, one would think that by some possible expedient the Land Commission could add to the land of the country, could double it, because it would require to be doubled. Remember that if we took every acre of untenanted land you could only deal with 50,000 people. Remember also that that 1,800,000 acres includes a certain amount of barren mountain and a certain amount of high bank which you must deduct at the start. That answers this question of demesnes.
I agree with Deputy Sears that the provisions of the Land Act of 1923 should be put into operation strictly, and that, within reason, where demesne land is really required for the relief of congestion it should be acquired. It will be acquired, within reason. I agree also that where tenanted land is required for the relief of congestion it should be acquired within reason, and I agree that, wherever possible and expedient, tenant purchasers should be transferred from congested districts to holdings in non-congested districts, with a view to dealing with the congests in the area they leave. I agree with all that. That is being done. But remember that no policy, no matter how radical, of taking demesnes, or no policy, no matter how radical, of taking tenanted land, will make any impression on the congest problem alone, and I do say that before Deputies advocate, either here or outside, that all congests must be dealt with, regardless of the facts, they should at least examine those figures and let me know whether they agree with them or not. I have said that 1,200,000 acres possibly could be acquired, and while we need not go into the figures closely, I think Deputies will agree that if the figure of 1,800,000 acres represents all the untenanted land, that I am talking very big when I say that the Land Commission could acquire 1,200,000 acres. Remember that when the Land Commission acquire land, as a rule land equally suitable and not less valuable must be given elsewhere. I will not go into the reasons for that. They were argued before, and they are, I think, good and sufficient.
Remember also when the Land Commission require tenanted land they must give a fairly considerable price. They must give what is known as the resumption price. The resumption price was the price defined for the first time in the Land Act of 1881. It is not quite the market value, but it is the market value modified by a number of circumstances which I will not attempt to explain now. It is very complicated. Tenanted land is much more expensive than untenanted land. You have to buy the tenants' interest at something not quite the market value, and the landlord's interest as well.
You will understand that unless the land is to be acquired, without paying anything for the tenant's interest, at a figure which would leave practically nothing for the tenant's interest, it will be very considerably dearer than the untenanted land which the Land Commission purchases. Take an ordinary case of tenanted and untenanted land. The landlord's interest is nothing like the market value. The Land Commission, I think, give nothing like the market value. I agree with the Deputy who mentioned prices and said it was the important thing. No one thinks anything of prices now, but they will all be thinking of it in a few years' time. Everyone wants land now and hopes there will be nothing to pay. Price is the important thing. You are buying tenanted land. The landlord must be paid and the price he gets is nothing like the market value. The tenant must also be paid unless the Dáil will stand for taking tenanted land for nothing, and even if the price to the tenant is cut down not only below the market value but even below the price which the Land Commission gives at present for untenanted land, nevertheless the land is bound to be dear for resale purposes, because it carries the landlord's and the tenant's price, be they ever so small.
I have allowed for the acquisition of about 200,000 acres of untenanted land in my figure when I attempted to arrive at the 1,200,000 acres which the Land Commission might acquire. When you come to the question of the acquisition of tenanted land on a big scale you are first faced with the big question of policy. Where are you going to stop? How many acres? Are all farms to be cut down to 25, 50, or 100 acres? What is it to be? Then you are faced with the big practical difficulty of the price; and the day the Government decides, whatever Government it is to be, that tenanted land must be taken up from every tenant over 50 acres, that day they will have either to decide that they are going to pay the tenant practically nothing for it, or they will have to come and find a price themselves and something in the nature of a bonus themselves. Otherwise they will be unable to resell the land to the tenants at an annuity they can pay. I have said that the Land Commission will acquire tenanted land wherever it is really required in reason for the relief of congestion. They must take, of course, into account the owners' point of view, the amount of land he has and so on, and also whether they can get the land at a price which would leave it suitable for resale to a tenant who has to pay an annuity at the rate of 4¾ per cent. on that price.
Their policy also is, and will continue to be, to migrate tenant purchasers who own large holdings from the congested districts, and place them where there is less congestion, and so far as this question of landless men and congests is concerned, the policy of the Land Commission is to deal with the maximum number of congests and the minimum number of landless men. You must deal with a certain number of landless men. You must deal with labourers definitely put out of employment, and when I say that I mean labourers actually working on the estate. I do not mean farmers' sons in the district who work on the estate occasionally, often at summer time, and so on. You must deal with people who have, let us say, cottages on the estate, labourers employed on the estate who have no other means of living except what they can make by their labour. You have also to deal with sons of tenants who are near the estate up to a certain point. It is very easy to lay down hard and fast rules discussing the matter here, but if you visualise to yourself what does occur when an estate is being divided you will find it will be extremely hard and unsound to adhere strictly to the rule that no landless man, the son of a tenant, should get a holding. Imagine a farm of 15 or 20 holdings. Three or four labourers have got holdings on it. There are 10 or 11 congests, and they get holdings. A small farmer in the neighbourhood who has a £12 valuation holding has three or four sons. He is a tip-top man, who has made good, and is in a position to stock a farm for his son. He is better off, perhaps, than his neighbour with a £20 or £30 holding. They have been looking at that land all their lives. It would be hard in a case of that kind, if it could be done, to refuse to deal with such a person. You have to take the human element into account, and no hard and fast rule can be laid down. Uneconomic holders or congests will be dealt with first. We will have the maximum number of congests and the minimum number of landless. You must go along those lines.
Deputy Mulcahy asked me when we talked of congested districts, whether it is not a fact that the Congested Districts Board in its operations in the past confined itself, not to the most congested of the congested districts, but to the eastern side of the congested districts, where there was less congestion and more land. He said in the Rosses of Donegal and Connemara you had congestion still and you had very little land divided, and very little signs of land division, whereas at the other ends of Galway and Mayo there is a considerable amount of land divided, and congestion is being dealt with. He said it seemed to him that the Congested Districts Board evaded the more difficult part of the problem. They did, and the Land Commission will have to do the same thing up to a point. The reason Connemara is not dealt with is because there is no land in Connemara to deal with the congests there. The same reason applies to the Rosses. The reason the congests in the eastern portions of Galway are dealt with is because there was untenanted land adjoining them which was easily purchased, and which could be dealt with quite conveniently. The Congested Districts Board might have adopted another policy. They might have, say, bought five or six hundred acres in East Galway, and instead of dealing with congests or uneconomic holders who adjoin that land, might have migrated tenants from Connemara and put them on it.
You would have the extraordinary spectacle that while more congests than could possibly be dealt with on the 500 acres adjoining that 500 acres had been left out, and that people had been brought in from Connemara who, if you like, were even more congested. That could not be done. That would be absurd, expensive and unsound. One congest of £6 valuation with a holding adjoining the estate, with the same class of land, is told he cannot be dealt with; there is a man in Connemara with a £2 valuation holding who must be brought in. That would be absolutely unsound. It would make things very difficult for the man from the Rosses or Connemara, and it would be most unfair to the congests adjoining. That is the problem in its simple terms. The Congested Districts Board had no other alternative. The Land Commission will not be able to deal with the people in Connemara or the Rosses in their entirety. What they will have to do when they buy land in Mayo or Galway is first of all to deal with the congests adjoining. There is no reason why they should not. There is no reason why a congest should be penalised because he happens to be near the land that is being divided. That is what it would come to.
Deputy Tierney asked me, admitting that land purchase is not going to solve the problem of the congested districts, what was going to do it? You are supposed to know everything, or at least to pretend to know everything. I am going to make an admission. I do not know. I am not prepared to put myself in the position of coming here and stating that I have a cut and dried remedy, a fully worked out solution for a problem that has faced this country for over 100 years and baffled every commission that ever sat to deal with it. I realise that I have responsibility for land purchase. Deputies will agree at least that we are at the beginning of land purchase—I think there was a certain amount of agreement about that—so far as the 1923 Act is concerned. I took the trouble to get all the facts that had any bearing on the question of the acquisition and division of land and, in the light of those facts which I put to the Dáil, I will do the best I can. Those facts, however, are there. They are elicited, I may say, for the first time and they present the other problem in perhaps a clearer light than it was already. They demonstrate one thing at least, and it is useful. They demonstrate that the problem of the congests of the congested districts cannot be dealt with by land purchase. That is, at least, something, because there was a sort of loose idea in this country that we had land enough to make everyone happy and to make everyone economic. We have not. Those figures make it clear, at least to all who are really interested in the problem, that the solution of the problem of the congested districts must be found on other lines than land purchase. I say that while we are prepared to go ahead and ruthlessly acquire all the land we could reasonably acquire under the Land Act of 1923.
If anybody considers that that is rather a despairing note to strike I only want to remind him of the fact that there are only 1,800,000 acres of untenanted land, including every acre of demesne land, left unpurchased in the country. That is the pivotal fact. That can only deal with about 50,000 persons, of whom 40,000, we will say, will be congests. Of course I have naturally done some thinking on this question of the congested districts. In my opinion it is not going to be solved by any one measure, but by a combination of measures, and this is not the time to go into a very big problem like that, as we are dealing now with land purchase.
It was mentioned here that the Congested Districts Board had in their hands for a very long time estates which were undivided. In that connection the Phibbs estate, the Knox estate, and the More O'Ferrall estate were mentioned. The charge is made against the Land Commission very often that they are neglecting to divide untenanted land which they have in their possession in counties like Mayo and Sligo. I am sure that practically every Deputy took it for granted when these estates were mentioned that that was the case. Everyone had a mental picture of a couple of hundred acres of good land in Mayo or Sligo grazed by fine two-and-a-half-year-old cattle owned by some rich man while the unfortunate congests were looking over the ditch and asking when were the Land Commission going to divide the land. That is not the case. I will just take the estates mentioned. I will take the Knox estate first. There are three separate estates to be dealt with. They were acquired by the late Congested Districts Board and the majority of the holdings being rundale their re-sale was held over pending the acquisition of untenanted land. There is no untenanted land on those estates available for the relief of congestion. In other words, this is all tenanted land in rundale and the Land Commission, in the case of that Knox estate— probably it is in an area where congestion is intense, with a great number of small holders and no untenanted land —are faced with a practical application of the dilemma which I put to the Dáil in the figures I gave—a concrete example of the difficulty. Here they have a lot of tenanted land held by a large number of tenants, some of it rundale, and no untenanted land to deal with it. Deputy Roddy may have more information than I have, but that is the note I have about this estate. He will be able to verify or correct it. This is not a case where there are three or four hundred acres of untenanted land with the unfortunate congests looking over the ditch.