Question on the Adjournment. - Division of Tipperary Estates.

Not being satisfied with the reply given to my question yesterday regarding the division of the estates of Mr. Nicko Green and the Baker Estate, Co. Tipperary, I gave notice to raise the matter on the adjournment. I asked the Minister for Lands and Fisheries if he will state (a) when it is intended to divide the estates of Mr. Nicko Green, Lattin, Co. Tipperary, and (b) the Baker Estate, Ballinard, Co. Tipperary.

Mr. Roddy replied: "A scheme for the division of the following lands is at present in the course of preparation, but the Land Commission are not in a position to state when they will be divided:—

"Allen Baker Estate—Ballinard, 201a. 0r. 0p. Ballinglana, 89a. 0r. 0p. Illaunmeen, 15a. 0r. 0p.

"Estate of Nicholas Green—Shronell, 50a. 1r. 27p. Ballynadruckilly, 50a. 2r. 0p.

"If the Deputy refers to the lands of Lattin East, the property of Nicholas J. Green, these lands were also included in the provisional list, but the owner having objected to their inclusion therein, and also to the inclusion of the lands of Ballinagleragh, the Land Commission allowed his objection as regards Lattin East and disallowed it as regards Ballinagleragh. The price of the lands of Ballinagleragh was fixed and published in accordance with the Land Act of 1923, and on the owner's appeal it transpired that the tenure under which Nicholas Green holds both the lands of Lattin East and Ballinagleragh constitutes him a tenant within the meaning of the Land Act, 1923, and he has now been returned to the Land Commission as a tenant of these lands on the estate of Captain Charles Moore. These lands will be dealt with in connection with the sale of the Moore estate under the Act of 1923."

I would like if the Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister for Lands and Fisheries would state the present state of the negotiations between the Irish Land Commission and Mr. Nicko J. Green, regarding the lands of Ballinagleragh and Lattin East, Co. Tipperary, 390 acres of which were gazetted for acquisition nearly three years ago. I would also like if the Minister in his reply would answer the following questions: How much of this land was Mr. Green permitted to retain on appeal; how much is still the subject of investigation, what price was offered for it, and whether a price has yet been definitely fixed; and, if so, what is the price; further, what objections, if any, were raised by Mr. Green at the hearing before the Land Commission? Are the Land Commission aware that on these lands, to the acquisition of which objection was taken, upwards of 60 acres of meadowing lay uncut last year, that only two men are employed on 670 acres—Mr. Nicko Green's 550 acres and his uncle's 120 acres—all farmed by Mr. Nicko Green as a non-resident ranch? Is the Parliamentary Secretary aware that part of the lands not acquired are let on the eleven months system, and that most of the land is grazed by the cattle of another rancher, who has extensive tracts of land all over the south, and who, to escape seizure of these cattle for bank debts, removed them from the Lattin lands during the night?

This ranch is surrounded by congests, unemployment is rife in the district and eighteen or twenty families in Lattin village have no space for vegetables or grass for goats, and many must go three or four miles for milk, while small farmers take meadowing two or three miles away. Are the Irish Land Commission satisfied that the spirit and the letter of the 1923 Act were observed in dealing with these ranches, and, if so, will they furnish the reports of their own inspectors and of the hearing of the objections by the Land Commissioners?

With regard to the property of his uncle, I would like to know what price was offered by the Irish Land Commission for the 100 statute acres of the lands of Shronell and Ballynadruckilly, near Lattin. Will the Parliamentary Secretary also state what was the price fixed on appeal by the Judicial Commissioner, and at what date was that price fixed? I would also like to know whether a large quantity of ash and other valuable timber was sold off the lands of Shronell after the offer made by the Land Commission; whether this timber was cut down after the Judicial Commissioners' assessor had appeared on the lands for valuation; what was the date on which the assessor visited the lands, and did Mr. Green furnish a return of the value of the timber sold, and when is it proposed to divide these lands?

I ask the Parliamentary Secretary also to furnish the particulars regarding the estate of Mr. Alan Baker, veterinary surgeon. These lands are situated at Ballinard and Ballinglana, Baronv of Clanwilliam, Co. Tipperary. What was the price offered by the Land Commission for the 305 statute acres comprised in the estate; what was the price fixed on appeal by the Judicial Commissioner, and the date at which it was fixed? Will the Parliamentary Secretary explain the cause of the prolonged delay in dividing this estate, surrounded as it is by a large number of uneconomic holders, many of them former tenants on the estate? In connection with this estate, I would also like to know when the Land Commission expect to be in a position to divide it. Since the price was first offered a very big quantity of timber has been cut down and sold, and I would like to know whether the Land Commission are aware of that. I hope the Parliamentary Secretary will state whether the Land Commission are aware that a big part of these lands is being meadowed for a number of years, that 89 acres were meadowed last year, and that the same ground, with about 25 additional acres, is meadowed this year, and whether they believe this continuous meadowing of dry land, not of the very best class, is likely to cause serious deterioration in its value to incoming tenants. Also will the Parliamentary Secretary state whether the high price fixed on appeal in this case will not have the effect, even if it is not so intended, of bringing land division into disrepute, or of stopping it altogether? It is an absolute scandal the way the Irish Land Commission are treating this area in these matters.

I desire to support the plea made by Deputy Fogarty in this matter. It has been hanging over for very many years and it is time that it should be settled and ended. When the Minister for Agriculture introduced the Land Act in 1923 he got a great deal of support throughout the country, because it was expected that the ranches all over the Free State were going to be divided. On these estates in East Tipperary, on the borders of Limerick, there is a large number of uneconomic holders—congests, and villagers who are practically cottiers. As Deputy Fogarty pointed out, they have practically nothing to live on. There is no employment in the district. The people are nearly all uneconomic holders in the vicinity of these estates. They took a prominent part in the struggle against the Black and Tans, and since that time these men, who had distinguished themselves particularly in the service of the country, have been let down. Nothing whatever has been done to give them land to which they were entitled. I believe that the land in question is not being properly maintained and is in a derelict condition. Not alone the Deputies belonging to this Party but members of the Cumann na nGaedheal Party before we entered this House took the matter up, and they had a promise regarding the division of these estates from the Minister for Agriculture when he was in charge of land distribution, but nothing has been done.

The Land Commission have a number of defences to make. First, when they decided to take over the estate of Mr. Green they did not understand his position. They thought he was a landlord apparently, and they did not consider that his land would have to be taken over as tenanted land. A legal difficulty was created that gave Mr. Green the right to go into the court and fight the Land Commission. Mr. Green, like many other people, although he has 550 acres going derelict in that district and also 600 acres in another place, has been able to go into court, and that shows the hopelessness of the present administration of the Land Commission. There has been agitation with regard to these estates for many years and the whole countryside are up in arms against the present state of affairs. Mr. Green has been able to go into the court and defeat the Land Commission firstly by rising the price on the small amount of land to be handed over, which is only a small fraction of the total; and secondly, by making the thing impossible and absolutely hopeless because the charges that were to be placed on the tenant occupiers if they got the land would make it impossible for them to work it, so that the whole thing would have to go back again into the hands of people like Mr. Green.

I am told that it was decided in the Court of Mr. Justice Wylie that 188 Irish acres should be made available for distribution out of a total of 1,200 statute acres. As regards the 188 Irish acres, the price was increased from £7,000 to £8,000 on the Baker estate. In the case of Mr. Green, the price on 100 statute acres out of all the hundreds of acres that he has was raised from £2,300 to £2,650. In addition to the Land Commission being defeated in court under the agreement which they themselves drafted, they were only able to take a small fraction of these lands at such a high price that it would be absolutely impossible for the tenants to make ends meet under the economic conditions at present prevailing in the country. The Land Commission also decided that those villagers, of whom I have spoken and who have not a bite for their children to eat, are not going to get any of this land. That indicates to us that as regards the present system of land distribution there is something fundamentally wrong when you have hundreds of families as you have in this area living on patches of land. Some of them like the villagers in Lattin have nothing practically to live on. They are dependent practically on the charity of their neighbours and on an odd day's work. This man, I understand, refuses to do anything with his land. He refuses even to cut the weeds on it, to sow any crops or to pay any attention to drainage, fencing or anything of that sort, leaving the whole place practically to go wild. When you have side by side with those conditions a whole community shrieking for some means to give them maintenance and employment, the only answer the Land Commission has to give is that under our Land Act we can do nothing.

Mr. T. Sheehy (Tipperary):

I desire to support the remarks of Deputy Fogarty. The Parliamentary Secretary should insist on the immediate division of the ranches both in Lattin and other parts of Tipperary. To my mind the Land Commission have made very slow progress up to the present. There are a great many ranches in Tipperary, and some of them which the Land Commission took over some years ago are set and have not been divided up amongst the uneconomic and landless men in the district. I know two such ranches that have been taken over, and there are several others where the trail of Cromwell is very much to be seen. You could travel for miles through the county and see nothing but ranches. I would strongly urge upon the Parliamentary Secretary the necessity of speeding up the division of these lands.

What Deputy Sheehy has said is quite true, namely, that there are quite a number of untenanted ranches still in Tipperary with which the Land Commission has not yet been able to deal. There are also a large number of untenanted ranches in other counties with which it cannot deal, and probably cannot do so for some years to come. Tipperary, however, is a county where the Land Commission has done exceptionally good work, and where a larger acreage of land has been acquired and distributed than any other county with the exception of County Galway. 18,000 acres have been distributed in Tipperary during the past few years, and schemes are in course of preparation for the distribution of another 3,000 or 4,000 acres. Deputy Fogarty raised a number of points which were not relevant to the question on the Order Paper yesterday, which I do not propose to deal with. Schemes are in course of preparation in regard to the Baker estate and the Nicholas Green estate, and the position in regard to the Lattin lands is as I indicated in my answer yesterday.

In 1927 the Land Commission gazetted these lands for acquisition as untenanted land, but the owner objected and his objection was heard in the ordinary way by the Land Commission. The price of £3,500, which was fixed on the lands, appears to be quite reasonable. The owner, however, appealed against the price to the Judicial Commissioner, and in the proceedings before him it transpired that the lands were held on a lease which would expire in 35 years. Consequently according to the Land Act of 1923, Nicholas J. Green was merely a tenant on the estate of Captain Moore. These two holdings at Lattin and Ballinagleragh have to be dealt with in connection with the tenanted lands on the Moore estate. In order to acquire the lands proceedings must be taken to retain and resume these holdings. The whole procedure will have to be gone through afresh and the previous proceedings automatically lapse. I cannot give any undertaking as to when the proceedings for the resumption of these holdings will be completed, as they have to go through a certain procedure laid down in the Land Acts. Deputy Fogarty referred to the fact that timber was cut down on the holdings of Nicholas J. Green twelve months ago. I am aware that some timber was cut down, but the Land Commission not having taken over possession of the lands could not interfere to prevent it.

Had not the Land Commission offered a price for the lands, and in the meantime the timber was cut?

That is true, but we had not possession and could not prevent the cutting of timber. I think that the Deputy knows enough about land tenure and the Land Acts to recognise that the Land Commission cannot very well intervene to prevent a tenant of lands doing certain things with them until the Land Commission get possession. Deputy Derrig apparently is not acquainted with the position in connection with these lands, otherwise he would not have made some of the rather wild statements which he did make. He stated that Nicholas J. Green was the owner of about 1,100 acres. He is the owner of about 600 acres odd.

Has he not got 600 acres in another part of South Tipperary?

He has 600 acres in Greenpark.

He has 300.

That is 800.

He has 200 acres in Lattin, 186 acres in Ballinagleragh, or, in all, 600 acres. The land, as far as my information goes, is fully stocked. He is a very big grazing farmer, and finishes each year between 300 and 400 first-class bullocks, and breeds a certain number of bloodstock mares.

How many people does he employ?

From six to eight people. These lands are particularly rich, and it is very doubtful if they would be as suitable for tillage as grazing. I am satisfied, at all events, that they are specially suitable for the purpose of grazing and turning out high-class stock.

Does the Land Commission subsidise grazing?

Mr. Sheehy

Is it the policy of the Land Commission to keep ranches to fatten bullocks?

It is a matter for the owner. The owner is quite entitled, under the provisions of the Land Acts, to object to the acquisition of the lands. As I say, it is a matter entirely for the owner, and he can, either himself or through his solicitor, make his case before the Land Commission, and the Land Commission is bound to determine the case on its merits.

You accept the fact that he is using the land for the best benefits for the country?

I was asked a question and I am answering it. According to my information, the lands are, and have been for many years, fully stocked.

Is it not a fact that the land of Lattin and Ballinagleragh, such of it as is not set in hay, is set on the eleven months system, and the portion of the land not acquired is used for the cattle of another grazier?

There is no portion of the land acquired.

There were 380 acres acquired at one time.

We were engaged in negotiations which got to the point when we had the price fixed, but we had not acquired the lands, as the Deputy should have understood from my answer. We have not acquired the lands yet.

Mr. Sheehy

You had them gazetted.

Yes, I explained that. We had them gazetted originally as untenanted lands and took the necessary proceedings to acquire them, but at a later stage it was discovered that they were not untenanted, that they were tenanted lands on the estate of Captain Moore. Consequently we had to recommence the proceedings and revert to the procedure that is followed in such cases, namely, to retain the holding and resume it afterwards. That is the procedure in these cases, and it means that we have to go through the whole course again. Deputy Derrig raised a point as to the use of the lands and I am simply answering the question. The lands are being grazed. That is the information I have.

That is the 300 acres of land he referred to in another area, Greenwell.

What about the Lattin lands?

They are being used, I understand, for finishing off cattle. The Greenwell lands are not suitable for that purpose, but the Lattin and Ballinagleragh lands are used for finishing off cattle which are brought to a certain stage on the other lands.

A large portion of those lands belongs to his uncle, a wine merchant here in Dublin, and he has only six men employed. Sixty acres of hay were allowed to rot last year.

The Deputy is mixing up the lands of Nicholas Green and Nicholas J. Green. I explained that we are preparing a scheme for the division of the lands owned by Nicholas Green. The other lands, according to our information, are grazed. That does not affect the fact that we are taking proceedings again for the acquisition of these lands, but I am not giving the Deputy any undertaking as to when the proceedings will be completed. We have to go through the usual procedure laid down in the Land Acts. I do not think that Tipperary Deputies have any reason for complaint against the Land Commission, because, as I explained at the outset of my statement, Tipperary has been exceptionally well treated. I travelled through the greater part of North Tipperary in August last, and got in touch with many allottees to whom lands were given in the last few years, and they all expressed satisfaction with the work done by the Land Commission. I also travelled over some of the estates which are in process of acquisition.

How many ranches are undivided?

There are quite a number, and it will take us some years to deal with them. It is only possible, after all, to deal with the acquisition and distribution of a certain number each year. It is quite absurd for Deputies to expect all the land in any one county to be acquired and distributed in one year.

Would the Parliamentary Secretary say whether his Department has any method by which it can inform me as to the date on which it started dealing with an estate and how long it will take to dispose of it?

The Deputy must realise that there is a file in connection with every estate. If I want to find out when proceedings in connection with the acquisition of an estate started, I have merely to ask for the file and I can get the information.

The answer to the question is absolutely vague.

What information does the Deputy want?

For instance, the Parliamentary Secretary stated that in this case they were considering taking up this particular estate. At what date?

I stated that steps were being taken already to acquire the estate.

Can the Parliamentary Secretary calculate when it is likely that an estate will reach the vesting stage?

It is impossible to calculate what time it will take the Land Commission to acquire any particular estate. It is impossible at the outset to anticipate at what particular stage of the proceedings the owner may object. Deputy Little, as a legal man, knows that it takes time to dispose of objections.

Mr. Sheehy

According to the Parliamentary Secretary's reply, it seems to me that it is the policy of the Land Commission not to take over the Lattin lands and that it would be better to have them produce bullocks. Personally I disagree with that. I imagine that it would be better for the nation to have these lands divided and to have people put on them.

Will the Parliamentary Secretary say that Nicko J. Green is not going to be allowed to exploit the position on the lands in question?

I would ask the Parliamentary Secretary whether it is the policy of the Land Commission to divide land in accordance with the policy of finishing bullocks or of placing people upon it. It is quite evident that in the case of the Lattin lands it is the bullocks and not the people that count.

Will the Parliamentary Secretary see that Nicko Green is not allowed to exploit the position by transferring his two herds to those lands in order to take them up while the villagers of Lattin who have not got a sod of land are left there unemployed?

When the Land Commission is in a position to prepare a scheme for the distribution of these lands it will take into consideration the claims of all legitimate applicants, and will determine those claims in a fair and just way. In regard to Deputy Derrig's question, the policy of the Land Commission is to relieve congestion irrespective of whether the land required for the purpose is suitable for the production of bullocks or for the production of oats or other ordinary farm crops. I was replying to Deputy Derrig's question when I said that these lands are used for finishing bullocks, and the lands, according to the reports I have received from my inspectors, are specially suitable for the purpose.

Sack the inspectors.

The Dáil adjourned at 11 p.m. until 13th November, 1929.