I thought the Deputy said that. I think Deputy Dowdall said the same thing. There are countries which have 18 per cent. under forestry, but there is a difference in every country according to the requirements. I am not a forestry expert, and I have to rely on those who are, and I am going to rely upon them as long as I am satisfied, as I am satisfied, that they know their job. There is no good in listening to people who have read a book by some person who takes an interest in literature and other things and who has a superficial knowledge of forestry. I am not going to take my information about forestry from such a person. I have to rely on those who have been able to deliver the goods and who have given their whole life to forestry work, and I think anybody else if he were in my position would do the same. I am informed by these experts that there is no such thing.
I am also satisfied that we have made very considerable headway. We have got very little thanks for the work we have done, and I think we have done amazingly well. During Deputy Roddy's time in the Department it was not the policy, if I may put it that way to go ahead in a quick way with afforestation. Deputy Roddy must admit that. Since 1933 we have advanced from planting 3,500 acres, which was the figure then, to 8,500 acres lasy year. When people consider what that means, they will have to admit, if they have any idea of what it means, that that is considerable progress.
Complaint has been made that we have reduced the Vote this year and that that means we are falling back. As a matter of fact it is not an ordinary Vote. This is a Grant-in-Aid, and money that is not expended in one year is carried over to the following year or the year after. When it is a Grant-in-Aid it does not go back into the Exchequer. This is a Grant-in-Aid and there was bound to be sufficient money for our purposes in hand from the previous years. In one year there was a sum of £109,000 as a Grant-in-Aid. It was not found possible to expend that money that year and it was carried over. After a close estimate this year it is believed that the £5,000 provided, with what is in hands from the previous years, will be sufficient. If it is not— and I hope it will not—then we will come to the Dáil for more money. But for more money than we are able to spend. In 1931-32, £64,588 was spent on afforestation; last year the amount voted was £152,788. As I say, the acreage planted has gone up from 3,500 to 8,500, and this year we hope to reach 10,000 and not to stop there, according as land can be got.
The gentleman who worte this book which was referred to apparently does not see any difficulty in evacuating whole communities. The fact is that the Forestry Department finds the utmost difficulty in persuading people to give up land which the Deapartment wishes to acquire for afforestation purposes. As a matter of fact, where the Department have acquired land, claims have been made by certain people to grazing and turbary rights. In one case something like 3,000 yards of fencing wire was pulled down by people claiming those rights. These are some of the difficulties with which the Department has to contend. It is easy to understand that people who have been living there and keeping their families on the proceeds of the grazing of these hills are not prepared to give them up without a lot of protest. One of the things that could be done by the society suggested would be to try and inculcate a better spirit in regard to reafforestation. Undoubtedly there is opposition almost everywhere. Practically everywhere we go we get opposition, and, in some cases, from quarters in which you would not expect it. Deputy Tubridy, who was so kind as to say man that the Department simply sent a man down to an area to give us the advice that we wanted, to tell us that we could not do what we did not want to do, knows himself from personal experience of the opposition there is in part of Connemara to afforestation. He was present with a deputation in my office when the strongest disapproval was expressed of any forestry work being done in a particular area. They all want it done in some other place.
Deputy Mongan and other Deputies from Galway talked about a speech which I made at the Ard Fheis in connection with a forestry scheme carried out some years ago in a place called Knockboy. I only mentioned that as an instance in which a very determined attempt w as made to plant in that area. Unfortunately, I was wrong in the figures I gave. I was given them in good faith by a junior offcial at that time. The cost was not as high as I thought. Deputy MOngan said that I was wrong and that I was insulting Connemara and all the rest of it. That was merely political talk. He knows well that I would not insult Connemara of all places in Ireland. Then fact is that there was something like £9,000 spent on that scheme and, unfortunately, it was not a success. It is not to be assumed because I referred to that case, or because that scheme was not a success, that the Department has not made every effort to get suitable land in the Gaeltacht for forestry. It is one of the things about which I am most anxious and about which the Department are most anxious. I can assure Deputies that the officials in charge of forestry are just as keen as any Deputy, but they are not going to plant scrub, and I am not prepared to ask them to do that. I think that the money we spend ought to be spent on work that would give a good return.
Deputy Flynn suggested that we should have more regard to the amenities than to the commercial value of the timber. That may be work for another Department, but the Forestry Department is concerned with the raising of commercial timber, and I think that is what it should be confined to. If it is the wish of the Government or of the Dáil at any time that some other sort of work should be undertaken, like the growing of bushes and other things like that, that is another matter. It is not forestry work. I am not going to ask people who are experts and who know the proper sort. of timber to grow in different places to try to plant trees where they are not s atisfied, after very careful investigation, that the trees will be a commercial success. I have been asked by several Deputies how it is that lands which grew trees that were cut down during the Great War will not grow trees now. I am informed that any land which has grown trees so recently as that, or up to, say, 100 years ago, will very likely grow trees again on a commercial basis. But where you see old stumps that peat has grown over, where the land has deteriorated, that land very often will not grow trees.
Of course, every area is examined and reported on by people who are competent to give an opinion. I do not know where you are going to get a Minister who will set himself out against the considered opinion of men who have given their lives to a study of this subject. If Deputy Dowdall were looking for advice in his business, Nothing else can possibly be done. If it is accepted that the Government is alert to the position, or if Deputy Tubridy's statement is accepted, that they are simply humbugging and do not wish to do anything, I say that once people know we are anxious to go ahead as quickly as possible with afforestation schemes, it may be taken that the officials will co-operate—as they have co-operated wholeheartedly —in that respect. I am quite satisfied that we have made very considerable progress and that we will continue to do so. Deputy Dowdall said that we should have a survey made. We are told that something like 3,000,000 acres are available. No one knows the amount definitely. I would like to have a survey, but I remind Deputies that that would require an expert staff of people who know all that there is to be known about forestry. Their time would have to be taken up on that work. Deputy Dowdall wanted a survey to be made rapidly. It cannot be done rapidly. It must be done carefully. When the survey is made the land would have to be acquired, so that we would only be starting where we are now. In fact, we would not be as far advacned.
I think the policy that has been adopted is a much better one. Where we have been able to get land suitable for the purpose, we got it. I think we have done very well, indeed. If some land has not ben inspected, that is because the Department has not been able to reach on it. The estates mentioned have ben examined, and when the results are obtained, it will be found that if the land is suitable it is taken. I remind Deputies that they cannot have compulsion in the taking of forestry lands, for reasons that I indicated. In several cases immense damage was done by people whose good-will we had not got. It is not like taking land for the purpose of putting people on it. That land could be taken compulsorily. If you take land for forestry against the will of the people, very often they come in the middle of the night, or when there is no one looking, and the fences will be pulled down or burned. As that class of land is always in remote places, we want to avoid anything like that occurring. Compulsion in the main is unthinkable.