Léim ar aghaidh chuig an bpríomhábhar

Dáil Éireann díospóireacht -
Wednesday, 4 Dec 1946

Vol. 103 No. 13

Private Deputies' Business. - Tribunal on Work of Land Commission—Motion (Resumed).

Debate resumed on the following motion:—
That it is expedient that a tribunal be set up with power to send for persons, papers and records to inquire into and report on the work of the Land Commission in regard to the following matters:—
(1) the method of selection of allottees;
(2) the standard of living attained by those to whom allotments have been granted;
(3) the size and nature of the minimum holding which, as a result of experience, can be regarded as economic; and
(4) the extent to which allottees have failed to make good and the reasons for such failure.—(Deputies Hughes and Coogan.)

I want to deal with this motion under the four heads set out therein, the first being the method of selection of allottees. Deputy Hughes, in moving the motion, has already dealt fully with the Minister's statement on the Second Reading of the recent Land Bill, and I do not want to reiterate what he said on that occasion. To my mind, the Minister's statement was an indictment of the policy of his Department over a period of years. I assume from what he said on that occasion, from the facts which he gave us and from the powers which he has taken unto himself in that measure, that he has now abandoned the policy which he had announced in 1943. The present Minister for Lands, at a Fianna Fáil Ard Fheis, stated that:—

"The fruits of Government policy should go, other things being equal, to Government supporters."

My quotation is from the Irish Independent of September 29th, 1943. On another occasion in this House— on the 7th April, 1943—an extract was read from a letter signed by the present Minister in which this statement occurs:—

"From the list certified as competent I was bound to appoint the person best suited to the position from a political point of view."

The Minister was, of course, then speaking in another capacity, and not as Minister for Lands, but I take it that the recent measure, and particularly the Minister's speech on the Second Reading of it, indicates that in future allottees will be selected not because of their being Government supporters, not because of their holding a particular political point of view, but rather on the grounds of their capacity to work land, of their experience and training in farming operations, and generally speaking, on the grounds of their financial capacity to provide the necessary equipment by way of machinery efficiently to work the land. Therefore, I do not propose to delay the House on that aspect of the matter, or to go back on certain aspects of the present administration in the allotment of land. I assume that we have seen the end of that type of administration, and that in future the allotment of land will be based strictly on impersonal and impartial grounds, and, as I have indicated, on the capacity of the individual who is seeking land for allotment.

The second head of the motion—the standard of living attained by those to whom allotments have been granted— raises a rather big field of inquiry, and it is difficult, in the absence of figures, to indicate present-day conditions on the land. We do know that a big number of people who got land failed to work it themselves and sublet it. For that reason, it is rather difficult to advance to the Minister any arguments by way of statistics which would strengthen the demand for this particular sub-head. On this side of the House, we feel that it is essential that a public investigation be made on the standards of living on the land from the point of view of ascertaining whether our present system of holding and working land is best in the interests of the nation as a whole. I know there will be many viewpoints on what I have to say, but I feel that the principle of sub-dividing land into very small holdings has already gone too far, and that we have to approach this problem on a broad national basis. It is questionable whether it is a wise policy to give a small parcel of land to a man, particularly a man with a family who cannot hope to raise a family solely out of the land. It is also questionable whether it is wise to put landless men on the land who have no hope of gaining an economic livelihood from the land. That particular aspect of the problem raises the question of whether or not land should be given to people who have at present an alternative means of livelihood and do not intend to take land and work it as a whole-time occupation. For that reason, we feel that that aspect of the land problem is one worthy of very serious consideration, and one which would properly form the subject of such an inquiry as is envisaged by this motion.

On the next heading—the size and nature of the minimum holding which, as a result of experience, can be regarded as economic—that is to a certain extent tied up with sub-head 2 of the motion. According to the Statistical Abstract for 1945, we have something like 383,735 holdings in the country. Of that number, 241,809 holdings are of less than 15 acres. I question very seriously whether any man with a family can hope to make a living out of a holding under 15 acres in existing conditions. In addition, you have 89,311 holdings between 15 and 30 acres and 62,786 between 30 and 50 acres. When we get to the larger holdings, the figures begin to dwindle. Of holdings between 50 and 100 acres, there are 50,594, and of holdings between 100 and 200 acres, there are 21,316. Over the 200 acreage there are 7,230 holdings.

We hear in this House from time to time persistent and, if you like, importunate demands for the further division of land. It seems to me extraordinary that after 25 years of native administration, and after something like 70 odd years of native and foreign administration, we are still confronted with a land problem. One would have thought that the area of land in this country is so circumscribed in relation to the number of uneconomic holders or landless men seeking land, that we had already disposed of this problem in so far as the State could dispose of it. I think every member of the House will agree that it is a physical impossibility to allot land to every uneconomic holder or to every landless man. We simply have not enough land to go around them all.

On that point, I would like to quote from the Report of the Banking Commission of 1938, page 313, paragraph 506, in which this question was discussed. It states:—

"The area of available land sets a limit to what is possible in this direction, and a point must be reached when further intensification of efforts to procure land for division will be possible only at the cost of inflicting injuries on the agricultural system generally which, in the light of the interests of the country as a whole, would more than offset any beneficial results."

Again, in paragraph 507, Mr. Deegan, who gave evidence before the commission, is quoted as saying:—

"There is now comparatively little land left outside the purview of the Land Commission, but large holdings previously vested in tenant purchasers under the Land Purchase Acts can be acquired for division."

That, of course, obtained since the Land Act of 1936 and it is questionable —it was seriously questioned by the Banking Commission — whether the Minister would be well advised in seeking to acquire land which is already vested in tenant purchasers. The view taken by the Banking Commission was that pursuance of a policy of that kind was likely adversely to affect the credit of the farmer and also to have a depreciating effect upon the value of land. There can hardly be any doubt in the minds of Deputies who have given any thought to the matter that, if a persistent policy of acquiring land already purchased and handed over to tenants were to be pursued, the effect throughout the country would be very serious indeed.

I do not presume to have any expert knowledge of what is or is not an economic holding; I leave that to the agriculturist who has experience of these matters. I do say that in present circumstances no holding should be regarded as economic which is not sufficient to enable the proprietor not only to pay an economic rent for the land, but to make a sufficient livelihood that will enable him to rear his family in decent comfort. If we take it from that angle it should be apparent that anything under 15 acres of average good land would be insufficient for that purpose. On that point again I would like to quote the Banking Commission Report, paragraph 508:—

"In the first place, the size of a farm is a factor which in itself may affect the character of agricultural output. If the division of large holdings is carried so far that a high proportion of the total agricultural area is eventually composed of small holdings, it is possible that such a result might profoundly affect the agricultural output of the country as a whole. This is particularly true as far as the live-stock industry is concerned."

Again, further down in the paragraph, they say:—

"Whether farming is best conducted in large or small units is a question that does not appear to admit of a simple answer on one side or the other, and the balance of advantage may vary according to times and circumstances. Variety in the size of the unit may itself provide a form of insurance for the country as a whole should it happen, for example, at any time that market conditions are less favourable to the typical output of one size of farm than to that of another. Especially in the matter of efficiency, to which we have referred elsewhere, the large holdings may present important advantages, and it would be taking a grave risk, by enforcing legislation of too rigid a character, to deprive the Free State of the possibility of reaping these advantages."

To my mind, when we view market conditions elsewhere and when we view the agricultural developments that are taking place elsewhere it seems to me that we shall have to revise our whole policy, particularly in relation to foreign markets. In the foreign market we are, if you like, confronted with collective production and with the large-scale production which obtains in the United States and Canada. Sooner or later the question we shall have to face in this country is whether or not under our present system of land tenure we can hope to compete with the large-scale production elsewhere whether it is based on private proprietorship or on the principle of collective farming.

Again, on the question of compulsory acquisition, the Banking Commission said in their report:—

"A feature of the compulsory powers which is open to special objection is that they can be exercised even in relation to land which has already passed under the Land Purchase Acts and, as already indicated, these powers seem likely, as matters stand, to be invoked more extensively in the future for this purpose. If the work accomplished under earlier Land Acts were to be liable to be reopened indefinitely under later Acts, possibly in reflection of different views of successive Governments, there would be no finality to land purchase. Moreover, the sense of insecurity must be much greater if the Land Commission is given liberty to undo arrangements which have been carried through by the State itself in comparatively recent times."

I mention this point particularly because I feel, having listened to certain demands made for the further acquisition and division of land, that we are rapidly approaching a point at which the Minister and this House will have to decide when there is to be finality to land purchase. I think that the Deputies who raise this question from time to time, whilst they may undoubtedly have a very good case from the purely local point of view, they have not fully considered all the implications of their policy if that policy were to be envisaged as a national policy. Whilst undoubtedly— particularly in the west—there is grave concern in the congested areas the question for us and for the Minister to decide is, when we must finish the job. As I have already said, it is not possible to give more land to all the men on the land in the congested areas and it is certainly not possible to give land to all the landless men who are seeking land. We are circumscribed in our activities in relation to the amount of land which we have got to give and by reason of the fact that there are more people looking for land than there is land available for them. Sooner or later a decision must be reached on the question of finality to land division. Having made our decision we can then decide the bigger issue as to our agricultural policy. For that reason I think this motion is deserving of support in this House in order that all the facts of the whole economic problem of land division may be fully investigated and a final decision made.

On the question of the extent to which allottees have failed to make good and the reason for such failure, I do not propose to go into that matter now. That question is tied up with sub-head No. 1 of the motion. The Minister has already indicated to this House the measure of the failure of allottees in this matter. On the Second Reading of the last Land Bill he gave us a full and frank statement of the position obtaining on the land. He has given us the number of failures of allottees working the land. He has given us the number of failures of allottees to reside in the houses provided for them on the land, and he has given us the number of cases in which the land was sublet. In that connection all I have to say is that we on this side of the House hope that the Minister will exercise the powers that he has got under the last measure to ensure that the conditions obtaining before that measure was introduced will be put right in the future and that whatever defects have been discovered in the administration of the land policy in the past will be remedied in the future.

I think the motion before the House is a reasonable one. I think it is deserving of the serious consideration of the House. I think that the Minister should try to find a way of meeting us on this acute problem because it is one that reflects our whole agricultural economy. I think the time is now opportune for such investigations to be made so that we may, once and for all, decide what is to be our eventual land and agricultural policy.

This is a motion which, I think, is very inopportune. I have not had an opportunity of hearing the mover of the motion, though I did hear a little of what he had to say when the matter first came before the House. We have not been told what benefits we are going to derive from such a commission if it is set up. We have not been told what advantages are likely to accrue so far as the division of land is concerned. Do we not know the method of selection of allottees? Have we not reasonable knowledge of the size of the minimum holding? In introducing the 1946 Act, the Minister told us the number of allottees who have failed to make good. I could understand the Fine Gael Party tabling a motion of censure on the Minister, but I cannot understand them tabling a motion of this kind.

The mover of the motion is well aware that the activities of the Land Commission have been almost nil for the past six years. We were told that that was due to the war in Europe, that there was a shortage of engineers and the necessary staff required for the allocation, acquisition and division of land. Of course, that explanation would only be accepted by the Minister's own Party. It certainly is not accepted by the Clann na Talmhan Party. We maintain that the war should not have affected in any way the allocation of land in the hands of the Land Commission in many areas. There are many areas where, if the land had been divided, there would be no necessity for the erection of houses, because the houses already existed. But the Minister or his Department did not do that.

Are the Fine Gael Party not aware that the activities of the Land Commission are practically nil? Why then put down a motion asking for a report on the work of the Land Commission? After listening to Deputies on these benches for the last four years calling on the Minister to proceed with land division and addressing question after question—sometimes as many as a dozen on the one day—in relation to land division, they should know that nothing whatever was being done by the Land Commission. There was therefore no need to ask about the activities of the Land Commission. They should see that there was no activity whatever on the part of that Department which costs a considerable sum to the taxpayer without any return for it. I could understand asking for a report on the cost of that Department; asking upon what the money was spent, and why it was spent on a redundant and obsolete Department.

As to the method of selection of allottees, we know what that method is. The Minister admitted when introducing the 1946 Act that a considerable percentage out of the number selected had failed to husband their land properly, had failed to make the holdings pay, had sublet them and gone to work on the roads and the bogs, or had closed their doors and emigrated to England. The fact that the Minister admitted that showed that the selection of these allottees was not done in a proper way. They did not take into consideration whether the men selected were the proper type of men, whether they were capable of farming a holding, whether they were deserving of a holding, but what their politics were. That was the one qualification necessary. That is why these men failed to utilise the land properly which was given to them at the expense of the taxpayers. That is why they closed the doors and went away or let their holdings in conacre. The selection of allottees is a very simple matter if politics are left out. It is not so simple if politics enter into it.

The next matter that the tribunal is to report on is: "The standard of living attained by those to whom allotments have been granted." If I got a holding of 20 or 30 acres, I would not like to have officials coming around making inquiries as to how I was getting on or how I was making ends meet.

Nobody is asking for that.

Is not that what you are asking for? How can you find out the standard of living except by inquiries of that kind?

From evidence before the tribunal.

Then you must bring these people before the tribunal. If I got 20 acres of land in Kilcock or Gibbstown, do you think I would tolerate the idea of being brought before a tribunal to say how I was making ends meet, the profits I had made out of my holding, or the money I had in the Post Office or in the bank? It would be ridiculous. The next matter refered to in the motion is: "The size and nature of the minimum holding which, as a result of experience, can be regarded as economic". That is the only sensible part of the motion. That is one thing that demands careful consideration in the future and which, I think, has not been examined sufficiently in the past.

I think the holdings allotted to migrants from Mayo, Donegal, Galway, Roscommon, Kerry, West Cork, Clare, Leitrim, Louth, and other counties where you have congestion are not economic. In my opinion, anything less than 40 acres of arable land cannot be described as an economic holding. The Minister may well say that if we were to adopt Deputy Cafferky's suggestion, and give 40 acres to every man, even those that Deputy Cafferky is desirous of migrating from Mayo, we would not have sufficient land. I believe that at this stage of land division, you could place thousands of young men on the land because there are thousands of acres of land which could be acquired. There are farmers who have land far in excess of what they can work. There are large estates, a certain amount of which could be acquired for division. The argument put forward by the Minister time and again is that there is not enough land. Deputy Coogan said that sooner or later land division would have to stop, that we were almost at an end of land division. Does Deputy Coogan mean that?

I certainly do.

I know that Deputy Coogan, from the position he held some years ago, travelled a good deal of Ireland and knows the country. I maintain that there are thousands of acres for division and thousands of tenants who could be put on the land, in an economic way, and given 40 acres. If Deputy Coogan believes that one man is entitled to as much as 5,000 or 3,000 or 2,000 or 500 acres then the Constitution is a bottle of smoke.

What about free sale?

I believe in free sale but if there are farms of 2,000 acres or 500 acres put up for sale on the public market let the Land Commission purchase them. Is not that what the Land Commission is there for? In particular, if it is for sale in a congested area, if that holding has been untenanted for a considerable time, if it has been worked by the tenants for 40 or 50 years, and if it is put up for sale by the owner, who may be living in West India or in England, does Deputy Coogan suggest that I am opposed to free sale because I ask the Minister to acquire it for the tenants at the market value? Is that something that is opposed to free sale? May I not acknowledge the right of free sale and at the same time prevent something being done to the detriment of the tenants? Have not the tenants first right and first claim there?

Show me how they will get the market value.

The question of free sale does not enter into this motion.

I am replying to a question addressed to me by Deputy Coogan.

Which he was not in order in addressing to you.

The Chair did not correct him, with all respect.

Do not let us have any more of it.

The question of the extent to which allottees have failed to make good, and the reason for such failure is a very important matter. In my opinion some allottees were selected who were desirous of making good. Others were selected who had no knowledge of working the land. Farming was not their vocation. They would prefer to go fishing or to work on the road or the bog or to emigrate for certain seasons. The reason for failure in the case of some of those who were desirous of working the holding and of making a living on it was that the holding was too small and that the tenant had no capital. Farming is a business. If the Minister for Lands presents me with a large building in O'Connell Street and if I have not the money to purchase stock, that premises is no use to me. I will not be able to pay my rates. If I am presented with that building on certain conditions, namely, that I cannot sell it or sublet it, and that I must pay rents and rates, and if I cannot out of my own resources purchase the stock and if I cannot go to the bank and borrow money on the property, of what use is that business to me? The only alternative is to break the law and try to sublet it. It is the same with the tenant of a Land Commission holding. That is the answer to the motion, as far as I am concerned. That is the reason for the failure. The holding is too small and the farmer has no capital. The Government has made no provision for that. They may give the tenant a cow, a harrow, a plough and a horse. He has to get other things. His first year may result in a dead loss. His cow may die, his plough may get broken or he may get sick and may have to pay labour.

If this motion were a motion censuring the Minister and his Department, if this were a motion calling for an explanation of the Minister's incompetence, laziness, inefficiency, lack of knowledge, I think it would be generally accepted. The Minister may smile. He has reason to smile because he seems to get away with it. He and his Party seem to be quite capable of kidding the people of this country. Admittedly, they have succeeded in doing so up to now, but the day will come when that kidding will not continue. If this were a motion of that kind, Deputy Coogan and his Party would have the wholehearted support of this part of the House. But I cannot see that any good will be derived from setting up the commission asked for or the expense that would be attached to it.

One would expect that no matter what kind of motion was tabled in relation to this Department, we would file into the division lobby to oppose the Government because we have reason to do so. We have reason to be prejudiced and reason to oppose the Minister because of his incompetence, but we cannot go into the lobby in support of this motion because we do not see that it will have the result of getting any information that we have not got already. We have, therefore, to abstain from supporting it. I think the Opposition should withdraw the motion and table one demanding an explanation from the Minister as to how it is that his Department costs so much annually while there is no return from it, how it is that for the last six years it has failed to discharge its duties in relation to land division without any explanation which is satisfactory to the House and in particular to this Party, how it is that the Department has land on its hands for upwards of 30 years without being allocated or divided, some of that land being situated in congested areas where the valuation of some holdings is as low as three shillings, how is it that the Department can charge fabulous prices for that land when it is let in conacre, and how it is that land which has been taken over since 1911 and even before that, has not yet been vested. That is the type of motion I thought we should see coming from Deputy Mulcahy and his Party. Then, perhaps, we should have the Minister getting up and attempting to give an explanation but not the explanation or the answer which we know is the correct one—that all these things are due to his incompetence, his laziness and his failure to carry out his duties to this House and to the people of the rural areas. The Minister is well aware of that. The Minister can smile, for he knows this is an empty motion which gives him ample room to defend himself when he gets up to reply.

If the main Opposition are dissatisfied with the Department and the Minister, let them table a motion of censure and ask for the resignation of the Minister. Then they will have the backing of this side of this House and the backing even of many Deputies in the Minister's own Party, if he will only call off the Whips and allow these Deputies vote according to the dictates of their conscience. He would then be told in no uncertain manner where he stands with the people of the country and, if he were not so told by these Deputies, they would not be doing their duty to their constituents. They would not be living up to the principles on which they were elected. They would not be living up to the very terms in which the Constitution was enacted, either in the letter or the spirit. I want to say that the Constitution is not being implemented either in the letter or the spirit. As far as we can see, the Constitution is nothing but a bottle of smoke so far as the tenants are cncerned.

We are not discussing the Constitution.

There is an Article in the Constitution which speaks very strongly in regard to placing tenants on the land and this is a motion dealing with that particular matter. There may be other Deputies who would like to speak on this motion. I arrived from the country only this evening and I had made no preparation to speak on it, but it is not a subject that calls for any great preparation as there are so many things one can say, as far as this Department and Minister are concerned.

I have not much faith in motions, their chief value being that they give rise to a lot of discussion which is often helpful to a Minister and his Department. This motion is necessary for the purpose of focussing attention on land division, as we have seen it in operation for the last 25 years. I am satisfied that land division has been one of the greatest benefits conferred on the country since we got control of our own affairs 25 years ago.

I am satisfied further, that if the Minister studied the position closely, so far as my county is concerned, it would enable him to formulate a policy for the whole country because in that county there are all types of farmers from the biggest to the smallest. It would enable him to arrive at a happy medium which would give good results under all conditions. I am satisfied that the Land Commission has done an immense amount of good, that they have broken up large tracts of land which were more or less left to the herd and the dog while the landlord was frequently absent in foreign lands, not caring whether the land was being properly cultivated or not.

I have agitated for land division, but I am not one of those irresponsible men who want every man's land divided. I want to see ranch land broken up and a type of farmer placed on it who will make good. Many things have happened in the last 25 years to upset land division. We had many political upheavals, and we had two Governments in power. We had different parties claiming land for their followers. We had the members of the old Republican Army claiming that they had the first title to the land and with some justification, but I hold that no matter what a man's service may have been to his Party or to his country, if he is not a proper man to put on the land he should not be put there. I believe a man is entitled to compensation for national service but compensation can take many different forms and unless a man is fit to work land, he should not be given a holding. I believe I have the Minister 100 per cent. with me in that statement. I know he is satisfied that what is wrong at the present time is that we have got a number of misfits who acquired land by hook or by crook. I am not going to say why they got it but they did get it and many of them are absolute failures. In fact they were failures before they were put on the land.

There are many reasons why men fail on the land and why so many who got houses and land must be dispossessed under this new Land Act. There is one man whom I would dispossess and that is the waster. I am glad to say that that type is in a minority. I should not stand for a moment for the man who makes no effort to work his land, whose place is an eyesore to his neighbours and who is a nuisance to himself and to the Land Commission. Now that land division is more or less in abeyance, waiting for prices to become normal so that the Land Commission can function in the ordinary way, I hope the Minister will have an inquiry into the position because I am of the opinion that we have not much land left for division. In my county, we have had a vast amount of land division. I am satisfied that there can be a fair amount of reasonable division still but I do not want to see our county torn up into small patches. That would be bad for the country.

The county to which I belong is one of the few counties which have a special property which renders them an asset to the nation. I am referring now to the live-stock trade. The greater part of our trade is derived from that type of land. The cattle we export come mainly from Meath, Westmeath and Kildare. We ought to be proud that we have such land. It is a gold mine and we should preserve and conserve it and utilise it to the best advantage for both internal and external purposes. Before the Minister continues his migration policy, I ask him to inquire into the position. I am not against migration if carried on on normal and decent lines with the goodwill of the local people. I do not want to see every local man who applies for land getting it but I want to see farmers' sons in the vicinity of land which is to be divided being treated fairly.

If a farmer's son has been able to acquire £200 or £300, he is immediately in a position to work a farm of, perhaps, 30 acres and, with the help of his people, he will, probably, make good. There are men applying for land who have not a "bob" in their pockets and their people could not induce the banks to give them assistance. That type of man will not make good on the land. The land will be a burden to him.

As regards land division over the past 25 years, I am satisfied that the Land Commission have been working on wrong lines. They cut up an estate into small parcels and reditch the whole area, so that almost a quarter of the estate is divided into ditches. A man is then given a long strip of land with a well at the end of it, so that he has infinite trouble in drawing water to his cattle. A farm should not be cut up into small, scanty patches. There is no reason why there should not be farms of mixed sizes. There is no reason why the Land Commission should not give a man 50 acres and his neighbour 30 acres, with, perhaps, another man getting 40 acres and another 22 acres. The present policy of cutting the land into small parcels of from 22 to 25 acres is unsatisfactory and, when a poor man is left to fend for himself, he cannot succeed. It is in that connection I should like to see an inquiry held. The men on the small farms are doing reasonably well at present but that is because they are not living solely by their farms. Some of them are working on the roads or in the pits or under the Land Commission, and some of them have members of their families sending home money from England. These small farmers will one day be put to the pin of their collars to live on their farms and they may have to get back to the bogs from which they came. It is better to do a job well than to half do it. What has occurred in the past cannot be remedied. The only solution I see in connection with the colonies around my locality is to have every third house taken up and given as a cottage to the board of health, the farm attached being divided amongst the two neighbouring farmers. That would mean that you would have two farms where you now have three. I speak the mind of all the migrants who came to County Meath when I say that their farms are too small. They cannot live on them. I hope these small holdings will be vested soon because that would give a man the chance of raising a couple of hundred pounds in the bank on the security of his land, but I am sorry to say that my opinion is that, when they are in a position to do so, 50 per cent. of those allottees will cash-in, by public auction. The same vicious circle will be re-established. Some of the strongest men amongst the farming community will buy those holdings. You will have a new rancher and the small farmers fleeing to hell or Connaught.

I am surrounded by people who got land from the Land Commission. Some of them are doing very well. Some of them who had cash have obtained additional land and are now strong farmers. Some of them are in a position to acquire more land if they could get it. But I am satisfied that you are making of County Meath an economic slum. I do not say that it is an economic slum in the sense that Mayo is, where a man with an acre or two is called a farmer. Meath is different from Mayo. In Mayo, they can live by poteen-making or fishing, but in County Meath——

The Cromwellians did not do any good.

They are down with you. It is a bad thing to have these small, scattered patches. The farmers of Galway and Mayo, Roscommon, Waterford and other counties derive their living from the Meath and Westmeath farmers. I defy contradiction of that. Deputy Cafferky will not object to a Meath rancher going to County Mayo and paying good cash for the stock there. They are always very strong in the West on sending people to County Meath but, if we proceed on the same lines for 20 years, the farmers who come to Athenry, Ballinasloe and other fairs will not be smiling because there will be no buyers from Meath there. Clann na Talmhan speak with two voices. When they are in Meath, they speak of the terrible way things have turned out there. When in Galway, they speak of the rich lands in County Meath on which tens of thousands of men from Galway could get a decent living—at other people's expense. That is hypocrisy. They should not speak with one voice in Mayo and with another in Meath.

Perhaps the Deputy would relate his remarks to the motion.

I know the Minister is sincere. He was sincere 25 or 30 years ago when others were not sincere. Some were sheltering behind beds when the Minister was sheltering behind his gun. I am proud that it is a man of that type we have in charge of land division—a man who understands that the whole fight for freedom was designed to make this country a well-balanced country, capable of supporting a bigger population.

Am I to conclude from the Deputy's remarks that he wants no change—or does he want this motion?

I do not want a change in land division but in the type of land division. I am satisfied that land division is one of the best things that came out of our gaining our freedom and I want to see more of it, but on proper and better lines. There is a vast amount of land in my county which can be broken up and I believe that any man who has 300 acres of land has quite enough. Any man who has more than 300 acres should not be allowed to retain a perch of it. It is a crying shame that our people should have to go to Britain while there are men with 600, 700 or 800 acres. I believe, however, in leaving many of the decent farms of 200 and 300 acres in County Meath because one of the greatest assets to a county is a variety of farms. The businesslike man with a fair amount of land in County Meath is a valuable asset to the small farmer in the neighbourhood, because the 300-acre farmer buys his oats, straw, store cattle and sheep from his nearest neighbour and makes the fairs lively and so gives the small farmer a chance of getting a living on his little holding. If you divide the 200 and 300-acre farms into 25 and 28-acre plots, you kill the small farmer's economy and create congestion.

In regard to land division in Italy, Mussolini—Lord rest his soul, and I give him credit for many good things he did—adopted the plan of having 300-acre, 100-acre and 50-acre farms all in one vicinity—a big farm in the middle circled round by small farms of 30 to 50 acres. The big man was not allowed to till any land at all. He was forced to buy the produce of the small and uneconomic farmer and that was a very good principle, because it created a market for the small people. The big man could not carry on his farm unless he bought from the small farmer, with the result that there was competition and an opportunity for the small farmers to get a living.

I should like to see the Minister where he has a big estate of 600 or 800 acres making at least one or two farms of 80 or 100 acres and putting competent men into them who will work the land to better purpose than that of acquiring money to go to every race meeting and dog-fight in the country. We have too many of these idle rich gentry who have money to burn and a vast amount of land, while at the other end, we have too many of these small farmers living in misery and desolation and often in hunger. It is better to speak out boldly and plainly and not to shelter behind anybody. I should be one of the Deputies who would shelter behind somebody for the sake of politics. It would suit me well to say nothing about the very big farmers because there is scarcely one of them but will vote for me whether he likes it or not.

There is an odd one who will vote for me.

They might vote for you, but not for your policy, and if you preached your policy openly at the cross-roads, as you should, many of them would not vote for you. Instead, when you meet them, you whisper to them: Land is to be divided but yours will be all right. I will see the Minister. You throw £50 into the till on the day of the election and everything will be all right."

We do not get any £50 notes from the land owners in Meath.

How do you pay your debts which are very big ones? I know where the money comes from.

Domestic policy in Meath might be left out of this discussion.

I was giving Deputy Giles a hand.

I never wanted a hand. Thank goodness, I have a good tongue and a long one.

We have plenty of evidence of that.

One matter into which I should like the Minister to inquire is the vesting of holdings. I am satisfied that he should not vest any allottee for at least seven years because many of them will cash in on their holdings immediately. I know an estate not 20 miles from where I live which was fairly well divided.

The only objection was that the holdings were rather too small, but they were vested in the allottees and almost 75 per cent. of them sold out inside a year or two years. The thriftiest man in the locality—all credit to him because he started at the bottom—bought up all the small farms and he is a big man to-day. I think he was formerly a herd on the estate. After seven years, it is reasonable to assume that the allottee will remain for the rest of his lifetime and I suggest that, after that period, his holding should be vested in him so that, if he has not got money to stock his land, he can go to the bank with his papers and get the necessary accommodation.

There is nothing a man hates more than having to ask a neighbour to back him in the bank and a man would require nearly 20 neighbours to back him if he wants £100. I should prefer to see a man being his own security and not having to crawl into the bank. I should prefer to see him able to go into the bank and say: "I want money and here is my security. I intend to work my land as it should be worked." I want to see independence and manliness, but what can you expect from the man on 22 acres whose holding is not vested for 18 or 20 years? He is one of the most unfortunate creatures in the country. He has to crawl to everybody in order to get a little work in a gravel-pit or to get his neighbour to take his land on the eleven-months system. He has to appeal to his neighbours to buy his store cattle at what is for him the wrong time of the year or beg his neighbours to go security for him for a loan of £50. We cannot expect land division to make progress on that basis and that is the position in County Meath in hundreds of cases.

If their land was vested, many of these men would be able to get £300 which, on a small holdings, makes all the difference, provided it goes into some tangible asset, such as a plough, a harrow, a cow or a horse, and not to clear a debt or something of that kind. I should like to see both the vesting of holdings and the size of holdings inquired into and I ask the Minister to have a full inquiry into the migration policy in my county. I am not against that policy, and, while some of the men who came up there were of no great value to the county, the majority were good, hardy, thrifty men who are making good. They have a businesslike attitude and can do a good day's work. Some of them work for me and are a credit to themselves and the country.

When the migration policy starts again, it should be thought out on better lines. Let the Minister not be bringing up a whole crowd of people and putting them on a patchwork quilt with 22 or 25 acres of land to a man, with a long strip and a drop of water— or even no water—at the end of it. Let them be given a decent, square holding.

Before they are brought up, however, let there be fair play for the people of County Meath. Let the Minister make sure that the herd there is not thrown into a corner, on a swampy holding of 25 acres, which he has to take or leave. In 99 per cent. of the cases, they got only a scraggy corner with rushes and sedges. They may have got a house, but hardly ever got a pier built for them. For the migrants, a pump was put in, piers were built and backyards made, so that they walked into something worthy of them—a farm and holding balanced on proper lines. The Meath farmer who was not lucky enough to be able to pull the political wires or who could not get there on his own merits was thrown a bit of land, often without a house and very seldom with the amenities given to the migrants. They are equally entitled to good treatment.

That gives rise to grievances and we find the Meath fellow down on the western fellow. We do not want that, but wish to see them all given properly balanced holdings. Most of the trouble is caused by putting too many colonists together. It is bad for themselves and bad for the county. There is something in common between the lot of us, but when you put 20 or 30 young families into one colony, where they go to the one school, they are inclined to group together. When they go to the fair, they group there and when they go into the publichouse on the fair day they group there also. Then one man —it may be a Meath man or a western man—gets too much liquor, says something across the floor to the other fellow and you have a mêlée on the spot. You can go to the fair at Kilcock or the fair of Athboy and you find that after nearly every fair this trouble occurs. I spoke strongly before about Athboy and Rathcarne and I am right about them. Some of the people should not have been brought up there at any time, but should have been left where their forefathers lived, as they do not understand the people of Meath and do not understand Ireland—and do not want to. All they want is a row on a Saturday night.

What about this motion?

I am coming to it.

It is the long way round.

The trouble in County Meath is due to the people being put together. Every other man should be a Meath man and a westerner, so that they would grow up in friendship, in harmony and cooperation. The Meath man is a fine fellow and Meath is the most law-abiding county in Ireland. If all the migrants were shoved into Cork, the Minister would need to go down there again with a gun or a petrol tin. We took things lying down and I am glad we did, as it shows that we believed in the law and respected the law.

In future, we should not have these vast colonies, which give rise to trouble in each generation. The Minister should review the position. There were Ministers for Lands in the past and I had confidence in them—and I have confidence in the present Minister, who is a decent, honest, straightforward man, who calls a spade a spade. That is the type we had in the Old I.R.A., and but for them the country would not be where it is to-day. In future, since land division must go on until it comes to its logical conclusion and the land has been allotted reasonably amongst the people, the Minister should try to see that there are more balanced holdings. I do not want to see the big man at the top and the poor beggar at the bottom working night and day. I want to see progressive farms of 60, 70 or even 30 acres, in decent patches, with proper amenities. If that is done, the Minister will receive not only the blessing of every man in County Meath but my blessing—and that is a big thing.

Although there has not been much land division in recent years, there is no harm in our examining the question, as raised in this motion. Some Deputies blame the Government for not acting more speedily in allocating land. We have gone through an emergency and it would be hard to expect the Department to deal with land division more rapidly during that time. There are many young men throughout the length and breadth of the country who are available with capital and who would be quite suitable as allottees. I hope the Land Commission will embark on a better scheme than in the past. It has been said here that men from Government clubs were selected, but that has not been my experience in my own area. I do not think that politics played any part in selection of the allottees—and I like to be fair and reasonable. In some cases, there may have been a political taint, but that is always the case. In my neighbourhood the division did not have that taint, although we had not much land division in the area.

Certain things should govern the area of the holding. A holding of 20 or 25 acres is too small, unless it is exceptionally good in its productive capacity and is near a market. Land that is adjacent to a town or a good market could be parcelled out in that way, but in the remote areas, or where the land is of a lower value in production capacity, the area should be much larger. In the smaller holdings you can concentrate on a ready market, but in the other case you have to go back on the ordinary routine of tillage and the area must be greater. This matter should be given very careful consideration by the Minister and the Department.

Deputy Giles referred to long strips of land with some water at the end. When the Land Commission is taking over land, it should not follow that all the plots must be made of equal size. Amenities such as water should be taken into consideration and the holdings divided so as to give those benefits to all the allottees.

There is a very ugly taint about acquiring land and the selection of allottees. That, as the last speaker has said, may lead to faction fights and to what, as he said, happens at certain fairs. I think the Land Commission should not acquire land unless asked to do so by the owner of it. Instead, it should go into the open market and buy land that would be suitable for sub-division, and do so in areas where it would be likely to get suitable applicants. The Government would be wise in allocating a sum of money to the Land Commission for that purpose. Recently I addressed a question to the Minister with regard to a list of holdings in the County Waterford that were being considered for acquisition and sub-division. I suggest to the Minister that such holdings should be purchased by the Land Commission in the open market. Surely, the owner of land is entitled to the benefits of free sale. If my suggestion were adopted I think it would have the effect of overcoming many of the difficulties that prevail at present in connection with the acquisition of land, and would eliminate, as I have said, the ugly taint that attaches to it. Under the present system, when allottees go into an area that is strange to them they sometimes feel that they are intruders either on the local people or on the relations of the owners from whom land has been acquired.

The selection of allottees should be carefully considered. The Minister in discussing this question with me seemed to have the idea—and I agree with it—that he does not believe in giving land to people who are not in a position to work it. I think that is a sound and a wise policy on his part. The allottees should be selected from among those who have enough capital to stock the land they get and enable them to go into production. I do not mean to convey that it is all farmers' sons who should be selected. I know a number of young unmarried labouring men who, I believe, would make very good use of any land that might be given to them. During the years that they have been in constant employment they have accumulated a little bit of wealth which would enable them to make a good start if allotted a holding. They keep a few sheep and take an acre of beet, and by their industry have accumulated a little money. These men, as well as farmers' sons, should have their claims considered by the Land Commission when allotting land.

Deputy Cafferky seemed to think that the only place that needs to be looked after is the County Mayo. In the County Waterford we have quite a good number of young men who, by reason of the capital they possess and their experience, would be well fitted to go into occupation of a holding in the morning. The position that farmers will be faced with in the future is going to be very different from that which obtained prior to the outbreak of war. In the future, it will be necessary to have economy and speed in the matter of production. The methods that were followed in many areas prior to the war will have to be forgotten in the post-war period. Farming in the future will have to be highly mechanised. For that reason, I suggest to the Minister that in the sub-division of land in the future the area of the new holdings should be at least 50 or 60 acres. The tractor, and not the horse, will have to be used for farming in the future, and therefore the Minister should cater for the methods of husbandry that will have to be utilised by the would-be tenants of the future. I appeal strongly to the Minister that, in the future, instead of acquiring land, the Land Commission should go into the open market and purchase it so that it may be enabled to give a decent allocation of land to the tenants.

I had hoped, as a result of this discussion, that at least the mover of the motion and the seconder of it would give me some light of what their intention was in regard to the proposals which they have made. Deputy Hughes made a long and very delightful speech on the matter, but none of it had any relation at all to the motion. The seconder of the motion and Deputy Cafferky apparently understood the motion to be one of censure on the Minister. Deputy Cafferky said that the Minister was lazy, inefficient, incompetent and ignorant, but none of us is as energetic as he would like to be, and none of us is quite as competent as perhaps he thinks he is, and the more we know the more we understand the depth of our ignorance. I plead guilty to all the charges made by Deputy Cafferky against me.

Deputy Coogan took another line, and I congratulate him on his industry. He read through the Banking Commission Report, through the Statistical Abstract, and through all the statements that I had made during nearly all my political life.

Deputy Coogan, in effect, charged me with corrupt use of my office in nominating allottees. Everybody who knows anything here in politics is aware that allottees are selected by the Land Commission and the Minister has nothing at all to do with it. Time and again in this House I have assured Deputies that there is no political influence used by the Minister in the selection of allottees. Representations have been made, and rightly made, to the Land Commission by members of every Party in regard to allottees. That is the right and duty of members of the Dáil. It is the right and duty of the commissioners to examine carefully the recommendations made by members of the Dáil, because they are public representatives; but that is as far as political influence goes in nominating those who are to be allottees.

Deputy Coogan raised an old hare about a statement of mine on the placing of men in jobs. Those who spoke here—and it has been often spoken of —about the spoils system do not seem to know what the spoils system is. For the benefit of the House I will repeat what the spoils system means. It means the removal of men in office when a new Government come into power and the replacement of those removed by supporters of the incoming Government. Everybody knows that has not happened in this country, and it is about time the talk of the spoils system should stop. In Ireland 95 per cent. of the public posts are filled by competitive examination. At least 4 per cent. of the remaining 5 per cent. are filled by way of an independent selection board and less than one-half of 1 per cent. are filled by direct action of the Minister. It is no advantage to the Minister to have this one-half of 1 per cent. of all appointments in his own hands, because for every man he appoints he makes ten enemies.

Where minor appointments are placed in my hands, when I have to make one of these appointments, which come under the heading of patronage, I shall do everything possible to find a man who is fully capable of filling the post. I shall put his capacity and his character to the fullest scrutiny and if I find a secretary of a Fianna Fáil club who has the qualities for filling the office, and he wants the job, I will give it to him. If Deputy Cafferky ever stands in my place here, I do not think his views will be quite the same, of course, when he reaches this office, but I think he would be a very poor, political type if he had a little patronage in his hands and he would not utilise it to strengthen his own Party. Those who pretend they would do otherwise are just hypocrites. I make no apology for my view on that matter.

Fair enough.

The selection of allottees is wholly in the hands of the Land Commission; the Minister has nothing whatever to do with it. Deputy Hughes says this motion was brought forward in a spirit of goodwill and co-operation—anxiety to do the right thing. I have no reason to disbelieve Deputy Hughes's statement, but I will say to him that in the long and excellent speech he made he never once referred to the terms of the motion any more than Deputy Giles pretended to refer to it. The method of selection of allottees——

I said that the motion spoke for itself, that there is nothing obscure about it.

That is the trouble—the motion speaks for itself and every Deputy who spoke seemed to think he need not refer to it at all. Deputy Hughes said the motion spoke for itself. What inquiry is needed into the selection of allottees? What inquiry is needed into the working of the Land Commission? Not only is the Dáil responsible for legislation, but it is responsible for seeing that the Departments entrusted with the carrying out of the intentions of the Dáil do carry out those intentions and it is the business of Deputies when matters affecting any Department come before the Dáil to give these matters their fullest attention and a complete scrutiny.

Every year each Department comes before the House at Estimate time and it has to account for its expenditure under every head and sub-head. There is a full opportunity for members of the Dáil to criticise and inquire, in the smallest detail, into every action of the Department. Not only can this be done at Estimate time, but it is also done when occasionally a Department has to bring a Bill before the House. It was the practice in the Dáil, when the Land Bill was before the House, not merely for Deputies to concern themselves with the particular matter contained in the Bill, but to range freely and widely over the working of the Land Commission.

How are allottees selected? The Land Commission decides to examine a farm or an estate with a view to acquisition and sends its inspector there. Immediately there are representations from everybody who lives in the locality where that estate is expected to be divided. There are representations from people asking to be considered for portion of the estate. Deputies and other public men make representations to the Land Commission. There is not a single application, no matter how, on the face of it, it may look unsuitable, which is not listed by the Land Commission for consideration. The inspector is supplied with a list of all the applications. He makes the fullest inquiry into the circumstances of every applicant. Sometimes Deputies say that inspectors going around looking for information of that character are acting as spies.

They ask for information from this, that and the other person. How else are they going to get real and sound information? Inspectors are experienced men with a knowledge of human nature as well as a knowledge of land, and they are quite as competent to reach a conclusion about a man's character and capacity as anybody else. The inspector reports to his divisional inspector and he again examines the matter. Finally, a scheme of recommendations is prepared. This scheme includes the most suitable recipients of land according to the viewpoints of both the inspector and the divisional inspector. It excludes none of the applicants. The whole scheme, with the name of all the applicants, is then put forward for examination by the commissioners. Now, the commissioners are entirely independent of the Minister and of the Government. Under certain conditions the Government may decide to disemploy them but, so long as they are employed in the capacity of commissioners, the Government may not interfere with them in their work and neither can the Minister interfere with them in their work. No commission and no tribunal will find a better system of selecting allottees than the system that obtains at present.

How do you know that?

I do know that.

How do you know it— you are very dogmatic about it.

I believe it.

That is a different thing altogether.

I think I am rather too old and too experienced now to expect perfection in any particular scheme of human things. I know that even the commissioners will make mistakes. I am convinced that no idea—however dogmatically held by Deputy Hughes— will produce a better type of tribunal for the selection of allottees than the present tribunal.

In regard to the standard of living obtained by those to whom allotments have been granted, I would like to be assured that all the people who have received allotments have achieved a reasonable standard of living. I do not understand how, without tremendous interference with the people concerned and without tremendous expense and great difficulty, we could prepare in any reasonable period of time data as to what the standard of living is which has been reached by the various allottees.

You know that some 20 per cent. of them, at any rate, have failed.

Would it not be a good idea if I, who listened in a most orderly fashion to what the Deputies had to say, were now permitted to make my statement without interruption. Like the man in the County Meath public house, I can take the rough with the smooth; but when I give it smooth I expect it back in the same way.

The standard of living attained by any allottee does in some measure depend upon the character of the allottee. One man makes good where another man fails. Like the Dáil, I think the allottees are a cross section of the Irish people and, just as in the Dáil so in the allottees, you find them good, bad and indifferent. If we have any knowledge of the standard of living that has been gained by farmers generally we can, I think, accept it as an average of the standard of living gained by the allottees.

With regard to the size and the nature of the minimum holding which, as the result of experience, can be regarded as economic, there is a great divergence of opinion. In one particular county, one type of holding is regarded as the ideal. In another county a different sized holding is regarded as the proper thing. As regards the size of the ideal holding, I think in the last analysis there would be very little difference between my point of view and that of Deputy Hughes. I begin to see the glimmer of an understanding between myself and Deputy Cafferky even on this question of the size of the holding. I do think that most of the Land Commission holdings are really too small. That is my own opinion. If we were to try to place as many people as possible on the land with the limited amount of land at our disposal, it would be very difficult to put people on what I would consider to be ideal holdings. I notice in a few newspapers that I have been condemned by people, who seem to be very much concerned for the social welfare of our people, because I have said on a few occasions that there are too many people on the land.

Let me again—as I did about the jobbery—make open confession. I do believe there are too many people on the land. I think it was Deputy Coogan who pointed out that we had too many holdings of under 15 acres and that when the holdings are under 15, ten and five acres we have too many people on the land. There is no advantage in trying to create what Deputy Giles described as "agricultural slums" and when the holdings are too small then you have an agricultural slum. Deputy Cafferky came into notice recently in regard to the division of a farm in County Mayo. I believe that farm is roughly about 200 acres.

Two hundred and seventy.

And on that farm I believe there are only about 50 acres of arable land.

There are over 150 acres.

There are over 50 acres of that land tilled, so there must be 150 acres of arable land.

There are 50 uneconomic holders living within a short distance of that particular farm. Now these people's holdings are already very small, and even if you divide the 250 acres among them, the farms would still be too small.

Is not that better than what they have?

I admit it is better than what they have, but my argument is that there are still too many people on the land when they are living on holdings from which they cannot make a living.

There are not too many on the 270 acres because there is no one on it.

I agree with Deputy Cafferky that a man does need 40 acres of arable land. I find it difficult to understand how a farmer can make a living on less. I cannot understand how you can hope to retain a farm of that size for generations in the hope of stabilising our society. I fear that if the man on the 20-acre farm is vested that the 20-acre farm will then be purchased by the man with a bigger holding. Therefore, the good we are trying to do on the one hand will be undone by the natural economic law on the other.

In regard to the extent to which allottees have failed, I brought in a Land Bill here some time ago to deal with the failures of allottees, not so much to deal with men who, through no fault of their own, had failed, but men who had not made any use at all of the land given to them. I pointed out then that this was a great evil; but I pointed out also that it was a limited evil; that it only existed within a certain limit and that the average allottee had done his duty by the State and his fellow-man by working his land properly. But it would be an evil example and an evil thing if men who got land from the State at the expense of the people were permitted to utilise that land in a manner prejudicial to the public welfare. These men had to be dealt with and the Land Act was brought in to deal with them. The Land Act will be utilised in the mildest manner possible. We do not want to be harsh with them. We want to "lesson" them, rather than to punish them. But, certainly, we must destroy the evil that existed of men who refused point blank to utilise properly the land they got from the Land Commission at the public expense and who did not live in the houses that they also got at the public expense.

I do not think that there is any real need for the tribunal that Deputy Hughes has proposed. In his speech, Deputy Hughes contented himself with saying that the motion spoke for itself and then immediately went away from it and spoke very fluently of a lot of other matters. The seconder of the motion read endlessly from the Banking Commission's report, and, incidentally, quoted the Cassandra-like prophecy of the Banking Commission— that land prices were bound to be depressed in the future in this country. The Banking Commission was wrong in that and in many other things, and so was Deputy Coogan. But Deputy Coogan did not give us any real enlightenment on the nature of the tribunal he proposed, how it would go to work, or what the consequences would be. I thought Deputy Cafferky would bring some enlightenment into the debate. But I think I never heard a worse speech or a more halting speech from Deputy Cafferky. When Deputy Cafferky is really convinced of the depredations of the Minister, he is full of pep. But to-night he was halting, slow and not the least bit convincing on this particular matter.

There is a rule of bail on him.

It is not on him, or it will not be on him.

Deputy Cafferky stated that if you give a man a shop in O'Connell Street and expect him to pay rent and rates when he has no capital or stock, you do a very foolish thing. The example was perfect. If you give a house and land to a man who is incapable, because of physical or financial disability, of making a going concern of it, you are doing wrong. It was all very fine for Deputy Davin to talk about landless men in Laoighis and Offaly. I have, in my experience, met a lot of these landless men in various parts of the country. All of them have perfectly new deposit receipts to show the Land Commission how much money they have saved so that they will be entitled to land because they will be able to make it a going concern with the new deposit receipt. But the new deposit receipt disappears immediately they get the land and that is only a form of deception that is played on the Land Commission. It is no wonder that mistakes are made in regard to the selection of allottees, because the Land Commissioners and the inspectors cannot be as wise as the Banking Commission in regard to the price of farms, or as wise as Deputy Coogan. They do make mistakes now and again. Even Deputy Cafferky will admit that.

It is the majority report you are referring to. There were several reports from the Banking Commission.

I assume that Deputy Coogan was quoting from the main report, not a minority report. However, I find it very difficult to answer Deputies who spoke during the debate because they ranged very far around the whole question of land division and nobody really directed himself to the terms of the motion. I think that every Department of State and its work should be subject to the closest scrutiny. I think that a Minister and his Department should be glad of every criticism. The opportunity is offered to Deputies, than whom there are not any more able or informed critics, to examine the working of the Land Commission every year at Estimate time. Every penny is accounted for under one sub-head or another. Deputies are entitled to ask any questions they like and must get an answer. I see no useful purpose that could be served by the setting up of this tribunal, and, therefore, I will oppose the motion.

Deputy Roddy rose.

Deputy Hughes wants 20 minutes to conclude.

A quarter of an hour will do me.

If there is an option, I shall have to call on some member of the Clann na Talmhan Party, and his speech will have to be limited to five minutes.

It is very hard to say all I have to say about the motion and the debate in five minutes. This would have been a very useful motion if the Deputies who put it down had stopped at the end of the first two lines and if they had proposed simply to set up a commission to inquire into and report on the work of the Land Commission. By the terms of reference which they added to the motion, they tied up this tribunal in a manner which would render it futile. The most important function of the Land Commission in regard to land division is the acquisition or purchase of land. The Land Commission does not create or manufacture land. They have to get it from somebody. No tribunal can sit down to consider the question of land division without first deciding on what land the Land Commission is going to obtain and how they propose to obtain it. There is no use in considering the type of allottee or any of the other things until you know how much land you are going to deal with. That is the first question you have to decide.

Most people assumed when the landlord's interest was purchased that the land question was more or less settled. I think the Land Commission to a great extent laboured under that impression. They considered that their work, after the purchase of the landlord's interest, was merely the clearing up of small details. But, when you get down to the position under the existing Land Acts, you find that there is absolutely no limit to the work that lies before the Land Commission. There is absolutely no end to the policy of land settlement, resettlement, and further resettlement. Unless the Land Commission obtain from this House or from somebody some guiding principles, they will continue to be a blundering, useless, inefficient Department, because they do not know how much land they are to obtain and, therefore, they do not know what categories of people are to be provided for.

If you confine land division to uneconomic holders there is a huge proportion of our people to be catered for, but if you go a little further and bring in landless men you have the second, third, fourth, fifth, sixth and seventh son of every farmer and the second, third, fourth, fifth, sixth and seventh son of every agricultural labourer as well as every agricultural labourer and I suppose the people in the towns could also regard themselves as landless men. You create a position in which there is no limit to the operations of the Land Commission. That is why I say the motion would be very acceptable if it had been confined simply to a request for the setting up of a tribunal to inquire into the work of the Land Commission. I would say definitely that the Land Commission has failed. It has proved itself incompetent and inefficient and it has proved itself a very dangerous institution because, while it is at present a slow, lumbering institution, if public pressure were brought to bear on it, it might very easily become an institution that would be a menace to every farmer in the country and to his security of tenure.

I suppose I can conclude by dealing with the last speaker first. He suggested that we should have confined our motion to the first two lines. I would remind the Deputy that the work of the Land Commission is not confined to land division. It did far more important work under the Land Acts in buying out the landlord's interest and vesting the ordinary tenant farmer in his holding. We were not anxious to have that side of the Land Commission's work investigated. There was no necessity to have it investigated and, so far as acquisition for land division was concerned, we had no fault to find except on the question of paying a fair price. We have made our views on that sufficiently clear. We were concerned with how land was divided. The motion is not in opposition to land division. Its purpose is to ensure that land is used in a certain manner.

I was rather disappointed with the Minister's approach to this whole problem. I expected that he would approach it in a calmer and more enlightened way. He got very heated about it. I was particularly calm when I was moving the motion. It is important that the House should appreciate that we were stressing the national aspects of this matter. The very name of the Land Commission ought to imply its interest in the care and utilisation of our most precious asset, the efficient working of the land, its economic use, how the use of the land serves the national interests, whether its disposition makes for maximum production.

We talk a good deal about increasing production. We talk a lot about the low incomes of our people. We were greatly impressed by the White Paper on national income which indicated that only 290,000 of our people have an income of £3 a week and over and that the vast majority of them have low incomes, incapable of giving them decent standards. Bound up in that problem is the question of the utilisation of the land because, in the last analysis, we all live out of the productive capacity of the land. We have been trying to stress to this Minister—and he seems to have missed the point completely, because he replied in a puerile fashion—the importance of this question. I had expected that he would be broader in his approach to the motion. I merely said that the details were set out and that I was not going to waste time in labouring them but that I was emphasising the big issue so far as the national interest was concerned. If we want to raise the standard of this country, we must increase production and, in that connection, the disposition and utilisation of the land is the first and major consideration.

The low output per man per acre, stagnation in production—has that no relation to the problem raised in the motion? Is this House satisfied that the man who presides over the activities of this Department has attempted to approach this important subject in a constructive way or that he realises the importance of the subject so far as the nation as a whole is concerned, or that he realises how other countries approach this question?

Would that not be a matter for the Minister for Agriculture?

I am trying to stress that the disposition and utilisation of the land is a matter of primary importance. The Minister, in a most dogmatic fashion, declared that there could not be found a better sort of selection machinery.

Let him think that.

I asked him how he believed that. He then changed his tune completely and said: "I think most of the holdings are too small." He was going to make an open confession here that he thought most of the holdings were too small. Yet he has complete confidence in the machinery that selects allottees and decides what is an economic unit. Will the Minister tell the House how many agriculturists, how many men who might be regarded as experts on this question of agricultural economy, are employed by his Department? I am doubtful if there is a single man in the Department who could claim to be that.

Yet the Minister has the effrontery to tell this House that the machine is perfect but he is doubtful whether the holdings—the slum agricultural holdings that we have being creating with public moneys—are satisfactory, and that it is in the national interest to continue to create them. I stress this point, that after a quarter of a century, during which we have been pursuing a policy of land division, it is time to call a halt. A halt was called because of the intervention of the war and the slowing up of land settlement and our case is that now is the time to make an examination but that the examination should not be carried out by the Land Commission, that they are not the right people to inquire into their own affairs, that an independent, impartial tribunal should be set up to inquire into the manner in which the selection was made, to inquire into whether the unit of land was economic or not and whether the people who have worked these holdings for the last 25 years have made good.

So far as the selection of allottees is concerned, is anyone satisfied that the selection is a proper one? "A lot of new deposit receipts are presented to the inspector going down there but they soon disappear when the applicants get allotments of land," was another statement made by the Minister. If there was any local machinery or any local knowledge used in the selection of allottees, would the new, clean deposit receipt impress the local man who would have full knowledge of the allottee's capacity to use land or what he had done in the way of accumulating a little cash for that purpose? What do we do now? We send down an inspector who lives in the locality perhaps for a few months. He then goes out to Johnny Murphy's, sits down in the kitchen and says: "We are going to divide land round here. You are an applicant for it and what use are you likely to make of it?" The prospective allottee, of course, praises himself and says he is going to make great use of it. The inspector then says: "What about Johnny Nolan? Would he make good use of it if we gave him an allotment?" Of course this man, fearing that if Johnny Nolan gets an allotment, he may be left out in the cold, tears his neighbour to bits and says that he would not be any use for land.

That is considered a satisfactory method of selection, a selection made by a junior member of the staff! A senior inspector may O.K. the work of that junior man, it finally comes up to the Land Commission and the commissioner sitting in an office in Merrion Street decides whether the scheme of allocation is satisfactory or not. That system has resulted in a high percentage of failures, according to the statement made by the Minister when introducing the Land Bill a couple of months ago, but he has the effrontery to come into the House now and to say that he is quite satisfied with it. No matter how land may be dissipated under a scheme of that sort, no matter what effect it will have on the national income or on the income of the particular individual settled on the land, we are told it is not worth examining. I am not so much concerned about the individuals at the moment; the individual is ephemeral and he will pass, but it is the long-term consideration in which I am interested—that if the land is utilised to the best advantage nationally, production may eventually be stepped up. So far as the small holdings that have resulted from the activities of the Department are concerned, when Deputy Giles was speaking he talked about slicing up the land and the thought came into my mind that you might describe the Land Commission as bacon slicers, and the slices they are making are very thin indeed, such as no man could live on. The Minister himself has admitted that now but he has quite casually decided that they can do no wrong although they are not quite right about the size of the unit, which, in the Minister's opinion, is not economic. He said that I do not know what I am talking about. I know much more about the use of land than the Minister does and I know infinitely more about what I am talking than the Minister does. He certainly cannot teach me anything about land.

Do not get vexed.

I object to the line the Minister adopted. I tried to be reasonable. I suggested to the Minister that I wanted to be helpful and to co-operate with him. I suggested that it was not a simple problem. I suggested, and I still hold, that the time is now opportune for an examination of this whole question. The Minister described those who were being selected as a fair cross-section of the people, and he said that you could decide the standard of living of these allottees by the standard of living of the farming community generally.

Is that not pure childishness? The Minister should have, as I am sure he has, grown up by this. Does he not know full well that you cannot judge the standard of an allottee by the standard of agriculture in the country? Does he not know that in a very high percentage of these allotments, fertility is completely ignored, that the land very often is being raped and depressed and that if you allow that sort of thing to continue its effect will be very bad nationally? The Minister looked for powers in the new Land Act to try to rectify this evil behind closed doors over there in Merrion Street. We suggest that this matter should be examined in the open daylight by a tribunal and leave it to them to say what should be the policy, as far as future land division in the country is concerned. I am sorry that the Minister did not see fit to agree with us in the matter. It was an absurd defence of his policy to suggest that we had not discussed the terms of the motion. Of course we discussed the terms of the motion.

Question put.
The Dáil divided: Tá, 31; Níl, 54.

  • Beirne, John.
  • Bennett, George C.
  • Cafferky, Dominick.
  • Coburn, James.
  • Cogan, Patrick.
  • Commons, Bernard.
  • Coogan, Eamonn.
  • Corish, Brendan.
  • Dockrell, Henry M.
  • Donnellan, Michael.
  • Doyle, Peadar S.
  • Everett, James.
  • Finucane, Patrick.
  • Flanagan, Oliver J.
  • Giles, Patrick.
  • Heskin, Denis.
  • Hughes, James.
  • Keating, John.
  • Keyes, Michael.
  • McFadden, Michael Og.
  • McMenamin, Daniel.
  • Mongan, Joseph W.
  • Morrissey, Daniel.
  • Norton, William.
  • O'Higgins, Thomas F.
  • O'Reilly, Thomas.
  • O'Sullivan, Martin.
  • Pattison, James P.
  • Redmond, Bridget M.
  • Reidy, James.
  • Reynolds, Mary.


  • Aiken, Frank.
  • Allen, Denis.
  • Bartley, Gerald.
  • Beegan, Patrick.
  • Blaney, Neal.
  • Boland, Gerald.
  • Breathnach, Cormac.
  • Brennan, Thomas.
  • Breslin, Cormac.
  • Briscoe, Robert.
  • Burke, Patrick (Co. Dublin).
  • Butler, Bernard.
  • Childers, Erskine H.
  • Colley, Harry.
  • Corry, Martin J.
  • Crowley, Honor Mary.
  • Derrig, Thomas.
  • De Valera, Vivion.
  • Flynn, Stephen.
  • Fogarty, Andrew.
  • Fogarty, Patrick J.
  • Furlong, Walter.
  • Gorry, Patrick J.
  • Harris, Thomas.
  • Hilliard, Michael.
  • Humphreys, Francis.
  • Killilea, Mark.
  • Kissane, Eamon.
  • Lemass, Seán F.
  • Little, Patrick J.
  • Loughman, Frank.
  • Lynch, James B.
  • McCann, John
  • MacEntee, Seán.
  • Morrissey, Michael.
  • Moylan, Seán.
  • O Briain, Donnchadh.
  • O'Connor, John S.
  • O'Grady, Seán.
  • O'Loghlen, Peter J.
  • O'Reilly, Matthew.
  • O'Rourke, Daniel.
  • O'Sullivan, Ted.
  • Rice, Bridget M.
  • Ruttledge, Patrick J.
  • Ryan, James.
  • Ryan, Mary B.
  • Ryan, Robert.
  • Sheridan, Michael.
  • Skinner, Leo B.
  • Smith, Patrick.
  • Ua Donnchadha, Dómhnall.
  • Walsh, Laurence.
  • Walsh, Richard.
Tellers: Tá: Deputies Doyle and Bennett; Níl: Deputies O Ciosáin and O Briain.
Motion declared lost.