asked the Minister for Local Government if he is aware that the Westmeath County Council have proposed the acquisition of an acre of land, from Mrs. Elizabeth Macken, Kilmachuagh, Athlone, for the purpose of erecting a labourer's cottage thereon; further, that this woman owns a total area of only 25 statute acres of arable land; and if he will take immediate steps to prevent this acquisition, in view of the fact that there are suitable alternative sites in the locality.
Ceisteanna—Questions. Oral Answers. - Acquisition of Labourer's Cottage Site.
I am aware that the Westmeath County Council have included in a Compulsory Purchase Order a site, containing one acre, the property of Mrs. Elizabeth Macken, Kilmachuagh, Athlone, for the erection of a labourer's cottage. Due notice of the proposal was given and an inquiry was held by one of my inspectors. Mrs. Macken was legally represented at the inquiry and evidence on her behalf was given by her son. An alternative site, which is considered suitable, has been offered, and the county council were informed on 26th August last that steps should be taken to acquire the site by agreement, subject to the price not being in excess of that to be determined by the arbitrator for the original site.
Will the Minister say if it is the policy of his Department and of local authorities generally to acquire sites for cottages from people who have only very small holdings themselves and no other means of earning a livelihood, particularly in view of the fact that there are plenty of large landowners in the area from whom sites could be acquired, and in respect of whom the acquisition would not make a great deal of difference?
I think the Deputy is under a misapprehension. The initiative in a matter of this sort is naturally taken by the local authorities who have to get sites in the places which are most convenient for them.
The Minister surely must be aware that there are other landowners in the area who have sites which are equally suitable to this particular one. Will the Minister not restrain a local authority in any way from acquiring an acre of land from a person who has only 25 acres of arable land and no other means of earning a livelihood, and particularly in view of the fact that compensation offered in this particular case is only £35? Is that fair?
Are we to take it that it is only the convenience of the local authority that is to be considered in this matter? Is the inconvenience caused to people, such as this particular one, not to be taken into consideration at all?
The word convenience is a comprehensive term which covers all the considerations which a local authority must take into account in order to provide houses for working people.
Is not the owner of 25 acres a working person?
He can be more easily trampled upon than the person with 400 acres who has a bit of a pull with the Minister.