Committee on Finance. - Vote 40—Forestry (Resumed).

Forestry is, indeed, a long term programme. Development here has only reached what I would call the pit-prop stage. The development of new forests is not at a stage where we are reaping the benefits we hoped for. That is the only way in which we could justify the results in employment and productivity which are laid before us in this Supplementary Estimate.

We find that a sum of £2,524,810 is voted this year for forestry. At the same time, we find that the total number employed is 4,803 and that the increase over last year is only 150 workers. That means we are working towards the future and that we are investing in a project which we hope will give not only financial returns but also social returns, such as employment, ten-fold in the years to come. That is the only way in which we can justify what we have.

I listened to a lot of people speaking here. Their line seems to be to congratulate the Minister and say: "Is it not wonderful we have so many people working and that it is a great business?" A fortnight ago, I read an article in the Irish Independent on such a difficult subject as the nitrogen factory. It was pointed out that the number of workers, namely, 300, would get £1,200 without ever working at all. If you took investment in forestry and related it in the same way, you would find that you could keep your 4,803 workers at home and pay them a good wage for staying there.

We are doing something which will give a much greater return in the future. I believe it will and the policy is good. I believe the first upsurge in the development of our land suitable for forestry and not suitable for agriculture began in 1948. The tap, having been turned on, has been kept turned on since. It is such a long term project that it may be 10 or 15 years more before you start to get the sort of returns which will employ our people and enable us to establish this pulp factory which will provide a lot of the high quality timbers which have to be imported. We will have to wait for this situation.

While, however, one sees in my own county in a limited way and in other counties in a much more intensive way, new planting, I find that in my county and in the county beside it, there are many privately owned woods where the timbers have gone past their commercial usefulness. You can blame that on various things. You find that these woods, largely, belong to old landowning families who have resided here for generations. Times have not gone so well with that sort of family over the past 50 years. They were usually well-endowed from abroad. That sort of thing seems to have gone.

The income from large tracts of land, if not intensively farmed, is no longer high because of increasing overheads such as rates. These people have not been in the position in which their forefathers were to maintain these woods. My personal knowledge is that many of these woods have gone past their commercial best and are not being cut down. Trees, as they come up for commercial usefulness, should be cut and replaced by planting. I think that is where we fail.

To give him his due, the Minister went around the country and made an effort to get private owners of woods interested. His predecessors did the same thing. Whatever the reason—and let us not apportion blame—the position is that we have not got it across to the private owners of woods that we have anything to offer them in the way of incentives or that there is anything there for them if they look after these woods and replant them. That is a great pity.

I believe that as well as the planting of State forests, there is a great amount of work to be done, but it can be done only in co-operation with these landowners when we have got it across to them that they have a potential asset that can be harnessed for their own future use and benefit. In North Louth, we have an area where considerable forestry development has taken place. However, when we are up there and when we look across Carlingford Lough, from the Cooleys to the Mournes, we see that in Northern Ireland a much greater area has visibly been developed and at an earlier stage. Again, I do not wish to apportion blame. We had our troubled times here, and so on. In addition, I am sure we were slower in our initial approach to the asset that we had.

In that area, there is very great opportunity which has not been harnessed to the full. There is an area in my constituency where there is considerable unemployment and considerable seasonal as well as permanent emigration of workers to places in England, such as Blackpool, which in the summer period employ people who cannot find gainful work at home. It would be unwise policy if we here were to regard forestry as related to very marginal land in the West of Ireland, as if it were related to mountain land in various ranges and related to the more obvious places for our endeavours.

I find that in the places which traditionally we would regard as the cream of our farmlands, places like Counties Louth, Wexford and Meath, there are areas which could very well be planted and could give posterity a great benefit, as well as being a sound commercial proposition for the State. The sort of place I am thinking of is a bad vein of land which I know well in County Louth. It stretches from Blackhall, Termonfeckin, straight across the constituency to Rathbran and straight on into the centre of Ireland. It may be a mile wide in places; it may be two or three miles wide in others. Deputy Tully knows it as well as I do.

The valley of the Black Pig.

I have not heard it called by that name. It is an area which is not suited to intensive agriculture. With the competition which we shall have to face and with the price which our farmers have had to accept for their barley—again, I do not apportion blame—the position is that it is not land that can profitably be harnessed in any way other than by forestry. Furthermore, that is the type of place where you want employment and employment goes with forestry.

Another development has taken place in many other countries but has not been carried out here. Again, if we could convince the private landowners of its efficacy, we might get somewhere. It is a well-known practice in certain European countries where there are heavy death duties—not where there are none—for wealthy people in their middle life to plant woods of considerable area for the purpose of having something saleable and something valuable at time of death. It is the same as if somebody took out an insurance policy and had it marked under the Married Women's Property Act for one's wife if one were, say, self-employed in business or an employer. On death, the sale of this wood or forest would defray death duties, so long as it had previously and at an early stage been transferred to a member of the family who knew the purpose and intention. That is something which I have never heard of in Ireland. I know it is done in other countries to a great extent.

I shall end, as I began, by saying that every side of the House is agreed that the development of forestry here, as a long-term project, is something highly valuable and should be proceeded with. While not saying that anyone is to blame, I would draw attention to the fact that the numbers employed, in relation to the amount of money expended in the past ten years—just to take a decade—are such that the return is not worth while. It must be regarded as a long-term business which will bring, perhaps hardly to us but to those who follow us, a very great benefit in the way of employment and production within the State.

Tháinig an tAire anair go Chontae an Chláir timpeall is dhá bhliain ó shoin agus thug sé léacht dúinn ar chúrsaí foraoiseachta. Is i dtí ósta an tSean Ionad in Inis a bhí an léacht agus bhí tusa, a Cheann Comhairle, sa chathaoir. Thuig mé ón Aire an oíche sin gur mar seo a cur tinnis air ná easba talún a tairgeadh don Roinn in iarthair Chláir. Go lua in a dhiaidh sin, tairgeadh réimse maith talún don Roinn ach, faraoir níor ceannaíodh é go fóill. Ar eagla go ndearfadh sé nach raibh an talamh sin feiliúnach do fhoraoiseacht, ba mhaith liom cur in aigne an Aire go bhfuil coill ar imeall trá Roinn Bhille idir Carraig a' Cobhaltaigh agus Ceann Léime. Tá coill bheag ag an Roinn i Mhic a' Deirg agus tá ceann eile sa Chuoidrinn. Tá ceann eile fós i Rathúna agus tá foraois ag an Roinn i gCill Ruis.

Anois, dá dtairgníodh líne treasna Chontae an Chláir ó Lios Dún Bhearna go hInis, níl ach foraois amháin taobh thiar den líne sin.

Talamh lom, scéirdiúil, gan coill, gan foscadh, atá ann agus iarraim anois ar an Aire a dhícheall a dhéanamh i rith na bliana seo chun a chur in a luí ar sheirbhísí na Roinne an gá agus an cóir atá ann chun an talamh seo a cheannach in iarthair Chláir.

Nuair a bhí an Teachta Ó Flannagáin ag caint aréir, dúirt sé go mba cheart laghdú a dhéanamh ar na rátaí ar thailte cúpla de na tiarnaí talún in a Dháil Cheantair féin. Is dócha go bhfuil a fhios aige gur baineadh na tailte ar a bhfuil na foraoisí sin ó na daoine ar leó iad agus gur díbríodh na daoine siar go Chontae an Chláir, go bhfuil a sliocht agus sliocht a sleachta in a gcónaí go fóill ansin, go bhfuil siad ansin gan dídean gan foscadh ó choill nó ó chrann. Muna ndéanann an tAire rud éigin chun cabhair a thabhairt dúinn i gContae an Chláir, ní fada go rachaidh na daoine seo arais go dúichí a sinnsir i gContae Laoighse.

Molaim obair an Aire agus obair sheirbhísí na Roinne. Tá a lán deaobair curtha ar siúil acu in oirthear Chláir agus táimíd buíoch don Aire ar son na hoibre sin. Molaim arís an tAire agus seirbhísí na Roinne. Mar adeirtear, molann an obair an fear.

The discussion on this Estimate has been more protracted than I thought it would be. I have been rather surprised at some of the misconceptions, both as to policy and fact that have emerged during the debate. At all events, I hope to deal with the various points raised by the different speakers as I proceed. I should have thought, generally speaking, that the policy of my Department as far as afforestation is concerned was more widely understood in this House and outside, and consequently I was rather surprised to hear some Deputies, including Deputy Esmonde, suggest that my Department were interested only in getting land in the immediate vicinity of established forest areas. Of course, that is not so. That may have been the case some ten or 15 years ago, but that position cannot arise now because forestry is established in so many areas throughout the country that the situation has completely changed.

My Department are now anxious and willing to accept land in virtually any part of the country where it is on offer. It would be the very rare case indeed where an offer of land would be turned down for the considerations suggested here by Deputy Esmonde and some other Deputies. I do not know how this misconception has arisen. It was necessary for me some time ago to make it clear that it was the Department's intention to try to acquire any land suitable for forestry in the vicinity of established forest blocks, and I had to issue a warning that grants for private planting were subject to my approval and that people who were purchasing land in the vicinity of forest block build-ups would be well advised first to inquire whether grants would be available.

It is incorrect for Deputies to suggest — I think it was again Deputy Esmonde who suggested this — that grants would not be available for the re-planting of old woodlands that were clear felled by private individuals in the vicinity of State forest blocks. That is not so. What I did make clear was that some of the people who have come along to make what I call speculative investment in forestry by purchasing suitable forest land in the vicinity of forest blocks might not qualify for the grants available for planting these areas.

Some shrewd businessmen did proceed some time ago to endeavour to buy land in the vicinity of forest blocks where they could take advantage both of State forest fencing and of State forest roads. It was to these people that I issued the warning some time ago to the effect that in areas where suitable land was available for forestry, my Department would be interested in acquiring it and that those people who were purchasing land for the express purpose of afforestation in the immediate vicinity of State forests did so at their own risk as far as qualifying for the grants available from my Department for private planting was concerned. I hope there is now no question of people who do clear felling of old woodlands being refused any of the facilities available from my Department. The people I did refer to were those who expected grants from the Department when competing for suitable forest land in the immediate vicinity of State forests.

I also wish to emphasise that where land is available anywhere in the country suitable for forestry, my Department are interested in it, and while it is true that there were delays between inspection and acquisition, these delays are now virtually eliminated. I hope to achieve further improvement in that field during this coming year as we are now engaged in a reorganisation of our forces, with particular reference to concentrating on the counties where the big forestry potential is, mainly west of the Shannon.

I realise there were delays between inspection and offer. That was inevitable until we got the staff geared to deal with the new intensified afforestation programme. It has been a big jump to achieve planting at the rate of 25,000 acres a year, and it was inevitable that there would be a certain amount of delay before we had the machine geared to deal with an acquisition programme that would ensure we would have enough land to achieve that planting programme. I think I can now say that we have the organisation to deal with the new situation and I confidently hope that this time next year, we will not have the complaints we formerly had about the delay between inspection and offer.

I want to refer at this stage to the question of private planting which was raised by a number of Deputies and to finish with it. I dealt with it in my opening statement and while it is true to say that we can claim to have achieved a 100 per cent. increase due to the campaign we have launched, I am not at all satisfied with the figures. I have come to the conclusion that the main forestry drive in this country must be carried out by State services. In my view, part of the reason for our failure is the system of farming we have here, the system of land tenure, as distinct from the picture of some of the countries to which Deputy Esmonde referred.

There is nothing in this field that both I and the Department have not tried to induce people to do more private planting. We have gone from county to county with intensive campaigns in which I and the officers of my Department took part. We got all the rural organisations to participate in the forestry drive for private planting. We arranged lectures in conjunction with the local committees of agriculture. We did everything we could possibly think of doing to try to make people more forestry conscious. Indeed, in the west we reduced the minimum acreage to qualify for a grant from one acre to half an acre, to try to induce the small man to plant that waste half acre of marginal land which might be available on his small holding.

The claim that we have achieved a 100 per cent. increase on previous figures on private planting is of course infinitesimal in comparison with the planting that is being done by the Department throughout the country. I fully concede that I have got the utmost co-operation from all rural organisations, and from the local Press, in the different counties in which we engaged in those campaigns.

While with those campaigns we did succeed in making the different counties forestry conscious and, indeed, in that way we gained another benefit in that we got more land in on the State side for the purposes of the Department, I agree that the national figures are disappointing, and notwithstanding the inducements offered, I do not foresee that there will be a great improvement on the private planting side.

As some Deputies have said, very few of the old estates are left on which there are large areas of woodland. Most, if not all, of the large estates west of the Shannon have now been acquired by the Land Commission and split up and divided, with the exception of the portions of the old estates that have gone to the Forestry Division. The whole national scene has changed and, therefore, I think it is unrealistic to compare figures for private planting here with, for instance, figures for private planting in Britain where there is still the old landlord system, with large estates and large areas of privately-owned plantations.

Neither is it realistic to compare the figures in this country with countries like Turkey, Greece or the Scandinavian countries in some of which countries forests are indigenous and there has been natural regeneration over hundreds and hundreds of years. For instance, the general picture in the Scandinavian countries is that where an individual farmer may have only eight or ten hectares of what we call arable land, he has something like 300 acres of forest which he regards both as a bank and a system of insurance. He rarely draws on that 300 acres of forest to fell except in a case of emergency, if his wife gets ill, or he wants to buy a new tractor, or some such purpose.

We found in those countries that one of the great national difficulties is to get people to cut the trees when they should be cut because, like farmers all over, they are rather conservative, and even though the trees have reached maturity, even though they have reached the age of 85 to 100 years, the farmer is rather inclined not to cut them so that his family will inherit them and he will keep intact what he regards as the family fortune. Campaigns are being conducted in those countries in an endeavour to get the farmers to fell and clear the trees when they should be cleared.

The nearest comparison I could give the House is that if all our commonages, as we understand them here, were planted and had been under afforestation for generations past, different people who have undivided shares in these commonages now would in the same way have undivided shares in the woodlands planted on those commonages. That is the picture abroad and, therefore, as I say, it is unrealistic to try to relate our local conditions here with conditions in those countries. Not for many generations to come, not until we have all our marginal land, mountains and commonages planted as they are planted in most of the countries to which I have referred, will there be by planting and natural regeneration in those areas, a continuous crop of forests coming in from generation to generation.

Someone complained that only £25,000 is being provided for private afforestation in this Estimate. That is true, but we should be very glad to spend double or treble that amount if we could get the people to take advantage of the schemes which are there. As I have said, while the results show that private planting has doubled, the results from the national point of view are disappointing, particularly in view of the fact that very many more people are availing of the advisory service.

As Deputies are aware, there is an advisory service in the Department at the beck and call of anyone who wants advice on private planting but, notwithstanding the reports they got from experts in the Department that their marginal lands were suitable for planting, the vast majority did not proceed to plant. So, while I subscribe to what has been said on all sides of the House as to the reasons why it is good business, both for themselves and their children, for private individuals to plant I still feel that, due to our system of land tenure here, and due to the lack of a forestry tradition amongst the people, we will have a considerable time to wait before we get private planting up to the level which we all desire.

On the question of economics, the question of investment and return, which was raised by some Deputies, I should like to point out to the House that there is no question whatsoever about the soundness of the economics of forestry in this country. I was very glad to see, for instance, that Norway spruce, growing in its native habitat, at the age of 85 to 100 years had only about the same volume of hoppus feet as our pine or spruce at the age of 45 years.

It is quite clear that due to our sun and rain, our mild climate and long period of growth, we do and will produce at double the rate of growth of the Scandinavian countries. As far as I can study the figures, we produce a rate of growth here approximating treble the rate of growth in Canada. Therefore we are in the position now to produce after 40 to 45 years' growth as big a volume of timber as can be produced in what is regarded as the home of timber, the Scandinavian countries, after 85 years. The big demand for timber now is in relation to pulp for both chemical and other purposes. Undoubtedly that demand will grow from year to year and indeed every single year new uses appear to be found for different derivatives from pulp or from timber, plastics and other similar materials. The market will be expanding and ultimately, as far as we can judge, the market will be unlimited.

Deputy Esmonde asked if we were aware of the amount of timber imported into western European countries. If we had sufficient pulp produced here today, there is a market for it even in the Scandinavian countries. Even Norway and Sweden import and export pulp for different industrial uses. Therefore, on the economics of this whole matter, the State investment, high as it is, and it certainly is high, is a sound economic investment. Outside the different considerations of our balance of payments problems, of providing employment here through the side industries and the employment now provided, the State investment will well repay the taxpayer when the forests start to come to maturity.

Has the Minister present to his mind any approximate figure of the total forestry investment of the State since 1924?

Yes. Since 1922/23, I would say roughly £25,000,000.

And we are getting now a gross income from that of about £650,000?

Yes, and that will be increasing from year to year. We estimate that in about 10 years, the income should be sufficient to carry on this business without demand on the taxpayer. I was rather surprised to find another misconception on the part of some Deputies, including Deputy Costello, that there were no pulp mills here, the fact being that there are a number and the fact also being that newsprint is produced in a factory just outside this city, at Clondalkin. The question of the production of newsprint is one of the economics of the job for those concerned in the business but they are producing an amount of it there amongst their other diversified interests. It is, of course, produced from pulp. In the same way, the wallboard factory at Athy has increased its pulp production by something like 100 per cent. Over the past couple of years. There are also the chipboard factory producing pulp at Scariff and the chipboard or pulp factory going ahead in Waterford. The raw material of all these factories is pulp.

Private enterprise is keeping abreast with the development of forestry here and we have virtually completed an assessment of all our State forests and we shall be in a position to inform those concerned in the industry as to what the approximate output will be in four years, six years and ten years so that the industry will be geared to deal with the output immediately it becomes available. We have also been studying techniques abroad and keeping in close touch with the developments in the industrial arm of the business. I am quite confident that private industry here can develop and expand to absorb the additional output as it becomes available. Our policy will be to ensure that they will have plenty of notice as to what will become available and when it will become available. On that side of the business, I have no personal qualms at all that the people in the business, or those who will come into it in the future when the raw material is there, will be well able to handle what the national State forests can produce.

Deputy Esmonde complained of the size of the lots being offered for sale by the Forestry Division. My information is that the Forestry Division arrange their sales in lots of different sizes to give the small man a chance of securing his particular needs. Nearly three years ago, I directed my Department to endeavour to cater for the small merchant's problems and, apart from what has been said by Deputy Esmonde, I personally have received no complaint, certainly over the past 18 months or so. If there is any particular instance of which the Deputy is aware, then if he conveys it to me, I will have it investigated. But this is a matter which, if it were widespread, I would certainly have heard about and would have got complaints from those concerned.

It is very much better than it was, I am glad to tell the Minister.

That is why the Deputy's statement came as a surprise to me, because in recent times, I have not heard any complaints on that issue. I welcome the statements made by the different Deputies who said they were worried about forest fires. Some suggested that this was a matter of educating the people and one Deputy suggested that they were caused, in the main, by tourists. That has not been my experience. The most serious fires in forests and in the vicinity of forests were caused mainly by adjoining farmers burning gorse and heather, without due notice being given, as prescribed by law, to the Department. While the damage done was completely unintentional, the fact remains that they disobeyed the law and we had this rather large loss of approximately 600 acres last year.

That is a hazard that will be increasing as State forests spread at the present rate of planting. Outside of the damage done to the national potential by forest fires, there is the very bad effect on the countryside where a young forest is destroyed. Where farmers wish to burn gorse or heather and they comply with the law and give notice, they will have the full co-operation of the local forestry service. The difficulty arises when they go ahead on their own and fires which are started get out of control and then tremendous damage is done. After our experience last year, I want to make it clear again that, in addition to being liable to prosecution, the man who starts a fire is liable for the additional consequences of any damage he does and the individual who lets that fire spread on to forestry property is liable for damages on the civil side of the court, so that, in addition to any fines to which he may be liable, he may be faced with a very substantial bill for the damage done to forestry property.

I want to point out that I have got appeals in individual cases to let people off who have been guilty of this type of negligence and I want to make it clear that we cannot accede to any such appeals in future. Everybody should know now the national danger of lighting fires in the vicinity of forests and people are surely aware of the consequences of their action if they do not comply with the law. For the future, I am giving notice that the law both on the civil side, outside of any question of prosecution, will be fully enforced and that no appeals to relieve these people of the consequence of their actions will be entertained by the Department.

Are itinerants' encampments not a hazard? Could they not be prevented?

Speaking from recollection, there are a number of laws to deal with itinerants, if they are enforced, one of which is that it is an offence to light a fire within 60 yards of a road. I do not recollect offhand that itinerants were responsible for any damage, certainly in the last year to which I have referred; but there are particular laws in the Statute Book to deal with these people, particularly in regard to lighting fires.

Deputy Costello appealed for the growing of more hardwoods and said that hardwoods have been neglected in the national planting scheme. I must say I share his sentiments as far as the desirability of having more hardwoods or broad leaves grown, but the fact remains that generally speaking, hardwoods cannot be produced on the type of land that as a general rule comes into the hands of my Department. You need fairly good land to produce hardwoods, if I except birch, which in some countries is regarded as a weed, although on that point I do not agree with some of my advisers about the same tree. At all events, we plant roughly about 5,000 acres of hardwoods inter-mixed with the other trees in our forests. Those who want to see more hardwoods planted should direct their attention towards easing public pressure to try to skim the good land from the Forestry Division when it is taking over land. I mentioned before that it is no business of the Forestry Division to deal with land congestion problems. That is a question for the Land Commission.

As I said, the prices paid indicate that, in the main, the land is very poor or of marginal quality and where you have the odd acre or two acres coming in, it is only on these couple of acres that we can plant the variety of species, particularly hardwoods, that will give a successful result and a worthwhile return. I would therefore suggest to those Deputies who feel, like Deputy Costello, that more hardwoods should be planted to use their good offices to stop this move in local areas by which immediately the Forestry Commission purchases land, there is a demand by some local farmer who has his eye on an acre or a half acre and wants to get it out of the portion taken over. As I said, we have been planting some 5,000 acres and now that we have built up very substantial areas of conifers, we may in the future, provided we can get sufficient suitable land, give more attention to the growing of more hardwoods, if only from the scenic point of view.

I do not know how much substance there is in the suggestion that where hardwoods are cut down, they are not being replaced. If there is any substance in that suggestion, I hope it is not widespread and that private owners who cut down hardwoods are replacing them with hardwoods. It is invariably on such lands that hardwoods are successful.

Deputy Dolan suggested that forestry would go well with the farming of small mountainy sheep and that the sheep farmer should be preserved. There is no reason why that should not be so. In many countries, particularly Scotland, forestry has been proved to be the friend of the mountain sheep farmer rather than his enemy. It was clearly proved in the report of the Crofters Commission in Scotland that strip planting on the mountains by providing shelter enormously improved the grazing and productivity of the mountain crofter. I find the commonages coming into my Department are invariably little used and completely underproductive from the sheep farming point of view. In many of these areas we find, perhaps, that nine or ten people have an interest in the commonage, while only one or two make any use of it whatever, and nobody is doing anything to increase the fertility or improve the commonage in any way. There is no doubt that commonages of that kind would be far better employed producing timber than by leaving them in their present neglected and underdeveloped state. There are many areas, particularly west of the Shannon, which could provide a huge forestry potential in this field. I hope, during the coming year, with the co-operation of public opinion generally, that much more of this type of land will come into the acquisition machine.

Deputy Tully raised the question of continuity of employment for forestry workers. The policy of the Department is this. Where work stops in one area, and if there is further work in an adjoining area, their preference is to re-employ these skilled men, if they are prepared to travel to the new area. Deputies will realise however that you cannot have a hard and fast rule. because there is another side to the story. There is the view of the people in the adjoining parish that the men employed on the other forestry work did very well by being employed for a considerable time and that now it is the turn of the men in their parish.

As Deputy Tully well knows, dealing with labour relations, you have got to see what the local position is. It is not always simple. In many areas, there is resentment if men are brought in from different areas at the expense of employment for the local men. In a way, that is natural. It is the policy of the Department to retain its old workers, who have undoubtedly achieved a certain amount of skill in the Department's service. The situation will improve as time goes on. The labour force fully engaged in forestry will be on the increase from year to year as the new planting programme spreads throughout the land.

Deputy Tully also raised the question of the forestry wages tribunal. This matter is not yet finalised. The tribunal proposal emanated from the discussions which took place in 1958 between my Department and the various trade unions representing forestry labourers in connection with the changes necessary in the system of basic wage settlements for forestry labourers as a prerequisite to the introduction of the incentive bonus. It was felt at the time that, since forestry wages were in future to be the subject of direct negotiation between the Department and the unions, rather than automatically to follow the pattern of wage reform in some other category of employment, there would be bound to be difficulty at times in reaching agreement on a particular wage issue, which would call for the existence of some independent, or at least some kind of joint tribunal which would give balanced recommendations on whatever dispute or issue was at stake.

In actual practice, there have been since 1958, as the Deputy knows, three successive wage rounds settled satisfactorily by negotiation between my Department and the unions concerned. That is at least indicative of the fact that no side suffered as a result of this tribunal not being in operation so far. The matter is not being lost sight of, however, and there is no question of shelving the proposal indefinitely. It would be premature to pursue this, pending the outcome of the general review of the machinery for the settlement of industrial disputes, which the Minister for Industry and Commerce announced some months ago. The whole question of industrial disputes is being considered. Until conclusions are reached in the wider field, it would be well to make haste slowly as far as the establishment of this tribunal is concerned.

Deputy MacCarthy of Cork asked us to grow more ash for the GAA men concerned with hurling. I shudder to think what might happen if the Deputy's suggestion about plastic glass hurleys were adopted. The Bould Thady Quill would turn in his grave, not to mention what might happen about the Cork Exhibition. We are planting an amount of ash, mainly to meet the demand by the GAA people. At our present rate of planting of ash, we should be able to meet a demand of 250,000 hurleys a year, and that, I think, should be sufficient to reassure hurling counties with anxieties in this matter.

It would be fantastic if instead of the clash of the ash, we had the crash of the glass, as some of the sports writers are suggesting at the moment.

Indeed it would. Deputy Geoghegan raised the question of the workers at Dundrum and at the mills in Cong. My information is that my officials are meeting the union some time next week for certain negotiations about the workers in Dundrum and, in the circumstances, I do not think I should say anything about the matter. Of course it follows that whatever settlement may be made about the dispute in Dundrum will automatically be applied to similar workers in the sawmills at Cong. I think I should leave the matter to those concerned in these negotiations and not go into the details of the issues in dispute.

I now come to the rather extraordinary mis-statements of fact and allegations of fiction made by a few Deputies in this debate. Deputy O'Donnell, who comes here with the same song as a number of Fine Gael Deputies, and who said that forestry in this country for all practical purposes was started only in 1948, will get a rude awakening when I give him some figures I propose to give in this connection. The Deputy further alleged that there was an area of 157 acres in County Donegal which had been bought by my Department for £1 16s. an acre——

I beg the Minister's pardon—we were offered £1 16s. an acre for it.

Offered £1 16s. It was, in fact, purchased from the Deputy's client and if you take the 157 acres, which was the area in relation to the proffered sum, it might work out at that figure, but the Deputy was careful to refrain from telling the House that out of the 157 acres, 100 acres consisted of high, rocky slopes, cliffs, water and exposed mountain-top head which had to be valued at nothing and which was completely unplantable.

But on which we pay rates.

I should like to know the amount of rates paid on this amount of rock and snipe grass in Donegal on which nothing but lichen can grow. Trying to put over on the House that 157 acres were bought at this rate, without giving the actual facts is, I think, misleading and unworthy of the Deputy.

The Deputy mentioned another case that he had in his own area of land offered to the Department which was subsequently sold for a much higher figure. He suggested that local valuers should be called in. If the Deputy thinks that anybody is going to accept that the Deputy or his client in Donegal would for a moment hold over an area of land to give it to my Department because of my bright head or curly bob, he is codding nobody but himself. The idea of suggesting that the Deputy's client would not take the highest price he could possibly get——

Of course he did.

——is completely absurd. I have no doubt that this gentleman who got £1 16s. an acre for land where 100 out of 157 acres were unplantable rock, scree and mountaintop, if he got £1 17s. 6d. an acre from anybody, would jump at it. I am sure this piece of snipe grass in Donegal was a long time on his hands and that he is praying today to the Almighty for the benefit of having a Forestry Division to take such stuff off him——

We did not take the offer—we refused it. It was an insult.

The Deputy said it was sad that more progress had not been made in forestry and went back to 1948 when it is alleged that the forestry drive started. Let us look at the figures. In 1948-49, the first year of the Coalition Government of which the Deputy was a member, a miserable 3,782 acres were acquired and 7,700 acres planted. This is the year that is pointed at as a headline to me in 1962 when we have planted an all-time record figure of 25,200 acres and acquired an all-time record figure of 31,794 acres. Let these figures speak for themselves and perhaps the Deputy will learn a lesson.

Taking the first three years of the Coalition Government, from 1948 to 1951, the gross expenditure on forestry for those three years was £1,887,749; the total area acquired was 34,505 acres; and the total area planted, 24,501 acres. We spent in the Forestry Division this year approximately £3.5 million, a figure three times more than the Deputy's Government in the three years from 1948 to 1951. In this year, we have acquired practically as much land—31,749 acres against 34,000 acres —as the Deputy's Government acquired in the three years. This year, we have planted 25,200 acres, a greater amount of land planted in one year than the Deputy's Government planted in three years.

What did you plant up to 1948?

I hope the Deputy puts that in his pipe and smokes it and let us see what the result will be. I must admire what I call the "neck" of both Deputy O'Donnell and Deputy Flanagan who came into the House last night complaining about the awfully slow rate of forestry development and how little is being done by this Government in connection with forestry in the teeth of these figures. Obviously, the people who send them here are very gullible if that doctrine is preached down in Donegal and Offaly and the people swallow it in face of our record. It is a very poor indication of the level of the intelligence of the people concerned.

There has been such an outstanding advance in the development of forestry in the past five years that the present position bears no relation to the position which existed before. That advance is continuing. Complaints have been made here that the Department are paying nothing for land, but in this very year we have achieved the greatest figure of acquisition in my Department ever achieved in the history of the State. I hope that situation will continue. I believe it will. I am confident that we will be able to maintain the record figure of 25,000 acres of planting each year, the target which we have set ourselves and the target which has been achieved over the last three years by my Department.

It would seem that since 1948 every Minister for Lands has done a reasonably good job, in every single one of the years.

I do not know if the Deputy was listening to Deputy O'Donnell and Deputy Flanagan last night.

He read the reply to your question.

If he was, he would have got a different impression.

Every Minister in the last 14 years did not do too badly at all, no matter of what Government he was a member.

The figures are there now and these figures speak for themselves. Let me say this also: with the achievement of this 25,000 acres planting per year and if we are able to maintain it, as I believe we will be, we are doing a tremendous national job. As far as international figures are concerned, our planting programme here is the highest per head of the population of any country in the whole of western Europe.

Other countries have not as much bad land.

They have it bad and good in countries I have been in, just as we have it here. Indeed, in some countries they have land which is a great deal worse than we have here——

It shows how backward we were.

——taking the picture of the whole country as it is. I concede that we have a long way to go to catch up, particularly with the Scandinavian countries but, if we are able to maintain the programme at the rate at which we are going, it will not be very long until we change the face of the Irish countryside. Indeed, we are changing it already with the afforestation programme.

There is another matter that I should deal with. Again, there is a complaint by Deputy O'Donnell that so much land was refused on inspection by my Department as being unsuitable. Does anybody think that my officials turn down land as being unsuitable unless it is so? Does Deputy O'Donnell set himself up as an expert in this field also? Does he think that he is a better judge of what land will grow timber or what land will not than the experts of my Department who examine the lands concerned? It is absurd to suggest that lands are refused by my Department because of any whim on the ground that they are unplantable. Indeed, we have to take the good with the bad. In view of our new knowledge through our experiments at Glenamoy of how to overcome native problems and problems of exposure, if there is any hope of the land being planted we take it. It is only when there is no hope of the land being planted either for reasons of exposure or extremely poor soil condition, very rocky surfaces and so on—it is only for those reasons, when there is no hope, that land is turned down because it is unplantable.

We hope that as a result of the experiments being carried out at Glenamoy and elsewhere we will soon be in a position to have better information about exposure problems. They are problems that, unfortunately, are practically confined to this country. There are very few other countries that have similar wind problems or exposure problems to those we have here. The nearest I can get to it are the Steppes in parts of Russia where they have carried out planting. I understand, across long areas by way of windbreaks, but the difficulty about our exposure problem here is that we have not constant winds. The winds blow at times from every way and that is a particular local problem we have here that is not experienced certainly in the Scandinavian countries and in many other countries. Therefore, we must rely on the information we get by our own experiments which we have started and which are beginning to show results.

We have not much difficulty about deciding that certain species will root well. The difficulty is as to whether they will stand up to the changing and varied wind problems that we have in the exposed areas of our country.

Let me try, before I conclude, to kill another myth that seems to exist in the minds of some of the experts across the floor of the House here, namely, that because you dig up old pine, or what we call bog deal, under a bog there was a forest there before. Of course there was a forest there before in the time of the Barmecides but the climate in those days was different. There was no bog there when that forest was growing. The bog came after the forest and went over it. That is why these old roots are dug up there, which these experts over there suggest are a positive proof that all kinds of timber can be grown in these exposed areas where there is a completely different soil formation now and, indeed, a completely different climate. At the time that these trees were growing, I suppose the original Piltdown men were crawling around on their hands and knees through the forests of this country.

Again, to use a forestry expression, I am not quite sure as to which is the dominant species on the Fine Gael bench in connection with forestry and which is the scrub, because Deputy Sir Anthony Esmonde seems to be the official spokesman of the Fine Gael Party on forestry in this country and I find it difficult to know between himself and Deputy O'Donnell and Deputy Flanagan as to what is the real approach of Fine Gael or the real policy of Fine Gael in connection with forestry.

We announced it in 1948 when we set a target of 25,000 acres a year.

You announced an awful lot in 1948.

And carried it out.

Performance fell very short of the announcements. You talked until you talked yourselves out of office as a result of doing nothing. Here, on the Estimate, on 22nd February, 1962, the official spokesman of Fine Gael, Deputy Sir Anthony Esmonde, had this to say, at column 560 of the Official Report:

At the same time, I do not think it is satisfactory that we should have a policy for the acquisition of 25,000 acres of land every year. That land is coming into the ownership of the State. It means that the Department is making a big encroachment on the land that is available to the individual. It may be very difficult to get private individuals to take up and afforest land. There may be good reasons for that but I have frequently suggested to the Minister for Lands that the Forestry Department should take over land, plant that land and subsequently lay it off when they have developed and planted it. It could be laid off to private individuals or to local authorities and the Department could act in an advisory capacity, have a controlling interest over it and see that it is properly attended to. The State should not acquire such large quantities of land and hold it.

I want to know: is that Fine Gael policy on forestry? Deputy Sir Anthony Esmonde is their official spokesman on policy, both on the former Estimate and on this Estimate and under the wing of his leader, Deputy Dillon. Does what Deputy Sir Anthony Esmonde say still go? Does Deputy O'Donnell want to throw away the views of Deputy Sir Anthony Esmonde?

We are not going to throw away our land at £1 16s. an acre.

Does he want to throw away those views? Does anybody know under which thimble the pea is between these three Deputies on the front bench opposite on this big national issue? That is what the House would be interested to know. If they are against, and want to hinder, the acquisition by my Department of marginal land for forestry development let them have the honesty to come out here and tell the House and the people that that is their official policy.

I am confident, however, that the vast majority of the people share in my view about the development of the marginal land by way of forestry and that we have built up a vast store of goodwill amongst the general public to go ahead with full blast with the programme that has now been undertaken, which is now being successfully carried out, which target of 25,000 acres will be continued and for which sufficient money will be provided by this Government for as long as we are in office. If we continue with that, I will not have any hesitation in coming back and asking for such a colossal sum as we are now nationally investing year by year in the future of Ireland by the intensified planting programme in which I am engaged.

Vote put and agreed to.