§ MR. LEAHY (Kildare, S.)
I beg to ask the Chief Secretary to the Lord Lieutenant of Ireland if he has seen the report in the Freeman's Journal, of the 9th instant, of a meeting of the Duke of Leinster's tenants, who purchased holdings under the Ashbourne Act, called for the purpose of discussing the advisability of memorialising the Government to have the time extended for the payment of the annual instalments of the purchase money, say, from 49 years to 80, and thus enabling the tenants to meet the instalment now due, and for which, in some cases, writs have actually been issued, from which it appears that, amongst other things, it was stated that most of those who purchased their holdings are now unable to pay the present rent or interest, and that many of those who consented to purchase were considerably in debt at the time, and consented to purchase because it afforded them temporary relief; and that a resolution was unanimously adopted, authorising the preparation of a suitable Memorial to Parliament, in accordance with the views held by all present, to be presented by the county Members, asking to have the time extended for payment of the purchase money, so as to reduce the present and future instalments to such a reasonable amount as the people would be able to pay; if he will state the terms of the sale, how many years' purchase, and what pressure was brought to bear on them to induce them to buy; and whether he can now hold out any prospect of relief to these people?
§ THE CHIEF SECRETARY FOR IRELAND (Mr. A. J. BALFOUR, Manchester, E.)
The Land Commissioners report that the question appears to refer to 83 applications from tenants of the Duke of Leinster, lodged in August, 1886. The total areas were 6,580 acres. The Poor Law Valuation was £3,967. The total rents were £4,029, all judicial. The advances were £76,366. The annuities are £3,054 (being £975 less than the judicial rents, or a reduction of 24.19 per cent., and £912 less than the Poor 971 Law Valuation). The average rate of purchase was about 19 years. The average price of the fee simple was less than £12 per acre. The average annuity is less than 10s. per acre. Most of the tenants were stated to be respectable and comfortable farmers. Most of the purchases were completed in December of the same year, each of the tenants having executed his conveyance in conformity with the then existing law. No complaint appears to have been made of duress or unfair pressure on the part of the landlord, either then or subsequently, until now. The negotiations were conducted on behalf of the tenants by the late very Rev. Dr. Kavenagh, P.P, who, in August of the same year, wrote to the Commissioners that the tenants were free contracting parties; that they had made excellent bargains; that their rents were low; and that the purchase would reduce these rents by 25 per cent. Besides the above sales, which seem to be those referred to in the paragraph mentioned in the question, considerable sales of the holdings on the same estate have been since carried out on a similar basis. The total sales on the estate completed up to 31st March, 1890, were 337, and the purchase money amounted to £246,401. Of the 337 purchasers, there are only eight in default in payment of their annuities; and the total amount of their indebtedness is £187 19s.7d.
§ MR. T. M. HEALY (Longford, N.)
It is alleged to be the fact that the Land Purchase Commissioners have availed of the one-fifth lying out to the Duke of Leinster, and appropriated that to the payment of arrears.
§ MR. A. J. BALFOUR
I should think that very improbable, and I rather doubt whether the Commissioners have the power to do it.
§ MR. A. J. BALFOUR
The hon. and learned Gentleman is aware that before the guarantee deposit can be applied the debt must be an irrecoverable one.