§ Mr. SHEEHAN
asked the Chief Secretary if he can state the extent to which the Department of Agriculture has put into actual operation schemes for re-afforestation; in what counties are they at present doing any work under this head, and what is the area embraced in each instance; what powers are possessed by county councils or other public bodies for levying a rate in aid of afforestation; and has the Department sought, or does it propose to seek, the co-operation of these bodies in any efforts on a large scale for the replanting of Ireland?
§ Mr. BIRRELL
A sum of £6,000 has been voted by Parliament in each of the years 1909–10 and 1910–11 for forestry work to be undertaken by the Department of Agriculture and Technical Instruction for Ireland, and planting and other operations are in active progress at five centres where lands have been acquired by the Department under the terms of the Irish Land Acts. The total area being dealt with amounts to nearly 4,000 acres and is distributed as follows:—County Galway, 1,277 acres; county Tipperary, 1,197 acres; county Wexford, 646 acres; county Cavan, 405 acres; county Londonderry, 254 acres. In addition to these areas, there are 800 acres of forest lands in county Wicklow and county Wexford utilised in connection with the Department's forestry school at Avondale, county Wicklow. Forestry is one of the purposes to which county councils may apply the proceeds of rates, not exceeding in all 2d. in the £, which they can levy under the Agriculture and Technical Instruction (Ireland) Act, 1899, and the Technical Instruction Acts, 1889 and 1891. In addition, the Irish Land Act, 1909, prescribes that the instalments of the purchase annuity in respect of any parcel of land purchased by a county council or by a rural district council shall be raised as a county at large or as a district charge, as the case may be. The Department are co-operating with county councils with regard to forest areas suitable for being dealt with by these bodies. Forestry schemes approved by the Department are in operation in two counties, and the adoption of schemes in other counties is under consideration.
§ Mr. SHEEHAN
asked the Chief Secretary whether he is aware of the amount already expended by the Department of Agriculture in connection with the work of afforestation undertaken by it, how many men are permanently employed in this connection, and what is the average weekly wage paid to them; is any of this labour of an expert kind, and, if so, where has it been recruited and how is it remunerated; and what steps, if any, are being taken to impart education in forestry at the agricultural stations under the control of the Department?
§ Mr. BIRRELL
The expenditure of the Department in regard to forestry in 1909–10 amounted to £4,133. In January last sixty-eight persons were employed by the Department at forestry work exclusive of the staff at the Department's forestry school. The figure mentioned included unskilled 1224 labourers. The number of such labourers employed varies according to the season. The wages of unskilled labourers are regulated by the rates for such labour current in the districts where they are employed. The average weekly wages of persons engaged in skilled capacities was 29s. Some of the work is of an expert kind, and positions requiring expert skill are filled, as far as possible, by persons who have taken out satisfactorily the full course of training provided by the Department in connection with their forestry school at Avondale. The persons employed in expert capacities are paid at rates ranging from 20s. to 46s. per week. A school exclusively for the training of working foresters has been in operation for some years at Avondale, county Wicklow. A higher course in forestry is provided at the Royal College of Science, Dublin. It is not proposed to include instruction in forestry in the course provided at the Department's agricultural stations.