58. Mr. COSGRAVE
asked the Chief Secretary for Ireland if he can state whether the tenants of the Hearnsbrooke estate, near Killimore, county Galway, have been for the past ten years applying to the Estates Commissioners and Congested Districts Board to purchase the estate, including untenanted lands necessary to relieve the congestion; and, if so, with what result; have the tenants agreed to pay twenty-one years' purchase of the present rents, or such other price as may be estimated by the inspector of the Estates Commissioners; has the landlady, Mrs. M'Phail, refused to let any of the untenanted land for tillage under the Food Production Regulations; has she taken legal proceedings against a number of the tenants for rents and obtained judgments, which she now threatens to execute; whether the Estates Commissioners contemplate purchasing the estate compulsorily at an early date; and will the Department of Agriculture and Technical Instruction take immediate steps to have a tenth of the untenanted lands let for food production to the neighbouring small landholders?
§ Mr. DUKE
In September last the solicitors, having carriage in the matter of the estate of Thomas M. Hunter and Mrs. M'Phail, lodged with the Estates Commissioners an order by the land judge giving the solicitors liberty to apply to the Commissioners to make an offer under Section 7 of the Irish Land Act, 1903, as amended by the Act of 1909, to purchase this estate, 1856 which comprises the tenanted land and bog and cutaway. As regards the untenanted land, of which Mrs. M'Phail appears to be the sole owner, and which is, therefore, a separate property from the estate in the Land Judges Court, the Commissioners, at the request of the solicitors, in 1916, had an inspection made, and they intimated the price they are prepared to advance for the untenanted land, if formal proceedings for Sale were instituted before them under the Land Purchase Acts. The Commissioners have been informed that Mrs. M'Phail is awaiting the offer to the Land Judge for the tenanted lands before proceeding with the sale of the untenanted lands. The Commissioners understand that the tenants have expressed their willingness to purchase their holdings on the terms stated in the question, and that payment of rent has been withheld for some years. They have no power to acquire the lands compulsorily. Mrs. M'Phail took legal proceedings against eight of the tenants for non-payment of rent, and obtained judgments. The writs are in the hands of the sheriff for execution. I have no information as to whether the landlady has refused to let any of the lands for tillage, but if it becomes necessary to enter upon the lands the Department of Agriculture will take into account local circumstances.