By the EARL OF WICKLOW JUDGING by the intemperate way the land question was discussed in the Dail in the debate on the Estimate for the Department of Lands, it looks as though the agitation may— after 17 years—again be brought to the forefront.
The newspapers have not published any account of the abuse hurled by some Deputies at one another, but even the attenuated account of the debate which has been published re,veals the possibilities of vote-catching which this subject still affords.
The land was for generations the fundamental social problem in Irish life; not until this question was harnessed to the Home Rule agitation did the cause of Irish selfgovernment pass from the realm of theory to that of practical politics.
The first major step taken by the Free State Government in 1922 was compulsory land purchase enshrined in the Land Act of 1923, associated in the Irish mind with the late Patrick Hogan, our first Minister of Agriculture.
When Mr. de Valera came to power he introduced a more drastic After that the agitation died down and the division of land ceased to be the cause of political agitation,
In the debates, however, Mr. Dillon, who has the faculty of catching the headlines, threatened those who let out land on the eleven' months system with apropriation of their farms by the State for division among landless men.
During the war a certain number of people bought farms. Not all of these purchasers came from Great Britain. as is popularly supposed.
These purchasers use agents who let out the land and treat it as though it were a stock exchange interest-bearing security. Such a policy is not good for the land and it is socially undesirable. It is to be hoped that this matter will be dealt with in a manner which will let people know where they stand.
Before the war it was difficult to buy or sell land, because a purchaser was never quite sure that he
would be left in possession.
The political clubs took on themselves the task of endeavouring to secure holdings for their followers, It is to be hoped that a recurrence of this agitation will not he encour aged. The Land Commission has done a wondeiful job since its foundation and the less it is subject to political pressure the better. I write before the Budget has been
announced. There is a hope that income tax will be reduced.
Ever since the last Government raised the stamp duty on purchases of real estate from one to five per cent. (for Nationals), 25 per cent. for non-Nationals. there is speculation as to whether relief will be given to this unfair impost. Sales are held up in anticipation of relief in each Budget and when no change is announced depression sets in again.
The huge profits made in the property market during the war raised envy in the Revenue Commissioners, but the days of boom are over and the tax is quite unjustifiable.
Unfortunately, even in a depressed market, the yield is such a substantial item that no Minister for Finance would want to give it up.