Committee Reports::Interim and Final Report - Appropriation Accounts 1938 - 1939::05 July, 1939::MIONTUAIRISC NA FINNEACHTA / Minutes of Evidence


(Minutes of Evidence)

Dé Céadaoin, 5adh Iúl, 1939.

Wednesday, 5th July, 1939.

The Committee sat at 11 a.m.

Members Present:


B. Brady.




O Briain.



DEPUTY DILLON in the Chair.

Mr. J. Maher (Roinn an Ard-Reachtaire Cunntas agus Ciste) and Mr. A. D. Codling and Mr. T. S. C. Dagg (Roinn Airgeadais) called and examined.


Mr. M. Deegan called and examined.

787. Chairman.—The Comptroller and Auditor-General has some notes on this Vote. Paragraph 59 of his Report is as follows:—

Repayable Exchequer Advance.

“In my reports on the accounts for 1934-35 and 1935-36, I referred to an advance of £200,000 made to the Land Commission in March, 1925, to enable payments in lieu of rent to be made as required by the Land Act, 1923, of which only £70,000 had been repaid. The balance of £130,000 is still outstanding, no repayment having been effected in 1937-38.”

I understand that it is the intention of the Department of Finance and the Land Commission to wind up this account and that negotiations are proceeding to that end?

Mr. Deegan.—That is so.

Mr. Codling.—Probably after next year, or the year after, this will not appear as a separate account.

788. Chairman.—Paragraph 60 of the Report of the Comptroller and Auditor-General contains the following:—

Subhead I—Improvement of Estates, etc.

“I observed that a contract for the supply of thorn quicks to the value of £271 17s. 6d. was placed in December, 1936, but that, as the Department was not able to take delivery, the contractor agreed to retain the quicks on payment of an additional sum of £131 11s. 0d. for re-planting, maintaining and relifting. I have requested that the covering sanction of the Department of Finance may be sought for the charge to the Vote of this additional payment.

I have asked that the covering sanction of the Department of Finance be sought for the charge to this subhead of a payment of £330 to a county board of health, being a contribution towards the cost of erecting an engine and pump. I also observed that an Advance of £80 and a Free Grant of £37 were made in respect of a house which had already been erected on freehold land in possession of the applicant, and that these amounts were paid to a bank in reduction of the applicant’s loan. Having regard to the circumstances in which the Free Grant was made, and to the terms of sub-section 3 of Section 22 of the Land Act, 1927, I am of the opinion that the prior authority of the Department of Finance should have been obtained. I have accordingly requested the Accounting Officer to seek covering sanction for the expenditure of £37 by way of Free Grant.”

Perhaps you, Mr. Deegan, would inform us of the circumstances under which it was found necessary to make an additional payment of £131 11s. 0d. for re-planting, maintaining and relifting of these thorn quicks?—The matter arose out of delay on our part in giving the necessary order to the contractor. That delay was mainly due to pressure of work in the office during February and March, 1937, on schemes of land division. That added to the necessity for checking up on the position as regards the unexpended sanctions on each of the ten estates in County Galway on which these thorn quicks were to be planted.

789. I take it that the sanction of the Department of Finance has since been obtained?—No. We have asked for sanction and we are in correspondence with the Department.

790. The Comptroller and Auditor-General will be notified if and when sanction is obtained?—Yes.

791. I take it that the reference in the note of the Comptroller and Auditor-General to the cost of erecting an engine and pump relates to the County Roscommon Board of Health?—Yes. They agreed, in order to enable us to do some work relating to the drainage of a bog and some surrounding country, to remove a weir, sluice and water-wheel needed for their water supply works on condition that we would contribute two-thirds of the estimated cost of an engine and pump to take their place.

792. Has sanction been received from the Department of Finance?—Yes.

793. The Comptroller and Auditor-General also refers in his note to an advance of £80 and a free grant of £37 in respect of a house erected on freehold land, which amounts were paid to a bank in reduction of the tenant’s loan. It does not appear to me that that grant of £37 could have been properly made without the prior sanction of the Department of Finance in view of the fact that this land was vested?—It was freehold land and we took a charge upon it.

794. It was not land which had been subject to Land Commission proceedings? —No. It was freehold land. I might point out that, in the Land Bill at present going through the Dáil, we are taking statutory power to impose charges upon such land because we meet a number of cases of small freeholds which require improvement by new houses. There is a certain amount of legal complication in taking a mortgage on such land. We are taking power to impose a charge on such lands in the same way as an annuity or extra annuity is charged on purchased land.

795. That would cover the advance of £80?—That would cover this case.

796. The free grant of £37 was used for reduction of the applicant’s overdraft. Is that normal procedure in the Land Commission?—I do not think that we have had any previous case of dealing with a bank in this way but it is quite in accord with our ordinary procedure when dealing with merchants. We make payments in the names of the merchant and the tenant who is getting the new house so as to make sure that the debt will be paid.

797. Is it customary to make a grant to a person who is in debt to a bank for the purpose of enabling that person to reduce his indebtedness to the bank?— No, but when you meet the case of a man who is building a house and who may be in debt to his merchant or his bank, or to both, naturally, the grant or advance which any Department makes will be used to reduce that debt. To make sure that it is used to reduce the debt, we make the payments in the joint names of the merchant and tenant. This is the only case that has come to my personal knowledge in which we have made payment in the joint names of a bank and of a tenant but we may have done it in other cases. The principle is the same as in the case of the merchant.

Mr. Maher.—We regarded the grant as given in respect of expenditure incurred by the applicant and not as a grant for improvement of an estate. For that reason, we asked the Land Commission to obtain the sanction of the Department of Finance.

Mr. Deegan.—We have asked for sanction and we are in correspondence with the Department of Finance about it. That Department has asked for additional information.

Mr. Codling.—We are doubtful about the transaction and our letter of inquiry to the Land Commission covered some of the points partially cleared up this morning. We shall have to come to a conclusion in the light of the reply we get from the Land Commission and of the discussion this morning. I do not think that it is a clear case. It is unprecedented, so far as we know, to use Land Commission money for repaying a bank. Mr. Deegan has admitted that.

798. Chairman.—I can assure Mr. Deegan that when this information reaches the Deputies of Dáil Eireann, it will inflame their enthusiasm. They will be waiting on the Land Commission with the suggestion that every man who has a bank overdraft and who builds a house should receive an advance from the Land Commission with a view to reducing the overdraft. I, myself, must seriously consider the building of a house.

Mr. Deegan.—I should not wish to extend any encouragement whatsoever to that proposal.

Deputy O Briain.—The loan from the bank in this case may have been obtained solely for the building of the house.

799. Chairman.—Deputy O Briain suggests that the applicant in this case may have had no transaction with the bank save in connection with the building of this house.

Mr. Deegan.—That is so.

800. Chairman.—Did the Land Commission satisfy themselves as to that?— We believed that such was the case.

801. You were satisfied that the tenant had no other transactions with the bank than those relating to this house?—We were satisfied that his indebtedness to the bank was due to his having built this house. He is in a small way.

802. It would be of assistance to the Committee if the facts on which the Land Commission came to that conclusion were brought to the notice of the Comptroller and Auditor-General as a matter of record?—We shall do that.

803. Chairman.—That would put the matter on record and would limit the precedent considerably. The Comptroller and Auditor-General goes on to say:—

“I have also requested that the covering sanction of the Department of Finance may be sought for the additional expenditure involved in payments to contractors for supplies of materials required in connection with Improvement Works at rates in excess of the respective contract prices and, in one case, the placing of new contracts in lieu of a cancelled contract which resulted in an increased charge to the State.”

Mr. Maher.—We have received a copy of the sanction of the Department of Finance for these items. They relate mainly to increased prices of iron and increased prices of steel, which resulted in making a new contract. The Department of Finance have sanctioned the increases. In one case, the increase amounts approximately, to £58, as a result of placing a new contract with a firm for the supply of gates and posts.

804. Chairman.—Do all your contracts contain a proviso that in the event of the price of raw materials rising the contract price shall be amended?

Mr. Deegan.—No. A tenderer is bound by his tender.

805. These contractors made application ad misericordiam for some additional payments?—There were only four of these cases and in each one we explained the matter to the Department of Finance and secured sanction. To take one example. In December we accepted a tender which had been received by us in November, the price being £77. The tender was accepted on the 2nd December, and on the 4th December the contractor wrote that his lowest price would be £82, as prices were rising and he wanted a reply by return. The next lowest tender was considerably higher, so we accepted this man’s tender for £5 more.

806. I suppose it was open to you to take the next highest tender and to sue the contractor for damages for failure to sustain the contract?—I wonder if that would be advisable.

807. It would depend very largely on the solvency of the contractor. Do you prefer to make a deal?—We find that procedure advisable in small matters, to make a deal and get the work done quickly.

808. Chairman.—What is the Department of Finance practice in these matters? Is it to reopen the contract or to stand to the letter of the contract?

Mr. Codling.—It depends very largely on the circumstances. I should say that this is not a typical case, because the Land Commission found it necessary to obtain legal advice, which was to the effect that they were not on very strong ground. The intention is that a tender form should be sent out as one document. and it was not quite certain whether the conditions of contract were attached to the form of notice that was issued to each contractor in the case under review, and when it came to a question, as to whether the contractor whose tender was accepted could be held to the terms, a doubt arose. When the facts were put before the Department of Finance they felt, in all the circumstances, that the Land Commission were justified in the action taken, not to press for the original terms. We shall have to take up this question of seeing that the original intention of the Contracts Committee, that all the tender documents should be issued as one document, is carried out in future. so that there will be no loophole. That governs this case. As regards general cases, where a contractor mends his hand, as Mr. Deegan indicated, we have to consider the circumstances of each case. Sometimes the amount is so trifling that it is not worth while entering into a squabble with the contractor. He may have made a bona fide mistake. The course of prices may have unexpectedly gone against him, and it would be inequitable to make him bear the whole loss. The Contracts Committee in such eases look into all the circumstances and, in accordance with practice, decide what is to be done in a particular case. Sometimes they insist on the contractor carrying out the tender and in other cases decide not to press him. They always look at the interest of the State from the monetary point of view when dealing with contracts, having regard sometimes to a particular district, and sometimes to the country as a whole.

809. Chairman.—You will ensure that the documents go out as one in future?— Yes.

810. The Comptroller and Auditor-General’s note continues:—

“In connection with the scheme whereby certain lands in County Meath, available for the relief of congestion, were reserved for allottees from the Gaeltacht, expenditure of £25,741 13s. 9d. incurred in providing the necessary roads, drains and water supply, the erection of dwelling-houses and out-offices and for free grants for stock and implements is charged to this subhead. The total expenditure borne on the Vote for Lands in connection with the scheme from its inception in 1934-35 to 31st March, 1938, amounts to £98,752 2s. 0. In addition, expenditure amounting to £2,030 10s. 0d. was incurred in the erection of a schoolhouse. This amount was subsequently recouped to the Land Commission by the Office of Public Works. A charge for the services of an Assistant Agricultural Over-seer who was appointed to give the migrants practical instructions in the development of their holdings is borne under subheads I 3, Vote 52—Agriculture, and on subhead D.3, Vote 56— Gaeltacht Services, a charge is borne for the services of a domestic economy instructress who paid periodical visits for the purpose of advising the migrants on matters of domestic economy.”

I take it that that is an informative paragraph.

Mr. Maher.—It is for the purpose of bringing under one head all the expenditure under the scheme.

811. Deputy O Briain.—How many holdings have been allotted in County Meath to migrants from the Gaeltacht?— So far, 90.

812. Chairman.—The Comptroller and Auditor-General has the following note:—

Subhead N—Advances to meet Payments under Sections 13 (3), 15 (2), 18 (2), and 19 (1) of the Land Act, 1931.

“I observed that payments made under the above sections of the Land Act, 1931, have been charged to Suspense Accounts pending recovery and that at the 31st March, 1938, the balance due in respect of payments out of Vote moneys amounted to £38,597 18s. 3d., while in addition, payments were made out of general cash balances and the amount due at 31st March, 1938, in respect thereof was £15,464 12s. 10d. Having regard to the fact that this subhead of the Vote is provided for the purpose of making advances to enable payments to be made pending recoupment by the persons liable therefor, and that it would appear that the payments made should have been charged to the subhead and not to suspense, I have asked for the observations of the Accounting Officer.”

Mr. Maher.—We were informed that this matter was the subject of correspondence between the Department of Finance and the Land Commission and in the Estimates for 1939-40 provision has been approved for £60,000 to clear the suspense and allowing a further charge.

813. I take it that the matter is now closed?—It is.

814. And closed to the satisfaction of the Comptroller and Auditor-General?— Yes.

815. We will now take the Vote. Under subhead H—Payments under Section 11 (7) of the Land Act, 1923—what are those payments?

Mr. Deegan.—That is interest and Sinking Fund on the State contributions of 10 per cent. added to price and 2 per cent. to the Costs Fund.

816. Deputy Brasier.—On subhead M —Loss on Unoccupied Holdings—what holdings are these?—Holdings on our hands. We take possession of them and we have to try to make ends meet, but we do not always succeed.

817. Deputy Keyes.—On subhead O— Advances to provide funds for the maintenance of embankments and other works —you do not seem to have heavy expenditure there. Have you any recent returns to warrant further expenditure? I notice that there was no expenditure during this year?—You will find that expenditure on embankments is dealt with in subhead I—Improvements of Estates. This subhead is to provide for future maintenance. We set aside a capital sum to be repaid by advances; but it is not easy to get people to accept advances for embankment works.

Deputy Keyes.—I thought it was for expenditure rather than advances.

818. Chairman.—If the Deputy looks at subhead I he will find that embankments are covered by it. Under subhead Q—Payments under Section 27 (2) of the Land Act, 1933—what payments are those?—Annuities under the 1923 Land Act.

819. Is the procedure there that, when a holding is vested in a tenant, half of the capital sum outstanding is paid by the Treasury to the Land Bond Fund?— The State has accepted responsibility for 50 per cent. and sometimes 55 per cent. of the amount.

820. Does that become an annual charge?—Yes, it is an annual charge and you find it here.

821. And as land division continues this annual charge will tend to grow?— It will.

822. Does the £592,418 4s. 1d. for expenditure represent the total annual charge in respect of all land divided?—It represents the whole 50 or 55 per cent. under the Act of 1923 and subsequent Acts.

823. Deputy O Briain.—Does it include only lands acquired and divided since the passing of the 1933 Act?—No. It includes all tenanted land dealt with since 1923 as well as land that has been divided under the 1923 Act and later Acts.

824. Deputy Brasier.—How does the reduction of 55 per cent. bear on the rest of the halved annuities—is it a very big amount?—I would have to get you that information. I do not think it would be a large proportion of the whole. It applies to all the land acquired and divided since 1923 and the land divided under the Soldiers and Sailors Land Act.

825. Chairman.—It does not apply to the annuities halved on land divided under the Birrell Act, the Wyndham Act, or the Ashbourne Act?—No, nor to the annuities on tenanted land under the 1923 Act, nor to annuities on newly divided land since 1933. They all get the 50 per cent. reduction.

826. What is the procedure for redemption there? The annuities go the length of redeeming half of the capital sum. Under what sub-head is the provision made for the balance of the expenditure? Say that £50 is the capital sum of a holding of land under the 1923 Act. The tenant’s annuity is fixed at a figure which will redeem £50 at the end of a period? —That is so.

827. Where does the other £50 come from?—The State is finding it here, in this subhead.

828. Then as regards all the land divided under the 1933 Act and the 1923 Act, the half annuity is found under this subhead?—Yes.

829. In regard to half annuities under previous Land Acts, no provision is made in the accounts at all because the money must go straight into the Treasury?—I am afraid——

830. I sympathise with you, because explaining intricate matters to the uninitiated is a very difficult job?—I would almost like notice of that question?

831. Take a farm sold under the Wyndham Act, the capital value of which was £1,000. Prior to 1933, the annuity on that was sufficient to redeem the £1,000 at the end of a period. Subsequently to 1933, the tenant paid an annuity sufficient only to redeem a capital sum of £500 at the end of the term. The remission of the other half of the annuity appears nowhere in the accounts; it simply does not come into the Exchequer?—I am afraid I do not quite get that question.

832. There is a charge imposed on the account for 50 per cent. of the annuities subsequent to 1923. Is not that so?— There is.

833. But there is no charge on the account for 50 per cent. of the annuities outstanding under the 1903 Land Act?— No.

834. That is because the annuities received in respect of those purchase agreements are now being treated as revenue? —Yes.

835. And so, instead of a charge appearing, only half of the expected revenue is going into the Treasury—is not that the situation?—Yes, that is so.

836. As regards the item “Losses,” a full note of which appears on page 167 of the Appropriation Accounts, you will observe, Mr. Deegan, that £86 8s. represents a loss written off in respect of stock which was sold by a Gaeltacht migrant. I understand that arrangement has now been adjusted and that the stock is no longer the property of the Land Commission and the migrants are free to sell their stock if they want to?—This sum of £86 8s. did not arise out of stock sold by migrants. As explained there, there was a monetary loss by the Land Commission on the resale and replacement of stock which we purchased for the migrants and which were found to be unsatisfactory. The net loss was £86 8s. There were 14 horses and 14 cows which were unsuitable. Some were found to be suffering from a disease with which the migrants were not able to cope. It was a disease known as mammitis in cows. We felt that it would be unfair to leave these cows on their hands. We removed them and replaced them. The net loss on 28 animals came to £86 8s

837. Chairman.—The item of the purchase of the Leckenagh farm appears to relate to no subhead. What is the procedure there?

Mr. Maher.—That is a special matter for which provision could only be made in the Estimate.

838. Chairman.—Mr. Codling, you were kind enough to say that you would give us a memorandum* on a matter relating to the opening of a subhead for the purpose of including a sum of money in connection with the Pearse Street Fire Inquiry?

Mr. Codling.—Yes.

839. Chairman.—We distinguish between that case and this one in that this subhead is within the ambit of the Vote and the other subhead did not appear to be so.

Mr. Codling.—The other subhead, in the Local Government Vote, was within the ambit because there had been similar expenditure included under subhead F (3) in the Local Government Vote of the previous year. I put in a memorandum the other day in reply. I think in both cases the ambit covered the expenditure. In the Pearse Street Tribunal case I think the main point raised was whether a Supplementary Estimate which was taken on the Local Government Vote later in the year should or should not have included the expenditure of £32 incurred in connection with the Pearse Street Inquiry— should have included that, as well as the provision for the main purpose. I tried to deal with that in the memorandum I put in. In this case there is no doubt that the Leckenagh farm did come within the ambit. It was just a case of opening a new subhead because there was no other provision for the transaction.

840. Chairman.—It would not have come as such a shock to our constitutions if they had lettered it as a subhead.

Mr. Codling.—As a rule the Department letters it.

841. Chairman.—I would direct Mr. Deegan’s attention to the fact that the alphabet still contains the letter Y and in desperate cases they might even have used YY. I think that was done on other occasions.

Mr. Deegan.—We got as far as X somewhere.

Chairman.—The resources of civilisation are not exhausted. As regards the Appropriations-in-Aid, the full list appears on page 167.


Mr. M. Deegan further examined.

842. Chairman.—Report of Comptroller and Auditor-General:—

“Included in the expenditure from this fund are payments of £1,065 14s. 2d. (December, 1937), and £130 (March, 1938), in respect of lands, the clear possession of which has not been obtained by the Department. In view of the time which has elapsed since the payments were made, I have addressed inquiries to the Accounting Officer in the matter.”

Have you received any reply to these inquiries, Mr. Maher?

Mr. Maher.—Yes, a reply has been received. In the first case, which relates to 710 acres, purchased for a sum of £1,065 14s. 2d., we have been informed that the purchase money has been recovered. The purpose of the paragraph generally is to call attention to the difficulty which the Forestry Department experience in taking over areas of land on which they are not able to carry out their work, due to the fact that local people have grazing and other rights. The Department have made a note on that in their explanation in connection with the account.

843. Chairman.—What is the position with regard to the £130?

Mr. Maher.—We have not yet received a reply from the Department.

844. Chairman.—Perhaps, Mr. Deegan, you could tell us something about it?— In the first case which Mr. Maher has mentioned, we are giving back possession, because the owner who sold us the land seemed to have overlooked a number of old agreements by which he gave some 30 parties rights to grazing. He could not complete the contract and he is taking back the land. In the second case, the £130 case, that was a defaulter’s holding of some 140 acres of poor land. The Land Commission sold it to the Forestry side. When Forestry came to plant it the owner created some trouble and insisted on getting portion for himself. Negotiations are going on and, by arrangement, the Forestry Department propose to give back 25 acres to the Land Commission which they will give to the farmer. We expect that will content him and we will be allowed to plant the remainder. These cases show the difficulties we are experiencing in planting land which we took over.

845. You are taking the necessary steps for the future under the new Forestry Bill?—We have no new Forestry Bill.

846. What power will you have to extinguish grazing rights?—There will be certain powers under the new Land Act, but that applies to the Land Commission.

847. Chairman.—Report of Comptroller and Auditor-General:—

“I also observed in one case, where land had been rented by the Department, and in another, where land had been purchased, that owing to local grazing and turbary claims over the land in question the Department has been unable to proceed with necessary forestry operations, and I have requested to be informed of the steps it is proposed to take to enable the Department to use the lands.”

Have you a note of these cases, Mr. Deegan?—Yes, I have. In the case where land was rented or leased, the local people have objected to our planting the land and have damaged our fences, with the result that we have had to stop the work. They claim a right to graze there and they insist that they will not allow us to plant. That is the long and the short of it. We are now trying to buy the whole place and, if we do buy it, together with some more of the surrounding mountains, we hope to come to an arrangement with the local people by which they will get sufficient grazing and gradually they may appreciate the benefits of planting and be able to contrast the profits of planting with those of sheep grazing. It is only by proof on the spot that forestry is more profitable than sheep grazing that we will manage to placate the local people in cases like that. In the other case where land has been purchased, there again local rights have been discovered. Four tenants have a right of grazing over some of this land and we propose to hand back 520 acres and call for a refund from the owner, as he has sold us something which he is not able to hand over.

848. Report of Comptroller and Auditor-General:—

“In another case a contract was entered into for the purchase of 1,331 acres, but the area of land actually assigned to the Department was ten acres less. As no claim for a proportionate reduction in the purchase price was made, I have asked that the covering sanction of the Department of Finance be sought for the expenditure.”

Has that sanction been forthcoming, Mr. Deegan?—We have got that sanction.

849. With regard to Appropriations in Aid—Subhead H of this Vote—I wonder has there been any time to inquire into the desirability of conducting any kind of campaign, on the lines of Arbour Day, to bring about the destruction of the ivy pest which threatens the survival of our good trees?—Since you raised that question on the last occasion, Mr. Chairman, we have looked into the matter, and our expert advice is that the position is not really serious and that there is not a serious danger to the country’s tree supply from that cause.

850. I saw an interesting article written by one of the principal authorities in England on timber, in which he says that ivy is not a menace, provided that it does not extend to that part of the tree which bears foliage, but that if it did extend to the part of the tree that bears foliage it kills the tree. He said that so long as the ivy was confined to the trunk of the tree it did not interfere with the tree’s normal growth. What is your opinion?—So far as the trees that are our own property are concerned, at least, our expert advice is that ivy constitutes no difficulty. In some old park lands, however, it may be an injury to trees which are near their maturity, but the position so far as we are concerned is not so serious as to warrant action on our part. That is the conclusion we have come to.

851. Well. I must say that the impression I would gather going around the country is that ivy does a lot of damage and that great numbers of trees are dying on the roadsides as a result of the ivy menace?—I should say that ivy, probably, is not the cause in every case.

852. I see. It may be just a symptom? —The trees may be near their end or near their maturity, but a growing tree is very seldom injured in that way.

Well, that is a possible explanation, but I still feel that the ivy is a danger.

853. Deputy O Briain.—Under Appropriations in Aid, Mr. Deegan, there is a figure of £54,463 16s. 2d. for large sales of timber. To whom do you sell that timber, and is it all sold in the country or is some of it exported?—Our timber is all sold in the country.

854. Chairman.—There is no trade in pit props now, is there?—Well, of course, we do not always know what use the persons to whom we sell the timber make of it.

855. You sell to saw-mills?—Yes, to saw-mill proprietors or anybody who would be using the timber.


Mr. Deegan further examined.

856. Chairman.—There is a note by the Comptroller and Auditor-General on this:—

Subhead H 3—Grants under the Housing (Gaeltacht) Acts, 1929 and 1934.

“In previous reports I referred to the grants and loans which may be made under the Housing (Gaeltacht) Acts, 1929 and 1934, and to the fact that the aggregate amount of such grants and loans is not to exceed the sum of £650,000. I am informed that at the 31st March, 1938, the position regarding such grants and loans was as follows.”

Then there is a table set out. Does that note require any further comment, Mr. Maher?

Mr. Maher.—No, it is for the purpose of showing the relation between the grants made and the statutory limit imposed by the Act.

857. And the total amount of grants sanctioned is not yet in excess of the £650,000?

Mr. Deegan.—It was then £575,000 and is now over £600,000, and it was a question of new legislation being required in order to continue.

858. Deputy Brasier.—It would appear that these services are extending?—Yes. Seeing what the total was up to March, and since £650,000 is the limit, we need fresh legislation to carry on.

859. Chairman.—Subhead I—Appropriations in Aid:—

“I observed that a number of accounts due in respect of Gaeltarra Eireann knitwear goods and tweeds supplied to persons resident abroad have been outstanding for a considerable time. I am informed that the normal machinery for collecting the amounts due having failed, the collection has been placed in the hands of a firm which specialises in the collection of foreign debts.”

Have you any further comment to make on that?

Mr. Deegan.—There are six accounts concerned there. Two have already been collected and pressure is being applied for the other four. They are all small.

860. There is one large account for the New York firm. Has that been collected? —No—well, there is one of just over £100 which has not yet been collected, but two of the six have been collected: one of £10 and the other of £11 or £12.

861. I take it that the orders, in view of these defaulters, which may be given will be looked up before the exit of our people from the New York World’s Fair? —The matter will be very carefully examined.

861a. The paragraph continues as follows:—

“As it appeared that it was not intended to pursue the question of the collection of arrears of rent due in respect of portion of a store which was let for some years and which has since been transferred to the Office of Public Works, I have requested that the covering sanction of the Department of Finance may be sought for the abandonment of the claim.”

Mr. Deegan.—We have actually got £10 in this case and have asked the Department of Finance to sanction that.

862. Chairman.—Why has this person not paid for the store?—Well, he seems to have been there for years, and there was no agreement. It is rather difficult to collect from a man in whose case the greater part of his debt would be Statutebarred.

863. He has paid £10?—Yes.

864. Does not that revive the balance? —It was in final settlement.

865. In final settlement?—Yes, it was not by way of an instalment, but in final settlement.

866. Deputy O Briain.—When did he go into occupation?—He seems to have been there since about 1924. We got into this place in 1933 when we took over from the Fisheries Department. There is no agreement as to the tenancy and no payments seem to have been got from him since 1927.

867. Could that happen now—that a man could go into occupation of a store without an agreement?—It could not. As a matter of fact, we did not know he was there when we took over. We found him there.

868. Chairman.—Has the sanction of the Department of Finance been got for this transaction?—Not yet, but I am sure they would be glad to get £10 instead of nothing.

Mr. Dagg.—Our position is that the Department of Finance has not so far agreed to the acceptance of the £10 and we are still in correspondence with Gaeltacht Services on the matter.

869. Chairman.—The note continues as follows:—

“Included in the receipts is a sum of £67 10s. 0d. from the sale of buttons, which were purchased during the years 1934-35 and 1935-36 at a cost of £1,739 12s. 7d. Arising from changes in fashions and designs of knitwear these buttons proved to be unsuitable and were disposed of. The authority of the Department of Finance has been sought for the write off of the loss amounting to £1,672 2s. 7d.”

Now, Mr. Deegan, that seems to be an extremely discreditable transaction. A loss of £1,672 2s. 7d. on buttons is one that, I think, would be very hard to justify.

Mr. Deegan.—It does look bad.

870. What are the circumstances which gave rise to that?—Well, they were simply that a stock of buttons had accumulated up to about the end of 1934 which were perhaps out of date by then, and that during 1935 and the early part of 1936, when the Department was undergoing a process of reorganisation, a further supply of the same type of buttons, which had been found suitable previously, was ordered. Later on, in the beginning of 1936, when stock was taken, it was discovered that there were something like—I think the actual figure was about 2,000 gross in excess, and inquiries made in the country showed that a number of these buttons and designs of buttons was no longer being used—that they were more suitable for the mantle trade, it seems, than for the cardigan and knitwear business for which they were being ordered. The total found in excess came to 2,400 odd, gross, and when that is contrasted with an annual demand of about 3,500 gross—we use about 3,500 gross annually—it looks excessive in one way, but in another way it does not look so bad. In any event, these buttons were found to be unsuitable as the demand for the particular type of knitwear, cardigans, and so on that were being made, did not exist. We had a new designer who considered them unsuitable and out of date, and something had to be done about the matter. We tried to sell them, or to get the manufacturers to take them back, but they had no use for them either, the tide having passed, and the best we could do was to sell them to those people, referred to there, who took them off our hands for £67 10s.

871. I do not understand how anyone would buy 2,400 gross of buttons that they did not want, and I hold that any business house which would do that would be heading straight for bankruptcy. That is my judgment, and it seems to me that there must be something very gravely wrong in the matter of administration here. Who was the responsible officer in this transaction when it took place? Perhaps I might phrase that in another way. Was the officer responsible for this transaction brought to book, and did he offer any explanation?—The whole matter has been determined, and we have asked the Department of Finance for authority to write off the loss, but, so far as we, in the Department, are concerned, we find it difficult to place the blame. At the time, the person who had held the position of technical head previously, and who had been ordering this class of buttons, had left the Service, I think, at the end of 1934.

872. How long has this supply of buttons been accumulating?—For some years, up to the end of 1934 and the beginning of 1935, but during most of 1935 we were without a technical head designer for this particular work and the orders were continued according as requests came in from the country on the same basis for the same type of buttons as previously. When the new designer appointed about 1935 came to look into things, and to see the type of buttons that were going to be used on cardigans, etc., she found that the buttons in stock were unsuitable.

873. Chairman.—Was there any technical head of the division for the intervening year?—No, there was a technical interregnum.

874. And there was nobody in charge of the business?—There were officers in charge of the division but there was no technical head in the shape of a production manager or a designer. We were waiting for a fresh appointment.

875. Deputy Brasier.—Was there any indication during these years of the unsuitability of the buttons?—There was really only one year or 15 months concerned. There was an accumulation of about 700 odd gross during 1934 or up to the beginning of 1935, but the fact that there would be about 700 gross in a place in which there was an annual demand for 3,500 gross, would not call for any special attention.

876. Was this unsuitability of the buttons due to a change of ideas on the part of your technical designer?—To a very great extent.

877. And it was due entirely to this person’s opinions that this change took place?—The buttons were in accordance with the requirements of the previous designer. Fashions changed in the interval and a new designer with different views came along.

878. The change was due to the new designer?—Fashions had changed in the meantime. They were buttons of a large type. They were used by ladies who were fond of these immense things. They have gone out of fashion now and they will not wear them except on mantles.

879. Chairman.—Is it the view of the Department that too large a quantity of these buttons were purchased?—Not at the beginning, but during 1935 too many were purchased.

880. Is it your view that the suitability of the buttons was, in fact, very doubtful then?—Yes, during that year.

881. Deputy Cole.—Where did you get these buttons?—They were made locally. They are home manufactured.

882. Chairman.—Were these buttons largely purchased during the interregnum to which you have referred when there was no technical director?—They were. Of the 2,400 gross, 1,700 gross were purchased during that time.

883. Do you not think that it does reflect on the administration of the office that an officer with no technical knowledge would have power to enter into commitments for £1,700 worth of buttons? —To an extent it does, but it must be remembered that that was a time when the Gaeltacht Department was going through a process of reorganisation with which you are all familiar.

884. It strikes me as extremely odd that an officer of a Department, in the knowledge that there was no technical guidance, would enter into the purchase of nearly £2,000 worth of buttons, a transaction which in the event proved to be a big loss?—There was not quite £2,000 worth involved. There was 750 gross there before.

885. Chairman.—£1,739 12s. 6d. worth of buttons had to be sold for £67 10s. 0d.?—That is so, but about £400 worth had accumulated before January, 1935.

886. Chairman.—I must say that I feel the officer responsible for that transaction in the absence of technical advice blundered very badly. However, we are very much obliged to you for your information on the subject and we can discuss what we deem it right to say when we are dealing with our report. Paragraph 65 states:—

Suspense Account—Advances to Agent.

“With the authority of the Department of Finance monthly advances of £25 were made to an agent in anticipation of commission to be earned from the sale of Gaeltarra Eireann goods. At the 31st March, 1938, the balance due by the agent in question amounted to £184 14s. 2d. and is charged to a Suspense Account. In reply to my inquiry as to whether the Accounting Officer was satisfied that no loss would ultimately fall to be charged against public funds by reason of the advance payments in respect of commission, I was informed that while it was not possible, in the circumstances, to state definitely that no loss to public funds would accrue, the limitation or prevention of such loss was almost completely dependent on the continuation of the advance.”

Have you any further observation to make on that?

Mr. Maher.—We noticed a debit in respect of these payments. We have got information that up to March last, that is March, 1939, the debit shown had reached £433. The payment per month is £25, whereas the commission paid is small. For example, it was 19/11 in March; £1 9s. 1d. in February, and in January, £2 12s. 0d. It is quite a small commission charged against the monthly payments. The debit appears to have grown from March, 1938, to March, 1939.

Mr. Deegan.—Yes, the debit is growing, but the position put shortly is that the man is getting a salary to introduce our business. We had hoped that with the opening of the World Fair things would improve over there.

887. Chairman.—Have you fixed in your mind any limit beyond which the debit will not be permitted to grow?— We are going to bring the thing to an end.

888. Deputy O Briain.—What you mean by that is that you are going to put the man on a definite salary basis instead of a commission basis?—I think we shall have to end this particular arrangement. We have been advised to wait until we see the results of our show at the World Fair. We have been in touch with the Consul-General in New York and we are acting on his advice.

889. Chairman.—Has the Department of Finance any observations to offer on this matter?

Mr. Dagg.—We are inclined to view the arrangement as a rather expensive one but we decided to agree to the representations made to us to let it continue until after the World Fair. Then we shall ask them to take stock of the position and to see whether this arrangement should be continued or some other arrangement made.

890. Chairman.—It does not seem to be a very satisfactory way of dealing with public funds.

Mr. Dagg.—We do not regard it as satisfactory on the figures before us.

Mr. Deegan.—If you look at it in the ordinary commercial way or look upon this man as an ordinary commercial traveller, you may not be able to defend it but if you look upon him as a representative of the Department getting a monthly salary for the purpose of introducing our trade, in places where we would not have a chance without that assistance, you may be able to defend it for a time.

891. Chairman.—If you attached him to the staff of the Consul in New York or treated him as a civil servant you could keep a rather strict line on his movements but we have no reason to believe that this gentleman did anything but smoke his pipe. In view of the fact that his commission for a month amounted only to £1 9s. 1d., he is either an extremely bad traveller or else our goods are no good or he is resting himself. I understand that our goods are excellent.

Mr. Deegan.—The returns have not been considered good.

892. Chairman.—I think the Committee would hear with satisfaction that you had brought that arrangement to an end?—I think there is no doubt about it. It will come to an end.

Paragraph 66 reads:—

Industrial Loans.

“I have been furnished with a Schedule concerning the Industrial Loans from which it appears that advances made during the year ended 31st March, 1938, amounted to £604 1s. 10d. Of this sum £496 4s. 10d. relates to cash advances charged to subhead G, while £107 17s. 0d. represents the value of looms, machines, etc., issued to workers on hire purchase agreements. Exclusive of the amounts due under these hire purchase agreements, the arrears due at 31st March, 1938, amounted to £9,616 14s. 9d. as compared with £9,547 18s. 5d. on the 31st March, 1937.

In my report last year I referred to the sum of £9,383 10s. 6d. due by a company which ceased to exist in 1925 and to the fact that negotiations were in progress for the realisation of such security for the debt as the State held. I understand, however, that owing to certain difficulties which have arisen the negotiations have not been completed.”

Have you any further observation to make?

Mr. Maher.—No. That is for the information of the Committee.

893. Deputy O Briain.—When did these loans amounting to £9,616, start?—These are old loans and they are mentioned every year. The transactions started as far back as 1910. There was a loan of £9,000 issued in the days of the old Congested Districts Board.

894. Is there any hope of recovery there?—Not the slightest. We hope to be able to bring the thing to an end as soon as the new State Lands Act, which is going through, allows us to get rid of the property. We shall have to ask the Department of Finance for permission to do so.

895. Chairman.—This refers to the old granite factory in Galway?—Yes. We hope to get rid of it under the State Lands Act.

896. Turning to the details of the Vote itself on page 173, what is the position in regard to subhead D(8)—the Toy Industry?—The factory was burned down, but it has been reopened and is going ahead. It was burned down in November, 1938, and restarted in January, 1939. We have made considerable headway when it is remembered that we have 80 girls and 12 boys there producing £220 worth of stuff in the week. The boys receive 25/- per week and the girls 20/-. The position cannot be regarded as unsatisfactory on these figures.

897. There was a change in management was there not? Your original manager was dispensed with?—Yes, the original manager.

898. There is a new man appointed now?—We are awaiting the appointment of a new man.

899. Is there any technical officer there at present?—We have a foreman in charge there pending the appointment of a new manager.

900. Is any check being made from time to time as to the quality and the nature of the product?—Yes, it is all examined and passed.

901. You are satisfied that there is adequate technical supervision to ensure that no loss will accrue to public funds?— At the moment we have not got a technical head or manager but one is being appointed and should be there very soon.

902. The question does arise, does it not, arising out of certain other matters we have had to discuss, as to the prudence of carrying on an enterprise of this kind without any technical direction?—We have a foreman in charge and we seem to be doing quite satisfactorily. We cannot keep up with orders and we are giving good employment.

903. Chairman.—Does it conform to all the Conditions of Employment Acts?— Yes.

904. Deputy O Briain.—Is it simply part-time employment?—No; it is wholetime employment in the toy factory.

905. Deputy Brasier.—In connection with subhead E (3), how do you account for the very small amount of money expended on kelp?—The explanation in the note is that the quantity of kelp available for purchase by the Department was considerably less than provided for. We could not get it. There is not a very big market. There is a market for 1,000 tons of kelp a year.

906. Chairman.—Some new use has been discovered for it?—Cattle feeding.

907. Mr. Brasier.—That is used for the mineral content of cattle food?—Yes.

That is very good news.

908. Deputy O Briain.—Is it probable that that will develop?—We think and hope it will develop. There has been a steady market for 1,000 tons for the last couple of years and we hope it will improve. We have not been able to get that quantity of kelp.

909. Deputy Brasier.—Having regard to the importance of cattle-feeding is it possible to push that side of it? Is it possible to push the use of it for its mineral value in cattle feeding?—We cannot get kelp enough even for the present demand.

910. How is that? The seashore is crowded with it?—I think the people are finding a more remunerative way of spending their time. It is hard work. I think last year we paid £4 a ton. This year we are paying £4 10s.

911. In regard to subhead H (3), is there any diminution in building under the Housing (Gaeltacht) Acts?—We are building about 400 houses a year under these Gaeltacht Acts.

912. But is it increasing or decreasing? There seems to be rather a stop?—Of course we have reached saturation point. The Gaeltacht is only a certain area and you can only do a certain amount of building in it.

913. Is it possible to extend your operations to minor Gaeltacht areas?— The Land Commission and the Department of Local Government and other Departments are working there. The ordinary State housing grants are available. The Land Commission and the Local Government Department and the Utility Societies all provide for the Breach-Gaeltacht areas.

914. Having regard to the value of the Gaeltacht grants, is it not a wonder that more grants are not availed of. You must be imposing very strict conditions? —The main condition is that Irish must be the language of the home. The maximum grant under the Gaeltacht Acts is £90.

915. Is not that very definitely the case? Now that Irish is taught in the schools and on the increase, saturation point would not be reached. The use of Irish is actually extending?—Well, when you have all the houses or most of the houses built you cannot build any more.

916. They are not. That is the point I am making, that they are not built. You must be holding your hand on account of the size of the grants?—No; there is no diminution in the rate at which we are going ahead. We are doing as much work as ever. We are building about 400 houses a year.

917. That is very good news. There seems to be greater difficulty in getting a grant. People desire grants and desire to build houses, but the conditions imposed are very strict. You must be adopting a very high standard?

918. Deputy O Briain.—Are not you bound according to the terms of the Act? —We are bound by the statutory term that Irish must be the language of the home. That is the only condition under the Gaeltacht Acts.

919. Deputy Brasier.—Quite so, but, unfortunately, you must be even raising the standards. You must be very stringent in your investigation?—No. If Irish is the language of the home the grant is automatically allowed. There is no question about that.

920. Deputy O Briain.—And if not, the applicants are advised to go to the Department of Local Government or the Land Commission?—Yes; they are entitled to the ordinary State grant, which is only £10 less.

921. Chairman.—I take it that this accounting period covered the period when the toy factory in Mayo was burned down?—No, Sir, it does not.

922. But there were no receipts for the sale of toys?—There is a note here on page 176—(2)—

“Owing to unavoidable causes the toy factory did not commence production until after the close of the financial year.”

923. Deputy Brady.—Has the sale of carrigeen fallen off?—Carrigeen in the form of food?

924. Yes?—That is under subhead E (4). There is a slight decrease in expenditure there and we say that the saving is due mainly to smaller quantities of carrigeen being required by the Department than was anticipated. There is a slight falling off.

925. Deputy Brasier.—Is it not possible by propaganda to try and push the sale of carrigeen because that certainly is a case where you can get unlimited quantities. The people are there to gather it?—The demand does not seem to exist. A tremendous lot was done but the demand does not seem to exist for it.

926. But cannot you push it by propaganda and encourage the people to use it as a nourishing article of food?—We do our best and in addition to what is sold for food some is sold for commercial purposes.

927. In the vicinity where I live a good deal of it is gathered and a market does not seem to exist for it. Possibly that is where the Department would come in. The Department, by propaganda, could create a market for it and encourage the people to use it?—We will look into that matter.

The Committee adjourned at 12.30 p.m. until 11 a.m. on Thursday, 6th July, 1939.

* See Appendix IV.