By the foundation of the Irish Free State, a significant percentage of tenanted land had been sold. Up to that point, however, sales were voluntary although generously incentivised.
The Irish Free State Land Act 1923 was designed to complete land purchases by making them compulsory. It was also designed to relieve congestion.
The legislation provided that with certain exceptions, all tenanted land to which it applied effectively, tenanted agricultural land in Irish Free State should vest in the Irish Land Commission on an appointed day, to be declared by the Land Commission. It would then vest in tenants as owners, free from landlord’s title encumbrances, subject to the Land Purchase Annuity.
The Land Commission retained certain holdings, in whole or in part, for the purpose of improvement, enlargement or relief of congestion.
In the case of judicial tenants, annuities would be given based on a reduction of 30% or 35% of the judicial rents or in the case of non-judicial rents, their annuities.
On the passing of the legislation, rent ceased to be payable by tenants to whose holding the Act applied, and pending vesting, they have to pay a sum in lieu of rent representing an immediate reduction of 25% on the former rent pending vesting in the Land Commission.
The purchase money for the tenanted land, including the state contribution of 10%, was provided by 4 1/2 % Land Bond. They were repayable by annuities at 4 3/4 percent of the purchase monies advanced including a 1/4 percent redemption of a sinking fund.
The Act provided that all tenanted land in the Congested Districts’ counties and such untenanted land outside such counties as was declared to be required to relieve congestion should vest in the Land Commission on appointed days to be declared for that land.
To supplement these compulsory powers, untenanted land outside congestion districts might be bought by agreement. Untenanted land acquired by the Land Commission was to be used to create new holdings or enlarge existing holdings.
Public funds were provided for improvement and rearrangements of holding, including where necessary, roads, fences, drains, buildings etc. and provision for land reclamation.
Revisions to 1932
The later Acts in the 1920s contain provisions clarifying and confirming the 1923 Act. The 1927 Land Act took within its scope some tenants and holdings purchased prior to that year, and certain fee farm grantees, lessees under long leases and under certain circumstances, land suitable for building grounds.
The Forestry Act 1928 provided for the compulsory acquisition of tracts of afforested land by the Minister for Agriculture in coordination with Land Registry. The Act resulted in conversion of much barren and wasteland into a source of income and recreation.
The 1929 Land Act extended the 1923 Act to non-judicial tenancies with a reduction of 35%.
The Land Act 1931 enabled the Land Commission to vest by means of publishing a list of vested holdings published subject to the correction of errors, and omissions as might subsequently be found necessary. Every tenant of the holding in a published list was deemed to have entered a subsequent purchase agreement for the purchase of his holding at a standard price on the appointed day.
The vesting of holdings in purchasers took place by vesting orders. This took place after the investigation and assessment of disputed matters. The 1931 Act facilitated the ascertainment and distribution of purchase money.
Fianna Fail and Land Policy
The Land Act 1933 was the first act of the new Fianna Fáil government. It varied the powers of the Minister of the Lands and the Land Commissioners. A new Appeals Tribunal was established for persons aggrieved by the orders of the Land Commission. The Tribunal consisted of two lay members nominated by the Executive Council of the Saorstát, Irish Free State with a Judicial Commissioner.
It gave increased powers to the Land Commission for the purchase of land required for the relief of congestion or division amongst unemployed agricultural workers, former evicted tenants and other suitable purposes. It made provisions for sports fields, parks and playgrounds for the inhabitants of towns, villages, and cities, schools, and the provision of gardens for schools.
The Act brought certain classes of tenanted land formerly excluded within the Act. The effect was that almost the whole of agricultural land in the Free State was brought within the scope of the legislation.
Change of Terms
The legislation provided that as and from the second gale day in 1933, the amount of land purchase annuities payable was to be reduced by 50% and, in some cases 55%. It provided staying of all proceedings for the recoveries of arrears of annuities against tenant purchasers.
The 1933 Act provided for funding of sums not exceeding three years’ arrears at a cost of 4 1/2% over a period of 50 years. Any rents due for years greater than three years were cancelled. The cost of the revision of annuities and cancellation of arrears was borne by the government/exchequer.
The British guarantee of 4 ½% Land Bonds issued under the Land Bond Act 1925 lapsed at the expiration of the guarantee period at the end of 1932. The Land Bond Act of 1933 was passed to make provision for new 4 ½% Land Bonds up to a maximum of one million pounds for financing the purchase of lands in relation to which the Land Commission had entered definite commitments under the Land Act.
The Land Bond Act made provision for the purchase of further lands. Bonds issued under the Act bear a 4% interest.
Additional powers were conferred on the Minister for Agriculture and on the Land Commission by the Land Act 1936. Land exempted from the 1923 Act, because of its potential building value was no longer exempted unless it was shown that it possessed substantial actual value as a building ground. It provided for the collection of annuities.
By the middle of the 20th century the Land Commission’s main focus was on making holdings solid and economically viable. The Land Commission was granted powers and facilities to acquire land compulsorily, if necessary.
Much of the land acquired compulsorily on the foundation of the State was and comprised of uneconomic holdings.
The Land Commission was the landlord of tenanted land under the 1923 Act. The Land Act 1939 gave the Land Commission power to resume holdings both for the relief of congestion as earlier legislation and increasing supply as well as for the purpose of allotting land to persons and bodies to whom they were empowered to make it advance. Owners are to receive compensation.
Compulsory acquisition of untenanted land i.e. agriculture land. The 1936 Act provided power to compulsorily acquire land for relief of congestion as above.
The Land Act 1950 allowed the Land Commission is to buy land for cash if required for migrant holdings . Power was given to acquire land which was not being worked in a good and strict manner. The purposes of the apparently wide powers were relatively narrow. They were to be used be for the relief of congestion in the same locality, sports fields, etc. If the owner satisfied the Land Commission that he was producing adequate agricultural produce and giving adequate local employment, the power did not apply.
Powers of compulsory acquisition were given to provide for the acquisition of land not being worked in good manner for the benefit of suitable persons willing and capable of working the land.
The bulk of land had been transferred by the earlier part of the 20th century. However, the Land Commission continued to operate through the 1970s, dealing with the remaining tenanted land.
Transfer to Leinster
A number of new holdings in Eastern Counties were granted to migrants from Western County. The provisions were introduced in 1932. The Land Commission acquired 6000 acres from seven owners, who would use it for grazing and letting. It allotted 2000 acres to ex-employees and the balance into 122 new holdings with qualified families in the Gaeltacht area.
A substantial number of smaller farmers in Donegal, Mayo, West Cork, and Kerry and many Irish speakers settled in Meath and Kildare. Gaeltacht colonies were established in Rathcarne, Gibbstown, Kilbride, Allenstown and Clongill in County Meath in the late 1930s.
1965 Act Management
The Land Act 1965 extended the power of the Land Commission to consolidate holdings. It prohibited letting, subletting and subdivision without Land Commission’s consent. It required consent of the Land Commission to the vesting of lands outside the urban areas to a non-national.
The Land Commission vested land by way of vesting order in tenant farmers. The lands became originally registrable compulsorily in Land Registry. If a full investigation of title had been undertaken, the absolute title was vested. In other cases, a lesser qualified or possessory title might be granted.
The powers of consolidation in the 1965 Act were strengthened, allowing the Land Commission to consolidate holdings where desirable or necessary.
The powers to compulsorily acquire lands were modified. In broad terms, the compulsory acquisition powers were available where lands were not being worked and it was necessary for the relief of congestion in the immediate neighbourhood or the provisions of sports grounds or pasture grounds.
The Land Commission ceased to acquire land in 1983. The last transfers were completed in 1990. The Commission was dissolved in 1999 by the Land Commission Dissolution Act.
The requirements for consent were removed by the Land Act 1984 for the purpose of encouraging short-term leases of lands in the context of providing larger holdings.
The purchase price for the land was charged by the way of a land purchase annuity. The Land Commission owned annuities that were payable over periods of 67 years and became very small in nominal terms. Low payments could be waived by the Minister and redeemed.
The Land Act 2005 deemed land purchase annuities of less than €200 as on 13 July 2004 to stand discharged, including arrears. The same is automatically cancelled from the Land Registry on application.
In other cases, land purchase annuities might be redeemed at 75% of the redemption price pursuant to the scheme made by the Minister. Sums otherwise due by the Department of Agriculture to an individual might be set off.The registrar may refuse to register a transfer without a certificate that the annuities have been paid off.
The functions formerly vested in the Judicial Commissioner and the Appeal Tribunal are vested in the High Court.
The power to make a vesting order in respect of untenanted lands and lands in congested districts comprised in the 1931 Land Act list remains The Act repealed the requirements of Land Commission consent on subletting sales and purchases of land by non-national. In 1983, EU nationals were largely exempted from the requirement for consent, provided they were exercising European Union rights.
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