Shadow of the Land Commission still falls on farm sector
In 1881, the Irish Land Commission was created, and for a century it was the controversial body responsible for redistributing farmland in Ireland.
In those early days of land reform, a 22ac farm was considered adequate to sustain a family. And, given the living standards of the time, 22ac did just that -- provided, of course, that the new owners worked extremely hard and grew most of their own food and sold whatever calves they could rear to larger farmers for further fattening.
There are many examples of old Land Commission holdings that were given to families who were moved to better land from the so-called 'congested districts' in Connacht.
Many of these holdings were extended and improved and are still farmed by the descendants of the original migrants. They are proof of that amazing concept that land can be taken from one farmer and presented to another without adequate compensation and bloodshed.
Land bonds, which proved virtually worthless, were given to the original owners in lieu of money, and many farmers still bitterly complain about the draconian practices of the commission and how it frequently 'stole' land from its rightful owners.
This is, of course, ironic, given that most of the prosperous farming families from counties Dublin, Meath and Kildare in the 1920s were wealthy graziers who acquired large landholdings following the Land Acts of 1881. They provided secure tenancies from absentee British landowners, many who had fled, and subsequently, the chance to buy freeholds from the Irish Government.
Leaving aside the emotive arguments from both sides and the undoubted political motivation and skulduggery that got farms for some and not for others, the distribution of land was, in general, a socially just move.