Cowen lauds grant of planning for Offaly meat plant…but warns ‘project in jeopardy’

The decision by Offaly County Council to grant planning permission for a meat processing plant at Banagher, Co. Offaly, this week has been welcomed by local TD Barry Cowen.

However, deputy Cowen warned that a decision from the Immigrant Investor Programme to reject applications from investors involved in the project at Banagher will put the project in jeopardy.

Commenting, the Laois-Offaly TD said: “The decision by Offaly County Council to grant planning is a positive one.

“This is a €40 million project which will provide west Offaly with 250 construction jobs and a further 150 jobs in the operation of the plant.

The meat processing plant offers a unique and welcome opportunity to create jobs. People do not need to be reminded of the devastating impact of jobs losses in the region from Bord na Móna and the ESB plants recently.

“The meat processing plant will open up opportunities to the Asian market for Irish beef farmers, thus helping boost incomes for farm families,” the TD added.

The project is being spearheaded by Banagher Chilling Ltd., and was subject to a proposed investment by Chinese partners when an application for planning permission was submitted last year.

“Some of the investors in this project made applications under the Immigrant Investor Programmes (IIP) open to applicants that invest over €1 million.

“To my utter dismay and disbelief an evaluation committee which assesses these applications, made up of senior officials from government departments and state agencies, has rejected the applications.

They conclude the project would appear ‘not appropriate for project approval’.

Highlighting that beef and suckler farmers crave new markets, the Fianna Fáil TD stressed:

“The government policy for the past 10 years has sought to open Asian markets which this project will exclusively supply.

“The local authority, the support of the community, assistance from the Department of Agriculture, Bord Bia, and others have backed this project.

Yet, a nameless committee deciding on an IIP application has brought the entire project into doubt.

“This decision needs to be reconsidered and their decision process outlined in full,” concluded Deputy Cowen.