Department expressed doubts over Banagher Chilling development to IIP

The Department of Agriculture, Food and the Marine had expressed doubts to the Immigrant Investor Programme (IIP) evaluation committee over the strategic value of the Banagher Chilling development, documents appear to show.

A communication from the Department of Justice (which the IIP comes under), seen by AgriLand, outlines that part of the process in making decisions relating to foreign investment (the main function of the IIP) includes receiving submissions from the relevant line department.

The document outlines that the relevant line department for the Banagher Chilling development is the Department of Agriculture, Food and the Marine.

The IIP was introduced by the Irish government in 2012 to “encourage inward investment for the creation of business and employment opportunities in the state”.

The document notes that this submission from the Department of Agriculture was summarised as: “The proposed plant does not meet an identified strategic requirement for additional processing capacity, and there are no guarantees at this stage that it would meet the high standards required for EU and Chinese approval.”

At that point, planning permission was still outstanding for the development, and the Department of Justice communication said that it would not be appropriate for IIP permissions to be granted to projects where planning permission is outstanding.

The document said that the IIP is focused on supporting projects that are investment ready, a criteria of which is that planning permission has been granted.

The communication also said it would be “advisable” for the project’s sponsors – who are investors from China – to engage with the Department of Agriculture before lodging a fresh application to the IIP when planning permission is granted.

Controversy

The decision by the IIP evaluation committee not to grant permission for the Banagher development at the first time of asking has proven extremely controversial.

Earlier this month, the story took another twist when Galway Harbour Company – which operated the Port of Galway – was forced to distance itself from a planning objection launched against the Banagher development.

This list of objectors, seen by AgriLand, contained one person whose address was listed as ‘Galway Harbour Company’, which is an agency under the remit of the Department of Transport, Tourism and Sport.

Furthermore, this person’s name appears twice, once under her maiden name and once under her marriage name.

It is understood that the woman in question has communicated with An Bord Pleanála to have one of her names removed.