Major Offaly meat factory plan ‘blocked’ by the IIP: But who or what is the IIP?

Following recent controversy over the apparent scuppering of a plan to establish a sizeable beef processing facility in Banagher, Co. Offaly, there has been mounting curiousity over exactly who or what blocked proceedings.

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Progress on the project, in addition to getting planning permission from Offaly County Council (which was granted), was also contingent on the investors (backing the project) securing residency status under the Immigrant Investor Programme (IIP) – an investment scheme overseen by the Department of Justice and Equality.

AgriLand examined official Department of Justice and Equality documentation – outlining key details of the IIP.

What is the IIP?

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”, according to the documents.

The scheme is designed to attract investors from outside the European Economic Area (EEA) to “avail of investment opportunities, locate their business here and acquire residency status in Ireland”.

The proposed (aforementioned) beef exporting business in Co. Offaly, while spearheaded by Banagher Chilling Ltd, was to be underpinned by an investment from Chinese ‘partners’ when the application for planning permission was submitted (to Offaly County Council) last year.

The total investment was expected to be circa €40 million. The rejection of the IIP application has been criticised, as this investment is believed to be a “multiple of the minimum required under the IIP“.

As part of the IIP application process, official documents state that applicants must show evidence of a net worth of a minimum of €2 million.

AgriLand understands that applicants must declare that they will invest under one of the following headings:
  • Enterprise investment: A minimum of €1 million invested in an Irish enterprise for at least three years;
  • Investment fund: A minimum of €1 million invested in an approved investment fund for at least three years;
  • Real estate investment trusts (REIT): A minimum investment of €2 million in any Irish REIT that is listed on the Irish Stock Exchange for at least three years;
  • Endowment: A minimum €500,000 philanthropic donation to a project which is of ‘public benefit’ – the document outlines projects in the arts, sports, health, culture or education.

Applications are, the documents state, assessed by the IIP on the basis of the: profile of the applicant; commercial viability of the project; employment outcomes associated with the proposed investment; and the overall benefit to the Irish state.

Applications are determined by an evaluation committee – comprised of “senior civil and public servants from Irish government departments and agencies”.

Having assessed an application, the evaluation committee makes a recommendation to the Minister for Justice and Equality.

The decision to reject an application by the Minister for Justice and Equality is “final” and “shall not be subject to a review or appeal”, according to the documents. However, the person who made the application can “reapply at a later date”.

Over 90% of applications were from Chinese investors

An Interim Evaluation of the IIP, seen by AgriLand, outlines details of applications submitted between 2012 and 2017.

From 2012 to the end of the first quarter of 2017, investors from China accounted for nearly 91% of all applications. The next highest number was from the US; these accounted for less than 2% of the total number.

In 2012, the total number of applicants was just five. By 2016 the number of applicants had grown to 329.