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Challenges brought by church and rugby club in Kildare over former visas-for-investment programme


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The programme, which was scrapped by the Government in 2023, had allowed non-EU nationals who invested large sums of money in various projects to secure visas allowing them to reside in Ireland.

The challenges are the latest to be brought by applicants, who sought inclusion before the IIP was discontinued.

On Monday, lawyers acting for representatives of a Christian group called The Church on the Main Street CLG, and Naas Rugby Football Club, brought separate, but similar, judicial review actions against the Justice Minister.

The court heard that The Church on Main Street had secured an investor under the IIP to help it purchase and renovate a property known as the Dara Cinema, in Naas, which it currently uses as a foodbank and a drop-in centre.

Naas Rugby Football Club, the court heard, also obtained an investor so it could upgrade its dressing rooms, construct a new 4G pitch, and develop space for mixed ability and mini-rugby groups to use.

Their investors were prepared to invest a minimum of €400,000 as philanthropic donations, to what were known as endowment projects, that benefit areas including arts, sports or education in Ireland.

However, the applicants were informed by the minister that their projects were not deemed eligible for consideration.

In order to qualify, the proposed investors must be new investors rather than ones connected to other projects, the applicants were informed.

The minister also said that the IIP’s criteria regarding the transfer of investors had not been complied with by the applicants.

The applicants claim the minister’s refusals are invalid and what they submitted are in accordance with the IIP’s rules.

They claim that under the programme, endowment projects were established in a way that allowed investors to be added to projects, and could also change to and from different projects.

They claim the decision breaches their legitimate expectations that their applications would be accepted. The minister’s decision is unreasonable, irrational and in breach of fair procedures and natural justice, they submitted.

They further claim that proper reasons for rejecting their applications have not been given by the minister.

In their proceedings against the minister, the applicants, represented by Conor Power SC and Denis Collins Bl, seek orders quashing the refusal to accept the applications under the IIP.

They also seek declarations that the minister has acted unlawfully in refusing to accept their applications.

They further seek orders directing the minister to reconsider their applications.

The cases came before Ms Justice Niamh Hyland, who granted the bodies permission to bring their challenges on an ex-parte (only applicants represented) basis.

The judge adjourned the actions to a date later this month.

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