Mayo GAA club's legal challenge over refusal to allow funding under Immigrant Investor Programme

High Court reporters

A Co Mayo GAA club has brought a High Court action challenging the Minister for Justice's decision to reject its application to be included in the Immigrant Investor Programme.

The application has been brought by Islandeady GAA Company Ltd in respect of an application it made to the Minister under the scheme which had, before it was scrapped in 2023, allowed non EU nationals who invested in various projects to secure visas to reside in Ireland.

The club, founded 120 year ago, said that it had attracted an investor through what was known as an endowment project where an investor would give a minimum of €500,000 as a donation to which benefited the arts, health, culture, education and sports in Ireland.

The club claims that it had lined up an investor, Mr Yihaun He, who the club claims would have allowed it to develop its clubhouse, and faculties for the benefit of the local community.

The investor, the club claims, had initially made an application under the scheme where he identified a different project that would receive his funds.

It is claimed that the investor subsequently decided that the Mayo club should be the beneficiary of the proposed endowment.

The club says its proposal was supported by the local community, and that it incurred costs of €25,000 as part of its application to be included as part of the scheme.

The club made an application for inclusion in the scheme in February 2023.

Shortly afterwards, it was announced that the scheme was being discontinued, but all applications submitted before the closure date would be considered.

The club claims it was informed last January that its application had been unsuccessful and that no valid investor application had been submitted.

A representative for the Minister said that under the scheme's guidelines any investor included in an application must be 'a new investor' rather than an existing investor already connected to another project.

Transfers of investors between projects were only allowed where there is at least one investor already in place in relation to the receiving project, and where all relevant parties consent to the transfer.

This, the Minister representative said in correspondence to the club, was "not the case" with its application.

The official added in further correspondence that no letter agreeing to the transfer of the investor from parties involved the other project had been submitted by the Mayo club as part of its application to be included in the scheme.

The club says that it is at a loss as to why its application was refused, and the decision seems to be based on rules and criteria that it claims were formulated after the scheme was closed.

The club claims the treatment of its proposal as an application by the Minister is not justified.

Adequate and sufficient reasons were not given for the decision, the club also claims, adding that the reasons given by the respondent "remain unclear."

It also claims that the decision was made in breach of fair procedures, was irrational, and that irrelevant considerations were taken into account by the Minister.

As a result the club has brought High Court judicial review proceedings where it seeks orders quashing the Minister's decision and that its application under the scheme be deemed eligible for consideration.

It also seeks declarations including that the club has a legitimate expectation that its application would have been deemed eligible for consideration, and ultimately approved.

The matter came before Ms Justice Niamh Hyland.

The judge on an ex-parte basis granted the club permission to bring its challenge.

The matter was adjourned to a date next month.