At the weekend, more than 2,000 local people from Athenry in Galway marched in support of the €850m Apple data centre.
The investment by Apple in a state-of-the-art data centre in Athenry represents the single biggest digital infrastructure investment west of the Shannon and is a considerable economic prize for the region.
The data centre will manage data for Apple’s Music, App Store, Messages, Maps and Siri customer base. It will be 100pc powered by renewable energy.
It could forge the lynchpin for job creation by new, digital enterprises for decades to come.
‘We want to show Apple, and the whole world, that the vast majority of Athenry people support wholeheartedly Apple’s desire to open a data centre near our town’
– ATHENRY LOCALS
However, despite planning permission being granted by An Bord Pleanála for the 24,500 sq ft facility back in August, a new legal challenge by three people (just two of them local) threatens to delay the project for 18 months.
Apple has applied to have the case fast-tracked, by requesting that the case be moved to the commercial list of the High Court. A decision by the court is expected tomorrow (8 November 2016).
Delay could derail the digital dreams of the west
Meanwhile, a sister project announced the same day in early 2015 for Viborg in Denmark is already halfway towards completion.
Losing the project would make Ireland a “laughing stock” warned Minister Seán Kyne, TD, and could endanger the country’s chances of landing further data centre projects in regional locations.
— Seán Kyne TD (@SeanKyneTD) November 6, 2016
Ireland – the last landfall between Europe and the US with vital fibre-optic cabling coming ashore in Mayo – is strategically positioned to profit hugely in the next industrial revolution driven by data.
Athenry, like many towns west of the Shannon, was hit particularly hard by the financial crisis that began with the banking collapse of 2008, which saw businesses close and young people emigrate.
The news of Apple’s single-storey data centre coming to the area was seen as a turning point.
Delays and objections, ranging from concerns about wildlife and flooding, contributed to the 18-month delay in planning permission. The fear is that the project might slip away if a further 18-month hold-up takes place in the courts.
“We want to show Apple, and the whole world, that the vast majority of Athenry people support wholeheartedly Apple’s desire to open a data centre near our town,” a Facebook group supporting the investment and organising the march said.