West reawakens as Apple gets green light to build Athenry data centre

12 Oct 2017

Image: Apple

Apple’s data centre ambitions for the west of Ireland are now set to blossom.

Tech giant Apple can now proceed with its €850m data centre in Athenry as the Commercial Court in Dublin has backed An Bord Pleanála’s original decision to grant planning permission.

The decision brings to a close a long-running saga whereby the project was held up by the objections of three people, two of them local to the Athenry area.

Two years ago, Apple announced its plans to build the data centre in Athenry, with a sister data centre also announced for Denmark. The Danish site is understood to be already up and running.

The data centres in Athenry and Denmark’s Jutland are to be host to popular Apple services such as iCloud, Apple Music, Siri and various e-commerce activities. The Athenry base is to be powered by 100pc renewable energy and will be 166,000 sq m in size, but hidden from the public eye by forest.

Athenry abú

At its peak, the investment in Galway is estimated to be worth more than €1bn and would put Ireland on the global digital map as well as encouraging more digital investments and data centres to go west.

Construction of the first phase will generate 300 temporary jobs and, when it is operational, it will employ 100 people full-time.

An Bord Pleanála gave the project the go-ahead in August 2016. However, by November last year, three objectors – local residents Sinéad Fitzpatrick and Allan Daly, and Wicklow landowner Brian McDonagh – received permission to seek a full judicial review of the Apple decision by An Bord Pleanála. This prompted 2,000 local people from Athenry to march in support of the data centre last year. A subsequent march in recent weeks saw 800 local people take to the streets to confirm this stance.

Apple urged for an appeal to be fast-tracked. However, the first hearing in June was delayed by a week, then it was held back to 27 July, with the final decision emerging today (12 October).

After the lengthy hold-ups, the decision is now in Apple’s corner if it will proceed with the investment.

John Kennedy is a journalist who served as editor of Silicon Republic for 17 years