Tuesday 21 November 2017

Apple's €850m data centre in major doubt after meeting between Cook and Varadkar

An artist’s impression of the data centre planned for Athenry in Co Galway
An artist’s impression of the data centre planned for Athenry in Co Galway

Kevin Doyle, in California

MAJOR doubts now hang over the €850m data centre planned for Athenry in Co Galway, Independent.ie can reveal.

It is understood Apple chief Tim Cook would not commit to the massive project during a private meeting with Taoiseach Leo Varadkar.

Apple announced the west of Ireland investment in 2015 but the scheme has been plagued by planning difficulties ever since.

Earlier this week the High Court appeared to clear the way for the development to begin.

But the tech giant is extremely frustrated that its plans have been delayed by over two years.

Now sources have told Independent.ie that Mr Cook stopped short of reassuring the Taoiseach the project will still go ahead. Plans for a similar plant in Denmark were also announced in 2015 and that centre is almost ready for operation. Apple is now expected to develop a second data centre in Denmark.

Mr Varadkar raised the company's plans for Athenry during a meeting with Mr Cook yesterday.

He impressed upon Mr Cook the value and importance that Irish Government attaches to the Athenry project. He also said that there was very strong support in the local community for the project.

However, Mr Cook only said they would "continue to consider Athenry in the context of their future plans".

This is a major step back from late September when the Taoiseach said officials at Apple had assured him the data centre would go ahead once the planning hurdles were clear.

Mr Varadkar is understood to have acknowledged that the planning delays that have affected the project to date were beyond Apple's control.

He outlined the changes that the Government is making to fast track these developments in the future, including specifically designating data centres as strategic infrastructure.

Apple has been contacted for comment.

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