Thursday 22 March 2018

Town crippled by crash is abuzz at hi-tech invasion

Owner/manager of the Raheen Woods Hotel Lester McNamara. Picture Andrew Downes
Owner/manager of the Raheen Woods Hotel Lester McNamara. Picture Andrew Downes

Brian McDonald

Athenry was hammered in the recession, so there's no underestimating the impact of the Apple announcement.

In the late 1970s, there were 28 pubs in the town which was steadily growing, mainly as a satellite area for Galway's industrial development.

Immediately before the downturn in 2007, the number of pubs had consolidated at 16. There are now just eight.

"If you want to know the effect of the recession, you can take one street - Northgate Street - eight businesses have closed there, two of them only recently," says hotelier Lester McNamara.

The hope now is that the depressing cycle will be reversed, with the guarantee of 300 new jobs in the construction and operation of Apple's new data centre, just down the road in Derrydonnell.

The proprietor of the Raheen Woods Hotel scarcely had time to talk yesterday as his premises was a hive of activity, playing host to a series of meetings, all of them around the Apple announcement.

And he was facing a hectic night as his largest function room was booked for a public meeting to provide information and updates.

"It's the only thing that people are talking about today - it's wonderful for the area and great particularly for young people. There have to be opportunities here for those with IT skills," Mr McNamara said.

He added: "We understand it will be a massive facility-environmentally friendly and self-sufficient in every sense, built in Derrydonnell woods.

"And for once, it will be great to see jobs come to this area and not automatically go to Galway city."

The location of the new data centre, between the M6 and the M17 motorways, is regarded as strategically significant. And Apple's new next-door neighbours are equally excited about the company's clean-energy policy.


Derrydonnell resident Stephen Macken said: "Having the world's biggest company come here, with their reputation as being at the forefront of clean energy is very encouraging.

"It's a pristine location and it sets the tone for other business enterprises looking at the area".

The principal of Presentation College Athenry, Gerry Doherty, sees the arrival of the hi-tech giant as a significant endorsement of local infrastructure.

"Athenry was bypassed for years when it came to industry and jobs. Local businesses have done great work, providing valuable employment and now to have an international company like Apple arriving on our doorstep, really puts us on the map."

The announcement has been welcomed by business leaders, with the president of Galway Chamber of Commerce, Frank Greene, stating it would have a big impact.

"It's a great commitment by Apple to Ireland and to the West of Ireland.

"It ties in with a good regional enterprise strategy, which is something that we have been vocal on."

Irish Independent

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