Saturday 20 October 2018

'This is not the final word' - IDA chief still hopeful Apple will build €850m data centre in Co Galway

The head of the IDA, Martin Shanahan (inset), has said that tech giant Apple has not definitively ruled out building its €850m data centre in a Co Galway plan.
The head of the IDA, Martin Shanahan (inset), has said that tech giant Apple has not definitively ruled out building its €850m data centre in a Co Galway plan.
An artist’s impression of the data centre planned for Athenry in Co Galway
Laura Larkin

Laura Larkin

The head of the IDA has said that tech giant Apple has not definitively ruled out building its €850m data centre in a Co Galway plan, despite refusing to commit to the project.

"As we know Apple made a decision in 2015 to invest in Athenry... the planning process for that data centre has taken longer than anybody would have expected," Martin Shanahan CEO of the IDA told RTE Radio One.

"The current situation is that Apple continues to consider Athenry in the context of their business plan but they have not committed to commencing the data centre immediately."

"It would be a significant investment for Athenry, for the West of Ireland and the fact that it's been delayed through the planning process over the last two years, I think it is disappointing and the fact that it is not proceeding now immediately is dissapointing.

"We have to now see how Apple considers it into the future.

The IDA would continue to work with Apple on the issue and on other matters elated to the tech company's work in Ireland.

"I think it was pretty obvious over the last number of months that there were concerns in relation to Athenry given the time it was taking to get through the planning process that was much longer than anyone would have expected, certainly longer than the company would have expected.

"There was always a possibility as this dragged on that it may impact  on Apple's plans. Having said that I don't think this is the final word on it. Apple have said that they will continue to consider Athenry in the context of their future plans."

After a meeting in California, Taoiseach Leo Varadkar confirmed that Apple boss Tim Cook refused to give "a definite commitment" to build the Athenry data centre during their meeting.

As revealed by Independent.ie, a serious question mark now hangs over the €850m investment planned for the Galway town.

Mr Varadkar told Apple executives that local people had protested in favour of the project going ahead despite the planning objections that had been lodged.

And he promised Mr Cook that the Irish Government "will do anything within our power to facilitate" the development.

However, Mr Cook would only commit to considering Athenry as a location for investment in the future.

"We didn't get a start date or a definite commitment or anything like that. But certainly from our point of view we really impressed on them very strongly how much the Government is behind this project and we will do anything that is within our power to facilitate it," Mr Varadkar said.

The centre, first mooted in 2015, has faced a protracted planning process.

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

Under new proposals planning applications for data centres will go straight to An Bord Pleanala as a 'strategic infrastructure' project.

However, concerns have been raised that Apple's decision not to immediately move forward in Co Galway could damage our prospects of investment from other companies post-Brexit.

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