‘Unfounded’ appeals have risked €850m Apple centre

“Unfounded” appeals caused delays to the Apple data centre in Athenry, Co Galway, which has thrown the €850m venture into jeopardy, according to Independent Alliance whip Seán Canney.

Mr Canney, a TD for Galway East and a former OPW minister, said the decision over whether to proceed is an Apple one and insisted the “door remains open”.

“It may become a priority for Apple in the future, but it is not at the moment,” he said.

Mr Canney said the planning process for the data centre was unacceptably long, adding that some of the appeals to its commencement were “unfounded”.

“Some of them seemed unprepared to accept the decision of An Bord Pleanála,” he said.

Martin Shanahan, chief executive of IDA Ireland, said the fate of the facility has yet to be decided, but that it will not happen in the short term.

Mr Shanahan said that, following a meeting between Apple boss Tim Cook and Taoiseach Leo Varadkar in the US last week, Apple may still consider Athenry as part of its future plans.

Already with one data centre in Denmark, Apple has begun building a second centre there — and Mr Cook refused to commit to Athenry during his meeting with Mr Varadkar.

Speaking yesterday, Mr Shanahan said the decision was “understandable”.

Mr Shanahan, who was present for the meeting between Mr Cook and Mr Varadkar, described the set-back as “disappointing”.

Mr Shanahan admitted the delays in the Athenry project are not in keeping with the timescales big companies are used to, but said the IDA welcomed moves to regard data centres as part of strategic infrastructure.

Should the Athenry project fall through, Apple would be the owner of 166,000 sq m of wooded land, but with no use for it.

Speaking on RTÉ Radio, Mr Shanahan said: “The planning process has taken much longer than anyone would have expected. It’s certainly much longer than the company would have expected.

“What Apple are saying now is that they are committed to continuing to look at Athenry but they haven’t committed to proceeding immediately because obviously the business context has changed. That is understandable in the time that has elapsed.”

He said that aside from the data centre issue, Mr Cook “expressed nothing but significant commitment to Ireland”.

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