Apple pulls out of plans for €850m data centre in Athenry, Co Galway

A group of residents who objected had planned to go to the Supreme Court

Apple pulls out of plans for €850m data centre in Athenry, Co Galway

An Apple store in Beijing, China | Image: Jiwei Han/Zuma Press/PA Images

Updated: 11.45

The judicial process has been criticised after Apple announced it will not pursue its plans to build a new data centre in Athenry, Co Galway.

Objectors to the proposed €850m facility had decided to take their case to the Supreme Court in December.

It followed a High Court judgement in November that seemed to pave the way for works to begin.

Apple had planed to build the state-of-the-art data centre on a 500 acre Coillte-owned site just outside Athenry.

But a number of local residents raised concerns about the potential environmental impact of the project - and accused An Bord Pleanála of not carrying out a proper assessment.

The Commercial Court also ruled against the objectors in October.

File photo

In a statement, Apple said: "We've been operating in Ireland since 1980 and we're proud of the many contributions we make to the economy and job creation.

"In the last two years we've spent over €550m with local companies and, all told, our investment and innovation supports more than 25,000 jobs up and down the country.
"We're deeply committed to our employees and customers in Ireland and are expanding our operations in Cork, with a new facility for our talented team there.

"Several years ago we applied to build a data centre at Athenry.

"Despite our best efforts, delays in the approval process have forced us to make other plans and we will not be able to move forward with the data centre.

"While disappointing, this setback will not dampen our enthusiasm for future projects in Ireland as our business continues to grow."

"Very much regret" decision 

Business Minister Heather Humphreys has said she regrets the decision.

"I very much regret that Apple will not be pursuing its plans to construct a data centre in Athenry, especially as the project would have been a source of significant investment and job creation for Galway and the West of Ireland.

"Notwithstanding this bad news, I welcome that Apple have confirmed that they are strongly committed to their existing operations in Ireland."

"The Government recognises the important role that data centre investments can - and still will - have in contributing to economic growth and job creation in Ireland.

"That’s why we agreed, in October 2017, to the implementation of a strengthened policy framework to support their continued development.

"That framework includes a number of actions which, once fully implemented, will help us attract and sustain such investments in the future, especially in regional locations."

'Flagship project'

Galway East TD Sean Canney said: "I very much regret that Apple has made this decision as a consequence of delays within our own approval processes.

"This was to be a flagship project that would have paved the way for further overseas investment in other towns around Ireland.

"The delays arose over difficulties not with the planning procedures but with the judicial review process. We need to set timelines so that potential investors know they will have a decision within a certain amount of time.

"It is up to ourselves as legislators to fix this and we need to do it as a matter of urgency to restore faith in our planning and judicial review processes for foreign direct investors.

"I wish to acknowledge the efforts of the thousands of people in Athenry who came out onto the streets to support this initiative to bring investment and jobs to their town.

"I will be calling on the Government for Athenry to be designated as an area of special investment to counteract the negativity of what has happened."

"Dismay" by the business community

Ian Talbot, chief executive of Chambers Ireland, said: "This morning's announcement by Apple to halt their plans for a data centre in Athenry is disappointing but not surprising.

He said it will be met "with dismay by the business community generally, as well as in the local region, which would have received a very significant economic boost from the proposed €850m investment."

"Apple’s confirmation that they remain fully committed to their existing operations in Ireland is greatly appreciated and a continued vote of confidence in Ireland’s strength as a top location for Foreign Direct Investment globally.

"However, delays in planning undermine our national competitiveness.

"At a time when we face great uncertainty from issues outside our control, such as Brexit and a worrying growth in protectionist measures, it is vital that we act to improve areas within our control particularly as we embark on the vitally important Ireland 2040 program."