Apple CEO suggests Athenry data centre is in doubt
Mon 6 Nov 2017
The completion of Apple’s planned data centre facility in Athenry, Ireland, is looking increasingly doubtful following comments from Apple CEO Tim Cook to Irish Prime Minister Leo Varadkar.
The Irish Taoiseach told state broadcaster RTE that Cook would no longer commit to the construction of the data centre, following multiple delays and court challenges, spanning more than two years.
Varadkar and Cook met on Thursday as part of the Varadkar’s tour of San Francisco, where technology investment in Ireland was a key topic. On Twitter, the Irish PM described the visit as a ‘very positive trade mission.’ He also stated that the meeting with Cook was ‘constructive’, noting that Apple employs more than 5000 people in Ireland.
However, speaking later to RTE, he said: “We didn’t get a start date, or a definite commitment or anything like that.” He also told the broadcaster that he promised Cook that the Irish government would do anything within its power to bring about the successful completion of the project.
Government bodies have already hinted at the introduction of a fast-track scheme for data centres to ensure delays like this do not happen again. Technology investment is extremely important to the Irish economy, with one in ten jobs in the country being created by foreign multinationals.
Data centres can help secure investment from these types of companies, and this reliance on investment from abroad helps explain support from Athenry locals – who have banded together in a group called Athenry for Apple.
Despite this support, the project has faced consistent, major delays, thanks to initial appeals against Apple’s approved planning permission, on environmental grounds. Once this was re-approved, the process was taken to court, where it has seen multiple appeals and delays due to a lack of judges.
More recently, Irish High Court judge Mr Justice McDermott dismissed any further appeals, finding that no point of law of ‘exceptional public importance’ could be found to be questioned.
Despite these eventual successes, Cook’s comments suggest that the data centre may never go ahead. In comparison, Apple’s facility in Denmark, announced at the same time, is nearly complete.