US TECH GIANT Apple is still ”considering” Athenry as a location for a major data centre development after a more than two-year wait for the project to clear planning hurdles.
Earlier this week, the High Court blocked a last-ditch attempt to overturn approval for the first phase of the planned €850 million data centre in Athenry, Co Galway.
While the plans were first announced at the start of 2015, the project became mired in the planning process amid objections from a small number of people.
There are now some doubts that the project will go ahead as planned, as Apple has not confirmed whether its 2015 commitment to build the facility still stands.
During a trade mission to the west coast of the US, Taoiseach Leo Varadkar said he was keen to speak to Apple about the company’s commitment to the project in Athenry.
Today he met with Apple CEO Tim Cook. Varadkar raised the issue, however following the meeting the Taoiseach’s office would not say whether the data centre will still be built as planned.
“The Taoiseach impressed upon Tim Cook the value and importance that the Irish government attaches to the Athenry project,” Varadkar’s office said in a statement.
“The Taoiseach also acknowledged that the planning delays which have affected the project to date were beyond Apple’s control.
“Apple agreed to continue to consider Athenry in the context of their future business plans.”
The firm has already completed one data centre in Denmark, announced as the location at the same time as the Irish facility, and confirmed a second centre for the Scandinavian country.
The news that Apple is still weighing up whether to build the project will likely come as unwelcome to many in the local community, in which support for the data centre has typically been strong.
Last year more than 2,000 people attend a rally in support of the plan to build a data centre near the town, which has a total population of about 4,000 residents.
The Taoiseach’s office added that the government is now looking at ways to fast-track planning for data centres in future, including specifically designating them as strategic infrastructure.
The Irish Times reported that Apple will consider the potential future impact of this process on its plans for Ireland before it makes a final decision on the Athenry project.