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Irish PM Backs £760m Apple Athenry Data Centre As Cook Declines To Commit

Steve McCaskill is editor of TechWeekEurope and ChannelBiz. He joined as a reporter in 2011 and covers all areas of IT, with a particular interest in telecommunications, mobile and networking, along with sports technology.

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Irish Prime Minister says Apple has not given firm commitment to new data centre but Dublin will do everything it can following local objections

The Irish government has promised to do everything it can to ensure a $1 billion data centre in Ireland will be built following more than two years of delays.

Apple first revealed plans to build a new facility in Athenry, County Galway, in 2015.

In April that year a planning application was filed for the 500-acre site that includes a single storey data centre building that will be 263,000 square feet, along with a single-storey “logistics and administration building” which will cover 56,000 square feet.

It had been hoped that the data centre would open this year, creating 300 jobs.

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Apple Ireland data centre

However numerous objections to the plans have derailed the project to the point where Apple CEO Tim Cook could not make a firm commitment to build the data centre to Irish Prime Minister Leo Varadkar during a meeting in San Francisco.

Residents say that the data centre will negatively impact a nearby primary school, as well as affect local wildlife.

However Varadkar told Cook that Dublin was firmly behind the plans and in the future could fast track certain processes or ensure data centres are classed as vital infrastructure.

“We didn’t get a start date, or a definite commitment or anything like that,” Varadkar told state broadcaster RTE.

“But certainly from our point of view, we really impressed on them very strongly how much the Government is behind the project, how we will do anything within our power to facilitate it and how the people of Galway and Athenry in particular really want it to happen.”

Apple has been contacted for comment.

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The Athenry data centre is one of two Apple is building to serve its European customers. Another facility is being built in Viborg, Denmark to power services such as the App Store, iCloud, Siri and iMessage.

Last week, Apple posted record service revenues, highlighting the growing importance of the segment to its business.

The Athenry site was chosen because of access to local sources of renewable energy and is close to Apple’s office in Holyhill, County Cork, which opened in 1980. It plans to expand the campus to accommodate 1,000 new employees, bringing the total number up to 6,000.

The Irish government has long welcomed the company’s presence in the country and is in the unusual position of fighting against an EU decision ordering Apple to pay more tax.

An EU investigation found Apple had been able to avoid taxation on almost all profits generated in the EU single market thanks to a structure which routed revenues through two “paper” headquarters in Ireland and minimal tax rates in the country.

It effectively paid a corporation tax rate of 0.005 percent in 2014 whereas other businesses did not. The EC alleges this is state aid and has ordered the Irish government to recover as much as £11 billion in taxes.

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