I penned a couple of articles here about the difficulty Apple are having trying to spend nearly €900,000,000 in Athenry, arsehole of Galway on the remote Irish West Coast.
You can only guess at how these things were done but Apple most probably made the decision to build two data centers in Europe to begin with and I reckon this decision was taken towards the end of 2014. Being an American Company with deep pockets, their attitude would have been, “Right, we decided to do it so let’s get it done.”
Ireland would always have been in the frame for this project and probably should have secured both centers for this country but surprisingly Viborg in Denmark snuck in the back door and convinced Apple to build one of the data centers in their town outside Copenhagen. Mind you, Margrethe Vestager, The EU Commissioner for Competition and the person who wants Apple to pay Ireland €13 billion, is Danish. Anyway, Apple must have hired a company to find a suitable site for them and to satisfy their criteria of choice, Athenry was found to be the most suitable place. It is in the middle of nowhere and is not the kind of place you’d build a manufacturing plant of any kind. Hell, you wouldn’t put a shop there. Remote doesn’t even go close.
So back in 2015 then, Apple bunged in a planning permission application and knowing them, they probably thought it would take no more than a couple of weeks before they were given the green light. This is precisely what happened in Denmark at the exact same time and today, that facility is operative and those Danes are positively environment-phobic. But here we are at the end of 2017 and not a sod of turf has been turned for the Irish centre. From what I’ve heard, this Apple site is the sort of place urban dwellers would bring their refuse to illegally dump. Objections to that planning permission have dragged on at an Irish pace, slowed by the planning process itself, our lazy self-serving court system and the idiot objectors, one of whom lives in Dublin for God’s sake!
Anyhow, this week at last, our courts overturned the last of the objections. Perhaps it was no coincidence that this happened in the same week that Leo Varadkar is touring the States and due to meet the CEO of Apple, Tim Cook. Taoiseach Leo lives for photo opportunities like that. The icing on that particular cake is that, like Leo, Tim Cook is also gay. It has got to be the dream meeting but it didn’t turn out that way. Instead, Tim has cast doubt on whether any sods will ever be turned by his company in Athenry and while you can bet Leo pleaded, begged and goaded the man, Tim would not make any promises about anything.
It gives me no pleasure to have predicted this outcome twelve months ago. Apple is not here in Ireland as some benevolent Marshall Plan operation. They are a hard-nosed Yankee company who want things done today, not tomorrow and certainly not in two years time! They plan in quarter years and are utterly results driven. When they encounter foot-dragging they make their alternative arrangements in a blink and then quickly move on. Two of the objections were on environmental grounds, (if you can believe that?) but why did it take so long to examine this and uphold or dismiss it? Apple is well on the way to becoming the first trillion dollar company on the planet and they didn’t get there by hanging around some provincial backwater for a couple of years waiting for the local yokels to make a simple decision.
As the Examiner reports this morning, “We’ve known that there are seven or eight data centres looking to come into Ireland, they’re all sitting and watching to see how this planning process was going to go, how it was going to go through the courts, and how long it was going to take.” I read a science & tech.paper last year that showed just how ideal our climate is for these data centers and I could add to that the fact that we have plenty of space for them also. But rather than grasp this fantastic opportunity we Irish reverted to kind and now risk the reputation of being the last place on earth that anybody should try to build a data centre.
It reminds me of a saying prevalent in the fifties, “The only good Irishman is a hungry one.”