The people of Athenry waited with bated breath last Friday as they expected a court ruling on Apple’s €850 million (£751 million) data centre — a decision likely to have a huge impact on their town, which is home to around 5,000 people.
But residents of the town in County Galway, on the west coast of Ireland, were left disappointed thanks to a shortage of judges, according to Galway Bay FM
The long-awaited outcome of a judicial review into Apple’s huge data centre was due to be heard in court on June 23 and a judge was expected to pass a decision on the project, which could generate dozens of much-needed jobs for the area.
Six members of the “Apple for Athenry” campaign group travelled to Ireland’s Commercial Court on Friday but when they arrived they found it was closed, Galway Bay FM reported. Several other cases were postponed by the Irish Courts Service between June 20 and June 23 due to “the shortage of High Court Judges, practitioners and parties,” the Irish Courts Service admitted in a statement on its website.
The judicial review is taking place after three people — local residents Sinéad Fitzpatrick and Allan Daly, and Wicklow landowner Brian McDonagh — complained that Apple’s data centre does not satisfy environmental criteria.
Galway County Council granted Apple planning permission in September 2015 but eight objectors took the issue to local planning body An Bord Pleanála. Following public hearings in Galway last summer, An Bord Pleanála gave Apple the go-ahead to build the facility in August.
But Fitzpatrick, Daly, and McDonagh asked the High Court for a judicial review on environmental grounds, something that could delay the project by a year and a half.
Apple managed to get the case fast tracked through Ireland’s Commercial Court after it filed a request last November but a final decision is yet to be passed.
The data centre case is now expected to be heard in court on July 30, Galway Bay FM reports.
Members of the Apple for Athenry Facebook page have raised concerns that the latest setback could be one step too far for Apple, suggesting that it could force the iPhone maker to withdraw from the project.
One member wrote: “Absolute farce and a disgrace — I can’t see Apple putting up with this ridiculous treatment much longer – I’m astonished they haven’t pulled the plug already and looked elsewhere as this is gone way beyond a joke.”
Apple wants to build eight data halls on a 500-acre site in Derrydonnell Forest, which is owned by state-sponsored forestry firm Coillte, and situated roughly three miles from Athenry.
Apple first announced the data centre in February 2015, saying at the time that it will build a similar facility in Denmark, which is already well underway. It wants to use the data centres to store European user data and to help power online services, including the iTunes Store, the App Store, iMessage, Maps, and Siri for customers across Europe, according to a press release.