In a way the writing was on the wall for the Apple Athenry data centre project since last year.

The Taoiseach had travelled on a trade mission to the west coast of the US, which included a face-to-face with the Apple boss.

During it, Tim Cook failed to recommit to proceeding with the development, even if all the planning hurdles were cleared.

The lack of support was a clear indication that something was wrong, that Apple was reconsidering its options. And why wouldn’t it be, many asked?

After all, the project was announced in February 2015 and seemed to be universally welcomed as a massive boost for an area of the country that had seen little or no multinational investment for some time.

But bit-by-bit it got more and more bogged down in the planning process.

First came an appeal of Galway County Council’s decision to grant permission to An Bord Pleanála.

That was followed by an appeal to the High Court. When it was eventually dismissed, attempts were made to appeal to the Court of Appeal.

When those attempts failed, the objectors then tried the Supreme Court route, which ultimately it would appear was the straw that broke the camel’s back as far as Apple is concerned.


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The planning process for large infrastructural projects has always been peppered with potential pitfalls.

Everybody accepts that a proper planning process should give people affected by a development every opportunity to assess, and if necessary, object to it.

And in the case that those objections are overruled, there must be an avenue of appeal.

But those in the business community argue that avenue should not be so long as to put off the original investor in the first place.

They say that if a project is to fail at planning, it should fail for good planning reasons, not because of an interminable process.

They also argue we must now take a good look at that process to see how it can be streamlined in a way that allows everyone have their say, but doesn’t prevent a quick decision.

Ultimately Apple, as a massive corporation which is deriving growing chunks of its revenue from services like Apple Music, iTunes, etc, needs certainty as to where it is going to host its own and its user’s data. It was never going to wait forever.

With its first data centre in Denmark nearly complete and a second one in planning, the company has other options. Athenry’s loss it seems will be Denmark’s gain.

Apple has something of a mixed reputation in Ireland because of the controversy around its payment of tax.

But the reality is it is amongst, if not the, largest payer of tax in this economy. We therefore need it to remain committed to the country.

Supporters of the project will find some solace in Apple’s statement of commitment to Ireland and to the new figures it released today showing it has grown its investment here and the number of jobs it supports.

The company employs more than 6,000 people in Cork, a figure that appears to be growing all the time. And sources say today’s decision won’t impact on that side of the operation.

But it will no doubt prompt pause for thought among many in Government circles about the fragility of our relationship with Apple and other multinationals.