Apple’s decision to pull the plug on an €850m data centre in Athenry was met with dismay by locals, who said the region and the country had lost out.
While the announcement did not come as a shock to people in the Co Galway town, there was a deep sense of frustration. Many people insisted there was no ill will to the people who objected, but there was anger that the cumbersome planning system had led to the impasse that saw Apple halt the development.
Local businesswoman Susan Dooley, of Peggi Browne Interiors, said the confirmation that Apple was pulling out was a huge blow.
“We are devastated. It would have been such an opening for Athenry and for the west of Ireland.
“It is such a loss,” she said.
Independent TD Seán Canney said that legislation needed to change so that the Apple decision is never repeated anywhere else in the country.
“Private industry is not going to wait forever, this process has to be more efficient. It’s a tough decision to deal with, such a loss.
“Here was an opportunity for a regional town to become a flagship which would set a precedent for the rest of the country by attracting in one of the big boys.
“Apple had to make a decision. It couldn’t wait around. The private sector can’t wait and wait,” he said.
Local Fine Gael councillor Peter Feeney said people in the area had still been holding out hope that the project would finally get the green light.
“The news was not unexpected but there was still hope that it would go ahead. It’s not just a blow for Athenry, it’s a blow for every town west of the Shannon and indeed any rural area in the country.”
The Athenry-based councillor also said there was no point blaming people but he insisted lessons must be learned from the debacle.
“It’s so difficult to get big business west of the Shannon. We had this and now it’s gone.”
Paul Keane, of ‘Athenry for Apple’, said it was a bad day for the town, Galway and the rest of the country. “Who is going to come in here after the biggest company in the world? This outcome is sending out the wrong message. It’s not just Athenry which has lost a billion-dollar business, the country has lost as well.”