Court to fast-track legal challenge to Apple data centre in Athenry

Brian McDonagh challenging decision to allow Apple build €850m facility in Co Galway

A march and rally held earlier this month in support of Apple’s €850 million data centre project for Athenry. Photograph: Joe O’Shaughnessy

A march and rally held earlier this month in support of Apple’s €850 million data centre project for Athenry. Photograph: Joe O’Shaughnessy


A second legal challenge to permission for an Apple data centre in Co Galway is to be fast-tracked in the Commercial Court.

In judicial review proceedings, Brian McDonagh is challenging An Bord Pleanála’s decision last August to allow Apple build the data centre, one of eight such proposed developments at Toberroe, Palmerstown, Derrydonnell and Athenry.

Among various claims, Mr McDonagh alleges the decision breaches EU directives on forestry.

On Monday, lawyers for Apple Distribution International, a notice party to the case as proposed developer of the data centre, applied to have the action admitted to the Commercial Court.

Mr McDonagh opposed the transfer application on grounds including the timescales provided for would not allow him enough time to get documentats from the EU necessary for his case.

Representing himself, Mr McDonagh, Unit 1, Ballymount Cross Business Park, Dublin, said he “did not oppose Apple coming to Athenry” but wanted to ensure compliance witbh “proper planning procedures”.

Media publicity

High Court

Rory Mulcahy SC, for Apple, said Mr McDonagh was previously refused permission by the High Court to include arguments about an alleged breach of the forestry directive in his action but has appealed that ruling to the Court of Appeal.

Mr McDonagh had made no submissions to Galway County Council in respect of the original planning application and nor had he appealed to the board, Mr Mulcahy said. Mr McDonagh “only came on the field after the board made its decision”.

Mr Justice Brian McGovern said he was satisfied the case was appropriate for admission to the list.

Last week, a separate action by Sinéad Fitzpatrick and Allan Daly challenging An Bord Pleanála’s permission was admitted to the Commercial Court. Both cases will be heard in March.

Environmental impact

In seeking to have the cases fast-tracked, Apple argued the proposed centre is a critical piece of infrastructure required to support the worldwide demand for global storage necessary to cater for rapid expansion in wireless electronic communication, entertainment and work.

Apple says it needs the centre to deal with the exponential growth in demand for data processing and storage.

The cost of the overall proposed plan to build eight data centres in Athenry is some €850 million. If given the go-ahead, the development will create hundreds of jobs directly and indirectly, the company said.