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Google in Ireland: from small beginnings to one of State’s biggest private employers

Google has grown enormously since setting up here 20 years ago, but now faces uncertainty

If IDA Ireland had been a little less determined in the early part of the 21st century, Google may never have made it to Ireland.

Back in 2002, the State was in a head-to-head race with Switzerland to house Google’s European operations and, for several reasons, Switzerland was edging ahead. The company was in its infancy, relatively speaking, a fraction of its current size and scope. But it had potential, and potential was what Ireland needed.

Lured by promises of a clear tax regime and the prospect of unused data centres that were ready for the company to utilise, by early 2003 the deal was done. Google was coming to Ireland, and in the weeks that followed, plans were laid.

Tech giant

Twenty years on from that decision, the company is facing uncertainty as parent company Alphabet prepares to cut 12,000 jobs worldwide. Today, Google employs more than 5,000 full-time staff at its European Middle East and Africa headquarters in Ireland, and more than 9,000 when temporary staff and contractors are taken into account.


The tech giant has invested billions in its Irish operations to date, including more than €1.5 billion since 2017. Over time it has expanded from its initial office in Barrow Street to much of the area, including its multistorey Google Docks building, the Foundry customer event space across the street, the new Bolands Mill development, the Valesco building on the Grand Canal where it opened its cloud Hub in 2018, and the Treasury Building on Grand Canal Street. In early 2022, Google was granted planning permission to develop a campus at the latter location.

Over time, Google has expanded outside the confines of Silicon Docks. In 2012, it opened its first data centre in Dublin, following up with its Grange Castle data centre in 2016. In 2018, the company said it would invest a further €150 million at the Grange Castle facility, further cementing its presence here.

It hasn’t all been expansion though. In 2020, the company caused consternation in the commercial property sector when, amid the worst of the Covid-19 pandemic, it emerged it would no longer proceed with plans to sign contracts for the Sorting Office close to its other office buildings in Dublin. That would have given the tech giant space for up to 2,000 workers, but with staff working from home for the foreseeable future, and the Bolands Mill development proceeding, the company’s decision seemed more pragmatic than an indication that it was cutting back on its footprint here.

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Google has also widened its functions in Ireland, building a large engineering team to join sales, finance and other support functions. The company has more than 60 nationalities working at its Dublin offices. It is also involved in a series of support programmes for start-ups and entrepreneurs in Ireland, as well as engaging with the local community.

In 2018, the Irish business also took over responsibility for providing services to the company’s users in the European Economic Area and Switzerland from January 22nd, covering Search, Gmail and Maps, moving them from the US-based Google entity. The Irish subsidiary also took over responsibility for users’ information, taking on the role of data controller for users in the EEA and Switzerland.

It also set up a separate Google Cloud unit, transferring about 300 employees from Google Ireland.

The most recent set of accounts filed for the company show its main Irish subsidiary, Google Ireland Ltd, marked a turnover rise by €16.4 billion in 2021 to €64.8 billion, an increase that was driven by a rise in search queries and continued growth in advertiser activity within Google Search and YouTube.

Ciara O'Brien

Ciara O'Brien

Ciara O'Brien is an Irish Times business and technology journalist