Apple may proceed to build a 850 million euro ($1 billion) data center in Ireland, the High Court ruled on Thursday, bringing relief for the government after a two-year planning delay which it feared could hurt its reputation with investors.
"This is a very important step for Athenry and for Apple", said Paul Keane, who heads up the Athenry for Apple Facebook page, which has over 4,000 members.
Seán Kyne, Ireland's minister for community development, natural resources, and digital development, said it was "very positive news for Galway and the West of Ireland".
"In light of the time that it took to arrive at this decision we will have to take a critical look at this whole process because the way it stands it is far too slow and is a threat to employment and the economy in general".
The objectors' main concern was the poor environmental impact assessment carried out by Apple.
The Irish and Danish data centers are created to improve the performance of cloud services for European customers, including Siri, iMessage, iTunes, iMessage and Maps. The Danish site is understood to be already up and running.
The data centres in Athenry and Denmark's Jutland are to be host to popular Apple services such as iCloud, Apple Music, Siri and various e-commerce activities. A decision was expected to be made in July, but was delayed until October thanks to a lack of High Court judges. Following public hearings in Galway last summer, An Bord Pleanála gave Apple the go-ahead to build the facility last August.
The project, originally announced in 2015, was challenged by three objectors who put forward a review request to the An Bord Pleanála, an independent, statutory, quasi-judicial body that decides on appeals from planning decisions made by local authorities in Ireland. Around the same time, thousands of people in Athenry marched in favour of the data centre.