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*Senator Roisin Garvey. Photograph: Natasha Barton

APPEALS TO AN BORD PLEÁNALA are to be launched following the granting of planning permission for a €1.2bn data centre on the outskirts of Ennis.

Lands for the data centre in March 2019 were zoned by elected representatives of Clare County Council. Prior to this, a delegation from the county which included then Mayor, Tom McNamara (FF) and current Director of Economic Development, Liam Conneally visited Facebook’s data centre in Lulea, Sweden.

Speaking at that March meeting, Conneally predicted that the data centre would become “a game-changer project not just for Ennis but for Co Clare”. Estimates that the development could result in investment of €400m to €500m were also issued.

It is expected that the data centre would create 250 permanent jobs and generate millions of euros in annual rates for the County Council.

Environmentalists have criticised the decision of the Council to give the green light and have committed to appeal the decision to An Bord Pleánala, citing the fact that it will consume as much electricity as 200,000 homes and emit 657,000 tonnes of CO2 annually.

Ironically, strong criticism has been aired online with one of the functions of data centres to collect, store, process, distribute and allow access to large amounts of data from social media sites.

Senator Roisin Garvey (GP) disputed the figure issued by the developers this week that the data centre would create 400 to 500 jobs. The Inagh woman was adamant that the project would not proceed, “Eirgrid won’t give permission for it to connect to the grid, we don’t have the energy, we all know that, we have an energy crisis at the moment. It has planning permission but the reality is this won’t be built anytime soon”.

She added, “Eirgrid aren’t allowed give any more connections to data centres, we all know they are a big energy guzzler, it’s not in reality going to happen. Maybe they are thinking in 2040 we will have it all sorted but that is ridiculous thinking that far ahead, we have a climate crisis, an energy crisis and war in Ukraine, no data centre anywhere is getting connected to the grid”. Speaking on behalf of the Green Party’s Clare branch, she warned, “It will double the current electricity consumption in the county and exceed the greenhouse gas emissions of the from the entire cattle herd in Clare”.

Speaking to The Clare Echo, Cllr Pat Daly (FF) stated, “I think it is great news for Ennis and the hinterland particularly with jobs in the building stage and permanent jobs in the future when the building is completed. I admire Mr McNamara for his foresight and I wish the project well for the future. The planners have done their job, they’ve brought in environmental experts. That should be enough to alleviate any worries in that sector. I wouldn’t like to see a repeat of what happened in Athenry, they’re too many jobs at stake”.

Futureproof Clare warned that building one of the country’s largest data centres brings health risks. Ruairí Ó Fathaigh said, “The plans to build one of the largest data centres in the country here in Ennis brings with it an additional threat to the health of people here as the plans include a gas burning plant that will only make the air quality here worse than it already is, leading to asthma and other respiratory problems”.

Mayor of the Ennis Municipal District, Cllr Clare Colleran Molloy (FF) praised the decision. “I believe it is a very positive step forward not just for Ennis but for Clare, the west of Ireland and Ireland indeed because this will be of such a structural magnitude that it will be the largest in the country, that is my understanding. We have to give credit to the Executive team who asked the councillors some years back to zone these lands for the Data Centre and councillors did see the merit of that”. She said it was “unfounded” to suggest the data centre would cause poor air quality in Ennis.

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