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SAYING NO to a data centre in Ennis would see the county lose out on a “significant number” of jobs in the IT sector, a Government Minister has warned.

Further information had been sought by Clare County Council in September into the application from Art Data Centres Ltd to develop a vertical farm and six data halls designed on a flexible and modular basis, covering 145 acres/1.3 million sq ft.

A ten-year planning permission was requested with a net area for development of 111 acres. The application site covers the townlands of Tooreen, Cahernalough, Muckinish, Knockanean, Ballymacahill and Roslevan. Located on the Tulla Rd on the eastern outskirts of Ennis at Junction 13 on the M18 motorway, developers said 250 jobs will be created in the data centre, 1,200 in construction and 600 in support services.

Criticism on the Green Party’s involvement in plans to ban the sale of turf was voiced by Senator Regina Doherty, “This is virtue signalling at its very best. Maybe start with something that would actually make a difference. There are 53 Data Centres in Ireland, 8 under construction and 26 with planning permission and do we hear a single peep about them? Sharing a few bags of turf though”.

Speaking to The Clare Echo, Minister for Children, Equality, Disability, Integration and Youth, Roderic O’Gorman (GP) admitted he was not fully familiar with the details relating to the Ennis Data Centre but disputed the rhetoric from Senator Doherty. “The Commission for the Regulations of Utilities recently brought in strict new guidelines in terms of when and where data centres should be built and that they have to have sources of power that are renewable, Eamon Ryan led a lot of that so I’m surprised to see Senator Doherty say we’ve been quiet on that one, we’ve been clear on our view”.

Location of the Data Centres is the key aspect while he stressed the economic benefit to areas from their development. “It’s where they are located, are they located close to energy sources, we also have to remember data centres would generate employment from some of the major multinationals in the IT sector, they are major employers so there is a balancing element, if we said a complete no to data centres then it would mean a significant number of IT would not be coming to Ennis or my constituency in Dublin 15”.

Futureproof Clare, Extinction Rebellion Clare and the Clare Environmental Network have all come out in opposition to the plans for the Data Centre in Ennis. Emanuela Ferrari of Futureproof Clare commented, “We are rapidly approaching dangerous climate ‘tipping points’. The only way to avoid a climate catastrophe is for every country to decarbonise rapidly. Building more data centres is going in the wrong direction”.

Clare TD, Joe Carey (FG) has previously spoken in favour of the Ennis Data Centre which he said were central to the digital economy. “While a data centre in itself is extremely positive, it’s the potential spin off business that can be created that could be the real game changer for Ennis and Clare. It’s essential that there is no delay in facilitating this planning application. We are very much aware of the lengthy planning difficulties which ultimately led to the demise of the €850m Apple Data Centre in Athenry”.

Senior officials in Clare County Council have in the past voiced their belief that the economic boost from a Data Centre would be a “game-changer” for the county. Representatives of the local authority visited Facebook’s data centre in Lulea, Sweden prior to the drafting of the application for the Ennis Data Centre. Former Mayor of Clare and retired councillor, Tom McNamara (FF) was part of the visiting delegation, “I’m delighted Clare County Council have led from the beginning. It will be the same as having a goldmine. The spin-off from this for Ennis and Clare will be unbelievable,” he predicted.

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