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Connacht Tribune

Fast-track process would ensure no repeat of Apple delay

Francis Farragher

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A Galway Fianna Fáil TD has this week published a Bill aimed at fast-tracking the planning process for major information technology (IT) projects, similar to the Apple plan for Athenry, that has been dogged by objections for the past two years.

Anne Rabbitte told the Connacht Tribune that her Planning and Development (Strategic Infrastructure) Amendment Bill was aimed at preventing similar centres to Apple ‘backing away’ from coming to the West of Ireland.

She said that there were at least seven other major data centre projects that could be coming to Ireland – and possibly the western region – who were now ‘holding fire’ pending the latest legal challenge to the Apple project in Athenry.

“We now are a region here in the West where the infrastructure has really improved in terms of access and the latest motorway development.

“But will companies be put off from coming here because of serial objectors to projects? We are facing competition for these IT centre from many parts of the world – we just have to, get the message out there, that we want you to come here,” said Deputy Rabbitte.

Under her Bill – that she will seek leave to introduce today (Thursday) – the planning applications for such IT projects would go directly to An Bord Pleanála, with just a 21-day window of appeal after a decision has issued.

“I think that there is an appetite across the parties in the Oireachtas for a change in the law that will ensure that the planning process is fast-tracked for such major information technology projects that can help sustain the vibrancy of rural regions and communities.

“I hope to get Private Members Time over the coming weeks to speak on the Bill and I feel that given the economic urgency of this situation, that we should be in a position to change the law before Christmas,” said Deputy Rabbitte.

She added, that in an increasingly competitive global environment, Ireland was one of many countries seeking to secure high quality job investment by major international companies.

“This €850m Apple centre for Athenry is a fantastic project, which will be fully powered by renewable energy and provide 300 jobs in construction and at least a hundred full-time jobs when the facility becomes operational.

“Ireland needs to send out a clear message to foreign direct investors that we are open for business. Planning laws must not deter potential investors from Irish shores.

“This Bill seeks to accelerate the planning approval process for such critical projects that will bring social, economic and environmental benefits to communities across Ireland,” said Anne Rabbitte.

Earlier this month, the Commercial Court, upheld a decision by An Bord Pleanála to grant permission for the Apple centre in Athenry but in the aftermath of that, two local residents – Allan Daly and Sinéad Fitzpatrick – confirmed that they were seeking leave to appeal that decision to the Supreme Court. Brian McDonagh, with an address of a business park in Dublin, had also objected to the Apple development.

The Apple project got the first planning go-ahead from Galway Co. Council in September, 2015, and the second approval (after an appeal) by An Bord Pleanála in August 2016, followed by the Commercial Court validation earlier this month.

Connacht Tribune

SMEs set their sights on Euro expansion

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Kevin Moran of IMS Marketing accepting the ‘Excellence in Practice Silver Award’ from the European Foundation for Management Development, with Enterprise Ireland CEO Julie Sinnamon and Nan Gou, Programme Director, ESMT Berlin.

Irish entrepreneurs have the skills, products and services to break down barriers across Europe, according to one Galway-based marketing agency that is helping SMEs enter new markets.

Kevin Moran, Managing Director of IMS Marketing in Galway, said that this creativity and enthusiasm allows Irish entrepreneurs to punch above their weight in new markets.

He was speaking after his IMS Marketing was honoured for its ‘Enter-the-Eurozone’ Programme which has helped 19 SMEs break into Europe.

And he urged all SMEs to continue to set their ambitions on export markets as we emerge from the Covid-19 restrictions and revisit the challenges of Brexit.

Mr Moran said that IMS Marketing, along with its partners, Enterprise Ireland and ESMT Berlin, was delighted to receive the Excellence in Practice Silver Award’ from the European Foundation for Management Development.

“The vision for the ‘Enter the Eurozone’ Programme was to enable progressive Irish SMEs  to enter a new Eurozone market in a strategically led way,” he said.

“Export markets will be more important than ever for Irish companies and jobs as they now face the twin threat of Brexit and a post Covid19 economic recession.”

Accepting the Award’ from the EFMD, Mr Moran said that his company witnessed the strength of the Irish SME sector during the delivery of the award-winning ‘Enter the Eurozone’ programme.

For more, read this week’s Connacht Tribune.

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Connacht Tribune

Businesses miss out on restart grant

Stephen Corrigan

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Mr. Kenneth Deery. Photo: Andrew Downes, Xposure
CEO of Galway Chamber Kenny Deery

Just one-third of Galway business eligible for the Government’s Restart Grant have actually applied for the scheme which aims to bolster small enterprise as Covid-19 restrictions ease.

It was revealed this week that businesses in Galway City and County have received almost €4.5 million in grant aid under the scheme which offers grants of between €2,000 and €10,000 to commercial rates-liable enterprises.

To qualify for the €250 million scheme, businesses must have an annual turnover of less than €5 million; have 50 or fewer employee; and have a projected loss of revenue of 25% or more.

CEO of Galway Chamber Kenny Deery said there were many Galway businesses that had yet to apply for the grants, despite the fact that they were entitled to do so.

Only around 1,100 of the about 3,000 businesses in the city and county that may be due a pay-out have applied, and confusion over eligibility was contributing to that issue, he explained.

“Some businesses are of the view that they’re not eligible, but they need to realise that even if they only paid €500 or €1,000 in rates in 2019, they could still be eligible for €2,000,” he said.

Those who were in rates arrears were also entitled to the grant, said Mr Deery, adding that as long as a business had a rates liability in 2019, they could apply for the grant.

“The payment have just started being paid out to those who applied about two months ago, so it has been slow in terms of progressing those applications.

“What I would be saying to small businesses is that they would need to sell a lot of cups of coffee or a lot of sandwiches to make €2,000 or €5,000 in profit,” said Mr Deery.

For more, read this week’s Connacht Tribune.

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The Connacht Tribune Live app is the home of everything that is happening in Galway City and county. It’s completely FREE and features all the latest news, sport and information on what’s on in your area. Click HERE to download it for iPhone and iPad from Apple’s App Store, or HERE to get the Android Version from Google Play.

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Connacht Tribune

Galway embraces Mass changes

Stephen Corrigan

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Parish Priest Fr Hugh Clifford wearing a mask during the distribution of Holy Communion at Mass in St Joseph’s Church, Kinvara, on Saturday evening. Photo: Joe O'Shaughnessy

Parishioners in Kinvara made a long-awaited return to weekend services on Saturday at St Joseph’s Church, and while it was far from business as usual, mass-goers expressed delight at their return to the church.

Parish Priest Fr Hugh Clifford said while there were necessary changes to what people would be accustomed to, the congregation was understanding of why that was necessary and thankful that the implementation of these measures meant they could return to services after a four-month absence.

As part of Phase 3 of the easing of restrictions, services of up to 50 people were allowed, and to respect physical distancing, that meant two seats in every three were blocked off, said Fr Hugh.

“Households can sit together, but at the moment, we have the limit of 50 people, but we hope that will change in the next phase. We have to advise people who are more vulnerable that they should consider staying at home for the time being,” he explained.

The obligation to attend Mass has been lifted since the outbreak of the Covid-19 crisis, continued Fr Hugh, meaning that people need not worry if they are unable to attend.

For the Eucharist, the Priest and Eucharistic Ministers wear face coverings and use hand sanitiser to ensure there is no cross-contamination, with Communion administered to people in their seats, said Fr Hugh.

See full coverage in this week’s Connacht Tribune, on sale in shops now. You can also add the paper to your online grocery delivery; you can purchase a digital edition here, or you can have it delivered at no extra charge by An Post; full details are on this website.

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