Apple’s $1 Billion Plan Hits a Three-Person Roadblock in Ireland

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An Apple a day keeps the bank man away — stop objecting!”

So read the handwritten sign in Athenry, the tiny village close to Ireland’s Atlantic coast chosen by Apple Inc. for a vast $1 billion data facility. The message was for three people contesting the potential environmental impact and economic benefits from locals worried the company might scrap the project because of more than a year of delays. Meanwhile, the forestry site remains untouched before a judge hears another round of arguments in March.

“This doesn’t just affect Athenry, but it affects Ireland as well,” said Paul Keane, 39, whose family has lived in the area for generations. “If Apple is turned away, what does it say about Ireland? It’s right that we have a fair and open system, but it can’t be dragged out.”

What would be one of the most high-profile European investments for Apple is an even bigger deal for Ireland Inc. in what’s turned out to be a torrid year.

Britain’s vote to leave the European Union has threatened to upend arrangements with one of its largest trading partners, while Donald Trump’s election victory might undermine Ireland’s status as a haven for U.S. companies in Europe. That was already in question after the EU ordered Apple to pay 13 billion euros ($13.8 billion) relating to its Irish tax arrangements. Both the company and government are appealing.

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