One of the original objectors to Apple’s Athenry data centre plans is being sued by Ulster Bank over a loan for a data centre of his own.

Brian McDonagh, from Co Wicklow, Ireland, is locked in a dispute with Ulster Bank over the repayment of a €22 million (approx. £19.5 million) loan taken out for a data centre site in Kilpedder.

McDonagh and his two brothers, Kenneth and Maurice, Ulster Bank says, took out the loan in 2007 to buy an 80-acre plot of land with the intention of building a data centre there.

But the brothers failed to repay the loan, and Ulster Bank says that the brothers deceived the bank by using a company, Granja Ltd, as a ‘front’ through which to sell the land. The bank says that this company is owned by the brothers.

Ulster Bank’s case

After problems arose with the loan and the originally planned data centre did not go ahead, the McDonagh brothers agreed in 2014 to sell the land in order to recoup the costs of the loan. However, they did not do so, instead selling to the aforementioned Granja Ltd for just €1.5 million, says Ulster Bank.

Granja Ltd then took Ulster Bank to the Irish High Court, claiming it had that failed to perform an agreement between them. That case was thrown out after five days when it became apparent that Granja was owned by the McDonaghs. Now Ulster Bank has taken the case to the Irish Commercial Court to recoup the loan.

McDonagh is a director and shareholder in Ecologic Data Centre. This company had secured planning permission at a site in Co Wicklow that had been considered by Apple as an alternative location for its development.

It’s because of this that McDonagh’s objection to Apple’s Athenry plans was thrown out by Mr Justice McDermott, on the basis that he had not disclosed the information. Mr Justice McDermott described this as “significant non-disclosure and lack of candour.” Given the conflict of interest, this disclosure was necessary, the judge argued.

The Apple plans were eventually thwarted over other environmental concerns and a long route through the Irish courts. The McDonagh and Ulster Bank case continues.