By Peter McGregor
On Thursday 3 March, the Data Centres & Critical Infrastructure Expo is set to bring together construction companies and businesses who have vested interest in the growth of data centres in Ireland. The Expo is being held in the Dublin 15 area and the Socialist Party’s local branch – along with our former Dublin West TD Ruth Coppinger and current councillor John Burtchaell – have called a protest against an industry that poses a further threat to our climate.
Ireland Inc: a data centre haven
Whilst Ireland’s tax haven status may be under threat due to proposals from the G7 and the government signing up to an international agreement for a 15% corporate tax rate, the Irish state is currently cementing its position as a haven for data centres.
Everything we do online – shopping, looking at Instagram, reading news articles, etc – has to be stored in servers, this is what data centres do. These servers are huge and are housed in large factory-like buildings, with a single one using around the same amount of electricity as a city the size of Kilkenny, as well as an estimated 500,000 litres of water per day.
There are already 70 data centres across Ireland, eight more are currently being built, a further five are in planning and 36 others have had planning approved! These centres already use 11% of Ireland’s electricity (compared to 2% globally) and it is predicted that by 2030 they will use 30% of Ireland’s electricity supply. The majority of Ireland’s electricity still comes from non-renewable resources, so the heavy burden on the grid for which data centres are responsible has a significant environmental cost.
Actions speak louder than words
We are at a crucial juncture in the battle against climate change, but the Irish government is happy to facilitate the expansion of data centres.
Roderic O’Gorman – Green Party TD for Dublin West – once said, “We need systemic change to reduce our carbon emissions and this requires vigorous action by the Government”. But talk is cheap, actions are what matter. The People Before Profit-Solidarity Climate Emergencies Bill introduced in September 2021 would have placed a ban on the further planning of data centres, but the government (including Green Party TDs) voted against it.
We have come to expect this inaction on climate from the capitalist establishment parties of Fine Gael and Fianna Fáil. But the Greens also accept the capitalist status quo and the barriers this profit-driven system puts in the way of meaningful action to save our planet. They have prioritised government positions over our environment.
Saving the climate is a vital task. This, however, cannot be achieved through signing up to agreements which can be broken with no consequences, or attending conferences like COP26 where the fossil fuel industry has the largest delegation. The only way in which climate catastrophe can be avoided is by building a movement based on the power of working-class people that challenges and ends the criminal logic of capitalist profiteering. We need:
- An immediate moratorium on the building of data centres
- Rapid transition to green energy, primarily wind and solar power. Bring the major fossil fuel and energy companies into democratic public ownership
- No job losses – public investment in green jobs with proper wages and conditions.
- Free public transport now
- Sustainable public housing built on public land. A programme to retrofit all homes in the state.
- Bring the major companies, businesses and financial institutions into public ownership – let those who create society’s wealth, the working class, democratically plan how it can be used in the interests of people and the planet.