Minister Sherlock to consider Ireland joining CERN

31 Jan 2014

Ireland’s Minister for Research and Innovation Seán Sherlock, TD, says he is looking into the possibility of the country joining the European Organisation for Nuclear Research, otherwise known as CERN.

The analysis is part of the department’s overall review of Ireland’s continuing membership in a number of international research organisations and it is now looking at the potential study of nuclear technology and whether it could have any potential advantages for the betterment of science, as well as an impact on the economy.

The department’s review will take into account both the overall funding constraints when it comes to research and the Government’s prioritised areas for investment in research and innovation.

“The Government’s priority in the area of science, technology and innovation is to implement the recommendations of the National Research Prioritisation Exercise which will see the majority of public research funding aligned with priority areas where we are most likely to get economic and social returns, particularly in the form of jobs,” Sherlock said.

Further studies to be done

He later went on to say he has been contacted by a number of Irish researchers about the benefits of applying for CERN membership and while previous discussions about CERN membership was deemed unfeasible, it is time to look at the matter again.

“The last time a review of the benefits of Ireland joining CERN was  undertaken,  the  conclusion was it was not the best use of resources. Since then, resources have become even scarcer, but it is timely to have a fresh look at the opportunities and the costs associated with membership.

“I have an open mind on the matter and it will really come down to what represents best value for taxpayers’ money,” said Sherlock.

“I have asked my department to consult with CERN, the relevant research and enterprise agencies, and with the academic/research community and to bring forward an assessment within the coming months.”

CERN is best known for the Large Hadron Collider, the largest and most advanced particle collider in the world, located in a tunnel beneath the Franco-Swiss border near Geneva, Switzerland.

Colm Gorey was a senior journalist with Silicon Republic