Trinity academics call on Ireland to join CERN

3 Oct 2022

Prof Sinead Ryan at Trinity College Dublin. Image: Leigh Mc Gowran/Silicon Republic

Trinity’s Prof Sinead Ryan said joining CERN would provide training for Irish students, staff positions and contract opportunities for Irish businesses.

A group of Irish researchers and university representatives are pushing for Ireland to join CERN, the organisation behind the Large Hadron Collider.

CERN, or the European Organisation for Nuclear Research, is one of the biggest scientific research centres in the world, bringing together around 18,000 researchers. However, Ireland is one of three EU countries that is not a member.

CERN membership would provide benefits for Irish students, academics and businesses, according to those speaking at an event in the Provost’s House at Trinity College Dublin on 28 September.

Trinity provost Dr Linda Doyle said membership would benefit upcoming graduates with future opportunities.

One of the organisers of the event, Prof Sinead Ryan, added that CERN is an “inspiring” and “astonishing place to visit”.

“It’s searching for answers to very deep questions but, as it does that, it’s educating young people in school. It’s educating and giving further education and training to teachers so that our own school children and our colleagues receive the very best and most up-to-date education,” Ryan said.

She added that joining CERN would provide training for Irish students, exciting staff positions and contract opportunities for Irish businesses.

Based on Ireland’s GDP in 2021, Ryan said it would cost around €1.34m a year to gain associate membership. Full membership would cost around €13.5m annually along with a once-off €16.8m payment that can be spread out over 10 years.

Ryan said if Ireland joined, there would be no obligation to go beyond associate membership, allowing the country to scale the investment up or down as needed. She added that one-third of the membership cost goes directly to Irish researchers.

There have been discussions about Ireland becoming a member of CERN for years.

CERN received a letter from the Irish Government in 2016 expressing an interest in joining. But in December 2017, Ireland said it would not join due to financial constraints.

In November 2019, an Oireachtas Committee on Business, Enterprise and Innovation recommended immediate plans for CERN membership.

“Innovation 2020’s vision is for Ireland to be a global innovation leader driving a strong sustainable economy and a better society,” Mary Butler, TD, wrote in a report at the time. “If Ireland is to deliver on this vision, membership of organisations such as CERN, which are at the forefront of innovation, is critical.”

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Leigh Mc Gowran is a journalist with Silicon Republic