Fianna Fáil Science and Technology Spokesperson, James Lawless TD has said becoming a member of CERN, the largest particle physics laboratory in the world, is of crucial importance and must remain a priority for Government to fund.

Following an invitation from Deputy Lawless, senior officials from the European Organization for Nuclear Research (CERN) and the Irish physics sector were before today’s Oireachtas Committee on Business, Enterprise and Innovation.

The scientific and economic opportunities associated with CERN membership were among matters discussed.

Commenting after the meeting, Lawless said, “Earlier this year I visited CERN facilities in Geneva to meet with the executive team and discuss the possibility of Ireland joining the organisation.

“Many often understand CERN to be solely focused on particle physics and other abstract, theoretical research, but in fact it is so much more than that. It has an incredible, extensive network of facilities.

“There are a number of worthwhile opportunities for engagement in big data, supercomputing, and spin-off technologies; not to mention the wealth of resources CERN provides to the scientific community in its member states.

“This Government had listed CERN membership as a priority for strategic investment under the National Planning Framework but there’s been no movement since. In fact, it failed to allocate funds to secure Ireland’s CERN membership in Budget 2019.

“Minister John Halligan previously claimed that the cost of joining CERN would be €10 million, yet it has been explicitly shown that an associate membership fee is far lower than that at €1.3 million. If Government truly wished to promote scientific development in Ireland, the cost of CERN membership would pale greatly in comparison to its benefits.

“It would be money well spent on things such as placements and training for Irish students and scientists, staff positions, fellowships for Irish nationals, and contracts for Irish companies. It’s time that Ireland properly invested in its scientific community and looked ahead to the future with ambition.

Lawless concluded, “CERN membership is a key step in establishing Ireland’s role in the global research community, and I will continue to advocate for membership in this important organization.”