Saturday 21 September 2019

Minister urges scientists to pressure politicians to 'invest in innovation'

John Halligan
John Halligan
Cormac McQuinn

Cormac McQuinn

MINISTER John Halligan has urged scientists to use the next general election to put pressure on politicians to commit to investing in research ahead of the "fourth industrial revolution".

Mr Halligan also spoke of how he wants Ireland join European Organisation for Nuclear Research (Cern).

He told an audience at the launch of an astronomy exhibition in Dublin “I can only do that with all of your help”.

Mr Halligan has been campaigning for Ireland to become a member of Cern, which operates the largest particle physics laboratory in the world.

The initial cost of full Cern membership has been put at as much as €30m with subsequent costs running at more than €10m a year.

Mr Halligan has previously conceded that it’s “a big ask” and “substantial money” .

The government has said it will decide on membership of international research organisations, including Cern as part of its Project Ireland 2040 plan.

Mr Halligan’s latest remarks came as he joined the Dublin Institute for Advanced Studies (DIAS) at the launch of the International Astronomical Union’s (IAU) ‘Above and Beyond’ exhibition at the Wood Quay Venue in Dublin.

The exhibition celebrates 100 years of astronomical discovery including the moon landings.

Mr Halligan said interest in astronomy is at an “all time high in Ireland” and said some of the space research companies located here are among “the best in the world”.

He also highlighted Ireland’s contribution to the European Space Agency (ESA) and the European Southern Observatory.

He also said: “I cannot emphasis enough. There will be a general election shortly…

“All you scientists – when they come knocking at your door one of your questions should be’ are you going to invest in innovation? Are you going to invest in research and development?’”

He said: “We’re facing the fourth industrial revolution” and it will involve advances in astronomy, nano-technology and other research.

Mr Halligan said the government invests in Science Foundation Ireland, the Irish Research Council and universities.

He added: “In difficult times we’ve continued to invest in the European Space Agency.”

He said he intends to continue to seek funding to join Cern in the coming months.


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