Ireland is losing out on major research contracts by not being a member of the European Organisation for Nuclear Research (CERN) in Geneva, Fine Gael Senator Colm Burke has claimed.
CERN is the largest particle physics laboratory in the world. It operates particle accelerators including the famous Large Hadron Collider.
Mr Burke said Irish universities and other third level institutions would benefit considerably more than the €10 million annual fee to be part of the organisation, of which 21 European countries and Israel are members.
“We aren’t even associate members. CERN director general Dr Fabiola Gianotti has made it very clear that the organisation would warmly welcome an Irish application to join.”
Being a member would be “a huge boost to science, technology, engineering and maths. It would send a clear signal to Irish scientists, students and the wider international scientific community that Ireland is committed to advanced scientific research,” he added.
While the membership cost might seem siginificant, it would be well spent, he said, as it would also allow Irish companies to compete for very lucrative contracts to supply the organisation.
“In the context of Brexit, joining CERN would also be a clear statement that Ireland is committed to important Europe-wide projects.”
Mr Burke said he had raised the issue with the Taoiseach Leo Varadkar and Minister for Enterprise and Innovation Frances Fitzgerald, and underlined necessary funding should be provided in the October budget.
What has been called the physics discovery of the century – proof of the existence of the Higgs Boson – was achieved at CERN.
“As well as advanced discoveries in the field of particle physics, its scientists also played a central role in the establishment of the World Wide Web,” Mr Burke noted.
Its prime objective was advanced science, not research associated with nuclear power or weapons, he pointed out.