Ireland’s associate membership of the Cern nuclear research centre is a “no brainer” which will result in millions of euro being put into the Irish economy, an Oireachtas committee has been told.
It would cost around 1.3 million euro for Ireland to join as an associate member of Cern, or 10 million euro as a full member.
Founded in 1954, the laboratory near Geneva, Switzerland, was one of Europe’s first joint ventures and has 22 member states.
Malta and Luxembourg are the only other countries in the European Union who are not members.
Associate membership is 1.3 million euro per year but... 90 million euro will come back to the country as it will have the multiplier effectProfessor Ronan McNulty
A report on the case for Ireland joining up, published on Wednesday, said associate membership would bring direct economic returns for the country.
Professor Ronan McNulty told an Oireachtas Business Committee on Wednesday that it is advisable for Ireland to become an associate member before it gets full membership, and the money spent on the yearly fee will pay dividends.
“Yes full membership is expensive but the committee has recommended associate membership,” he said.
“Associate membership is 1.3 million euro per year but… 90 million euro will come back to the country as it will have the multiplier effect,” he said.
Prof McNulty said much of Cern’s billion-euro budget goes on procurement from companies in member states.
He said Ireland’s 1.3 million euro contribution will easily be returned in terms of hi-tech equipment purchased from Ireland, research and industrial contracts.
Irish science bodies, business representatives, IT organisations and politicians have echoed the call from Mr McNulty who said Ireland needs to become a full member of Cern or risk missing out on hundreds of millions of euro of contracts.
Labour Senator Kevin Humphreys said the cost of Ireland’s membership should not be the focus as the value of Cern membership cannot have a monetary value put on it.
“Cern is one of those things you can’t put a euro value of being involved in,” he said.
Fianna Fail spokesman on science and technology, James Lawless, said that if Ireland is to be a real player in the international science community, membership of Cern is key.
“Ireland’s membership of Cern is a no-brainer,” said Mr Lawless.
He said membership of the European Space Agency (ESA) and European Southern Observatory (ESO) alone was not enough and Ireland was isolating itself by not being a member of Cern.
Cern is home to the Large Hadron Collider, the world’s largest and most powerful particle accelerator with a 27km ring of superconducting magnets.