Irish Government Announces Commitment to Join ESO
11 Tetor 2017
The Irish Tánaiste (Deputy Prime Minister) and Minister for Business, Enterprise and Innovation Frances Fitzgerald TD has announced her Government’s commitment to begin the accession process to join ESO as a Member State. The Government desires to have the accession completed by the fourth quarter of 2018, after ratification by Dáil Eireann (the Irish parliament) and approval by the ESO Council. Ireland would become ESO’s 16th Member State.
The Government’s announcement signals the accomplishment of a key policy goal, announced in 2015 as part of Ireland’s Innovation 2020 strategy, which identifies the need to strengthen participation in international research organisations, including ESO. This announcement follows many years of informal discussions between the Irish astronomical community and ESO about potential membership, and formal discussions with government officials since January 2016, when the government announced they would begin membership negotiations.
ESO’s Director General, Xavier Barcons, explains the significance of this decision: “Ireland would be a valuable and very welcome member of ESO. They have a highly mature but growing research community that is active in all areas of science covered by ESO facilities, and that is united in their desire to join ESO. Furthermore, Ireland has a fast-developing high-tech industrial sector, which would gain access to a range of instrumentation and industrial opportunities as a result of ESO membership.”
By joining ESO, Ireland will add to their already rich astronomical history. For several decades in the nineteenth century, Ireland hosted the world’s largest telescope known as the Leviathan of Parsonstown — a 1.8-metre reflecting telescope at Birr Castle.
ESO is the foremost intergovernmental astronomy organisation in Europe and the world’s most productive ground-based astronomical observatory by far. It is supported by 16 countries: Austria, Belgium, Brazil, the Czech Republic, Denmark, France, Finland, Germany, Italy, the Netherlands, Poland, Portugal, Spain, Sweden, Switzerland and the United Kingdom, along with the host state of Chile and by Australia as a strategic partner. ESO carries out an ambitious programme focused on the design, construction and operation of powerful ground-based observing facilities enabling astronomers to make important scientific discoveries. ESO also plays a leading role in promoting and organising cooperation in astronomical research. ESO operates three unique world-class observing sites in Chile: La Silla, Paranal and Chajnantor. At Paranal, ESO operates the Very Large Telescope and its world-leading Very Large Telescope Interferometer as well as two survey telescopes, VISTA working in the infrared and the visible-light VLT Survey Telescope. ESO is also a major partner in two facilities on Chajnantor, APEX and ALMA, the largest astronomical project in existence. And on Cerro Armazones, close to Paranal, ESO is building the 39-metre Extremely Large Telescope, the ELT, which will become “the world’s biggest eye on the sky”.
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