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Sam Boal/RollingNews.ie
Space man

Did you know Ireland has a Minister for Space?

It’s this man.

IN LEO VARADKAR’S recent cabinet reshuffle, there was mention of all kinds of roles: Housing and Heritage, Planning and Public Expenditure.

But no mention of space.

Granted, Ireland doesn’t really have its own space programme to speak of, but space sector jobs are predicted to rise from around 2,500 to over 4,500 by 2020 and a major space event is currently taking place in Cork across the summer.

If it seems that having someone at least overseeing space would be a good idea, worry not. We already have one.

John Halligan, the Minister of State for Training and Skills, is that man. A press release for this week’s opening of the International Space University’s Space Studies Program in Cork City Hall described Halligan as the Minister with responsibility for space. But what does that entail?

A spokesperson for the Department of Education told TheJournal.ie that Halligan manages Ireland’s involvement with the European Space Agency.

According to Enterprise Ireland, Ireland’s membership of ESA permits Irish companies and research teams to bid for ESA contract development work in a range of space programmes.

Interest

For Halligan, the role takes up only a small portion of his portfolio, but is one he has a long-standing interest in.

He told TheJournal.ie this week:

“I have a life-long interest in space exploration and science, particularly the Irish research community’s role in this, from the manned Apollo 16 and 17 missions to the moon to the high-profile international space missions that Irish scientists have been involved with since then. So I was delighted when I learned that a responsibility of mine at the Department of Jobs, Enterprise and Innovation would be Ireland’s participation n the European Space Agency.

“Ireland has been a member of ESA for over 40 years and the primary purpose of Ireland’s investment in ESA is to participate in European space technology and space mission programmes with a focus on facilitating innovative Irish companies and researchers to develop leading edge space technologies for commercial exploitation in the global space and non-space markets, leading to increased exports, sales and employment.”

Halligan last year attended the ESA ministerial council in Lucerne, overseeing budgets and long-term programme proposals.

“The impact of the Government’s investment in ESA is not always evident to the general public, but the figures speak for themselves: the number of Irish companies active in the space related activities has doubled from 30 to 60 in the period 2010 to 2016. This generates significant economic impact, particularly in terms of jobs, exports and new company formation.

“Irish companies working with ESA are growing in both numbers and scale. We are seeing a rapid increase in the level of entrepreneurial start-up companies working with ESA and ESA is playing a pivotal role in enabling these companies enter the global space and downstream services market.”

Halligan this week spoke at the opening of the International Space University’s Space Studies Programme in Cork, which runs across the summer.

Read: ‘I didn’t want to be known as the person who broke something on the Hubble telescope’

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