Minister Richard Bruton.

Significant announcement on the way for Birr

Two Ministers will visit Birr on Tuesday to make a significant announcement for the area.

Jobs Minister Richard Bruton and Minster Damien English, who has responsibility for skills, research and innovation, are expected to announce a multi-million euro package as part of the Science Foundation Ireland Infrastructure Programme in Birr Castle at 11am tomorrow.

The national programme is expected to include funding and an update on the planned new LOFAR telescope in Birr, which would make broadband speeds of 10GB per second available across the Midlands. The only other area of the country that has the same broadband capability is around the M50 in Dublin.

Back in November of 2014, the Midlands Gateaway Chamber first revealed the plans for the LOFAR station, which is a project fronted by Trinity College, and would see a Low Frequency Array telescope located within the grounds of Birr Castle, forming part on an international network of radio telescopes that will provide new views of exploding stars, detect previously unknown planets and enable scientists to study the early universe after the Big Bang.

In addition, the location of the new LOFAR station in Birr would be used as a unique selling point for the Midlands region in terms of attracting in foreign direct invesment.

The data gathered at the proposed station would travel along the fibre broadband from Birr to Athlone and then to TCD and UCD in Dublin and from there it will go to a super computer in the Netherlands for analysis. Irish scientists would use LOFAR to study the impact of solar activity on technologies such as GPS, telecommunications, and electrical power grids.

As well as helping to attract new jobs to the area, the LOFAR base could also have tourism benefits for the region and with a visitor centre envisaged, all built around the new station. Previous estimates put the cost of the telescope at €1.3m to put in place.

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