Dr Michael Harty TD hosts Trinity College Dublin Prof. Adrian Bracken at Leinster House as part of the Irish Research Council’s Oireachtas ‘shadowing’ scheme



Posted: 28 November, 2019

Prof. Adrian Bracken, Associate Professor in Genetics at Trinity College Dublin, was hosted yesterday (27.11.2019) at Leinster House by Dr Michael Harty, a GP and Independent TD for Clare, as part of the Irish Research Council’s Oireachtas Shadowing Scheme.

The scheme sees some of Ireland’s most prominent researchers ‘shadowing’ members of the Oireachtas for the day in Leinster House. The scheme was developed by the Irish Research Council to the bridge the divide between policy-making and research and to ensure that elected representatives are supported to tap into publicly funded research.

Professor Bracken’s research is focused on the molecular mechanisms and genetics of cancer, while Dr Michael Harty is Chair of the Joint Oireachtas Committee on Health.

Speaking yesterday, Dr Harty said: “It was a privilege to draw on the expertise of Ireland’s research sector and Adrian’s research in particular as he joined me for the day in Leinster House. I believe that quality research coupled with good public policy can addresses major health challenges. The Irish Research Council funds excellent research across a whole variety of issues which have significant impact on our work as legislators.”

The day included attendance at the Joint Oireachtas Committee on Health, which focused on human resource planning and the National Children’s Hospital, a meeting with the Oireachtas Library Service and a presentation by Professor Bracken on his research.

Prof. Bracken said: “I was delighted to be paired with Dr Harty for the Irish Research Council’s Oireachtas shadowing scheme. My research on cancer biology has strong relevance to his work as Chairperson of the Joint Oireachtas Committee on Health. I enjoyed briefing him not only on my own and other research work in this area, but also on the challenges and opportunities facing the wider research sector. In particular, we discussed how if we are to develop new treatments for cancer and other diseases in this country, we will need a transformation in Government policy so as to properly support curiosity driven or so-called ‘basic research’. I highlighted the fact that funding of scientific research driven purely by curiosity leads to most medical breakthroughs. It is clear that rebalancing of funding policy in Ireland towards supporting more basic research would not only greatly benefit medical research, it would enrich the education and training of undergraduates and postgraduates in the life sciences and ultimately push our universities back up the international rankings.”

Dr Eavan O’Brien, Assistant Director of the Irish Research Council, said the scheme is aimed at bridging the divide between politics, policy-making and research. “Every year, the Irish Research Council makes new awards to hundreds of talented researchers,” she said.  “The excellent research underway in Ireland can make an important contribution to public-policy formation and the legislative process.

“TDs and senators may sometimes be unaware of the full breadth and potential of Ireland’s research sector.  At the same time, researchers may not always see an immediate link between their work and the impact that it has on the development of new policies and laws.  Our shadowing scheme aims to bridge that divide.”