The Irish Research Council (IRC), which is funded by my Department, has a broad remit to support and enhance human capital development, in particular at postgraduate and early stage postdoctoral researcher levels, and encourage independent exploratory research. Selection is on the basis of excellence following assessment by expert independent panels, whose membership is primarily international. The awards are made by the Council and neither my Department or I have any role in any stage of the selection process. The IRC has in place a robust and transparent assessment protocol based on international best practice and does not enter into correspondence in relation to individual applications. A detailed description of the application process and criteria for the various schemes is published on their website – www.research.ie.