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Knock airport dream lives - 20 years on

 Austin Garavin

 The twentieth anniversary of the official opening of Ireland West Airport Knock was marked by a special celebration attended by Finance Minister Brian Cowen TD, and hundreds of guests, on Tuesday last. The Minister arrived at the airport on board an Aer Arann flight from Dublin in beautiful summer sunshine, which was in stark contrast to the official opening 20 years ago when the heavens opened and rivers of water flowed down the hill from Barr na Cruaige.A beautifully-presented history of the airport was displayed on the wall in the main terminal building, depicting the development of the airport from a dream in 1980 to a successful and thriving reality in 2006.Among the attendance of over 400 were former airport board and staff members, representatives of Knock Shrine and others who helped raise funds to build the airport. Many distinguished politicians, both past and present, arrived to join in the celebrations. They included the former EU Commissioner Padraig Flynn as well as former Taoiseach Albert Reynolds, both of whom were present with Monsignor Horan at the sod-turning ceremony in 1981.Former Taoiseach Charles Haughey was unable to attend, but he telephoned personally to send his heartfelt congratulations to all who contributed to the success of the airport.
In his welcoming address, Chairman of Ireland West Airport Knock, Joe Kennedy said: “The airport is very proud of its heritage and past and is continuing to implement what were the original aims of the late Monsignor James Horan and the founding members of the airport. In reality it is not an airport or building we are here to celebrate. Instead we are gathered together to celebrate and recognise the contribution made by the numerous organisations and the ordinary men and women who made the dream of Ireland West Airport Knock a reality through their faith, determination perseverance, belief and pioneering spirit.”
Parish Priest of Knock, Monsignor Joe Quinn, who was recently appointed to the airport board, paid tribute to his predecessors, Msgr Horan and Msgr Grealy for their vision and foresight in guiding the airport to the success that it is today. He announced that some 20 Marian Shrines of Europe will hold their annual meeting in Knock in early October and it would be a matter of great satisfaction to his predecessors to see written in the official communiqué a message advising delegates to assemble in Dublin for a flight to Ireland West Airport Knock to transfer to Knock Shrine.  He also said that Knock Shrine looked forward to working closely with the board on future joint initiatives.
Chief Stewart at Knock, Tom Neary, outlined the various fundraising efforts that took place over a number of years to raise the money necessary to complete the airport. He said that in the years ahead people from all nations of the world would pass through the airport to visit and pray at Knock Shrine.
Paul Fitzsimons of Ryanair stated that Ireland West Airport Knock started out in 1986 at around the same time as Ryanair. He said that both had confounded their critics. He looked forward to the expansion of routes between the airport and overseas destinations in the years ahead. Mr Fitzsimons also announced that as a special birthday present Ryanair were putting 20,000 tickets on sale at 20 cent each for all their UK routes from the airport.
Liam Scollan, Managing Director, Ireland West Airport Knock, said that 20 years after the airport was first opened, it is supporting tourism, jobs and inward investment. In a reference to future development at the airport, Mr Scollan said: “When we say that this year the airport will contribute 78 million in tourism spend and we will build a business park creating at least 2,000 jobs within the next ten years, we are simply continuing in the spirit of the original vision.”
Brian Cowen, T D, Minister for Finance, stated: “This is a successful and growing airport which is a vital piece of regional infrastructure. But it represents much more than that. It was an act of faith in the future of the west that illuminated the way forward. It continues to be a reminder to us of what we have overcome and the work that must go on until all communities of the west see real and sustained progress.” Referring to the new Capital Grants Scheme for regional airports, with a budget of €100 million, being prepared by Government, Minister Cowen said: “I am hopeful that EU Commission approval will be given to this revised scheme during the course of this year.”

070606_albert-reynolds_390Pictured at last week’s celebration of the 20th anniversary of Ireland West Airport Knock former Taoiseach Albert Reynolds with a photograph of himself turning the first sod.  

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