THERE was a real sense of occasion and achievement in the air at Ireland West Airport Knock on Monday afternoon, as Mayo’s most important piece of infrastructure added a vital string to its already substantial bow.
The thousands of people from the west of Ireland who left these shores in the last century to eke out a living in the USA will now be able to fly directly to their birthplace, as an immensely proud airport CEO, Liam Scollan, and Board Chairman, Joe Kennedy, announced the commencement of transatlantic flights from Knock to both New York and Boston, starting at the end of May.
The announcement, on what Minister Eamon Ó Cuív described as a ‘landmark day’ for the airport, was greeted with joy, pride and plenty of emotion as a host of speakers charted the rise of the airport from the days of the ‘foggy, boggy’ negativity to the heights of transatlantic transportation.
Knock Parish Priest and board member, Monsignor Joe Quinn, recalled how he himself had heard the airport’s father figure and founder, Monsignor James Horan, articulate his dream of flights from the States landing in his very own airport.
“Monsignor Horan’s dream was to provide an airport here which would be a vital piece of infrastructure for the region, but would also facilitate pilgrims coming to Knock Shrine from all over the world and allow emigrants easy access to return to their homeland. Today’s announcement is a further realisation of that dream,” he said.
Chairman of the airport’s Board of Directors, Mr Joe Kennedy, fought back tears during his address, recalling the days when he himself had to emigrate from his native Doocastle. He said he was ‘immensely proud’ to be Chairman of the airport at the time of this pivotal development.
“Today is a special day and I am immensely proud that I had the opportunity to be an instrument in the delivery of Monsignor Horan’s ultimate dream. This announcement is the most significant route development in the airport’s history. We have a saying that we must leave no stone unturned here at Ireland West Airport but this was a mighty big stone and it needed pushing up a big hill. We would not have got it to the top without scores of people pushing it,” said a delighted Mr Kennedy.
Chief Executive of Ireland West Airport Knock, Liam Scollan, is confident that the flights will be a huge success, with market research conducted by the airport revealing hugely positives statistics.
But in Knock on Monday, this decision was about much, much more than just number crunching.
“To all of us in this room, those of us living in the west of Ireland, there is a much deeper, heartfelt reason to be overjoyed at this first scheduled service to two great American cities. Every family in the west of Ireland was affected by emigration and this development will allow the ten million Irish Americans in the Boston and New York areas alone direct access to their homeland,” added Mr Scollan.
An official launch of the services is also taking place in New York and Boston this week, while seats on the opening flights were expected to be snapped up quickly when they went on sale on Monday on flyglobespan.com, at the airport itself and in all travel agents.
Benefits to the west
• 35,000 US visitors for 2007
• 56,000 for 2008
• Tourism revenue of €28m for 2007
• Tourism revenue of €45m for 2008
• Increased visitor numbers to Knock Shrine
• Enhanced investment potential
• Enhanced export potential for local business
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