HIS arms stretch out in his familiar greeting. His face crinkles in a warm smile.
All that is missing from celebrated artist Barry Linnane's depiction of the pioneering clergyman and founder of Ireland West Airport Knock, Monsignor James Horan, is his favourite headgear – an Astrakhan hat.
The unveiling of the statue yesterday was performed by the monsignor's nephews and nieces on what would have been his 102nd birthday.
The airport opened in 1986 following years of campaigning by Msgr Horan. Mr Linnane's nine-foot tall statue has an inscription at the base: "From Famine fields to jet streams."
Taoiseach Enda Kenny, who was present for the ceremony, did not speak, viewing the event as a family occasion.
Knock parish priest, Fr Richard Gibbons, said the monsignor had been "the right man at the right time to give that sense of hope in dark days – days that we are kind of experiencing once again."
Fr Gibbons told the large gathering: "It's an occasion of hope, a great occasion. It's an occasion of the man himself and we give thanks to God for it all."
The Archbishop of Tuam, Dr Michael Neary, a member of the trust which runs the airport, referred to Msgr Horan as the architect and the builder of so much that is now the infrastructure for the west of Ireland.
"His boundless vision and his resourcefulness are legendary," Dr Neary stated.
Dr Neary issued an appeal to the Taoiseach assuring him that any investment in the airport will be "meticulously utilised" and he could "guarantee it will have an enormous spinoff for the west of Ireland".