Wednesday 21 February 2018

Knock Airport fury at Kenny's failure to give timely tribute

THE BOSS: Taoiseach Enda Kenny with his wife Fionnuala at Bruce Springsteen’s Croke Park gig. Photo: Arthur Carron
THE BOSS: Taoiseach Enda Kenny with his wife Fionnuala at Bruce Springsteen’s Croke Park gig. Photo: Arthur Carron
Ronald Quinlan

Ronald Quinlan

When Monsignor James Horan brought an international airport to Mayo, it was described as the second miracle of Knock.

Thirty years on from its establishment, it shouldn't have needed a third miracle for Taoiseach Enda Kenny to show his face at the airport's gala celebration dinner.

As everyone now knows, however, Mr Kenny had other plans that night, judging by his air-guitar playing and dad-dancing at Bruce Springsteen's Croke Park concert.

But while the Taoiseach's constituents may be able to forgive him for not showing up in person for the Knock Airport do, it is understood the failure by his officials to deliver a video message for those attending the celebrations has been greeted with disgust by those involved in the event.

That anger has been compounded by the fact that the Taoiseach's office received a formal request from airport management on April 20 last - a full five weeks in advance of the dinner which was held on Friday, May 27.

The Sunday Independent understands the airport's request was acknowledged by Mr Kenny's office two days later, which sought more information on the event.

Having provided the required detail, it is understood representatives from the airport followed up their request with numerous phone calls in which they stressed the absolute importance of having the Taoiseach's video message.

"Not alone did it not arrive in time for the dinner, it didn't even arrive in time to be included in the 30th anniversary video which the airport released last Monday," a source familiar with the matter said.

"The Taoiseach and his people knew about this anniversary for weeks beforehand, and they must have known how important it would be to have an acknowledgement from him on the night. To say it was embarrassing is putting it mildly," the source added.

The same source noted that those in attendance at the dinner were delighted by the video tribute given by Ryanair chief Michael O'Leary.

Contacted for comment on the decision by the Taoiseach to decline his invitation to attend the event, and the subsequent failure by his office to even provide a video message, Knock Airport's longest-serving board member, John Dillon, was diplomatic in his response, saying Mr Kenny had supported the airport on many occasions in the past.

Asked for comment, a government spokesman said: "The Taoiseach's ongoing commitment to Knock Airport is unquestionable and he has worked closely with the management and board of the airport since becoming Taoiseach.

"The missed deadline in relation to the video was a result of an unfortunate miscommunication and in no way reflects the Taoiseach's attitude and esteem for the airport and its employees, to whom he is wholly committed."

He added that Mr Kenny had been in the airport with the Minister for Transport "in recent months", and said Fine Gael had "specific actions" in its manifesto for regional airports which were now in the Programme for Government .

Sunday Independent

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