Friday 23 February 2018

Knock to fly into history books with busiest year yet

Brian McDonald

SCEPTICS said it would never be built, but 25 years after Knock Airport opened it is set to record its busiest year ever.

Established on what its critics called "a foggy boggy hill", one can only wonder what the late Monsignor James Horan would have made of its success, as emphasised by models in skimpy bikinis on the runway promoting sun holidays.

Today, the international airport celebrates the 25th anniversary of its opening and it's likely Mgr Horan would have approved, as the airport he championed against trenchant opposition has just recorded its best month ever, and is set to reach an impressive 640,000 passengers by year end.

Mgr Horan was parish priest at Knock when he first proposed the idea of an international airport within a stone's throw of the famous basilica.

He won over the then-Taoiseach Charles Haughey and secured funding of £10m for his airport project. The development was well under way when Mr Haughey and Fianna Fail lost the 1984 general election.

There was a shortfall of £4m, but Mgr Horan came up with the idea of a massive Jumbo Draw and he set off to tour the US and Australia, drumming up support for the lottery. The airport was completed in 1985.

Mgr Horan was the first passenger on the inaugural flight to Rome and on May 30, 1986, the formal opening of the airport took place. Mgr Horan died just a few months later.

The airport grew rapidly through the 1990s, with US oil billionaire and one-time presidential candidate, Ross Perot eyeing it up for a takeover that never happened.

Prince Charles and former British Prime Minister Tony Blair were among those who flew into Knock through the 1990s, while Ryanair also saw the benefit of a major west of Ireland base and will soon have its four millionth passenger passing through the airport.

Airport chairman Liam Scollan said: "To understand the phenomenon that is popularly known as Knock Airport, you have to see it not just as an airport, but a state of mind."

Irish Independent

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