Monday 20 November 2017

State papers - 1980: Holy exaltation was behind miracle of airport in Knock

Chris Parkin

The intrepid lobbyist was not shy about heaping praise on the Taoiseach

HE was fondly referred to as the 'builder of Knock'.

And when the first flight out of Knock Airport, destined for Rome, took off in October 1985, parish priest Monsignor James Horan described it as the greatest day in Connacht's history for 100 years.

Files released by the National Archives for 1980 show how a well-organised campaign was drawn up to press for the new airport, with letters flooding in to government departments from across the region.

Leading the charge was Msgr Hogan, who wrote to Taoiseach Charles Haughey in June 1980 and enclosed a feasibility report stating the case for opening a regional airport for the province.

"We hope to convince you of the necessity and urgency of such an airport for development in the region," he wrote.

The intrepid lobbyist and visionary was also not shy about heaping praise on the Taoiseach if it could improve the chances of getting the airport off the ground.

"I am following your progress as Taoiseach with great interest and I congratulate you on your style and flair," said Msgr Horan.

"You are doing a magnificent job in all departments and we are all proud of you as a Mayoman.

"I can assure you of a remembrance in our prayers and Masses at the Shrine for your continued success."

Five months later, he was heaping further praise on the Taoiseach, congratulating him on his "resounding victory" after Fianna Fail won a by-election in Donegal.

He told Mr Haughey that he had won the hearts of the Donegal people, just as he had won the hearts of the people of Mayo during a recent visit.

"As I watched you on television walking down the streets of the small towns in Donegal, greeting ordinary people, you looked a winner all the way," he wrote.

"You have the personality, warmth, flair and, above all, courage, which goes to make an outstanding leader," said Msgr Horan. "What you have done in Donegal and Mayo can be done all over Ireland."

Built in a recession, the airport is now thriving in an even worse downturn and expects to cater for up to 600,000 passengers this year.

The airport, which celebrates its 25th anniversary next year, is served by four scheduled airlines and offers flights to 25 international destinations.

Two months after the airport's official opening, Msgr Horan died while on a pilgrimage to Lourdes.

Irish Independent

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