Country lays down welcome mat to thousands home for Christmas
IRELAND'S international airports are bracing themselves for one of the busiest days of the year as tens of thousands of people return home for Christmas today.
Dublin Airport will be the busiest as travellers, many of them expatriates working overseas, fly home today, while fewer people jet out to spend Christmas abroad.
Tears of joy were the order of the day as families were reunited, including Irish army peacekeeper Sgt Terry Whelan from Kilkenny, who is serving in Lebanon. He arrived at Dublin Airport yesterday to the delight of his son Eoin (3) and daughter Katie (5).
Cork and Shannon airports were also exceptionally busy but happy places yesterday.
"It's obviously one of the more emotional times of the year with people returning home from working abroad and there are lot of joyful scenes at the airport," a spokesman for Cork Airport said last night.
Up to 620,000 passengers are expected to fly in and out of Dublin Airport between December 21 and January 3, with 70,000 expected to use Cork Airport and around 47,000 passing through Shannon Airport.
All airports are reporting increases in the number of passengers travelling this year compared with last year.
The increases -- of between 2 and 10pc -- are due in part to last year's winter storms but also to the increased number of emigrants returning home for the Christmas break.
Knock Airport in Co Mayo was also hopping yesterday as families from all over the west of Ireland returned home for Christmas.
But it was a particularly joyous reunion for Sligo woman Claudia McGloin who is bucking the trend and returning home for good after living in London for 14 years to set up a business in her home town.
"It actually just felt right to make the move. I reached the decision last Christmas when I was home with my family.
"I had said that I would never come back because of the way the country was, but it's weird how things sometimes work out," she said.
"It took me 12 months to get it all sorted out, between selling my house and organising my new business, but I am back home for good now and just in time for Christmas," she said.
Desmond McNeigh from Achill, Co Mayo, was also overjoyed when he was met by his four children and his expectant wife Kelly after working in Stockholm, Sweden, for the past year.
"It was very hard seeing everyone all at once, we all got a bit emotional.
"I have been gone for a year, but we are the lucky ones that have a year's work ahead of us guaranteed. We can't get work at home and we have to make a few pound for our families," he said.