The twentieth anniversary of the official opening of Ireland West Airport Knock was celebrated by a special music and fun event held at the airport at 8pm today. Mr Brian Cowen T.D., Minister for Finance, joined over 400 distinguished guests, staff, friends, supporters and members of the public on the infamous Barr na Cúige mountain top to mark the occasion and taste some birthday cake.
Guests in attendance included former airport board and staff members, builders and developers from home and abroad, representatives of the Marian Shrine at Knock and other fundraisers who helped raise £3 million to build the airport, landowners who sold their land to make way for the airport as well as representatives from the airport’s tour operators and airline partners such as Ryanair, who were formerly recognised for operating twenty years of flight services. Many distinguished politicians- both past and present - also turned up, including the former Minister Padraig Flynn as well as former Taoiseach Albert Reynolds – both of whom were present at the cutting of the first sod. Former Toaiseach Charles Haughey was unable to attend but personally sent his heartfelt congratulations and mentioned that he was particularly proud of the airport’s achievements. Numerous speakers reminisced about the airport’s beginnings and colourful history which was also displayed on a commemorative wall in the main terminal building for all to view. Minister Cowen unveiled a specially commissioned bog oak sculpture titled ‘Art of the Possible’, by artist Ronnie Graham, as a tribute to the many people who have played their part in making the airport the beacon of regional development and success that it is today. The latest figures from the airport show that, so far this year, over 225,000 passengers have used the airport, which is more than six times as many passengers as the airport handled for the entire year it opened in 1986.
Speaking at the event, Chairman of Ireland West Airport Knock, Mr. Joseph Kennedy said: “The airport is very proud of its heritage and past and is continuing to implement what were the original aims of the late Monsignor James Horan and the founding members of the airport. In reality it is not an airport or building we are here to celebrate. Instead we are gathered together to celebrate and recognise the contribution made by the numerous organisations and the ordinary men and women who made the dream of Ireland West Airport Knock a reality through their faith, determination perseverance, belief and pioneering spirit.”
Mr Brian Cowen, TD, Minister for Finance stated: “This is a successful and growing airport which is a vital piece of regional infrastructure. But it represents much more than this. It was an act of faith in the future of the West which illuminated the way forward. It continues to be a reminder to us of what we have overcome and the work that must go on until all communities of the West see real and sustained progress."
Concluding the event, Liam Scollan, Managing Director, Ireland West Airport Knock, said: “Twenty years after our airport was first opened, we are supporting national tourism, national jobs, inward investment, national aviation and transport access. People here have a belief that knowledge and technological industries in the west of Ireland are competing, and will continue to compete, successfully with the rest of the world. When we say that this year the airport will contribute €78 million in tourism spend and we will build a business park creating at least 2,000 jobs within the next ten years, we are simply continuing in the spirit of the original vision. Because, today, more than ever, airports, and ours in particular are critical to economic success. Our region has had many visionaries and luminaries. Tonight we celebrate one vision and like many gone before, all of these visionary projects were based ultimately on an unquenchable belief in the possibilities of the human spirit and a huge level of trust in colleagues – a joyous, even adventurous, embrace of the ‘art of the possible’. Long may it continue.”