Management of the airport at Knock are hoping their prayers will be answered in the coming months – with a visit by Pope Francis and the commencement of transatlantic flights, the ‘Holy Grail’ of aviation.
Officials from Ireland West Airport said the signs are positive that the Pontiff will fly into the Mayo airfield at the beginning of his State visit in August.
When asked about reports the Pope would visit Knock, Joe Gilmore, managing director of the airport, said: “We’ve heard nothing official yet but we’re very hopeful. The soundings are positive, so we are very hopeful.”
He was responding this week to queries from Labour City Councillor Niall McNelis, after giving a presentation to Galway City Council about Knock.
Mr Gilmore also outlined how that the airport was “hopeful” of securing an agreement with an airline to operate transatlantic flights to and from America.
Regarding US flights, he said he’d “love to say it will happen in twelve months” and he was “very hopeful” of it happening within 18 months.
He cautioned that there was “a lot of uncertainty” globally in the aviation industry; and takeovers and mergers of airlines can scupper the ongoing work and talks that have been happening with transatlantic operators.
Mr Gilmore, and his colleague Donal Healy, gave a brief ‘business update’ in the City Council chamber on Monday.
They outlined that the total investment contribution from both Galway City Council and Galway County Council was €912,500 each.
The duo was seeking a further one-off investment of €14,500 from both Galway Councils to complete the construction of a visitor discovery centre in the arrivals.
They said 2017 was a record year for Ireland West Airport with 750,000 passengers. This year they plan to expand further into the UK market with 16,000 extra seats on flights to Birmingham, Edinburgh and Manchester with Flybe. Ryanair is also increasing capacity on its Milan flight by 35% and Mr Gilmore said there are plans for more services to Netherlands, France and Germany. Brexit would have a short-term impact, they predicted, but that is why they were diversifying routes.
In response to questions from Cllr Ollie Crowe (FF), Mr Gilmore agreed the compulsory €10 charge, payable by every passenger before going through security, was “very contentious” but without it, he said, Knock would not be there because it covers about 40% of its operating costs.
A number of elected members criticised the poor quality public transport links with the airport to Galway, notwithstanding that the Derry-Galway Bus Éireann service now stops at the airport six times per day.
Passenger surveys found that 19% of the airport’s outbound passengers originate in Galway; and 40% of visitors going through the airport visit Galway.
According to the survey, they spend €35m plus in Galway and generate 100,000+ bed nights per annum.
Councillors will vote on the €14,500 grant at the June meeting
Locals in fundraising drive to protect some of Connemara’s finest beauty spots
The world-famous beaches Gurteen Bay and Dogs Bay will disappear unless work is carried out immediately to save them for the next generation.
A local conservation committee has been set up which is fundraising to carry out the work in September. They plan to remove the old fencing from the headland, which is dangerous for people and animals.
They will also want to install new fencing on the headland to keep animals off the sand dunes and to have clear access pathways to people to enjoy the dunes without causing them damage.
Sustainable chestnut fencing is then needed to re-establish the sand dunes and to save them from further collapse.
Finally the hope to replant marram grass to further stabalise the dunes.
Kieran Mullen, owner of the Gurteen Bay caravan and camping park, explained that the work was so urgent that they cannot wait another year to carry it out.
“Atlantic storms are becoming more frequent and powerful. If they find a weakness in the dunes a one metre gap is created. The next storm that widens to two and three metres and soon they’re gone forever,” he remarked.
“I know people might say I’m doing this because they’re part of my livelihood but these beaches are key to the bigger economy of Connemara. Everyone’s tied into tourism here – the shops, the builders. It only takes one influencer to post a picture on Instagram and the next week the place is packed.”
His father Pat, along with James Conneely and Joe Rafferty, undertook extensive projects such as planting marram grass, erecting fencing and stone gabions along one section of Dogs Bay beach back in the 1990s. They managed to protect and regenerate part of a highly degraded dune system.
“If it wasn’t for the huge amount of work they did back then, the beaches wouldn’t be here today. There was an Italian electrical company who came in and took away 50 tonnes of sand and my father stopped them at the gate and made them drop it off.
“They filmed Into The West here and the film donated some money to the beach and that’s how they paid for a lot of the work.”
The committee is meeting with planners to secure an exemption on planning for the work.
“Time is not on our side so that’s why we’ve gone ahead to raise the money and hope to get it done in September when the place is quieter.”
Both beaches, located outside Roundstone, regularly make the list of top 100 beaches of the world by travel guides.
To make a donation, visit GoFundMe page.
Galway passengers are all smiles at Shannon!
The smiles on the faces at Shannon Airport very much told its own story this week – with passengers taking to skies as the easing of restrictions and the first day of the European Digital COVID Certificates took effect.
And it wasn’t just the joy of travel starting to resume that lifted spirits at the airport but also the announcement by Ryanair of a new once-weekly service to Gran Canaria (Las Palmas) to commence on August 7 – the third new service announcement for Shannon Airport over recent weeks.
There was a real sense of excitement as passengers of all ages became very much at ease with the heightened public safety measures in a ‘back-to-the-future’ day for the West of Ireland gateway airport.
There were reunions as inbound flights arrived but also a palpable degree of anticipation as others got set to depart on the earliest flight out of the airport today, the 7:10am flight to Gatwick.
Among those boarding was Clarenbridge native Claire Tomlin and her husband Jake, together with their three children, including their twins who turn a year old next week.
“It’s been amazing to get back. The kids saw their grandparents for the first time and their cousins and aunties and uncles, so it was fantastic,” said Claire.
“Shannon is just so convenient for us because it’s only about 40 minutes’ drive. So, it just makes everything a lot easier in terms of getting to and from places with little ones. So, yeah, Shannon is a great resource for us. Really, really good. We hope to be able to go back more and more.”
It was smiles all around for Shannon Airport staff as they got back to doing what they do best. “Well, today is a great day because you can see the atmosphere around the place, people are at ease here and they’re glad to be back, they’re glad to get up in the sky again,” said Shannon Duty Free Sales Associate Helen Quinlivan.
“It’s great to see the excitement. People are really looking forward to going back and seeing their loved ones and they’re very at ease.”
Galway In Days Gone By
Silence is golden
Leaders on both sides have stated that the best assistance the country can give in the making of peace is to keep silence.
During the past week there has been a great deal of speculation, most of it harmless enough, as, for instance, the enterprising American journalist’s “exclusive” on the first meeting of the British Premier and the President of the Irish Republic; much of it positively mischievous, as the case of the efforts of a certain journal, which has grown hoary in the reputation for throwing in the apple of discord, to anticipate failure in advance.
Our American colleague was on surer and on safer ground when he told of how de Valera and Lloyd George met.
“Mr. Lloyd George,” he cabled, “was sitting at his desk when the Irish President entered. For just a minute these two gazed fixedly at one another. Then the British Premier walked across the intervening space and shook de Valera by the hand. He led him to a seat where they sat side by side. The atmosphere was tense. They faced one another. Then Lloyd George reached down for a box of cigars. But the Irish President is of Spartan mould. He neither permits himself to drink nor smoke. He politely but firmly waved the box away. Mr. Lloyd George, however, selected and lighted a Havana, and as the smoke curled upwards the atmosphere became decidedly easier!”
The wise and practical man always lays by a store against the time when supplies will be scarce. One of the most serious effects of the prolonged drought is the scarcity of supplies of fodder for cattle-feeding during the coming winter and spring.
The hay crop is not more than half the average yield. The corn crop is far below normal. Turnips in many districts are a partial failure. We have frequently emphasised the importance of growing catch-crops to supplement other feeding stuffs raised on the farm, but it is only under circumstances such as the present that their utility is brought home to farmers. Owing to the early harvest, a larger area than is usual can and should be put down this season. This would make good, to some extent, at least, the shortage of hay and other feeding-stuffs.
The demonstration plots laid down by the County Committee of Agriculture have shown that catch-crops, such as vetches and rye as well as other mixtures, can be successfully grown in all parts of County Galway.
We would urge on farmers the desirability – nay, the necessity – of procuring seed and making early preparation for the sowing of an increased area of catch-crops this season.
For more, read this week’s Connacht Tribune.
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