Airport priests welcome end to difficult year as planes return to skies

Airport priests welcome end to difficult year as planes return to skies Knock airport

Priests involved in Irish airports have told of the difficulties aviation staff and airport communities have faced throughout the pandemic, describing the situation as “very, very difficult on people”, and have welcomed the cautious return to travel.

“From a passenger point of view in the terminals there’s just so little happening,” Fr Des Doyle of Our Lady Queen of Heaven Church at Dublin Airport said, explaining that at times his job has been “really just encouraging staff, a lot of whom are in trouble with their jobs and losing jobs and losing hours and all that.

“I’m talking to people all the time, workers here… mixing with workers and that. It’s the same in my local parish – we’d have a lot of airline workers there, so it’s a very difficult time for them.”

Fr Richard Gibbons of Knock Shrine, who is a trust member with Ireland West Airport in Co. Mayo, said the pandemic cut the airport’s flight activity “down to zero” due to the pandemic.

“The airport was growing year on year up to the pandemic, and 2019 was one of the biggest years yet. It was hovering around 800,000 passengers a year,” Fr Gibbons said.

Both priests praised their respective airports for the function they provide in the local community, for the airline staff, but also for the locals.

“We’re very proud of the airport, I have to say, we’re very, very proud, myself and the archbishop and indeed all the people of the west. It’s just one of those gems that’s founded on the back of ordinary people contributing to something that we knew was important for the west, so we’re very proud of it,” Fr Gibbons said.

Fr Doyle echoed this, saying they have a “very strong community” of people who “literally built the church in 1964, they paid for the church to be built, the airline workers or the airport workers, and so they have a great sense of community and belonging to it here and fondness for it”.

He looks forward to seeing relief return to the airport alongside passengers, saying: “We’ll be very happy to see more airplanes in the sky.”