Cornelius "Neil" Horan, sometimes referred to as The Grand Prix Priest or The Dancing Priest (born 22 April 1947), is a laicized Irish Roman Catholic priest who is noted for his interference with the running of the 2003 British Grand Prix and the 2004 Summer Olympics men's marathon in order to promote his religious belief that the end of the world is near. He went on to appear on Britain's Got Talent in May 2009. He danced a soft jig on the show, received a standing ovation by the audience and was put through to the next round. He did not make the live semi-finals.
Early life and the priesthood
The second of 13 children born to Catherine Kelly and John Horan, Horan is a native of Knockeenahone, Scartaglen in County Kerry. He currently lives in South London. Horan studied to be a priest at St. Brendan's College, Killarney and St Peter’s College in Wexford and was ordained in 1973. In 1974 he showed an interest in the Apostolic Fellowship of Christ and resigned from the priesthood, but later rejoined in 1980.
Horan became more interested in prophecy and published an electronic book, entitled A Glorious New World Very Soon to Come, that predicted the end of the world. He published another electronic booklet along similar lines entitled A Glorious New World. Other works include Christ Will Soon Take Power From All Governments. According to Horan, in the Second Coming of Christ, Jesus will rule the world from Jerusalem and there will be two classes of people, "immortal saints" who will rule a world government for a millennium from the religious city and "mortal citizens" who will become "adopted Jews" and live for 900 years.
2003 British Grand Prix
On 20 July 2003, Horan ran across the track at the Formula One British Grand Prix at Silverstone Circuit, wearing a kilt and waving a religious banner, which stated "Read the Bible. The Bible is always right". His protest took place on the 200 mph Hangar Straight. Several of the drivers had to swerve to avoid him and the safety car had to be deployed to protect him and the competitors. Horan was tackled by race marshal Stephen Green, who removed him from the track before he was arrested. He was charged with, and pleaded guilty to, aggravated trespass and sentenced to two months imprisonment.
2004 Epsom Derby
At the 5 June 2004 Epsom Derby, Horan was spotted by police and shoved to the ground moments before they believed he was about to run in front of the horses. He was later released without charges, although police did circulate information about Horan to other sporting events.
2004 Summer Olympics men's marathon
In spite of the fact that security for the 2004 Athens Olympics was tight due to fears of a terrorist attack, on 29 August Horan (who had flown to Athens earlier that day) was able to run onto the course of the men's marathon event near the 35 km mark, carrying a placard.
Horan pushed Brazilian Vanderlei de Lima, who was leading the race, into the crowds alongside the course. After a few seconds Horan was hauled off the shaken runner by Greek spectator Polyvios Kossivas. Kossivas subdued Horan and helped de Lima up and back to the lane. Horan was promptly arrested by Greek police (who were later criticized for not giving runners adequate protection). Following the encounter with Horan, De Lima suffered from leg cramps and muscle pain, although he continued running and completed the race. He lost 20 seconds from his 48 second lead and finished third, after being passed by Italian Stefano Baldini and American Mebrahtom Keflezighi at the 38 km mark.
The head of the Brazilian Track Federation launched an appeal based on the controversy surrounding Horan's interference in the marathon. The federation asked that de Lima also be awarded a gold medal, citing precedents set in past Olympic matches where extenuating circumstances have led to more than one winner in certain sports. This request was denied.
Horan was given a 12 months' suspended sentence by a Greek court and fined €3,000. Although he could have been sentenced to up to five years' imprisonment, the judge gave him a suspended sentence on account of his mental state. Horan also apologised.
World Cup 2006
During the 2006 FIFA World Cup in Germany, Horan was arrested by German police before he could stage a planned protest. He had written to the German Chancellor, Angela Merkel, and The Kingdom newspaper in County Kerry, Ireland, informing them that he planned to dance a peace jig outside the stadium in Berlin before the World Cup final. He told The Kingdom that he would carry posters declaring that "Adolf Hitler was a good leader who was following the word of Christ", give the Hitler salute and light a candle for Hitler at the Gestapo headquarters. He spent two months in custody awaiting trial but was released on 15 September 2006 when the judge discharged the case.
On 13 April 2007 Horan was served with an Anti-Social Behaviour Order (ASBO) banning him from entering, on the day of the race, any of the London boroughs that the course of the London Marathon passed through.
Britain's Got Talent
Horan auditioned for Series 3 of Britain's Got Talent in 2009 (airing 16 May) performing an Irish jig in traditional costume. The judges put Horan through to the next round. It was revealed he was let through because the producers "did not know" who he was. The makers of the show, TalkbackThames and Syco, defended showing Horan's audition on the show. Horan then appeared on The Ray D'Arcy Show on Today FM and revealed that he did not get through to the next stage.
David Norris letter
During campaigning ahead of the 2011 Irish presidential election, Senator David Norris's past, like those of the other six candidates, came under scrutiny. The Irish Times reported that it had seen a letter in which Norris had politely responded to Horan thanking him for his pamphlet on “various Messianic prophecies”. Norris admitted in the letter, “To be honest I haven’t really read it in detail yet”, but said that he would put his “feet up and read it with great interest” when he returned from a trip to Berlin. He added, “I will then pass it on to my aunt who is just 100 and has always taken a keen interest in this kind of material.”
Kate & William's Baby / The Predicted fall of the monarchy
During the waiting period outside the front door of St Mary’s Hospital’s Lindo Wing in west London before Prince William's first child was born, Horan appeared in front of media with a sign proclaiming "Queen Elizabeth is very probably the last monarch of Britain’’ on one side, and ‘Queen Elizabeth is very probably foretold in the Bible’’ on the other. He handed out his business card (‘‘Neil Horan, the Britain’s Got Talent Irish Dancer. I perform at Weddings. My Mission in Life is to help prepare the world for the Second Coming.’’).
- "Entertainment". "Priest's Talent audition defended". BBC News. 18 May 2009. Retrieved 23 April 2014.
- Collantine, Keith (July 20, 2013). "Massa "not worried" despite lapse in form - F1 Fanatic Round-up". F1 Fanatic. Retrieved 20 July 2013.
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- Geraldine Gittens (7 May 2009). "Defrocked priest dances for Cowell". Herald.ie. Retrieved 23 April 2014.
- Nihill, Cian. "Norris has always done write thing", The Irish Times, 12 October 2011.
- "Royal baby delay as media eats itself in "Great Kate Wait"". The Age. www.theage.com.au. 19 July 2013. Retrieved 23 April 2014.
- Ex-priest admits Grand Prix invasion, BBC, 11 August 2003
- Protester ruins marathon, BBC, 9 August 2004
- Sport disrupting priest defrocked, BBC, 20 January 2005