Neil Horan

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Neil Horan at the Climate Camp, August 2009

Cornelius "Neil" Horan, sometimes referred to as The Grand Prix Priest or The Dancing Priest (born 22 April 1947), is a laicised 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.

In 2004 he was found not guilty of indecent assault against a seven-year-old girl. Though he did admit that he was naked while the girl tickled him and while they played hide-and-seek, during the court case he also claimed to own only one pair of tight-fitting green satin underpants that have never been washed as he needs them to 'always be ready for use', at one point Horan produced the pants from his pocket to show the jury.[1]

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.[2] He did not make the live semi-finals.

He most recently made the news when he showed his support outside court for disgraced entertainer Rolf Harris[3]

Early life and the priesthood[edit]

Neil Horan performing an Irish jig in Oxford Circus, London in 2014

The second of 13 children born to Catherine (née Kelly) and John Horan, Horan is a native of Knockeenahone, Scartaglen in County Kerry. He currently lives in London. He studied to be a priest at St. Brendan's College, Killarney and St Peter's College, Wexford and was ordained in 1973.


2003 British Grand Prix[edit]

On 20 July 2003, Horan ran across the track at the Formula One British Grand Prix at Silverstone Circuit, wearing an orange skirt and waving a religious banner, which stated "Read the Bible. The Bible is always right".

His protest took place on the 200 mph (320 km/h) Hangar Straight. Several 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 track marshal Stephen Green, who removed him from the track before he was arrested.[4] He was charged with, and pleaded guilty to, aggravated trespass and sentenced to two months imprisonment.[citation needed]

2004 Epsom Derby[edit]

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.[citation needed]

2004 Summer Olympics men's marathon[edit]

In spite of tight security at the 2004 Athens Olympics due to fears of a terrorist attack, on the 29th of 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 on his back.[5]

Horan pushed Brazilian Vanderlei de Lima, who was leading the race, into the crowds alongside the course.[2] 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.[6]

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.[5] De Lima later commented that "I think that the psychological shock was the greatest impact that I suffered. To be attacked like that, it was painful. I was totally defenseless and exhausted."[7]

The head of the Brazilian Athletics Confederation 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 due to his mental state. Horan's brother commented that he had gotten away "scot-free".[8][citation needed]

World Cup 2006[edit]

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 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 he would carry posters declaring "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.[9] He spent two months in custody awaiting trial but was released on 15 September 2006 when the judge discharged the case.[10]

St Mary's Hospital[edit]

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.").[11]

David Norris letter[edit]

During campaigning ahead of the 2011 Irish presidential election, Senator David Norris's past 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."[12]


Removal from priesthood[edit]

On 20 January 2005, Kevin McDonald, the Archbishop of Southwark (South London), laicised Horan. Horan later made the following statement to the press: "I completely reject this decision. I appeal to the much higher court of heaven and the court of Jesus Christ ... I now cannot preach, I cannot give out communion - I am little more than a pagan."[13]

Legal restraints[edit]

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.[14]

Other appearances[edit]

Britain's Got Talent[edit]

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.[15] It was revealed he was let through because the producers "did not know" who he was.[16] The makers of the show, TalkbackThames and Syco, defended showing Horan's audition on the show.[2] Horan then appeared on The Ray D'Arcy Show on Today FM and revealed that he did not get through to the next stage.


  1. ^ "Disgraced priest admits naked game with little girl". 28 October 2004.
  2. ^ a b c "Priest's Talent audition defended". BBC News. 18 May 2009. Retrieved 23 April 2014.
  3. ^ "Infamous former priest Neil Horan spotted supporting Rolf Harris outside court in London".
  4. ^ Collantine, Keith (20 July 2013). "Massa "not worried" despite lapse in form - F1 Fanatic Round-up". F1 Fanatic. Retrieved 20 July 2013.
  5. ^ a b Nick Zaccardi. "Bearing no burden". NBC Sports. Retrieved 20 May 2018.
  6. ^ "This Bronze Medal Came Equipped With a Halo". Los Angeles Times. Retrieved 20 May 2018. Polyvios Kossivas...went to De Lima's aid, freed him from his attacker and pushed him back on the course, yelling, "Go, go!"
  7. ^ Nick Zaccardi. "Bearing no burden: Vanderlei de Lima carries no ill will to the man who disrupted his greatest moment". NBC Sports.
  8. ^ "Family of priest wishes to apologise to runner". Irish Times. August 31, 2004.
  9. ^ Kelliher, Eve (5 July 2006). "Horan plans Hitler salute at World Cup final venue". The Kingdom. Archived from the original on 30 September 2006. Retrieved 9 January 2016.
  10. ^ "Dancing ex-priest who disrupted Olympic race and ran on track during Grand Prix to run Brighton Marathon". Brighton Evening Argus. Retrieved 20 May 2018. He was arrested by German police...He spent two months in custody awaiting trial but was released after a judge discharged the case.
  11. ^ "Royal baby delay as media eats itself in "Great Kate Wait"". The Age. 19 July 2013. Retrieved 23 April 2014.
  12. ^ Nihill, Cian. "Norris has always done write thing", The Irish Times, 12 October 2011.
  13. ^ "Former priest Horan defrocked by Church". Retrieved 25 June 2017.
  14. ^ "Ex-priest receives Marathon Asbo", BBC News, 13 April 2007.
  15. ^ Britain's Got Talent, ITV, 16 May 2009
  16. ^ Geraldine Gittens (7 May 2009). "Defrocked priest dances for Cowell". Retrieved 23 April 2014.

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