Clare People, Tuesday, February 20, 2007
By Joe Ó Muircheartaigh
Brendan O’Regan gave a keynote address to the Clare Tourism Council conference that was held in the West County Hotel in 1993. It was a couple of months after the Fianna Fáil led government did what it promised never to do – it abolished the compulsory Shannon stopover.
The anger among tourism interests hadn’t gone away with the couple of months, but Brendan O’Regan’s words showed them the way. The Shannon champion, Mr. Shannon. He told them to look to the future, something that Shannon always did.
Shannon did this in 1948 when Fine Gael’s James Dillon told the Dáil that hares would overrun the Rineanna airfield. O’Regan was the man that showed the way in ’48 and was showing the way nearly half a century later. He’s still showing the way, talking up Shannon, telling Shannon to look to the future, diversify, broaden its horizons.
It’s no wonder Sean Lemass plucked O’Regan from the St. Stephen’s Green Club in Dublin and sent him to Foynes and then Rineanna, the hub of the aviation world.
That’s what happened, but there was much more with Brendan O’Regan. The world’s first Duty Free shop was established in Shannon by O’Regan in 1952; Shannon Development and the industrial free zone was another O’Regan brainchild; the Shannon Hotel School too. Much more besides.
Still if you speak to Brendan O’Regan to this day, he won’t turn the clock back, because it’s always going forward. “Look to the future,” as he told that Clare Tourism Council conference in ’93.
Potographs – currently on exhibit in the Clare Museum in Ennis – are a snapshot of the past, when O’Regan was at the hub of everything that made Rineanna great.