The Clare Champion, February 16, 2007
An evening of Irish Coffee was served up for the large crowd that assembled in the Clare Museum in Ennis to honour an exhibition centering on the life and achievements of the renowned Sixmilebridge business man Dr Brendan O’Regan.
The exhibition, aptly entitled ‘Empowering the People’, celebrated Dr O’Regan’s successful career, in which he pioneered tourism in Clare and garnered countless accomplishments, such as the establishment of the first duty free shop in Shannon Airport, and founding the Shannon College of Hotel Management.
Among those in attendance on the evening was An Taoiseach Bertie Ahern, who greeted Dr O’Regan with the embrace of a close friend. In his entertaining address, the ever humble Dr O’Regan spoke of his pride of being a Clare man and expressed his appreciation to those who had worked on the exhibition.
He added, “I must admit there was some trepidation on my part in agreeing to the idea of holding an exhibition, particularly in view of the work that Noel Crowley and his staff, together with the museum curator John Rattigan, would have to put into staging such an exhibition. I’m astonished by it all; it all feel’s like a dream but I’m nearly 90 years of age, so maybe that’s why.”
Dr O’Regan’s official speech was read out on his behalf by his friend, Cian O’Carroll, however before Mr O’Carroll took to the stand, Dr O’Regan joked, “As I said before, I’m nearly 90, there’s no certainty I won’t say something I shouldn’t.”
Speaking on behalf of Dr O’Regan, Mr O’Carroll said, “To be present in the council chamber with so many friends and colleagues is indeed a great honour. The exhibition, with its photographs, texts and video material, is a tribute to the hard work and skill of the people who co-ordinated and crafted together such a display, which would interest the young and not so young visitors to the museum. It is a great source of personal happiness to be in a place where I am so warmly reminded of my father James O’Regan, whose photograph hangs among the many other photographs of former chairmen of Clare County Council. As I have said on many occasions and wish to say again, I am acutely aware that this exhibition not only acknowledges my role but the role of all the men and women that worked with great determination to ensure the success of Shannon Airport and its contribution to the life of County Clare. Without their enthusiastic support, much of what has been achieved would not have happened and I owe them a debt of gratitude. On my behalf and on behalf of the O’Regan family, I wish to thank you all of you for this honour.”
In a speech about the distinguished Clare man, An Taoiseach Bertie Ahern spoke of Dr O’Regan’s unique and wonderful contribution to Irish life over the past five decades and credited him with having helped shape the fabric of economic, social and cultural life today.
He said: Your extraordinary achievements, Brendan, in the area of commercial and industrial development as well as your magnificent work in peace and reconciliation on this island are being deservedly recognised and honoured here this evening. Your many achievements are reflected in the lengthy list of honours that have been bestowed on you. It is a great pleasure for me to officially open this exhibition and I would like to thank Noel Crowley for his kind invitation to do so. Often, it is only after people have gone that their work is recognised. As Micheál MacLiam?ir once said, ‘What a paradise Ireland would be if it had as much respect for the living as it does for the dead’. And so, I am delighted that this exhibition is taking place for the many visitors to Clare County Museum to enjoy.”
Describing him as “instrumental in the establishment of Shannon town”, the Taoiseach attributed the foundation of Dr O’Regan’s success to that of his father James O’Regan, whom, he said, “was a huge influence in your life, instilling in you the importance of creating work for others. This was something you carried with you through life.”
During the speech, the Taoiseach acknowledged the various steps in the career of Dr O’Regan, from his first job in The Falls Hotel in Ennistymon to his position in Shannon Airport, his post as chairman of Bord F?ilte Eireannn and in particular, his pivotal contribution to the Northern Ireland Peace Process.
Referring to Dr O’Regan as a “rare man and one of great vision and peace”, the Taoiseach said, “The policies that you advocated since the late 70s remain the basis for the improved co-operation between North and South. The establishment of Co-operation Ireland is just one concrete example of your outstanding vision and leadership. Co-operation Ireland was founded in the midst of the Troubles, at a time of horrific violence and intense hatred. However, the organisation strove to promote peace and understanding between the two parts of this island. Since its foundation in the late 70s, it has succeeded in improving the linkages between the Catholic and Protestant communities in the North and between the North and the South. Every year, thousands of people come together to share their experiences and learn from each other.”
He added, “I want to thank you for establishing excellent organisations such as Co-operation Ireland and the Irish Peace Institute at the University of Limerick, which have paved the way forward and have brought the people from all parts of this island closer together.”
The Taoiseach commended the team responsible for bringing to fruition the impressive exhibition, in particular, county librarian Noel Crowley and museum curator John Rattigan.