Clare People, Tuesday, February 13, 2007
By T J Flynn
As Thursday evening came in, a convoy of visitors edged towards Ennis. They had Dr Brendan O’Regan on the mind.
Dr O’Regan, who married business to aviation when he established the world’s first duty free shop at Shannon Airport, was being toasted and talked up before the launch of an exhibition at the Clare Museum.
‘Empowering the People: The Career and Acheivements of Dr Brendan O’Regan,’ was officially launched by Taoiseach Bertie Ahern, during his countywide visit of Clare last week.
In the brightened corridors of the museum, Dr O’Regan’s contribution to Clare life was dissected and recalled by the suited and those in plain clothes.
Tourism in Clare would never have prospered if it weren’t for O’Regan, one of them said. They were right. The man from Sixmilebridge was responsible for opening the Shannon area to the masses, inviting the people of the world to come see what Clare had to offer. Tourism was in the blood. His father, James, was a hotelier at The Falls in Ennistymon and bouyed by tales from around the world, an appreciation of the industry passed on to Brendan and he became manager of the hotel.
Later, Dr O’Regan saw the potential of transatlantic flights to the region and set about developing amenities in conjunction with the facility at Shannon.
He’s now 90 years old and holds a CBE for establishing the Irish Peace Institute at Limerick University. He set up the institute over two decades back, with an aim to promote peace and reconciliation in Ireland and to draw on conflict resolution to learn lessons that could inform other conflicts.
The concept of an exhibition for Dr O’Regan first surfaced three years back.
“I must admit that there was some trepidation on my part in agreeing to the idea, particularly in view of the work Noel Crowley [County Librarian] and his staff, together with the Museum Curator, John Rattigan, would have put into staging such an exhibition,’ Dr O’Regan said on Thursday. “Privately, I was pondering would I still be around to see the exhibition when it opened. I am particularly pleased to be here tonight to acknowledge with admiration and gratitude your work and the creative display of artefacts and pictures.”
The exhibition, which is currently running, honours all of Dr O’Regan’s achievements and features some of the many academic and civil accolades he has been awarded throughout his action-packed career.