Exhibition Pays Tribute to Life and Times of Town Stalwart

Limerick Leader, Saturday, February 10, 2007

An Exhibition celebrating the achievements of Dr Brendan O’Regan, was launched on Thursday by the Taoiseach, Bertie Ahern at the Clare Museum in Ennis. Dr O’Regan, who was born in Sixmilebridge in 1917, is one of the central figures in the development of Shannon.

After studying in Europe, Dr O’Regan took charge of his father’s hotel, The Falls, in Ennistymon. He was subsequently appointed catering comptroller at Foynes Flying Boat base and was later transferred to Rineanna. He established the world’s first duty-free shops at Shannon Airport in 1950, less than a year before he set up the renowned Shannon Airport College of Hotel Management.

Around the same time Dr O’Regan went to America to promote Shannon as a centre for tourism, airfreight and industry. His work for the development of tourism led to his appointment as Chairman of Bord Failte Eireann in 1957. He held this position until his retirement and during his term in office he established the Shannon Castle tours, incorporating the Mediaeval banquets at Bunratty.

In 1961 Dr O’Regan established the Shannon Free Airport Development Company (SFADCo). With the idea that an industrial zone surrounding an airport needed a workforce, he used SFADCo to buy land for housing which ultimately resulted in Shannon town.

In the late 60s and early 70s Shannon was a haven for Catholics fleeing the North and this had a profound effect on Dr O’Regan. In 1978 he founded Co-operation North (now Co-operation Ireland) a non-political group which sought to overcome violence and unemployment through economic, social and cultural co-operation between the Republic and the North.

Continuing his work for peace, Dr O’Regan founded the Irish Peace Institute at the University of Limerick in 1984 and the Shannon based Centre for International Co-operation in 1986. His work and commitment to regional development and cross-cultural exchange won him numerous accolades including the Commander of the British Empire Award for his contribution to peace. In 1984 he was named Clareman of the Year and in 1995 he was made Freeman of Limerick City.

Shannon’s Cllr. Tony Mulcahy paid tribute to the foresight of the Sixmilebridge man. “To put it in the simplest context, without him we wouldn’t have Shannon today. He had a vision for the future of the town, the airport and the industrial estate. People who have jobs and homes here should be eternally grateful to him”, he said.

Cllr. Patricia McCarthy said he had done a lot of work for the Shannon area. “There is no doubt but that he was a major influence and many of the developments here wouldn’t have happened without him. A lot of work that he did in the 1950s and 60s is still of benefit,” she said.

The exhibition was launched at 6.30pm last Thursday. As well as the Taoiseach, Mayor Flan Garvey addressed the event.

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