The establishment in 1959 of Shannon Development Company provided the vehicle needed to deliver a regional development plan for tourism and industry. O’Regan knew that Shannon’s future depended on its ability to adapt to change in order to keep the planes landing at Shannon, and that the benefits of this to the wider community would be enormous.




Castle Restoration
In the Marshall plan report, he identified the potential of Bunratty Castle as a tourist attraction and with the co-operation of its owner, Lord Gort, it was renovated and opened to the public in 1960. In 1962, also for the benefit of the Shannon Tour Programme, the plans for a post-famine themed Folk Park adjacent to the castle were prepared, and the following year medieval banquets were held at the castle for the first time. These early successes encouraged the renovation of castles at Knappogue and Dunguaire as similar attractions, and a visitor attraction at Craggaunowen as a museum complex.

One, two and three-day tours to the villages and towns around the Shannon Region were developed. Visitors staying at hotels and guest houses could meet the people, enjoy scenic locations, listen to Irish music in local villages and sample excellent food. Businesses benefited from increased tourism revenue and the sale of quality craft items.

These tourism initiatives, along with new hotels such as the Shannon Shamrock, provided employment and prosperity, making the local population stakeholders in the future of the airport. He encouraged Bernard Mc Donough, an Irish-American businessman interested in helping Irish economic development, to purchase Dromoland Castle from Lord Inchiquin in the early 1960’s. The renovation of the castle into a luxury hotel provided employment for many people, and today is one of the leading hotels in the country.

Main Picture: Bunratty Castle. Its restoration was first suggested in the Marshall Plan report co-authored by Brendan O’Regan.†
1 President Richard Nixon with Bunratty singers Margaret O’Hehir and Patsy Beatty on a visit to the USA.
2 Brendan O’Regan is on the right, with Hilton Edwards,
Pat Bedford and Paul Quigley among others receiving advice prior to the development of Knappogue Castle.
3 A promotional photograph of Bunratty Folk Park. The provision of a tourism infrastructure was key to continued success of Shannon Airport.†
4 Charles de Gaulle and wife Yvonne with a Bunratty singer and Brendan O’Regan.
5 Dromoland Castle. The development of Dromoland as a luxury hotel by Bernard McDonough, an American investor, was influenced by Brendan O’Regan.
6 Brendan O’Regan as head of Bord Fáilte, 1973.
7 Brendan O’Regan with foreign dignitaries at Bunratty Folk Park.

† Images supplied by Shannon Development