The man credited with spearheading a new era of economic development in Ireland has been celebrated with the unveiling of a bust at Shannon Airport.
On the 100th anniversary of his birth, the late Dr. Brendan O’Regan was commemorated at a special ceremony at the airport. Among those in attendance were members of Dr. O’Regan’s family, Cathaoirleach of Clare County Council Bill Chambers, Mayor of Ennis, Cllr Ann Norton, and former colleagues. Members of the Bunratty Castle Entertainers gave a special performance at the event in acknowledgement of his immense contribution to Irish tourism.
O’Regan was the founding father and builder of the foundation blocks on which much of Shannon, the Mid-West region and Ireland’s economies were built, and his many world first initiatives continue to bear fruit today. Among his industrial and tourism initiatives were Duty Free Shopping, which he created 70 years ago this year, and is today a multi-billion euro global phenomenon.
The legendary visionary, a native of Sixmilebridge, Co. Clare, is justly credited with transforming the Mid-West from a region caught in the grip of a desolate post-war depression in the 1940s/’50s into a thriving hub of economic activity.
He was head-hunted in the early 1940’s to take over as Catering Comptroller at Foynes flying boat base, the premier transatlantic aviation gateway into Europe at that time. In 1945 he transferred to the new Rineanna Airport (later renamed Shannon Airport) in the same role, where he set about single-handedly influencing, more than any other person, the future course of economic development on the western half of the island.
Addressing the large attendance, Shannon Group Chairperson, Rose Hynes said: “Dr. Brendan O’Regan was one of the most fascinating and influential people of our time. A renaissance man, a pioneer of regional development, charismatic and charming – who brought a passion and determination to every task he undertook.
“He rarely took “NO” for an answer and he was very driven in pursuit of his projects. He wasn’t afraid to think big. His initials “BOR” – in Shannon came to mean ‘Bash on Regardless’. He saw opportunities not limitations and his ability to reach for the skies had a transformative effect on this region and beyond. He firmly believed in following your dreams and never giving up on an idea.”
Said Shannon Group CEO Matthew Thomas: “So much of what is vibrant and good in economic and social terms in the Shannon region and beyond today – is a lasting tribute to Dr. Brendan O’Regan, an innovator, entrepreneur and, ultimately, a great man.
“I’ve worked in the aviation industry globally over twenty years now and Dr. O’Regan’s legacy is remarkable in an international context. He was a true altruistic visionary. This, together with the incredible world impacting initiatives he developed, set him apart. We all carry a huge responsibility to his legacy. We owe it to him to continue to reach higher than we think possible and to constantly try to be the best at what we do.”
Perhaps one of Dr. O’Regan’s great leadership qualities was his belief that everyone had the capacity to be creative and the inclusive environment he created for his staff was key in the rapid progress made and the range of innovations achieved. He firmly believed in following your dreams and never giving up on an idea. He once said: “If you’re involved in developing an important idea, you have to let it possess you. If you keep knocking on the door, the door will open. You’ll get there, not particularly with your own abilities, but with others that you gather around you.”