A bronze bust of Clare travel and tourism visionary Brendan O’Regan will be unveiled at Shannon Airport on Monday at 11:30am to commemorate the 100th anniversary of his birth.
Born in Sixmilebridge in 1917 to the family which owned the Old Ground Hotel in Ennis and the Falls Hotel in Ennistymon, O’Regan attended Blackrock College and studied hotel management in Germany, France an, Switzerland.
He became manager of the Stephen’s Green Club in Dublin. In 1943, he was appointed as Catering Comptroller at Foynes flying boat base, which was a refueling point for transatlantic seaplanes between Britain and the United States.
In 1945 he was appointed Catering Comptroller at Shannon Airport. From this base, he embarked on the projects which transformed the Shannon Region
Among the initiatives Brendan O’Regan spearheaded were:
- The world’s first duty free shop at Shannon Airport in 1947, a phenomenon that now exists the world over
- Developing Shannon Airport into the first aviation gateway for commercial travel into Europe, today Shannon offers services to 35 international destinations
- Bunratty Castle which he transformed from a ruin into one of the country’s leading tourist attractions. This was followed by similar initiatives at Knappogue and Dunguaire, and the Craggaunowen visitor attraction, ultimately giving rise to Shannon Heritage – Ireland’s largest operator of tourist attractions and which now operates seven visitor centres/attractions
- Shannon Free Zone, the world’s first Free Trade Zone – Ireland’s biggest multi-sectoral business park which today employs over 6,500 people and houses the country’s largest cluster of FDI investment outside of Dublin. This model for the world-first Special Economic Zone (SEZ) has been replicated the world over
- Shannon College of Hotel Management – graduates of the internationally acclaimed college included some of the world’s top hoteliers
- Creating regional development agency Shannon Development, to advance the economic development of the Mid-West
Brendan O’Regan was also involved in efforts to advance peace and resolve conflict arising from troubles in the North and in 1978 founded Cooperation North to help break down cross border divides through economic, cultural, and social cooperation between the two jurisdictions on the island.