From: Dunphy Public Relations
Published: Thu Jun 21 2007

An exhibition celebrating the life of one of Ireland's most noted peace ambassadors and initiators of commercial and industrial initiatives has been placed on display at the Sean Lemass Library in Shannon, County Clare.

'Empowering the People: The Career and Achievements of Dr. Brendan O'Regan', moves to the Sean Lemass Library from the Ennis-based Clare Museum, where it had previously been on view. The exhibition, which runs until late September and has been approved by the Sixmilebridge native, will honour all of his achievements and feature some of the many academic and civil accolades he has been awarded throughout his incredible career. Among them display is the C.B.E. that Dr. O'Regan received from the British Ambassador for his peace work in Northern Ireland.

Dr. Brendan O'Regan's many achievements include the setting up the world's first Duty Free Shop at Shannon Airport, the establishment of the Shannon Free Airport Development Company and the founding of Co-operation Ireland - the single largest organisation working in the area of peace and reconciliation in the island of Ireland. The 90-year old is also recognised as the driving force behind the opening up of the Shannon area to tourism.

Welcoming the arrival of the Dr. O'Regan Exhibition to Shannon, Mayor of Shannon Councillor Tony McMahon stated, "I would urge everyone to view this exhibition as there is great sense of history and education about it. Dr. O'Regan is an inspirational figure. He opened up the Shannon area to tourism, industrial development and job creation before establishing the framework for practical co-operation between all peoples on this island. Therefore, it is only fitting that an exhibition recognising his originality, courage and innovation be held in Shannon."

John Rattigan, Curator, Clare Museum said, "Since its launch by An Taoiseach Bertie Ahern in early February, the Dr. Brendan O'Regan exhibition has attracted huge numbers to Clare Museum. Dr. O'Regan's involvement in a vast number of different projects in County Clare, the mid-west region and beyond is a source of pride for people all over Ireland and I am sure his legacy will stand the test of time."

Speaking about the Exhibition, Dr. O'Regan said, "I am particularly proud to be a Clareman and to have been involved with the county and its people through Shannon and Bord Fáilte, now Fáilte Ireland, during the course of my career."

He added, "I am acutely aware of the fact that this Exhibition not only acknowledges my role but the role of the all the men and women who worked with great determination to ensure the success of Shannon Airport and its contribution to the life of County Clare. Without their enthusiastic support much of what has been achieved would not have happened and I owe them a debt of gratitude. On my own behalf and on behalf of the O'Regan family I wish to thank all of you for this honour."

'Empowering the People: The Career and Achievements of Dr. Brendan O'Regan' will remain on display at Sean Lemass Library, Shannon until the end of September 2007.

Electronic version of the text panels on display can be viewed on the Clare Library website at


Notes to Editor:
- John Rattigan, Curator, Clare Museum is available for interview. Please contact Mark Dunphy of Dunphy Public Relations on 086-8534900 or
- Dr. Brendan O'Regan was born in Sixmilebridge, County Clare in 1917. He was greatly influenced by his father James O'Regan who was a local hotelier and Chairman of Clare County Council. In 1938, after many years of studying in Europe, he took over the management of his father's hotel - The Falls in Ennistymon – before being appointed Manager of the St. Stephen's Green Club in Dublin. In 1943, the Government appointed O'Regan as Catering Comptroller at Foynes flying boat base, which was a refuelling point for transatlantic seaplanes between Britain and the United States. He was later transferred to Rineanna Airport (now Shannon International Airport) where he continued as Catering Comptroller. It was here that O'Regan developed his desire to develop the entire Shannon region as he became increasingly aware of the constant threat of Shannon Airport being over-flown by transatlantic traffic. Dr. O’Regan established the world's first Duty-Free shops at Shannon Airport in 1950, less than a year before he set up the now world-famous Shannon College of Hotel Management. During the same period, he travelled to the U.S. to seek new business and returned with an active commitment to promote Shannon as a centre for tourism, airfreight and industry. It was his pioneering vision of the development of hotels and amenities in support of tourism that led to his appointment, in 1957, as Chairman of Bord Fáilte Eireann (Irish Tourist Board) - a position he would hold until his retirement in 1973. During the late fifties, O'Regan also established the Shannon Castle Tours operation, incorporating the renowned medieval banquets at Bunratty Castle. It was also during this time that he was appointed Chair of Ireland's only regional economic development agency, Shannon Development Company. Dr. O'Regan's commitment to regional development was further evident in his establishment of the Shannon Free Airport Development Company (SFADCo) in 1961. Building on the idea that any industrial zone surrounding an International Airport needed an available workforce, O'Regan used SFADCo to purchase land for the construction of housing, which resulted in the first newly established town in the history of the Irish State. By the late 1960s and 1970s, Shannon Town became a haven for many Roman Catholics fleeing the outbreak of sectarian, political and religious conflict in Northern Ireland. This period had a profound impact on O'Regan who decided to retire from SFADCo and dedicate more time to his work with non-governmental organisations working for peace. In 1978, Brendan O'Regan founded Co-Operation North (now Co-Operation Ireland), a non-denominational and non-party organisation with the goal of overcoming violence and unemployment through widespread and ongoing economic, cultural and social co-operation between the Republic of Ireland and Northern Ireland. In 1984, he established the Irish Peace Institute at the University of Limerick. The aim of the Institute is to promote peace and reconciliation on the island of Ireland, and to draw on conflict resolution in order to learn lessons that could inform other conflicts. This philosophy led to his founding of The Centre for International Co-operation at Shannon in 1986. In 1993, meanwhile, O'Regan's sense of practical patriotism was to the fore when he became a founding member of the Newmarket on Fergus-based Obair – a community development organisation that focuses on enterprise and community development and provides support and services for young people. Dr. O'Regan's work and commitment to regional development and cross-cultural exchanges have been second to none and have won him numerous accolades including the 'Commander of the British Empire' (CBE) award for his contribution to peace. In 1984 he was voted "Clareman of the Year" and in 1995 he was made "Freeman of the City of Limerick". Meanwhile, in 2000 Dr. O'Regan was awarded the "Peace Dove" by Co-operation Ireland in recognition of his contribution to promoting understanding and respect between the people of Northern Ireland and the Republic of Ireland. Dr. O'Regan has also received numerous doctorates from Academic Institutions around Ireland. In 1978, he was conferred Doctor of Laws by the National University of Ireland with a particular mention of his "originality, courage and innovation". In 1999, Dr O’Regan was awarded a Doctorate of Laws by the Queen's University of Belfast for "his achievements as a peacemaker and as an industrial visionary", while the University of Limerick recently honoured him for his work with the Irish Peace Institute and the development of the Shannon Region. Many of these awards feature as part of the exhibition at Clare Museum.

Mark Dunphy
Dunphy Public Relations
County Clare
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