A contribution to balanced regional development unrivalled by any one person was marked on the 100th anniversary of the birth of one of Ireland’s greatest economic innovators, the late Dr Brendan O’Regan. The man essentially credited with spearheading a new era of economic development in Ireland was celebrated with the unveiling of a bust at Shannon Airport.
Brendan was the founding father and builder of the foundations 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. The wellspring for many of his unrivalled flow of industrial and tourism initiatives, among them the creation of Duty Free Shopping, are today multi-billion euro global phenomena.
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/1950s into a thriving hub of economic activity.
He was head-hunted in the early 1940s 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.
Among the initiatives spearheaded by him are:
- Developing the world’s first duty free shop at Shannon Airport
- Developing the Shannon Free Zone, the world’s first Free Trade Zone
- Developing the now world-renowned Shannon College of Hotel Management
- Transforming Bunratty Castle into one of the country’s leading tourist attractions, followed by Knappogue and Dunguaire Castles, and Shannon Heritage
- Creating regional development agency Shannon Development
- One of the driving forces in the early 1960s behind the development of Ireland’s newest town, Shannon Town
The bust was unveiled by Rose Hynes, Shannon Group Chairman and among those in attendance were members of Dr O’Regan’s family. Ms 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’ came to mean ‘Bash on Regardless’ in Shannon. 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.”
Matthew Thomas, Shannon Group Chief Executive, said: “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 have worked in the aviation industry globally over 20 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.”
€15m Runway Upgrade
Shannon Airport has also announced the commencement of a €15 million project to upgrade the airport’s runway, the longest runway in Ireland at 3,199 metres (almost two miles).
Matthew Thomas, Chief Executive, Shannon Group said: “Our runway is the airport’s greatest asset and has been the central artery of the airport allowing it to grow passenger numbers by 24% over the past four years. We want to see this continue and this why the runway upgrade project is needed to protect this investment.
“A full resurfacing of 2,400m of the 3,199m runway is now required. This is a challenging and complex project with work limited to small time periods every night in order to minimise any inconvenience to our customers. The work is very weather dependent, and will involve the resurfacing of the runway, with a grooved marshall asphalt and the replacement of both our runway centre line and edge lighting. At the end of this project we will possess an enhanced asset that will be key in driving forward our business over the next 25 years.”
The schedule for works for the runway upgrade is as follows:
Day From To
- Tuesday: 22.00 – 06.00
- Wednesday: 21.35 – 06.00
- Thursday: 23.15 – 06.00
- Friday: 23.55 – 06.00
- Saturday: 22.50 – 06.00
Work will include resurface and rehabilitation enhancements to Runway 06/24, including replacement of existing runway lighting and fittings, raising of the drainage channel, reinstatement of the airfield markings associated ducting and other minor site works.