The genesis of the $90billion worldwide duty-free industry lies in the vision of Brendan O’Regan
The legacy of one of Ireland’s leading visionaries, innovators and motivators, Brendan O’Regan, was honoured in his native village, Sixmilebridge, Co. Clare today (Monday, 10 July 2023) with the unveiling of a life-size statue commissioned by Sixmilebridge Historical Society and Shannon Chamber.
The statue, created by one of Ireland’s leading bronze sculptors, Seamus Connolly, was unveiled by Chamber president Eoin Gavin in the Square in Sixmilebridge, opposite the house Brendan O’Regan was born into in 1917, the fifth of seven children of James O’Regan from Sixmilebridge and Nora Ryan from Kilrush.
The unveiling took place before an audience comprising members of the O’Regan family, project sponsors, Ei Electronics, Clare County Council, Eoin Gavin Transport, Neil Pakey, The Shannon Airport Group, Irish Hotels Federation (IHF), Shannon branch, and Shannon College of Hotel Management, University of Galway. Members of the business and local communities also attended.
A leader in thought and action, Brendan O’Regan’s contribution to Ireland’s economic progression is immense. He created Ireland’s first industrial duty-free zone, Shannon Free Zone, Ireland’s first new town of the twentieth century, Shannon Town, Shannon College of Hotel Management and, he was the ‘father’ of duty free, which is now a $90billion industry worldwide. Through founding Cooperation North, he was a conduit for international peace.
Unveiling the status, Shannon Chamber president Eoin Gavin said: “Brendan O’Regan’s realm of influence spreads far and wide. His vision and creative endeavour transformed Shannon into the industrial powerhouse for the raising of living standards in Ireland’s Mid-West, which continues today. He was a man with a big vision and unbounding energy.
“Shannon Chamber wants his legacy to be remembered and built on. Our vision is that the pioneering and innovative sprite of Shannon and the region, started in the 1960s by Brendan O’Regan will continue. That’s why we joined forces with the Sixmilebridge Historical Society to commission this statue. We want the story to continue. We want the next generation to understand and pay homage to the past and build a new future for this village, Shannon, and the region, just as Brendan’s successors have done and continue to do.
“The life-size bronze statue, strategically placed in the Square, Sixmilebridge, for all to see, will serve as a visible manifestation of the founding father of industry and tourism in this region and beyond. It will serve to preserve his memory forever.”
Cathaoirleach of Clare County Council, Councillor Joe Cooney, said: Brendan O’Regan’s contributions to economic, social and cultural development helped to shape modern Ireland.
“His initiatives include the world’s first duty-free airport shop at Shannon Airport, Ireland’s first industrial estate, Ireland’s first hotel school, the first New Town, and three separate peace organisations. He had an enormous impact – locally, nationally, and internationally.
“I am delighted to see the unveiling of this statue in Sixmilebridge. I hope it will stand as an enduring reminder of the remarkable achievements of Brendan O’Regan and the contribution that he made to life in this area and beyond.”
Secretary of Sixmilebridge Historical Society, Tim Crowe added: “The commissioning of this statue, in partnership with Shannon Chamber, is the latest project to be undertaken by the Society, and one we are honoured to be associated with. One of the chief reasons the Society undertook the project was the lack of awareness of the achievements of Brendan O’Regan by those under fifty.
“We will be undertaking an educational programme with the local primary and secondary schools in the area so that every generation in the future will fully appreciate Brendan’s contribution to Ireland and, to the Mid-West region.
“It is said that we die twice – once when our organs fail, and secondly when people stop talking about us. Brendan O’Regan will never be forgotten.”
Sixmilebridge’s Fr Harry Bohan, who worked alongside Brendan O’Regan added: “This event is a fitting way to recall Brendan, what he has achieved and how it was done. He was a great example of the huge importance of leadership. He had great vision and energy and was always moving on new ideas. He was hugely committed to his work, and he was great with his staff. People like Brendan deserve to be remembered. He was a true patriot. He did not die for Ireland; he lived for it.”
The life-size statue of Brendan O’Regan can be viewed in The Square, Sixmilebridge, Co. Clare. It was commissioned by Sixmilebridge Historical Society in partnership with Shannon Chamber and made possible by the sponsorship proved by Ei Electronics as anchor sponsors and associate sponsors, Clare County Council, Eoin Gavin Transport, Neil Pakey, The Shannon Airport Group, Irish Hotels Federation (IHF) Shannon branch and Shannon College of Hotel Management, University of Galway.