This is the question currently being polled by Clare FM and they have narrowed the field to five nominees. All of the candidates are impressive and well-known, a musician, a writer and two hurlers make the list. It’s the other guy however (who you might not know as much about) who most deserves your vote. Brendan O’Regan was a civil servant and entrepreneur with exceptional levels of vision, drive and an ability to inspire people around him. His career defies easy summary but here’s a few highlights.
– Developed Shannon airport from when it was a strip of tarmac surrounded by mudfields.
-Invented the concept of duty free.
– And of the taxfree Industrial Estate.
– In fact, he developed Shannon town itself, the first new town in Ireland for two centuries!
– Established the school of hotel management.
– Set up Shannon Development.
– Chairman of Bord Failte.
– Rebuilt a derelict castle on the edge of our parish which became.. Bunratty Castle and Folk Park.
– Then he turned his attention to setting up an organisation working for Peace in Northern Ireland. His advice was sought on the setting up of airports in Moscow and Dubai. And industrial estates in Africa and China.
At various times during his career he lived here in Newmarket-on-fergus and happened to be on hand in the early 1990s when a group of locals were trying to get a new community organisation off the ground. With Brendan’s help this became Obair and brought with it the creche, cafe, environmental services and more. He also bought the land upon which O’Regan park now stands.
So you see, don’t you? Not just Newmarket but the business and cultural life of the entire Midwest region would likely be a different place without Brendan’s input. Nor was there anything parochial in his vision which was much admired and copied around the world. Finally he made one other interesting contribution and it was in the world of beverages…
The story goes of an earlier time when he was the catering manager at the shortlived transatlantic airport in Foynes. Late one night there was a plane which had to make an unscheduled landing and the passengers were tired and miserable. The airport chef gave them coffee but not of the usual sort, these brews came with a measure of whiskey. “Excellent coffee”, they all agreed as the mood lifted. “Is it perhaps Brazilian?”
“No, this is Irish Coffee”
The chef was the one who had the moment of inspiration. It was Brendan O’Regan however who recognised this should not be just a once off. This new beverage, perfected with the addition of cream, became the signature drink of his airport and soon of our nation.
So anyway, here’s where you can vote. Deadline Monday at noon.


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