• Posted
  • AuthorTom Mannion

As an employee for 16 years – two in Shannon plus fourteen in the Old Ground Hotel Ennis – I wish to pay tribute to a remarkable man.

He was the ultimate employer, always kind, understanding and so very placid. No matter the job in question, he treated everyone equally. He was obviously aware of the concepts of motivation and productivity long before they entered the textbooks of business management. The result was that we all worked for him and with him.

His generosity knew no bounds as far as his employees were concerned, particularly if he was aware of any family problem, financial or otherwise, but always attended to it in a very private and confidential way.

He was an amazing visionary. And incredibly he succeeded in converting all dreams into reality – nothing was ever impossible. The list is fantastic:

  • The World’s first duty free shop – and Irish Coffee
  • Shannon Free Zone, the Industrial Estate and Shannon Free Airport Development Company
  • Ireland’s first new town -Shannon
  • Direct Mail Order Shopping Services -to promote sales of Irish goods in the USA
  • Castle Restorations and Medieval Banquets
  • Rent an Irish Cottage
  • Bunratty Folk Park
  • The wooing of US entrepreneurs to build 4 hotels in the Shannon Region: The Shannon Shamrock, The Shannon International, The Clare Inn and The Limerick Inn. The restoration of Dromoland Castle – stilll our tourism flagship – was also his initiative.
Aerial view of Shannon Town under construction 1964

Aerial view of Shannon Town under construction 1964

All of these occurred during a period of economic stagnation in Ireland with the result that the Shannon Region became the envy of the whole country. How he procured government approval and funding for all the above projects, only a very limited number of people knew. He inspired not only his employees with his enthusiasm but the people at large. Everyone from top politicians to the man in the street willed on all his projects. His main objective was industrial and tourism job creation in the mid-west. His success was recognised with the chairmanship of Bord Fáilte, this at a time when he was working 10-12 hours a day, six days a week in Shannon, But Sundays were always devoted to his wife, Rita, and family of five in his own beloved Old Ground Hotel.

In later years his concern for peace set him on the road to launching Co-operation North, now Co-operation Ireland. The Irish Peace Institute at U.L. was his initiative as was the founding of the Centre for International Co-operation in Shannon – all of which he continued to work on up to the time of his passing.

He was rightly conferred with honorary doctorships and must be the Greatest Clareman of all time – the scale of his achievements will never be matched. Surely Shannon Airport must be named after him – “O’Regan Shannon International”.

Dr. Brendan, I and many thousands with me say a sincere thanks for your friendship, your kindness and above all your leadership. Every project was a new challenge and you were never daunted.

Ar dheis De go raibh a anam.

Tom Mannion, Ennis, February 23 2008

Tom Mannion, a native of Birdhill Co. Tipperary joined Brendan O’Regan’s Sales and Catering operation at Shannon Airport straight out of school in 1948. Two years later O’Regan employed him in the accounts section of the O’Regan family’s Old Ground Hotel in Ennis. While working at the Old Ground Hotel, Tom married fellow staff member, Breda Fahy and O’Regan allowed him to develop his business skills by running a car-hire operation for hotel visitors while still working full-time at the hotel. In 1964 he set up Tom Mannion Travel in Ennis, still a thriving business at the time of his passing in 2011.

In his business he enjoyed parallel interests with O’Regan through his involvement in tourism and travel in the mid-west region, serving as a member of the Shannonside Tourism Board and the Rent an Irish Cottage scheme and President of Ennis Chamber of Commerce. (Details courtesy Clare Champion July 8 2011)