In 1955 – 56 the minister for Health, Mr Tom O’Higgins, in reply to pressure from the public decided to do something about the chaotic state of Optics in the Republic of Ireland.
It was commonplace at this time to see signs outside many premises reading ‘Chemist – Optician’ or ‘Jeweller – Optician’. Glazed spectacles were of course freely available from travelling salesmen with no qualification to sell their wares. In fact, in his argument in favour of the introduction of a regulatory body to the Irish Parliament, one Politician cited the example of a lady in his constituency being sold a pair of spectacles one week and being approached by the same vendor the following week selling carpets!
In 1956 the Opticians Act was passed and the Opticians Board was appointed to administer it. It was evident to the 230 Dispensing Opticians in the Republic of Ireland that they had no recognised organisation to represent them and the Irish Association of Dispensing Opticians was founded in Limerick on 24th February 1956.
The aims of the Association at this time were to raise the standard of the Dispensing of Spectacles and with this in mind the IADO ran a series of lectures designed to bring their members up to date. An examination was held in Trinity College and University College Cork and successful candidates were awarded a certificate in Optical Dispensing.
In 1957 at a formal Banquet at the Gresham Hotel in Dublin, it was announced that the IADO had been formally admitted to the International Guild of Dispensing Opticians. The President of the IADO at this time was Tom Egan from Cork. Representing the British Association of Dispensing Opticians was Charles H Keeler.
Sadly in the years that followed, the Association declined and it was only when a letter was received from the Companies Registration office stating that as an inactive Company the IADO was about to be suspended from the records of the Office that prompted some of the founder members to revive the almost defunct IADO.
On 25th May 1986 a steering committee was appointed and the first AGM for many years was held in Cork in May 1988. Fionan Harty was appointed President, Larry Egan Hon Secretary and Ted Kelly as Treasurer. Committee members were Donal O’Malley, Austin Nagle, Eamon Hayes, Seamus Quinn, Ted Kennelly, Maurice Power and Jim O’Sullivan.
The first Conference since the late 50’s was held in Ennis Co Clare that year. Richard Harsant and Derek Baker of the ABDO attended. As the majority of Dispensing Opticians qualify in the UK, the support of the ABDO has been fundamental to the development of the IADO.