Dr Thomas Laughlin was an Irish engineer and one of the key people in the Shannon Hydroelectric Scheme that led to the establishment of the Electricity Supply Board (ESB). Often described as one of the founding fathers of electricity he gained a physics degree and masters at University College Dublin and was appointed as an assistant lecturer at University College Galway where is also studied electrical engineering and gained a PhD. In 1922 he went to Berlin and took up a post with Siemens - Schuckert which was active in hydro-electric projects. While in Berlin he developed his own plan for developing the Shannon hydro-electric scheme.
In an interview with Radio Éireann on 10 January 1931, published in The Irish Times the following day, McLaughlin spoke about the birth the Free State, and his motivation to do what he could to shape the future of his country:
No sincere student could have lived through that the whole period of intense national enthusiasm without feeling a passionate desire to do all in his power to assist in national reconstruction, and in the building up of the country by development from within… the ideal never for a moment left me until it brought me home again to see the Shannon Scheme realised… I could have no mental peace, no sense of self-fulfilment until my mission in life, as it had then become to me was realised. Everything I saw abroad, everything I read of, brought just one thing to my mind – can this development be applied at home? Could we have this in Ireland?
He returned to Ireland in 1923 and together with Patrick McGilligan TD they secured 5.1 millions to develop the Shannon project.