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Ireland to receive 'important artefacts' from Lusitania wreck

American businessman Gregg Bemis bought the remains of the vessel for £1,000 back in 1968 but has agreed to donate some items to the State after a long-standing dispute.

The Lusitania sailing from New York on 1st May 1915 on her last voyage before being sunk by a German U-Boat of the coast of Ireland on 7th May 1915.
The Lusitania sailing from New York on 1st May 1915 on her last voyage before being sunk by a German U-Boat of the coast of Ireland on 7th May 1915.
Image: Tophams/Topham Picturepoint/Press Association Images

AMERICAN BUSINESSMAN GREGG Bemis has agreed to donate a number of artefacts from the shipwreck of the RMS Lusitania to the Irish state following a series of high-level discussions on the matter.

A dispute over what should happen to the artefacts, which are currently undergoing conservation in Kerry, has been ongoing since they were salvaged from the wreck in August 2011.

The latest meetings were organised by Tralee-based maritime archaeologist Laurence Dunne, who was part of the diving expedition which recovered a telemotor, two types of porthole, a directional indicator known as a telltale and other important items.

Arts and Heritage Minister Jimmy Deenihan also attended Monday night’s meeting with Bemis, who gained rights to the ship after he purchased its remains for £1,000 back in 1968.

Bemis, along with National Geographic, had sponsored the 2011 expedition which was undertaken to try and resolve the historic issues surrounding the sinking of the ship.

The Lusitania sank 11 miles off the Old Head of Kinsale on the 7 May 1915 after being attacked and struck by a torpedo fired by a German submarine U-20.

After a second explosion, it took just 18 minutes for the vessel to sink, killing 1,201 passengers and crew.

According to Dunne, mystery surrounds this second explosion with blame being cast from both sides.

The British claimed that it was due to a second torpedo while Germany in refuting the claim maintained that the cause was due to the explosion of gun-cotton and or other explosive material that the liner was clandestinely carrying.

Germany regarded the Lusitania as a legitimate target as the ship was on the British navy list and carried millions of rounds of .303 ammunition. Passengers in New York were warned not to travel because of this fact before the ship sailed on its fateful journey to Liverpool. The loss of life of the 128 American passengers in the tragedy is regarded by many as one of the major reasons why the US entered World War I.

Dunne said he is delighted with the outcome of the meetings with Bemis, who has also agreed to undertake all future research on the Lusitania on a collaborative basis with State institutions.

“It is great news for Ireland! My fervent wish is that these immensely important artifacts will go on display in time for the centenary commemorations of the tragedy now only three short years away,” said Dunne, before thanking the 83-year-old Bemis and Minister Deenihan for their common sense approaches.

Behind the News: Who gets to keep goods salvaged from ships – and at what risk?>

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