ARTEFACTS from the ill-fated passenger liner RMS Lusitania which were examined by archaeologists from Kerry, have been donated to the State by the wreck's owner.
The donation was announced by Gregg Bemis, owner of the wreck since 1968, and follows meetings last week between Mr Bemis, Minister Jimmy Deenihan, the National Parks and Wildlife Service (NPWS) and the National Museum of Ireland. The Lusitania sank after being torpedoed by a German U-boat off the south west coast of Ireland on May 15, 1915, with the loss of 1,200 lives.
Last August, artefacts including portholes and steering equipment were salvaged from the wreck by a team of Irish marine archaeologists and divers employed by Gregg Bemis. These artefacts were then examined by two Kerry archaeologists, Laurence Dunne, a native of Tralee, and Julianna O'donoghue, a native of Barraduff.
Their work was part of major new campaign to answer one of the central mysteries of the tragic sinking – was the Lusitania carrying armaments when it was torpedoed by the prowling U-boat? All will be revealed when a National Geographic Channel documentary is screened later this year.
The Minister for Arts, Heritage and the Gaeltacht has welcomed Mr Bemis's donation, terming it "a very generous offer" Jimmy Deenihan said the timing of the offer was particularly appropriate since it coincided with the start of a national programme to commemorate major historic events that shaped the course of Irish history between 1912 and 1921.
"The sinking of the Lusitania was a key moment in that period," Minister Deenihan said. "It happened at a critical juncture in the First World War and was the catalyst for America's entry into the conflict.
"Thousands of Irish lost their lives in the war but the numbers could have been greater but for America's involvement in bringing the war to an earlier conclusion."