Never forget the lessons of loss from Lusitania, warns President
President Michael D Higgins urged the world never to forget the terrible lessons of the RMS Lusitania tragedy in World War I and to cherish peace while supporting diplomacy.
President Higgins was speaking as almost 10,000 people joined with dignitaries from the United States, UK and Germany in Cobh, Co Cork to mark the centenary of the sinking of the Cunard flagship on May 7, 1915.
A total of 1,198 people died when the liner sank in just 18 minutes off the Cork coast after being struck by a single torpedo from the German submarine, U-20.
Just over 700 people survived.
"The importance of recalling the horror of war is that it should press us all to cherish and nurture peace, to defend the role of diplomacy, and seek to have it extended to achieve peaceful resolution of conflicts," the president said.
"At a time when the world is once again facing conflict and dispute, the urgency of the work of maintaining peace between nations and peoples once again takes on a new importance."
Descendants of victims and survivors fought back tears as they gathered in Cobh for memorial ceremonies.
Cunard second engineer, George Harrison (30), revealed his great-grandfather, George Little, was RMS Lusitania's third engineer.
"He was around 40 years old at the time and, while he survived the sinking, he contracted pleurisy from exposure in the sea and that was a factor in his death a few years later," he said.
George, with Cunard since 2006, said the wreath laying by RMS Queen Victoria over the wreck
site was "very emotional."
"I think we all realised precisely what was on the seabed beneath us," he said.
Descendants dropped single red roses into the sea.
UK resident, Jill Power-Forward, lost her grandfather, William Affleck-Anderson.
"He left two children aged just four and two years so it had an enormous impact on the whole family," she said.
He was one of Lusitania's engineers.
Cunard Commodore Christopher Rynd vowed the RMS Lusitania and the 1,198 victims will never be forgotten.
"Cunard is a company that is very connected to its history," he said.
Cobh events were attended by the US Ambassador Kevin O'Malley, British Ambassador Dominic Chilcott and German Charge d'Affairs, Wolfram von Heynitz.