Minister for Arts, Heritage and the Gaeltacht Jimmy Deenihan has come to an agreement with US businessman Gregg Bemis to allow an investigation at the site of the RMS Lusitania wreckage 13 miles off the coast of Cork.
The Irish Times reports that Minister Deenihan has endorsed plans to begin a broad set of exploration objectives with US businessman Gregg Bemis, who owns the rights to the wreck.
“A general agreement on the objectives of further research planned by Mr Bemis was endorsed by both parties,” a statement from Deenihan’s department said.
The RMS Lusitania was torpedoed by a German U-Boat a few miles out from the Old Head of Kinsale, Cork in 1915. The ship sank in 18 minutes, and claimed 1,198 lives.
The sinking of the Lusitania was the inciting factor to bring the US into WWI, despite Germany’s claim that the ship was a legitimate military target.
Bemis now believes that the proof of whether or not the Lusitania was a military threat may lie within the remaining wreckage of the ship.
Up until last year, Bemis had been engaging in a long-running battle with the Irish State to grant permission to further explore the ship’s wreckage. Bemis had won a license in 2007, but it expired in late 2011. During that exploration period, Bemis researched the possibility of a second explosion on the ship which could have accounted for the quick sinking.
Additionally, Bemis was licensed to recover specific artifacts that might add to both his and the State’s understanding of the wreck, as well as the life and times of those on board the vessel when it sank.
The State held that more exploration could be harmful to its heritage rights to wrecks in its waters.
However, a statement from Deenihan’s department said on April 30, “Both the Minister and Mr Bemis agreed that there is also a need for a greater understanding of the present condition of the wreck and to assess its rate of deterioration over time so that future research can target areas that may be at risk of becoming totally inaccessible or which might reveal information on the key questions surrounding the last moments of the vessel before it sank.”
In the license that Minister Deenihan is currently reviewing, Bemis plans to continue forensic investigations into the quick sinking of the ship, as well as continue to gather more artifacts that may be suitable for display in time for the centenary of the sinking. The license would be active for three years.