OUR duty to rescue fellow human beings in times of need is as relevant today as it was when the Lusitania foundered, maritime lawyer Michael Kingston said last week.
Mr Kingston was at the ceremonial hand-over of a part of the Lusitania hull, which has been gifted to the Signal Tower museum at the Old Head of Kinsale.
The section of hull was given by Riverstick Foroige Club who themselves received it from the Blackwater Sub Aqua Club, following a visit to the wreck of the ship which was torpedoed off the Old Head in 1915.
The Foroige Club also launched their 2016 calendar which is Lusitania-themed and is now on sale in Kinsale.
Goleen native Mr Kingston, a well-known maritime expert based in London, used the occasion to call for a greater response to the Mediterranean refugee crisis.
‘We need to uphold always our duty to rescue our fellow human beings and urgently address properly the Mediterranean crisis,’ he told a packed Signal Tower, on a spectacular day at the scenic Old Head.
‘The response has been totally inadequate, emergency meetings taking months to organise.’
He added that he had managed to broker a meeting with the Secretary General of the International Chamber of Shipping and the UN Spokesman on Migrants in the coming weeks. ‘We have proposed a Humanitarian Assistance Zone to be manned by the UN that would control the flow of migrants, set up camps in North Africa and allow genuine migrants to travel in assigned ferries. Quite why governments and Europe have not done this defies belief, and now terrorists have been allowed to infiltrate this dysfunctional mess,’ he said.
He also paid tribute to the Riverstick teenagers, all students of Kinsale Community College, who had taken an interest in the story of the Lusitania.
‘It is fantastic, and indeed fills me with pride, to see the effort that has been put in by the youth of this community,’ he said.
The hull section will now be added to the display of Lusitania memorabilia at the museum, which was opened last summer, after months of restoration work.
JJ Hayes, a member of the restoration committee, said the second phase of the project was now being planned.
He told The Southern Star that last week a bronze sculpture for a new memorial garden had been commissioned.
The memorial garden will feature the names of all the passengers from the Lusitania when it is completed.
Riverstick Foroige Club member Alannah O’Shea thanked art teacher Natalie Allen for all her help, and said that working on the calendar had taught the students a lot about history.
Eddie Kelleher, Foroige group leader, also thanked everyone who had made the event possible.
Fergal McCarthy, principal of Kinsale Community School, said the handover of the hull section was an ‘act of model citizenship – something we encourage in our students’.