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Ireland 'letting pirates loot shipwreck RMS Lusitania'

By Ed Carty

Published 07/04/2015

The RMS Lusitania was torpedoed on May 7 1915 by a German U-boat en route from New York to Liverpool and sank with the loss of 1,201 lives
The RMS Lusitania was torpedoed on May 7 1915 by a German U-boat en route from New York to Liverpool and sank with the loss of 1,201 lives

The owner of the RMS Lusitania has accused the Irish government of abandoning the shipwreck to pirates and treasure hunters after stringent rules on diving scuppered his plans for recovery.

Gregg Bemis, an 87-year-old US entrepreneur, said tough conditions imposed on his lifelong quest to save valuable and historically important artefacts from the sinking ground 11 miles off the Old Head of Kinsale were "spiteful".

The Cunard vessel was torpedoed on May 7, 1915 by a German U-boat en route from New York to Liverpool and sank with the loss of 1,201 lives.

Mr Bemis has spent decades trying to confirm a theory that the sinking - 18 minutes compared to two hours and 40 minutes for the Titanic - was hastened by a second explosion caused by a secret cache of munitions destined for Britain's war effort.

"The Government officials are so glib and innocent sounding like they walk on water, but they add all these restrictions on and throw them at me so they interfere and impede," he said.

One of the conditions ordered Mr Bemis to indemnify the Irish state against any incidents or injury if he organises a dive on the veritable Aladdin's Cave.

"The people of Ireland are being deprived of an opportunity to share in a very historic event and to share in the income to be derived from this - a substantial tourist attraction could be developed that will go on for years," Mr Bemis said.

The businessman from New Mexico bought the wreck in the 1960s and now claims diving on the site could leave him open to claims from descendants of the dead for the desecration of graves.

As the centenary of the sinking approaches, Mr Bemis sought permission to recover the double-faced bridge telegraph, which is visible 300 feet down and potentially records the last instruction from Captain William Thomas Turner to the engine room after the torpedo strike.

It may confirm another theory that an order for full steam ahead may have hastened the Lusitania's demise as water rushed in.

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