The operators of a not-for-profit museum which has taken ownership of the wreck of the Lusitania has called on the Government to make it easier for licensed divers to recover artefacts from it.

The wreck of the Lusitania, which sank off the Old Head of Kinsale in Cork on 7 May 1915, was gifted to the local museum earlier today.

The passenger liner was torpedoed by a German U-Boat, but mystery surrounds the cause of a second explosion seconds later and the Lusitania sank 18 minutes later with the loss of 1,201 lives.

US businessman Greg Bemis, the owner of the wreck, has spent more than half his life trying to solve the mystery of that second explosion.

Mr Bemis oversees dives carried out under licence and many of the artefacts recovered over the years have been donated to the Old Head of Kinsale Museum.

Today, Mr Bemis signed over the ship's wreck to the museum.

Con Hayes of the Old Head of Kinsale Museum said the Lusitania may be more important than the Titanic from a historical perspective, but in some ways it is often a forgotten ship.

The museum wants the Government to relax rules on diving the wreck for research, and for recovering artefacts for posterity.

Speaking on RTÉ's Morning Ireland, Mr Hayes said: "We have been commemorating the Lusitania, of course, because we built the Lusitania memorial garden at the Old Head.

"We want to continue that work by building a full scale museum where we can display Lusitania artefacts and tell the story properly."

The wreck, 11 nautical miles off the Old Head of Kinsale, is regarded as a war grave and protected by an Underwater Heritage Order under National Monuments Acts.


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Mr Bemis said it would be wonderful to finally find an answer of the question of what caused the second explosion on board the vessel.

Speaking on RTÉ's News at One, Mr Bemis said he feels "very strongly" that explosives were being carried aboard the passenger vessel, leading to a secondary explosion after it was struck by torpedo fire from a German U-boat.

Mr Bemis admitted that it is "embarrassing" to think about how much money has been spent on the sunken ship.

However, he added the ship is not what is important but rather the lives of the 1,201 people who died in the disaster.

"I think it is a very worthy cause but I think it would be wonderful to answer that final question of what caused the second explosion," he said.

"Today we are finally coming to a close of my relationship with the Lusitania. I'm getting too old to continue with this thing forever and I'm going to be 91 the end of this month and it is about time I have some new people responsible for carrying on the research and the exploration and the recovery of artefacts for the museum."