An official commemoration to mark the centenary of the sinking of the Royal Mail Streamer (RMS) Leinster has been announced to take place in Dun Laoghaire on Wednesday, October 10, 2018.
More than 500 people lost their lives in the incident, making it the worst-ever maritime disaster in the Irish Sea.
Just before 9 o’clock on the morning of October 10, 1918, the RMS Leinster began its final voyage from Carlisle Pier in Dun Laoghaire (then Kingstown) to Holyhead in Wales.
The ship was owned and operated by the City of Dublin Steam Packet Company.
An estimated 771 passengers and crew were on board, comprising postal sorters, civilian passengers, military and medical personnel and the crew.
Between 09.30 am and 09.40 am, the RMS Leinster passed the Kish Bank Lighthouse.
Shortly afterwards, it was sunk by three torpedoes, fired by German submarine, UB-123.
Speaking about the incident, Minister Josepha Madigan said: “We will remember all of those who lost their lives one hundred years ago, when the Leinster was sunk off the Kish Bank by German submarine UB-123.
“This tragedy took place one month and one day before the signing of the Armistice that ended the fighting in World War I and it remains the greatest maritime disaster ever to have occurred in the Irish Sea.
“Over 500 people perished, including members of the ship’s crew, postal sorters, civilian passengers and military, medical and support personnel involved in the war effort.
“Families and communities on both sides of the Irish Sea and as far afield as America, Canada, Australia and New Zealand, were devastated by this tragedy.
“We will also remember the 35 members of the crew of UB-123, who themselves were killed one week later.
“An immense humanitarian response was mobilised following the tragedy and we will acknowledge the care and kindness shown by the rescue services, nursing and medical personnel.”
The Minister also commended the efforts of those, who for many years have worked to hard to make sure the stories of all those who were on board the RMS Leinster are not forgotten.
“Their stories have, for too long, been hidden and unspoken.
“As we mark the centenary of this tragedy, we have developed an appreciation of the complex narratives around Ireland’s involvement in World War I and a mature understanding of the context of that time.
“In particular, I wish to acknowledge the efforts of the late owner of the RMS Leinster, Mr Des Brannigan, who was committed to protecting the ship and was one of the founders of the National Maritime Museum in Dun Laoghaire.”
The centenary programme will comprise a significant cultural element as well as a formal commemoration and wreath-laying ceremony, with participation by members of the Defence Forces.
This is also the date on which the vessel will come under the protection of the National Monuments Acts, which covers all shipwrecks over 100 years old.