Speaking at a commemoration in Cobh, Co Cork, to mark the 100th anniversary of the sinking of the Cunard liner by a German submarine U-20, President Higgins said:
“The sinking was an immense human tragedy with the loss of almost 1,200 lives and that should never be forgotten”.
Indeed, we shall never forget…
As the United States ambassador Kevin O’Malley, British ambassador Dominick Chilcott and German charge d’affaires Wolfram von Heynitz laid wreaths to all who died in the tragedy, as President Higgins puts it, we shall also remember all other victims:
“Some, like the casualties of the Lusitania, were the victims of deliberate acts of war; others died through malnutrition, famine and related disease. In whatever way they lost their lives, they were victims of a destructive, and indeed bewildering, world war”.
On 13 April 2015 a vessel sank off the Libyan coast with up to 550 migrants on board. More than 400 people, including children have drowned,
A few days later, on 19 April, another boat that had left the Libyan port of Zuwarah capsized, with up to 850 people aboard. Only 28 were rescued.
That’s a total of more than 1,200 civilian deaths within 7 days.
And, it’s not even war in the Mediterranean.
We shall not forget…
Let’s repeat what the President said about 100 years ago, to see what is happening today:
“Some, like the casualties of the migrant boats, were the victims of deliberate acts of desperation; others died through malnutrition, famine and related disease. In whatever way they lost their lives, they were victims of a destructive, and indeed bewildering, war”.
‘Lusitania’ replaced with ‘migrant boats’; ‘acts of war’ with‘acts of desperation’ and ‘world war’ with‘war’.
100 years on, and what the President is saying is still true.
We don’t have a ‘world war’ but, for over a decade we have had the ‘war on terror, a war that spanned from Afghanistan to the western shores of Africa; a geography that is many times the size of Europe with hundreds of millions of people, many times the numbers living here.
A war that hasn't made the world a better and safer place...
We don’t have a ‘world war’ but some peoples’ whole world has simply collapsed.
“[…] It is important we not only focus on those who lost their lives on the battlefields and in the trenches, but recall the millions of civilians whose lives were also cut short during that cataclysmic period”, says President Higgins.
Indeed, 100 years on and it is important that we recall the millions of lives destroyed, millions of people displaced and hundreds of thousands of civilians whose lives were cut short during the - still ongoing - horrible period of ‘war on terror’. They were the victims of a destructive, and indeed bewildering, war.
They died because of malnutrition, famine and related diseases. The ‘lucky’ ones continue to live through malnutrition, famine and related diseases. They suffer poverty, dictators, oppression, abuse and torture.
As we remember the civilian victims of Lusitania, we must also not forget the no-name civilian victims of the no-name migrant boats.
We can’t help these victims anymore, but we can honour their stories by stopping more deaths.
We can honour their journeys by giving life, not condemning more migrants to death.
We can apologise for our lies, for how we shut down our borders and abandoned people to the waves of the sea.
We can apologise for our wars, for our weapons we sold, weapons that kill their loved ones.
We can ask for forgiveness for the monsters we have created on their lands.
We can apologise for the monsters we have created on our land.
Our national interests, our big businesses, our civilian airports at the service of military planes, our invasions, our hypocrisies and double standards, our racist borders, our inhumanity towards others…
Our war on terror, our war of terror…
We can apologise about these, to start with.
Only then, the true meaning of remembering the victims of 100 years ago will emerge.
Only then, we can say ‘never again!” as we mean it…
Only then, we can change the world and move on…