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President Michael D. Higgins was in Cobh, Co. Cork today to lead a National Tribute to all those who lost their lives in the RMS Titanic disaster exactly 100 years from the day it set sail (April 11th) from Cobh, its last port of call. The ceremony is part of a year-long centenary commemoration Titanic100 Cobh 2012 dedicated to the Titanic, the people of her time and her last port of call, Cobh.
President Michael D. Higgins, who was accompanied by his wife Mrs Sabina Higgins, was greeted on his arrival bythe Mayor of Cobh Cllr. Jim Quinlan and his wife Grace.
The President then carried out an inspection of the Irish Naval Guard of Honour, watched by Cobh Town Councillors and dignitaries including Minister for Agriculture, Marine & Food Simon Coveney TD; Minister of State for the Department of Enterprise, Jobs and Innovation, Deputy Seán Sherlock TD; Minister of State for Northern Ireland, Mr. Hugo Swire MP; Acting British Ambassador to Ireland Mr. Andrew Staunton, Mayor of Cork County, Cllr. Tim Lombard; The Lord Mayor of Cork City, Cllr. Terry Shannon, and Flag Officer Commanding the Naval Service, Commodore Mark Mellet. Also in attendance was Colonel Jim Long, Officer in charge of the First Southern Brigade .
Principal Officer of the Department of An Taoiseach Mr John Kennedy represented An Taoiseach Enda Kenny.
President Higgins delivered a fitting and poignant National Tribute on behalf of the people of Ireland in John F. Kennedy Park, the historical site (known as Queenstown) where the last passengers boarded the Titanic, watched by thousands of locals and visitors who lined the quayside.
‘Today, after 100 years, it is right that we take time to remember the departure of the Titanic from our shores and her rendezvous with a very tragic fate. We remember with respect all those who died on the Titanic and the thousands more whose lives were devastated by the loss of their loved ones in the Atlantic. We reflect on what it teaches us about the inherent fragility of human life in the face of nature, the folly of over-weaning material ambition and the need to be ever mindful that, irrespective of their social distinctions as passengers, the only classification on the Titanic that ultimately mattered was whether one was a victim or survivor. In the end, it is always about our shared vulnerability and our shared humanity and whether during our lives we add or subtract to the quality of our community and society’ President Higgins said.
The Mayor of Cobh Cllr. Jim Quinlan told us: ‘Today we acknowledge that where there once was dispair, there also existed imagination and hope. We recognise the intrinsic part that the town of Cobh plays in the global connection between the Irish Diaspora worldwide. However, today, we most importantly remember the tragedy of those who left our shores on this day one hundred years ago with hope in their hearts and dreams of a better life but who perished in the icy waters of the North Atlantic. We remember the great loss experienced by their families and friends and we pray that their souls are at peace in their eternal resting place.’
Following the National Tribute an Ecumenical Service was held, followed by a recital by the St. Coleman’s Cathedral 49-bell carillion. The President then moved amongst the crowds to the strains of The Band of the First Southern Brigade. A commemorative Titanic stamp, with 4 variations, was also unveiled by Olympian athlete Sonia O Sullivan, maritime historian Vincent MacMahon, Cobh postmaster Paul O Neill, and 6 year old Isabelle Fitzpatrick.
President Higgins then reviewed the Irish Naval International Fleet on board the L.E Eithne as they sailed by the town’s promenade, while the Irish Air Corps executed a fly-past to mark the end of the National Tribute.
Commenting on the Tribute and the week’s activities planned for the town, Project Director for Titanic100 Cobh 2012 Marc Anderson said: ‘Today’s National Tribute was an important one on many levels and it was fitting that the centenary commemorates a truly sad day. However, President Higgins’ presence here today gives the recognition needed to acknowledge the tragedy, while on the other hand his presence, along with dignitaries from all over the world, demonstrates the ability of the people of Ireland to be a caring nation, remembering yet moving forward with dignity and courage’.
Many ambassadors appointed to Titanic100 Cobh 2012 and special guests were in attendance at the ceremony, including Chairman of Fáilte Ireland, Redmond O’ Donoghue; President of Cobh and Harbour Chamber, Mr. John Sweeney; Chairman of Cobh Tourism Ltd., Mr. Hendrick Verwey; Chairman of the National Treasury Management Agency, David Byrne; Titanic Historian Dr. Michael Martin; Diver, Adventurer and Lecturer Rory Golden and Oscar-nominated actress Fiona Shaw (of Harry Potter, Three Men and a Little Lady and the TV series True Bloods fame). Also in attendance were: Lt. Cdr. Brian Fitzgerald of the Irish Naval Service; Deputies David Stanton, Tom Barry and Sandra McLellan TD; Cllr. Sinead Shepphard and Josephine O Driscoll and Hilary Creedon from Fáilte Ireland. Capt. Michael McCarthy, Commercial Director of The Port of Cork, attended along with Garda Superintendant Pat Lehane,and Chief Executive of An Post, Mr. Donal Connell along with a considerable media presence from Ireland and abroad.
Further events will continue to take place during the week in Cobh to mark the 100 year anniversary, include the Titanic Centenary Concerts ‘An Irish Connection’, a vintage car show, a Titanic art display, lectures, exhibitions and museums, music recitals, a search and rescue display, a 10 mile road race, a Maritime Fair, gala dinners, a remembrance service and a range of water activities and on-street activity throughout the week.
For further information see www.titanic100.ie
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