Honouring Irish seamen

Madam, - While one can endorse John Higgins's views on the decline of Ireland's shipping industry (November 13th), the real culprits…

Madam, - While one can endorse John Higgins's views on the decline of Ireland's shipping industry (November 13th), the real culprits were the governing coalition of that time, not those who unfortunately failed to rectify the position created by the loss of Irish Shipping Ltd. There has, however, been another failure for which all parties are to blame.

Sixty two years ago, on November 15th 1942, the Irish Shipping Vessel Irish Pine was torpedoed and sunk in the Atlantic with the loss of 33 crew. While literally dozens of Irish seamen were lost between the years 1939-1945, the largest single catastrophe was that of The Irish Pine.

Those lost were drawn from the maritime areas of Ireland from which, by long tradition, they followed the sea. Of those lost, 10 came from Dublin, eight from Limerick, four from Wexford, four from Cork, three from Kinsale, one from Galway, one from Louth and one from Scotland. Their names are listed in Captain Frank Forde's book The Long Watch.

The Maritime Institute of Ireland has campaigned for almost half-a-century, without success, for the State to finance the provision of a fitting memorial to commemorate those whose lives were sacrificed in ensuring the supplies of which the country desperately needed to protect our economy and wartime neutrality. This situation was referred to by the then Taoiseach, Eamon de Valera, when he said:


"No country has ever been more effectively blockaded because of the activities of belligerents and our lack of ships, most of which have been sunk, which virtually cut all links with our normal sources of supply".

In a broadcast at the close of the war the Taoiseach said "to the men of the Mercantile Marine who faced all the perils of the ocean to bring us essential supplies the nation is profoundly grateful".

It is acknowledged that the Department of Marine has, by painstaking research and persistent effort, over a period of years, arranged for service medals to be awarded to both survivors and the families of those who were lost. These, however, were of a private nature. There is no public recognition by the State as there is for all others who lost their lives in services. - Yours, etc.,

DESMOND BRANIGAN, Executive Member, The Maritime Institute of Ireland, Haigh Terrace, Dun Laoghaire, Co Dublin.