One hundred years ago today a German U-boat torpedoed and sank the Cunard liner RMS Lusitania 18km off the Cork coast. Over 1,000 people — 1,198 — lost their lives and, crucially, 200 of those were Americans.
This meant America entered the war and the defeat of Germany was just a matter of time. It may be overstating the case to suggest that this event made a significant contribution to shaping world history in the last century as the terms imposed on a defeated Germany made World War II almost inevitable.
Because of our national history we may sometimes regard these events with an arm’s length detachment but this tragedy touched our forefathers in a profound way.
This particular event, and the graves and monuments in Cobh, Co Cork, offer an opportunity to understand what happens when countries send their young men and women to kill each other. This is as good a day as any to ask that question.