President Michael D Higgins to attend Gallipoli ceremonies

Official visit to Turkey will mark 100th anniversary of Allied landings

President Michael D Higgins: said the first World War was linked to “the outrageous aspirations of empire”. Photograph: Gareth Chaney Collins

President Michael D Higgins: said the first World War was linked to “the outrageous aspirations of empire”. Photograph: Gareth Chaney Collins

 

President Michael D Higgins is to embark on a week-long visit to Turkey and Lebanon to represent Ireland during 100th anniversary commemorations of the Gallipoli landings and will afterwards visit Irish troops serving with Unifil.

The President will be accompanied by Minister for Foreign Affairs Charlie Flannagan; the Chief of Staff of the Defence Forces, Lieut-Gen Conor O’Boyle; two service personnel from each of the three branches of the Defence Forces, the Army, Air Corps and Naval Service, and a piper, Sgt Joe Meade, from 7 Infantry Battalion.

It is the first time the Defence Forces will participate in such strength at the Gallipoli commemorations. The main Allied memorial ceremony, which will take place on Friday at the Helles Memorial, has been titled the Commonwealth and Ireland Service.

The President will participate in separate Turkish and French commemorations and at the Anzac memorial service, at dawn on April 25th, Anzac Day. He will attend services at Lone Pine cemetery, the Australian cemetery on the Gallipoli peninsula, and at Chunuk Bair mountain, site of the New Zealand memorial.

Some 3,000 Irishmen died during the land campaign which ran from April 24th until the end of 1915 and included the disastrous August landings at Suvla Bay.

The President said he would be contemplating “the enormous tragedy of war” as he remembered the Irish dead and all other victims of the campaign. Describing the first World War as linked to “the outrageous aspirations of empire”, he said the eastern Mediterranean and Middle East were still trapped by the “detritus of empire”.

Visiting the United Nations Interim Force in Lebanon (Unifil), he said he wanted to thank the soldiers, and their families “for continuing to enhance the reputation of Ireland, themselves and the armed forces, as they do”.

Mr Higgins referenced The Irish Times series, The Mission, and the report that included Lieut Col Mark Prendergast’s address to the 48th Infantry Group, currently deployed on the Golan Heights, at the start of their training.

The address, he said, was exemplary of the quality of leadership across the Defence Forces. “Their professionalism is just so impressive,” he said. The President’s visit to Turkey is an official one at the invitation of the Turkish government, not a State visit.