President tells Turks an anecdote of myth not fact


PRESIDENT MARY McAleese and her officials were left red-faced last night after it was learned that remarks she made on Tuesday night in Turkey linking that country with Drogheda were based on local myth and not fact.

The comments were made during a state dinner in the capital, Ankara, as part of a four-day official visit.

Mrs McAleese told VIP guests Turkey had helped Ireland during the Famine. She said: “During that famine, Turkey’s then leader Sultan Abdul Majid sent three ships loaded with food to Ireland. The cargo was unloaded in a port called Drogheda and since then, at the insistence of the people, the star and crescent of your country forms part of the town’s coat of arms.”

Local historians in Drogheda have been left wondering where the President’s scriptwriters unearthed the details. Liam Reilly, an administrator with the Old Drogheda Society based in the town’s Millmount Museum, said last night the comments were incorrect. “There are no records with the Drogheda Port Authority of this ever happening. Drogheda historians can trace the star and crescent back to 1210 when the British governor of Ireland, King John Lackland, granted the town its first charter,” he said.

Spokeswoman for Mrs McAleese Sheila Clarke said: “While included in good faith on information supplied, it is now accepted that the reference . . . would not appear to be based on sound historical fact.”