President to visit Gallipoli as part of five-day visit


PRESIDENT MARY McAleese is due to arrive in Turkey later today for a five-day official visit, during which she will travel to the first World War battlefield of Gallipoli to commemorate the Irish soldiers who lost their lives there.

Mrs McAleese is also scheduled to meet Turkey’s president Abdullah Gul and prime minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan during her trip, which is the first such high-level visit between the two countries.

“We are very much pleased to host the Irish president and we will be honoured by her visit to Turkey,” Mr Gul told The Irish Times.

After her arrival in Istanbul this evening, Mrs McAleese will travel to the Turkish capital Ankara. Tomorrow, she will participate in a wreath-laying ceremony at Anit Kabir, the tomb of Mustafa Kemal Ataturk, founder and first president of the republic of Turkey.

Later that day she will meet president Gul and prime minister Erdogan. She is also due to meet Mehmet Ali Sahin, speaker of the Turkish parliament.

On Wednesday morning, Mrs McAleese will arrive at the Gallipoli peninsula, where she will lay a wreath at the main Turkish memorial, the monument of the martyrs, before travelling to the Helles memorial, the V-Beach cemetery and Anzac cove. The president will then attend a commemoration at Green Hill cemetery. She will also unveil a memorial plaque to the Irish soldiers who fought and died in the 1915 Gallipoli campaign.

Nearly 4,000 Irishmen were killed. The dead included those serving in the 10th (Irish) Division as well as in the Anzac forces from Australia and New Zealand.

Mrs McAleese will then return to Istanbul. She will visit Aghia Sofia, Topkapi Palace and the Blue Mosque and is also due to meet the Greek Orthodox patriarch.