Role of Turkey during Famine clarified


A COPY of a letter on display at the European Commission office in Dawson Street, Dublin, brings increased clarity to an ongoing debate over the generous role of the Turkish people towards Ireland during the Famine.

The letter, signed by the Anglo-Irish gentry of the time, expresses gratitude to the Sultan of the Ottoman Empire for a donation of £1,000 which was sent to the people of Ireland in 1847, when the Famine was at its peak.

According to the Turkish ambassador to Ireland, Altay Cenziger, the correspondence confirms that the people of Turkey did come to the rescue of the Irish during this country’s darkest hour.

“This is proof that the people of Turkey assisted the Irish during the Famine. The money sent to Ireland was sufficient to send 250 people to America,” he said.

The issue of Turkey’s role in assisting Ireland was the subject of a diplomatic difference of opinion last March when President Mary McAleese addressed guests at a State dinner in Ankara.

Mrs McAleese said the town of Drogheda adopted the star and crescent symbol as its emblem in gratitude to the people of Turkey who, she indicated, sent three ships full of food to the Co Louth port during the Famine.

The remarks were dismissed by the Drogheda Historical Society which said there was no record of any ships arriving in the town at that time with cargo from Turkey.

The President’s remarks sparked a debate on whether or not Turkish aid came to Ireland or just Drogheda. Mr Cezinger told The Irish Timesthat research is ongoing to establish further evidence of the role played by the Turkish people at the time.

The letter on display at the EC office is part of an exhibition titled Old Istanbul: Modern Miniatures, Maps and Engravingswhich continues until June 4th.