Ireland backs Turkey's EU bid
President offers support during visit to Ankara
IRELAND strongly supports the efforts of Turkey to join the European Union, President Mary McAleese said yesterday in Ankara.
In a timely boost for Turkey's ongoing struggle to become an EU member, the President spoke of the "very strong" connections between the two countries. She also voiced the hope that there would be stronger business links to boost the current €1bn of trade between Ireland and Turkey.
While other European countries -- notably France -- have been lukewarm or hostile to the idea of Turkey joining the EU, Mrs McAleese said the Irish Government strongly supported Turkey's efforts to "galvanise" the country towards accession.
She was speaking after being officially welcomed by the country's president, Abdullah Gul, who acknowledged Ireland's "strong support" for his country's accession.
In a day filled with pomp and ceremony, Mrs McAleese was given a 21-gun salute upon her arrival at the presidential palace in the heart of Ankara.
Earlier, in a sombre ceremony, she laid a wreath at the tomb of Mustafa Kemal Ataturk, the founder of the Turkish republic.
The President also had lunch with Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan and met the speaker of the Turkish Parliament .
Following a session of private talks between the Irish delegation and Mr Gul, Mrs McAleese revealed at a press conference how Ireland was travelling on its own journey of reconciliation as it remembered those who died while fighting for the British Empire during World War One.
Today, she will visit the Gallipoli region, which was the scene of so much carnage during the First World War.
Mrs McAleese said: "Many Irishmen died in British uniforms, fighting on behalf of the British Empire. Those who returned to Ireland came back to an Ireland divided in its opinion about them.
"Many, many Irish people thought that by fighting for the British Empire they were letting Ireland down, because we were at the same time fighting against that empire. Many more regarded them as heroes."