President ends trip with fancy footwork

PRESIDENT Mary McAleese yesterday shed her footwear as a mark of respect on a visit to one of Turkey’s most sacred religious sites.

The President, and her husband Martin, removed their shoes as required by religious protocol on their visit to the Blue Mosque in Istanbul on the final day of their five-day trip.

Yesterday Áras an Uachtaráin had to admit comments made by the President earlier in the week, in which she said Drogheda’s coat of arms was linked to Turkey, were not based on historical fact.

The President had told an official dinner at the Presidential Palace in Ankara that the presence of Turkish emblems, the star and crescent on the Drogheda Coat of Arms and Drogheda United FC’s crest dated from the Famine, after three food shipments had been sent by a Turkish sultan, Abdul Majid, to Ireland during that period.

However, the town’s official website had noted that this was a “myth”, and a spokesman for Mrs McAleese said her remarks had been based on information that had been provided in good faith.

In a statement the Áras said: “It is now accepted that the reference in the President’s remarks to the genesis of the star and the crescent on Drogheda’s coat of arms and its link to Turkey would not appear to be based on sound historical fact.”

Yesterday, the President put the incident behind her, visiting a home for the elderly in Istanbul run by the Sisters of the Poor, where she spoke with Sister Philomena O’Reilly, who runs the centre.

She then visited three of Istanbul’s main Islamic sites, including the Blue Mosque and the Topkapi Palace, and then met with Patriarch Bartholomew of the Orthodox Church.

The President will return to Ireland today. Enterprise Ireland, which organised some aspects of the trip, said it was hoped that there will now be further growth in the current €400m Irish trade with Turkey.

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