Gallipoli – At last honesty from Ireland

Each side suffered about 250,000 casualties at Gallipoli when the British Empire, Australia and New Zealand and France invaded Turkey and the Ottoman Empire only to be beaten by Turks under Mustafa Kamal Ataturk. Alomst 4,000 Irishmen died in that theatre of war. The main objectives were to drive the Ottomans out of the war, to open a sea supply route to Russia and to seize Istanbul. The Royal dublin Fusiliers were stuffed in those battles and suffered huge losses.

The Irish Times journalist reported President McAleese’s comments in Gallipoli. The President spoke for me on this subject.

Mrs McAleese said she wanted to honour “our Irish dead – those who fought in British uniforms, those who fought in Anzac uniforms, and those whom they fought, the young Turkish men who defended their homeland”. The sacrifice of the Irishmen at Gallipoli had suffered a “deficit of remembrance” due to the vagaries of history, she said.

“The Irish who fought for the British Empire here were not only destined to be overwhelmed by those who opposed them but to have their memory doubly overwhelmed, for they fought in a campaign that was lost and so long overlooked . . . Those fortunate enough few who returned alive from Gallipoli returned to considerable ambivalence, even hostility about their role and their sacrifice.”

The distance of time and a changing historical context now allowed for an attempt to address this and, in doing so, to contribute to “the much-needed healing of memory on our own divided island”, the President said.

Each individual story from the horror of Gallipoli, with its 500,000 casualties drawn from both sides, was, she continued, a challenge to the world’s citizens to “find ways other than war to resolve our problems”.