Thursday 22 February 2018

Socks appeal and Irish blood help make Trudeau the Taoiseach's BFF

Dublin footballer Ciarán Kilkenny and Taoiseach Leo Varadkar watch Justin Trudeau
solo a sliothar in Farmleigh Photo: Gerry Mooney
Dublin footballer Ciarán Kilkenny and Taoiseach Leo Varadkar watch Justin Trudeau solo a sliothar in Farmleigh Photo: Gerry Mooney
Kirsty Blake Knox

Kirsty Blake Knox

They're calling it...a sock-off? Sock diplomacy? Socks appeal?

Who knows really, but yesterday, amid all the excitement of Canadian Prime Minister (and all-round dreamboat) Justin Trudeau's State visit to Ireland, our very own Leo Varadkar became a certified 'Sock-star' (badum-tish!).

Acknowledging Trudeau's penchant for stylish socks, Varadkar arrived to Farmleigh wearing a bright red pair, covered in miniature Mounties and maple leaves.

Trudeau's socks were more muted; grey and striped. Co-ordinated sure, but lacking a good bit of oomph.

Leo Varadkar's socks
Leo Varadkar's socks

Certainly not as impressive as the Ramadan-themed socks he 'stepped out' in at Pride, or the pink and blue Nato socks he 'flaunted' at a meeting in Brussels (that caught Merkel's eye), or those geek-tastic R2D2 and C3PO socks he 'flashed' when meeting Enda Kenny in May.

But Leo had brought him a jazzier pair - black and covered in lime green celtic swirls.

They were, in a word, hideous. But Leo seemed oblivious to their vileness. He was so eager to hand them over to Trudeau that he even spoiled the surprise.

After gifting him a book of Yeats's poetry he couldn't resist blurting out; "And we have some socks for you too!"

"No!" his aide hissed.

"Not now, they're for later."

Leo was visibly nervous. "It's my first time doing this" he told Trudeau, as they moved through the rooms of Farmleigh.

But the two men seemed to get on famously, after a chat in the library about the trials and tribulations of being clean-shaven and young world leaders, it looked as if they had bonded as BFFs; by early morning they were referring to each other in first-name terms.

Trudeau and his wife Sophie Grégoire are greeted at Dublin Castle by Varadkar Photo: PA
Trudeau and his wife Sophie Grégoire are greeted at Dublin Castle by Varadkar Photo: PA

And by late afternoon they were jogging buddies - racing around the Phoenix Park together in matching sunglasses.

Yes, a true bromance had blossomed as Trudeau tweeted that Leo had set a brisk pace.

"He is 18 months in office," Leo told reporters at Farmleigh.

"I am 18 days in office, so he was able to give me some good advice on [the] new job."

Jackets off and shirt sleeves rolled up, the lads headed into the back garden, where a group of kids were playing hurling.

Picking up a stick, Trudeau started a game of 'keepy-uppy', but Varadkar was not quite so enthusiastic.

"I am so not doing that," he said flatly.

As Trudeau explained that hurling was like ice hockey but without the ice, or the puck, or the skates, his assistant Tommy Desfossés struggled with a teetering pile of gifts. The mountain of presents included socks, an Irish rugby jersey, a Dublin GAA jersey, a Cúl Camp kit, a hurley, a framed copy of Lake Isle, a book of Yeats's poetry, and a bodhrán.

PE class over, Trudeau made his way to the Famine Memorial on Custom House Quay.

The sculpture, Trudeau explained, has particular resonance as it has a sister statue that lies in Canada's Ireland Park on the shores of Lake Ontario, showing the arrival of Irish refugees in Canada.

The Irish influence in Canada, he said, can still be felt, "in the farms that grow our fruit, the bridges that connect us, the music and books we enjoy, and the sports we play".

On the quays, there was a scrum for selfies: students, businessmen, teenagers all clambered to get into the frame as he made his way to the Irish Heritage Museum.

"He's just amazing," Catelyn Hoffart said, jumping up and down. "He's better in real life."

It seemed like nobody could get enough of Trudeau.

And then to top it all off, we found out he was one of us.

He is Irish. Well, sort of.

Genealogist at the Irish Heritage Museum Fiona Fitzsimons explained that through his mother Margaret Sinclair, Trudeau is a descendant of the Bernard family from Bandon, Co Cork.

Which means along with the greatest soccer player Roy Keane, the greatest runner Sonia O'Sullivan, and the greatest flyhalf Ronan O'Gara, the Rebel County can also lay claim to the world's dreamiest political leader; Justin Trudeau.

Admittedly, it's a pretty confusing line of descent with cousins-once-removed jumping all over the globe from England, to Singapore and Malaysia to Canada.

But it all began in Bandon.

"Once we tell everyone in Bandon you'll be all over the local papers," Simon Coveney chipped in as Trudeau studied his lineage.

"I hope I don't run against you!" Trudeau replied.

"No, no," Coveney said sheepishly. "I have already experienced running against someone you just can't beat."

There was still time for a slap-up meal at Dublin Castle last night before Trudeau departs this morning.

Irish Independent

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