Cork heritage a most treasured gift for Justin Trudeau

The Canadian prime minister’s aide manoeuvred across the Farmleigh lawn laden down with bodhráns, hurleys, a GAA geansaí, a pair of socks and a poetry book.

Justin Trudeau’s trip to Ireland could certainly not be regarded as a token visit if the amount of Irish-themed presents he received was anything to go by.

But during a day of present showering, it was the gift of Irish heritage that will perhaps be most treasured by the Canadian leader.

“Wow, this is news to me,” a grinning Mr Trudeau said as his Co Cork lineage was uncovered during a visit to the EPIC centre.

Mr Trudeau, who arrived in Ireland on Monday with his wife Sophie Grégoire-Trudeau and son Hadrien, met with Taoiseach Leo Varadkar yesterday morning.

He was presented with his first present, a 1927 edition of a book on WB Yeats which featured the poem The Lake Isle of Inishfree. This was followed by an Irish rugby jersey in recognition of Canada’s support for this country’s World Cup bid; a pair of Celtic-design socks; a Dublin GAA jersey; a bodhrán; a hurley; an ancient picture of Dublin’s CHQ building; and finally a framed family tree tracing his Irish roots.

Experts at the Irish Family History Centre uncovered the far-back Irish link on Mr Trudeau’s mother’s side, revealing he is a direct descendant of the Bernard family from Cork.

Mr Trudeau was related to Arthur Bernard, who was High Sheriff of Cork in 1697 and MP for Bandon from 1713-14. The prime minister’s great (x6) grandfather Francis Bernard received a degree from Trinity College in 1729 before moving to London. However, yesterday Mr Trudeau was told it took Mr Bernard seven years to complete the degree which should have only taken three.

“That must be a family tradition,” he joked.

Foreign Affairs Minister Simon Coveney, who joined Mr Trudeau yesterday afternoon, suggested he visit Cork on a return trip to Ireland and said it would be on the front page of the local Bandon paper now that his roots have been uncovered.

After their early morning meeting, Mr Varadkar also pointed to the strong ties between Ireland and Canada.

“I think it has been a very positive thing that Irish people have migrated to Canada. At one stage it was about 14,000 a year, that has now gone down considerable to about 6,000 a year because of the change in our economy,” he said.

Mr Varadkar said many of these emigrants had returned with greater skills, which boosted our economy.

Asked about the threat Brexit poses, the Taoiseach said that Britain would not be able to engage in separate trade agreements with countries such as Canada before they fully exit the EU.

“For so long as the United Kingdom is a member of the European Union, they are not at liberty to conclude trade agreements with other countries,” Mr Varadkar said. “Certainly, I can’t see a scenario where Britain would remain a member of the EU, even in a transitional period and then negotiate, other trade deals on their own.”

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