It was more Justin Bieber than Justin Trudeau

A beaming Leo gave it socks, while everyone gushed over the bromance, says Lise Hand

Taoiseach Leo Varadkar gives Canadian prime minister Justin Trudeau themed socks and an Ireland jersey. Picture: Niall Carson/PA

Leo backed away from the hovering hurley. “I’m so not doing that,” he chuckled nervously.

Our Taoiseach was wise. He had no doubt at all that his guest would swing the hurley for the first time ever, and yet succeed in propelling the sliotar from the grounds of Farmleigh, straight into the Gorilla Rainforest in the Zoological Gardens across the Park, whereupon it would plant itself in the soil and sprout the first green shoots of a magic money tree.

For in Leo’s eyes, Justin Trudeau could do anything. Before the Canadian prime minister touched down in Ireland on Monday evening, the banter was flying that this would be a true bromance between two youthful, energetic — and let’s face it — photogenic heads of government.

And by golly, the dynamic duo bonded straightaway. It was all a far cry from the stiff formality between Leo’s only other prime ministerial encounter to date, when he met with Theresa May in 10 Downing Street last month. Mind you, given the British prime minister’s idea of having the craic is running through a field of wheat, well…

It was quite the double act. Outside on the grounds of Farmleigh, the two leaders posed for photos and gazed into the middle distance as if posing for the cover of an album of soulful duets.

“What are you pointing at?” asked one observer reasonably. “Towards our brighter future,” came the cheery response.

From the first event of the day, a positively giddy Leo was giving it socks. Or giving Justin socks, to be accurate. As the press conference wound to a close, a beaming — like, seriously beaming — Taoiseach presented his, like, totally new bestie with the first of what would be such a pile of gifts that the unfortunate Trudeau staffer tasked to mind them all was loaded like an Everest-bound sherpa.

0Justin Trudeau’s aide struggles to carry the bounty of gifts lavished on the Canadian prime minister during his Irish visit.

Leo handed him an Ireland shirt with his name thoughtfully printed on the back.

“I hope it’s the right size,” he fretted, before bashfully handing over another present. “I heard you like socks,” he said, still beaming.

“I know you’re getting a bit of a slagging for it now, but they’re a Celticy design,” he added helpfully, making up a new word.

Everyone hoped Leo had bought them in our national store — Penneys — but probably not. To be honest they looked a bit, well, nylony, like you wouldn’t need to drop a lit match too near your ankle while wearing them.

But Justin described them as “awesome” and pointed to his host’s shoes. Leo obligingly held up his leg.

“I’ve my Canada socks on… Shameless,” he admitted happily, and both men had a rood laugh. The bromance was in full bloom. Voila! Les Fréres Chuckels is born.

It was such as fun day, but suddenly Leo was in Leaders Questions in the Dáil and having no fun at all. Sinn Féin’s Mary Lou McDonald channelled her inner Mean Girl and informed him that hard-pressed families “have no interest in your socks”.

How dare Mary Lou inject an air of reality into Leo’s dream day? Has the woman no compassion at all?

His guest in the meantime, was getting the rock star treatment on Dublin’s quays. Mobbed by young wans on the hunt for selfies — including several hyperventilating Canadian 20-somethings who had hot-footed it to the quays.

“Even more gorgeous in real life,” was the giggling verdict. One would’ve sworn the Canadian Justin in attendence was Bieber, and not Trudeau.

The prime minister and his wife Sophie then went to the Áras for a visit, and Justin signed the book: “May we ever we united as friends, and welcomed as family.”

By the time they left Michael D Higgins and Sabina over an hour later, it was akin to the fond folks waving off the kids on a holiday.

But wait! A joyful reunion took place when the twosome in search of a co-joined moniker — Lustin? Leau? — went for a jog around the Park before dinner, a twin vision in shorts and shades.

Leo tweeted the photo, of course . And a short while later the Taoiseach was at the door of Dublin Castle to greet the prime minister and Sophie. Mon Dieu! Justin had changed his socks! Everyone gawked at his ankles. Red, with white splotches.

Never has a male politician had so much attention lavished on his legs, and stuff, while his glamorous wife was quite in the shade and could wear what she liked.

“You women are objectifying him,” protested quite a few men throughout the day. Bienvenue, boys, to the other side. Quel dommage, oui?

Leo rounded off his Best Day Ever by hosting a dinner in Dublin Castle. Most of the Cabinet were present, including Frances Fitzgerald who won the round of rock, paper, scissors to sit beside the guest of honour.

The Taoiseach gave a heartfelt speech about the two countries’ ties, and the fact both nations lived in the shadow of powerful neighbours.

“Thankfully that’s not the case now, we have no problem with any of our neighbours,” he deadpanned to laughter and a rueful head shake from the Canadian.

Justin’s speech was brief, and he spoke of both countries advocate an “open and diverse society”. But it didn’t matter — he had done the important work earlier, dispensing advice to a listening Leo on the importance of ensuring gender balance in parliament.

“It’s not just the right thing to do, it’s the smart thing to do,” he told the Taoiseach.

It was like watching Chandler trying to steer Joey towards wisdom. All that was missing were two reclining chairs, a bucket of beers and a giant TV.

“I’m a feminist!” proclaimed a fervent Leo as his bro looked on benevolently.

Oh Canada! Mná na hÉireann salute you.



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