Thought which counts: Cost of Varadkar’s gifts to foreign dignitaries

Green jersey at €60 a pop a staple of diplomacy with cufflinks, books and Celtic brooch

Prime minister of Canada Justin Trudeau with his present from Taoiseach Leo Varadkar, whose  department spent €6,649.17 on VIP gifts  in the 11-and-a-half months to mid-December 2018. Photograph: Dara Mac Donaill

Prime minister of Canada Justin Trudeau with his present from Taoiseach Leo Varadkar, whose department spent €6,649.17 on VIP gifts in the 11-and-a-half months to mid-December 2018. Photograph: Dara Mac Donaill

 

Charles Haughey famously gave Margaret Thatcher a teapot, Enda Kenny liked to hand out books of poems but for Taoiseach Leo Varadkar sporting paraphernalia appears to be the go-to gift for foreign dignitaries.

A breakdown of spending from Mr Varadkar’s department shows a spend on VIP gifts of €6,649.17 in the 11½ months to mid-December. Some €323.70 of the total was spent on various types of sports jerseys.

Hungary’s football-mad prime minister Victor Orbán received a Republic of Ireland home jersey (costing €56.25) from Mr Varadkar when he visited Budapest last January. Bulgaria’s Boyko Borissov was given a personalised Dublin GAA jersey, shorts and socks (costing €98.50) the following month.

Mayor of Boston Marty Walsh received an Irish rugby jersey (€59.95), while a replica Finn Harps jersey was purchased for €60 for Chief Whip and Donegal TD Joe McHugh’s visit to South America on St Patrick’s Day.

Donald Trump’s son, Barron, got an Irish football jersey from Mr Varadkar which cost €49 while the US president himself got a book on Irish golf courses.

The Taoiseach came under fire last March for claiming in Washington that he helped Mr Trump overcome a planning issue when he bought Doonbeg golf course when Mr Varadkar was minister for tourism.

Trump’s sliotar

The book – 18 Greatest Irish Golf Courses – costing €19.99 was among the gifts purchased by the Department of An Taoiseach for the annual St Patrick’s Day visit to the US, documents released under the Freedom of Information Act show. Mr Trump also received a sliotar (€10), while the traditional shamrock bowl presented to the US president cost €262.

Other gifts purchased for the St Patrick’s Day visit included a Newbridge Tulip Tealight Stand for €45.50 and a Newbridge Celtic Brooch for €35.50.

Special or rare books remain a popular gift from the department. President of Italy Sergio Mattarella received a collectors’ edition of James Joyce’s Ulysses costing €65. International Monetary Fund head Christine Lagarde received the book Blooming Marvellous: A Wildflower Hunter’s Year by Zoe Devlin during her visit to Dublin in June. Green-fingered Ms Lagarde also received wild flowers seed mix (costing €13) during her visit.

Belgian prime minister Charles Michel was presented with a bottle of Móinéir Irish wine which cost €65, while the first minister of Wales, Carwyn Howell Jones, was given a bottle of Teeling Whiskey which cost €100.

In December, the department purchased 295 pairs of cufflinks with the Government buildings logo for “protocol gift stock” for a total of €2,473.84.

Throughout the year, the department also bought numerous sets of cufflinks for protocol gift stock ranging from “Celtic knot” to “round spiral” design for €1,040.