The basic idea, I recall, was to get away from North Grenville, Canada, all of that, and have a nice break in Ireland. Time to forget there was anywhere else to think about or remember.
That lasted about 24 hours. I went into a nice coffee shop, ordered a cappuccino and opened the local paper to catch up on things in the old homeland. What did I see? Justin Trudeau, that’s what I saw. He was meeting with the Irish Taoiseach (Prime Minister to you) and the emphasis was not, as you might imagine, on vital issues like trade between Ireland and Canada, or the possible effects of Brexit on the Canada European Union Trade Agreement. No, the story was all about Justin’s socks.
I don’t know if this was a major story in North Grenville, but it just so happened that the day Justin and the Taoiseach (no, let’s call him by name: Enda Kenny) – the day Justin and Enda had their meeting was May 4, known to all afficionados as Star Wars Day around the world. Justin had decided to mark the day by wearing what appeared to be mismatched socks, one yellow and one blue. In fact, they were carrying the images of C3P0 and R2D2 (if you need to be told who or what they are, no comment from me will help you).
All over the world, the media reported this as a major news story and, almost without exception, they all used the same clever headline, noting the date: “May the Fourth be with you!”. Clever, yes? Amazingly (or not, depending on what you think of Justin), the socks became the story. Even in the Irish newspapers, the photograph of the smiling politicians included a blow-up of the socks, and the first paragraph of the article led with the Star Wars connection.
Justin once more appeared in every major newspaper in the world: in Spain, Italy, France, the U.K., Germany, and on-line in the Huffington Post and every other major news source there is. I notice that Global TV had a piece on it, but I haven’t looked beyond that because – I am on holiday! How did Justin Trudeau manage to hijack my vacation like that?
Of course, once the socks were dealt with, Enda and Justin got down to saying great things about the contribution the Irish have made to Canada its history, culture and politics. All very friendly and upbeat, although Enda did make a few statements that a Canadian historian would find fault with. But no matter. Minor issue. There were far more important problems to discuss between the two Prime Ministers. Just as Canada is having to consider the possible implications of Trump’s election and his very dubious view of the North American Free Trade Agreement, so Ireland is dealing with the fall-out from Brexit and the implications for Ireland when the United Kingdom leaves the European Union.
The U.S. is Canada’s biggest trading partner, as the U.K. is Ireland’s. Both countries need to look for new trading opportunities to make up for whatever they lose through Brexit and the possible renegotiation of NAFTA. The Comprehensive Economic and Trade Agreement (CETA) is a free-trade agreement between Canada and the European Union, negotiated over the past decade, ratified by the European Parliament and approved by all 28 member countries of the EU (27 once the UK leaves). The EU is Canada’s second largest trading partner and second largest source of foreign investment in Canada. Enda Kenny was meeting with Justin, not just representing Ireland, but as a representative of the entire EU.
Of course, there was a lot of personal politics going on as well. Justin improved his very positive reputation in Europe, where he is constantly appearing in the media, and gave a kick in the shins to his political foes at home. Enda, in contrast, is expected to step down as Taoiseach in the next week or two, and his trip to hang out with Mr. Charisma is one of the last opportunities to make an appearance on the world stage, even if it is only as someone in the photograph with Justin and his socks.
He was more than a little annoyed, if not embarrassed, when reporters travelling with him asked him about his plans to step down. As Justin stood looking into the middle distance, his most diplomatic smile on his face, Enda reprimanded the journalists who had tried to ruin his moment in the sun. “I can’t believe actually that you have travelled this distance to ask a question like that”, he said.
I must say, I felt I understood his chagrin and annoyance. I, after all, had travelled this distance to get away from it all, not to be followed by Justin Trudeau’s socks and the minutiae of Canadian politics. I shall send a strongly-worded note to the Irish reporters, the PMO, and George Lucas, demanding that any future trips I make to Ireland be allowed to take place without these constant reminders of Canadian politics, news stories and the never-ending labour of newspaper writers. In fact, I intend to do so as soon as I finish writing this article about Canadian politics, news stories and the never-ending labour of newspaper writers. And I must find out where Justin bought his socks…