Porter cakes, toy sheep and Mayo jersey among Taoiseach’s gifts in final year in office

Taoiseach Leo Varadkar handed out porter cakes, 15-year-old bottles of whiskey, sliotars, and a Mayo GAA jersey as gifts in his final full year in office.

His department spent almost €6,000 on presents in 2023 for presentation to heads of state, dignitaries and for use on official trips to the United States, Ukraine, and elsewhere.

The priciest present was the €1,100 that was paid for a sterling silver bell that was given to US vice president Kamala Harris on St Patrick’s Day last year.

Mr Varadkar said the item was a “token of appreciation and [an] emblem of peace and freedom” and gave Ms Harris a silver St Brigid’s Cross brooch that was worth €57.90 as well.

The Department of the Taoiseach spent around €800 buying whiskey and cake for the leaders of each of our EU partners, as well as the presidents of the European Commission, European Council, and European Parliament.

The presentation of twenty-nine bottles of Bushmills 10-Year-Old Single Malt whiskey last December cost €668.45 while the bill for the same number of porter cakes was €130.21.

Cabinet gifts

Mr Varadkar also purchased Christmas gifts for his Cabinet colleagues with the cost of the items listed as just under €200 in a log of departmental spending.

He presented six candles decorated with an image of Government Buildings to ministers as well as twelve sets of silver cufflinks with a gold harp embossed.

Other gifts included the traditional Crystal Shamrock Bowl which was given to US president Joe Biden for St Patrick’s Day 2023 and cost just €100.

Mr Biden was also presented with an Irish men’s rugby jersey, which was provided complimentary to the Taoiseach’s department, an Irish women’s soccer jersey, also complimentary, and a Mayo GAA jersey that cost €75.

For the first lady Jill Biden, there was a complimentary hamper from Bord Bia with Irish foods and delicacies, a silver coin costing €64.34 that commemorated the 100-year anniversary of women’s right to vote, and a St Brigid’s Cross brooch for which €57.90 was paid.

Bambu hurley

Other gifts from the St Patrick’s Day trip included a complimentary sliotar and a €75 Bambu hurley that was given to congressman Richard Neal and several shamrock pins given to other dignitaries.

The prime Minister of Luxembourg was presented with a €64 bottle of Redbreast 15-year-old whiskey last June while Ukrainian president Volodymyr Zelenskiy received two volumes of plays by Brian Friel, which together cost €69.50.

Other gifts from Mr Varadkar’s trip to Ukraine last July included silver bookmarks costing €67.70, a €16.20 ‘Sam agus Nessa’ candle holder for the St Sophia Cathedral and a €14.98 soft toy sheep for the Memorial to Children.

In November, the president of South Korea Yoon Suk Yeol was presented with a €114 bottle of whiskey while his first lady Kim Keon-Hee received a tropical green herringbone scarf with a value of €40.

Also presented in 2023 were Dublin Crystal engraved coasters for Dr Mike Ryan and Dr Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus of the WHO and a chocolate hamper for the staff of Kevin Street Garda station.

Other go-to gifts listed by the Department of the Taoiseach for special events were navy shamrock silk ties, silver round photo frames, and silver cufflinks with an engraved harp.

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