Mystery of President's holiday grips French press

President Jacques Chirac, a man known for his love of the exotic, spent his summer holiday in a small, rainy village in Quebec. Or did he? According to speculation in the French media, the President may have secretly absented himself from the picturesque village of North Hatley (population 773) for up to four days, for reasons which remain unclear.

The satirical television puppet show Les Guignols de l'Info suggests that the President sneaked away to have a face-lift, something for which Canada is noted. Other versions of the rumour, which was deliberately fanned yesterday by the far-right politician Jean-Marie Le Pen, suggest that M. Chirac had more serious medical surgery and was out of action for several days.

The Elysée Palace has dismissed the speculation. It insists that M. Chirac and his wife, Bernadette, spent the period from 2 to 19 August at the Auberge Hatley, a £130-a-night hotel near Sherbrooke, 80 miles east of Montreal. But questions continue to be asked about M. Chirac's holidays, a subject which has led to controversy in the past.

The respected newspaper Le Monde ran an article on its front page yesterday headlined "The Mystery of North Hatley". The article said there were clear sightings of the presidential couple in the first week of their holidays, notably an unpleasant incident in which the Chiracs' poodle, Sumo, was attacked in the village by strays. Le Monde, quoting local journalists and officials, said there was much less evidence of M. and Mme Chirac's presence in the second week of their holiday.

The village mayor, Stephan Doré, has even spoken this week of the Chiracs "arriving on the 2nd of August and leaving on the 15th", four days earlier than officially announced.

Could this explain another mystery? Why did President Chirac - a man who is known for his ability to impose himself on events - fail to make any comment on the deaths of more than 12,000 elderly people in the heatwave that struck France in early August?

The political controversy over the failure of the French government to respond more quickly to the deaths was at its most intense during the period when M. Chirac is said to have gone missing. The President made no comment on the disaster until he returned to Paris.

Rumours circulating among the political classes in Paris include suggestions that M. Chirac had chosen to go on holiday in Quebec so that he could, in secrecy, have a face-lift or an operation on his vocal chords or thyroid glands. Les Guignols de L'Info ran a sequence in which a puppet of M. Chirac was shown pinning his cheeks behind his ears.

Mr Le Pen, the leader of the xenophobic National Front and a long-term enemy of M. Chirac, hinted strongly in a press interview yesterday that he thought the President was hiding a serious medical condition.

"I think he was not capable, physically or mentally, of speaking out for several days," M. Le Pen told Le Parisien.

He suggested that the next presidential election, which is not due before 2007, might be held as soon as next year.

Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
PROMOTED VIDEO
ebooks
ebooksA year of political gossip, levity and intrigue from the sharpest pen in Westminster
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Recruitment Genius: Product Owner - Business Analyst

Negotiable: Recruitment Genius: A Product Owner/Business Analyst is required t...

Recruitment Genius: Quality Technician

£28800 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This company is going through a period o...

Recruitment Genius: Administrative Assistant / Order Fulfilment

£14000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: An exciting opportunity to join a thrivi...

Recruitment Genius: Java Developer

£26000 - £33000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: An exciting opportunity for an ...

Day In a Page

Woman who was sent to three Nazi death camps describes how she escaped the gas chamber

Auschwitz liberation 70th anniversary

Woman sent to three Nazi death camps describes surviving gas chamber
DSK, Dodo the Pimp, and the Carlton Hotel

The inside track on France's trial of the year

Dominique Strauss-Kahn, Dodo the Pimp, and the Carlton Hotel:
As provocative now as they ever were

Sarah Kane season

Why her plays are as provocative now as when they were written
Murder of Japanese hostage has grim echoes of a killing in Iraq 11 years ago

Murder of Japanese hostage has grim echoes of another killing

Japanese mood was against what was seen as irresponsible trips to a vicious war zone
Syria crisis: Celebrities call on David Cameron to take more refugees as one young mother tells of torture by Assad regime

Celebrities call on David Cameron to take more Syrian refugees

One young mother tells of torture by Assad regime
The enemy within: People who hear voices in their heads are being encouraged to talk back – with promising results

The enemy within

People who hear voices in their heads are being encouraged to talk back
'In Auschwitz you got used to anything'

'In Auschwitz you got used to anything'

Survivors of the Nazi concentration camp remember its horror, 70 years on
Autumn/winter menswear 2015: The uniforms that make up modern life come to the fore

Autumn/winter menswear 2015

The uniforms that make up modern life come to the fore
'I'm gay, and plan to fight military homophobia'

'I'm gay, and plan to fight military homophobia'

Army general planning to come out
Iraq invasion 2003: The bloody warnings six wise men gave to Tony Blair as he prepared to launch poorly planned campaign

What the six wise men told Tony Blair

Months before the invasion of Iraq in 2003, experts sought to warn the PM about his plans. Here, four of them recall that day
25 years of The Independent on Sunday: The stories, the writers and the changes over the last quarter of a century

25 years of The Independent on Sunday

The stories, the writers and the changes over the last quarter of a century
Homeless Veterans appeal: 'Really caring is a dangerous emotion in this kind of work'

Homeless Veterans appeal

As head of The Soldiers' Charity, Martin Rutledge has to temper compassion with realism. He tells Chris Green how his Army career prepared him
Wu-Tang Clan and The Sexual Objects offer fans a chance to own the only copies of their latest albums

Smash hit go under the hammer

It's nice to pick up a new record once in a while, but the purchasers of two latest releases can go a step further - by buying the only copy
Geeks who rocked the world: Documentary looks back at origins of the computer-games industry

The geeks who rocked the world

A new documentary looks back at origins of the computer-games industry
Belle & Sebastian interview: Stuart Murdoch reveals how the band is taking a new direction

Belle & Sebastian is taking a new direction

Twenty years ago, Belle & Sebastian was a fey indie band from Glasgow. It still is – except today, as prime mover Stuart Murdoch admits, it has a global cult following, from Hollywood to South Korea