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‘Don’t worry about me,’ France’s former-first lady says

Valerie Trierweiler, former companion of French President Francois Hollande, attends a news conference organised by Fight Against Hunger in Mumbai January 27, 2014.(REUTERS/Mansi Thapliyal)

MUMBAI: France’s former first lady, Valerie Trierweiler, said Monday she was doing fine after her split from President Francois Hollande, telling reporters during a trip to India that she felt “useful” doing charity work.

The breakup of the couple, who were not married, was confirmed Saturday by Hollande, who said in a curt statement he had “ended his partnership” with the 48-year-old journalist.

That announcement came less than three weeks after the tabloid Closer set off a media storm by publishing photos of what it said was Hollande, 59, making nocturnal visits to the apartment of French actress Julie Gayet, 41.

Closer’s pictures of a helmeted figure, arriving and leaving on the back of a scooter, drew mockery from critics who called it an embarrassing vaudeville.

Trierweiler, who spent eight days in hospital after news broke of the alleged affair, followed by a week in seclusion, was in India with the charity Action Against Hunger.

In her first public comments since the scandal broke, Trierweiler did not mention the breakup but gave a tongue-in-cheek thank you to the French journalists who crowded the news conference for their “interest in malnutrition.”

“I feel very well, it feels good to be here,” said Trierweiler, when asked about her health. “I have the impression I’m being useful for something.”

“Don’t worry about me,” said Trierweiler, dressed in a pink blouse.

Trierweiler, a columnist for Paris Match magazine, had been in a relationship with Hollande since 2006. After his election in May 2012, she assumed the unofficial role of “first lady” and had an office at the Elysée Palace with a budget of roughly 20,000 euros ($27,400) per month, while continuing to write.

News of Hollande’s alleged affair – which he has neither confirmed nor denied – has not worsened his record low approval ratings, but has distracted attention from a series of business-friendly policies aimed at reviving the economy.

Hollande is due to travel alone to the United States to visit Barack Obama early next month. Allies said his announcement should put an end to the media scrutiny of his personal life.

Still, some have criticized the way in which he announced the breakup, with some politicians and journalists calling Hollande callous in publicly repudiating his longtime partner.

“More like a pink slip than a breakup letter,” conservative politician Nathalie Kosciusko-Morizet told iTele.

Asked about her track record as first lady, Trierweiler – whom polls showed to be deeply unpopular with the public – said it was not for her to judge.

“I was there for 19 months. It gave me the opportunity to meet new people and maybe even discover a part of myself that I didn’t know existed,” Trierweiler said.

She said she did not know what her future held, but that she would continue to do humanitarian work.

“I think that all together, we can do something, each in his or her own way,” she said.

“That’s what I’ll continue to do, whatever happens.”

 
A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Daily Star on January 28, 2014, on page 11.

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Summary

France's former first lady, Valerie Trierweiler, said Monday she was doing fine after her split from President Francois Hollande, telling reporters during a trip to India that she felt "useful" doing charity work.

That announcement came less than three weeks after the tabloid Closer set off a media storm by publishing photos of what it said was Hollande, 59, making nocturnal visits to the apartment of French actress Julie Gayet, 41 .

Allies said his announcement should put an end to the media scrutiny of his personal life.

Still, some have criticized the way in which he announced the breakup, with some politicians and journalists calling Hollande callous in publicly repudiating his longtime partner.


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