President Donald Trump and members of his administration are feeling the wrath of the Irish after a series of culturally insensitive moments during Irish Prime Minister Enda Kenny’s annual St. Patrick’s Day-timed visit to Washington.
Kenny, who had previously criticized Trump for his “racist and dangerous” language, followed through with the traditional trip on Thursday, despite a petition from nearly 40,000 people who demanded he cancel.
With his staff and more than 20 Irish reporters by his side, the prime minister (called a “Taoiseach” in the Irish language) participated in a day of events — including a luncheon at the U.S. Capitol, a one-on-one meeting with Trump, and the time-honored “shamrock ceremony” in which a sitting U.S. president is gifted a bowl of shamrocks.
That where’s the trouble started for Trump. Accepting the gift, the 70-year-old former businessman shared what he claimed was an Irish proverb.
“As we stand together with our Irish friends, I’m reminded of that proverb. This is a good one. This is one I like. I’ve heard it for many many years, and I love it,” Trump said. ” ‘Always remember to forget the friends that proved untrue. But never forget to remember those that have stuck by you.’ ”
“We know that — politically speaking,” Trump continued. “A lot of us know that. We know that well. It’s a great phrase.”
The problem is, Irish tweeters didn’t seem to recognize the proverb.
Many pointed out that the phrase mimicked a stanza from a poem by Nigerian poet Albashir Adam Alhassan.
But a White House spokeswoman stood by Trump’s words, telling The Hill they were “originally supplied in an email on March 8 by the State Department via [the National Security Council] as building blocks in advance of this event. These building blocks were supplied in the context of the Shamrock Ceremony and were ultimately used in the prepared remarks for the luncheon.”
That wasn’t the only moment that had people talking.
Vice President Mike Pence kicked the day off, hosting a breakfast for the two at his residence. But viewers watching quickly noticed an Irish cliché coming from the 57-year-old — who opening his talks by saying “Top of the morning” to a room full of Irish people.
“Literally just shouted ‘NOBODY SAYS THAT’’ at the TV,” Irish journalist Órla Ryan tweeted.
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House Speaker Paul D. Ryan, who identifies as an Irish American, introduced both Trump and Kenny at the luncheon — though had many confused with his opening statements in which he referenced “all [Ireland] has given us.”
“Americans, especially American Irish, always try to endear ourselves to the Irish. Think about it. We went from a president who plays a lot of golf to a president who owns a lot of golf courses,” Ryan said. “That is about the closest thing you can get to royalty in Ireland.”
As tweeters pointed out, golf is a sport that originated in Scotland.
Ryan also upset some when he pulled out a pre-poured pint of Guinness beer from under the podium — offering the toast, “To what our forefathers have started and our children will continue, may the light always shine upon them. Sláinte.”
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This time, it wasn’t Ryan’s words that were offensive — but his Guinness pour.
“Despicable,” wrote one user, pointing out how the Irish beer was missing its thick, white foam topper. “I think I’ll go get myself a tall pint of Guinness to make up for this.”
“It looks like the pint you find in the smoking area at the end of the night, its owner stumbled home long ago,” another said.