Donald Trump's Beloved Irish Proverb May Be Part of a Nigerian Poem

Trump Ireland flag
U.S. President Donald Trump speaks during the Friends of Ireland Luncheon at the U.S Capitol in Washington, D.C., on March 16. Trump's knowledge of Irish proverbs raised eyebrows on Thursday. Olivier Douliery-Pool/Getty

The luck of the Irish appeared to elude U.S. President Donald Trump on Thursday.

On the eve of St. Patrick's Day, Ireland's patron saint's holiday, Trump welcomed Irish Prime Minister Enda Kenny to the White House. And the businessman-turned-president decided that the time was ripe to share a piece of wisdom of the ages.

"As we stand together with our Irish friends, I'm reminded of that proverb—and this is a good one, this is one I like, I've heard it for many many years and I love it, said Trump.

"'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, a lot of us know that, we know it well, it's a great phrase."

Trump reads one of his favorite Irish proverbs

— Bradd Jaffy (@BraddJaffy) March 16, 2017

Given the occasion and the company, Trump appeared to be framing the phrase as an Irish proverb that he was particularly fond of. But the citation prompted bewilderment from many Irish social media users, who professed to have never heard the phrase in their lives.

With all due respect to the president's reputation for scrupulously checking his sources, I don't think this is an Irish proverb.

— The Irish For 🐻🦆🍑 (@theirishfor) March 16, 2017

never heard of it

— Gavin Sheridan (@gavinsblog) March 16, 2017

After much bemusement, one heroic user managed to identify the apparent source of the proverb: a poem entitled "Remember to Forget" by Albashir Adam Alhassan, a Nigerian poet who reportedly hails from the northern state of Kanoand is in his 30s.

OK I've found trump's 'irish' proverb.

— cólz (@colz) March 16, 2017

But perhaps Trump's citation of the "proverb" was in fact a subtle nudge towards the spiritual connection between the Irish and Nigerians. As well as Ireland, St. Patrick is also the patron saint of Nigeria; the affinity for the snake-chasing saint in the West African country likely comes from Irish priests going on mission to Nigeria in the 20th century.