You may be aware that this week Donald Trump, who is constantly berating us about #fakenews and #alternativefacts, made a bit of a gaffe. I know it sounds incredible, what with him being such a stickler for truth and accuracy, and the way he’s always calling out lies and hypocrisy wherever they are to be found (right here in The Media), so I’m sure it was an honest mistake. If it was a mistake at all, which it probably wasn’t, because I saw those two Trumpettes, Diamond and Silk, telling Evan Davis that their president never says or does anything that’s stupid, or wrong, or silly, or untrue. Ever. And anyone who says otherwise, including Evan, is a leftie and a liar.
But while you may admire Trump’s business acumen in re-marketing those unsold “Make America Great Again” baseball hats to the 40 million Irish-Americans for St Patrick’s Day – that’s today – by dyeing them green instead of red, and you’re bound to admire his ability to tear himself away from important matters of state to make a few bucks on the side, you might be confused by the embossed symbol on the back.
It is, you might reasonably imagine, a shamrock, what with the shamrock being an Irish symbol and the one we associate with St Patrick’s Day, due to the (apocryphal) evidence that St Pat felt the three-leaved clover represented the Holy Trinity of God the Father, Son and Holy Spirit. Look closely, however, and you’ll notice that the symbol isn’t a shamrock after all. It is in fact a four-leaf clover, which although traditionally considered lucky, is not especially or distinctively Irish (although it is the official logo of Celtic FC, who replaced their original three-leaved clover logo with it in 1938, fact fans). It is, to put it in language its vendor would understand, a #fakeshamrock. Or, to put it another way, just a plant. A very rare plant.
Trump’s official tweet (because using twitter to sell novelty headgear is an important part of running the free world), echoed the blurb on the Trump-Spence fundraising committee website where the hat is (or at least was) on sale for $50 – twice the price of the red ones during the presidential campaign. That’s a 100 per cent increase since Trump became president – or do I mean 200 per cent? – and that just goes to show that his presidency is twice as profitable as Obama’s. Or something..
Would-be buyers were urged to “Capture the luck of the Irish with this Make America Great Again hat”.
As it happens, the Irish prefer their lucky clovers to have three leaves, not four. And even though three-leaved clovers are as common as, oh I don’t know, potatoes in Ireland, you have only a one in 10,000 chance of finding a four-leaved one. Which would strike me as being luckier than finding your common or garden three-leaved one, but what do I know? I was only born in Northern Ireland – Irish enough to qualify for an Irish passport, making me effectively Brexit-proof, but not Irish enough to be disqualified from having a British one, or to be seen dressed as a mythical midget once a year.
Still, the important part of what would in the UK inevitably have been called #Shamrockgate – or, more accurately, #ThreeLeafClovergate - is that Trump is not the first person to make such a rookie error over the number of leaves on his clover; he’s not even the first US President to do it. Five years ago the then incumbent President marketed his own St Patrick’s Day T-shirt featuring another four-leaf clover at the centre of the hilarious slogan “O’Bama 2012” – based on his cleverly scripted joke when he visited Ireland that he had “come home to find the apostrophe” in his name.
Sadly, Trump’s St Patrick’s Day hats are now no longer available on his website, which listed them as “Sold Out” earlier this week. That may be true, or it may be one of those post-truth #alternativefacts disguising the #realfact that they felt sufficiently embarrassed to withdraw it from sale. We may never know because the White House refused to respond to press inquiries about this crucial issue of international importance, and you certainly won’t find out here because this is the mainstream media and we are, let me tell you, terrible people: very dishonest people who make everything up. So these hats probably never existed in the first place and, if they did, the clovers probably had three leaves, as can plainly be seen in the photographs, and the fourth is only in your imagination because you have probably been celebrating Paddy’s Day too vigorously and are seeing things.
As scandalous as this is – and it really isn’t, because nobody is really offended by the number of leaves on a clover, not even my Irish wife who says, and I quote, that she “couldn’t care less about shamrocks” – the reality is that these hats, with or without a proper three-leaf shamrock, are by no means the most offensive pieces of merchandise sold for this day in which millions of non-Irish people pretend to be Irish for a day – or night – if for no better reason than as an excuse to get thunderously drunk. Which will be even more than usual this year because, for once, Paddy’s Day falls on a Friday and there’s no work the next day. Unless there is, in which case you may be going to work with a hangover and, possibly, a silly hat.
Years back I went to Dublin for the MTV Awards and, gathered with other journalists in the backstage area, we endured a certain Irish journalist beginning every single interview with the question: “How do you like it here in Ireland?” One by one, the celebs – Britney and Whitney and Mariah and Christina Aguilera – came through and proclaimed hitherto hidden Celtic roots in order to ingratiate themselves with the easily-pleased Irish journo. My colleagues and I, bemused by the level of questioning and, let’s be honest, fortified by drink, began to predict each new arrival’s response (sample: “I love it here! My grandmother was Scotch-Irish!”) and roaring with drunken laughter when it came. Our game reached its apotheosis with the entrance of Puff Daddy (aka Sean Combs). A silence descended over us as we resigned ourselves to defeat at the last hurdle. “So how do you like it here in Ireland, Puffy?” came the inevitable question. “What can I say?” grinned Mr Combs. “My name is Sean!”
We were too busy applauding and cackling with laughter to see whether Puffy and Mariah and Britney and Whitney and Christina went out for the craic later, but I’m guessing they steered well clear of Temple Bar, a place that will resemble the Seventh Circle of Hell this evening as its traditional weekend stag parties mingle with England rugby fans limbering up the Grand Slam decider in Dublin tomorrow. Over here in London, the Mayor’s office has organised free Irish music and poetry today at several Tube stations – Westminster, Southwark and Tottenham Court Road – and a few pints of Guinness will be sunk tonight, if not by our teetotal Mayor, as well as the odd shot of whisky. Meanwhile, on Sunday there’s a parade down Piccadilly from Hyde Park Corner to Trafalgar Square for a festival featuring music, comedy and “traditional and modern Irish food” (insert mildly racist potato-based joke here).
I’ve been looking around the internet for what to wear. So far I’ve narrowed it down to something green. At the moment I’m torn between the shamrock suit (three leaves, not four) and the more traditional ginger beard, green waistcoat and top hat look, guaranteed to make the wearer look like a leprechaun – or, as I prefer to put it, like a feckin’ eejit. Although I can’t help feeling that could be achieved equally well in one of the Donald’s silly hats.