Fintan O’Toole has been sequestered away scribbling on what was for him the phoney architecture of the Celtic Tiger bubble… In the process, he has unearthed a quintessential theme within the Irish psyche… Vingince, bejasus!… Not least within those late millionaire developers who once ostentatiously planted the Irish flag right in the privileged heart of ‘the oul enemy’…
…if you listened hard, you could hear, unspoken but implied, the famous (and surely apocryphal) reply of a republican activist asked in the early 20th century by an English reporter what the aims of Sinn Féin were: Vingince, bejasus! Yet only rarely did the thought seem to strike any of those who were constructing great fortunes in property that they were themselves the new landed aristocracy.
That thought does seem to have crept uninvited into Seán Dunnes brain as he expounded on one of the favourite subjects of the new elite: the carping of the bitter little people. Jealousy and begrudgery, he moaned to the New York Times in January 2009, are still alive and well in Ireland, and whoever eradicates them should be prime minister for life. Its part of the Irish psyche and it is the result of 800 years of being controlled by other people, of watching everything the master or landlord is doing.
The implications of Dunnes comment that he and his cohorts were the landlords and masters being watched by the jealous peasants were almost certainly unintended, but they were not untruthful. Leaving aside the ironies of those who saw themselves as representatives of an oppressed peasantry becoming the equivalents of the landlords who had oppressed their ancestors, the resonances of the nineteenth century were real.