A recursive cycle of ‘Vingince’ that underlay the Tiger Years…

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 Dunne’s 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. It’s 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 Dunne’s 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.

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  • Greenflag

    Fintan forgets that this is Ireland’s first property bubble burst, and while his article touches on some sensitive areas of the Irish pysche re property it has to be remembered that whereas the Englishman’s home was his castle at least for a large section of the population in it’s history post 1945 the Englishman or many of them always had an industrial base to find employment or failing that an overseas empire to depart to, where his skin hue was a distinct advantage . Not that many Irish had’nt the same outlet also but there were few outlets at home for long standing economic , political and cultural reasons which would take up a book 😉

    But the bould Fintan should extend his research into the depths of the Irish peasantry’s suspicions and apparent jealousies but he might want to look beyond Ireland for some modern forms of ‘peasantry ‘ exploitation on the part of the corporate sector and not just the ‘land developers’

    I refer him to the not very well known but wholly self serving issue of dead peasants insurance . and yes they use that term -dead peasants . This is life insurance executed on employees without their knowledge by private employers who thus profit by the death of any employee. So not only do some corporations get to squeeze employee wages and benefits to subsistence levels in the so called race to the bottom to meet increasing competition from dollar a day employees in China and India and elsewhere, but if they actually squeeze the last drop of lifeblood out of an employee by working said employee to death or not having the employee covered for health care insurance they make even more money if the employee just dies . In imperial Britain those Scottish highlanders who refused to die had the option of being shipped out to Canada etc . But the USA can’t very well send it’s ‘peasants’ to Mexico as the latter has more than enough of it’s own .

    The peasants referred to above are of course not Irish or English or European peasants . They are alas the ‘peasants ‘ of the capital of neo conservative economics the USA .

    Just another example of how rotten has been the social impact of neo conservative economic policies on all but well off Americans over recent decades .

    So Irish and British ‘peasants ‘ be forewarned . Does your company stand to make more from your ahem ‘premature ‘ death than in you actually living long enough to enjoy retirement ?

    As to the kind of companies that benefit from their employee’s premature deaths ? These are not fly by night companies but many are among the USA’s corporate elite – Wal Mart is towards the bottom of a very long list .

    Goo google dead peasants insurance if you are interested and especially if you happen to be American.

    Dead peasants insurance is not the same as key man insurance which caters for smaller size companies who would find it difficult and time consuming to replace key owners , managers and key technical know how people which could put a business in jeopardy .

    But who can make the case that the death of a Wal Mart janitor would put the financial existence of Wal Mart on the line ? Oh and just in case you were thinking the dead peasant’s family might benefit from said dead peasant’s insurance – they don’t – not a penny

    Another benefit of deregulation for the financial services sector and in this case for the poor ‘insurance / companies who have now found another outlet to make money off the backs of American employees via assistance from corporate employers . Both these neo conservative ‘vultures ‘ are way ahead of nature’s species for in this case they make money off both the living and the dead 🙁

  • Greenflag

    Addendum to above .

    At least nature’s vultures at least have the decency to await your death before they ‘deflesh’ your corpse .

    For those of a neo conservative ideological bent who feel a certain sympathy for Insurance companies being driven under competitive pressures to such extreme’s as selling ‘dead peasants insurance ‘ in order to make a profit acceptable to sharholders there is of course another alternative .

    They could of course reduce the salaries of insurance company’s executives and put all of their lower paid employees on minimum wage and remove their health benefits and pension plans. And if they don’t like it well they always go to work for Goldman Sachs where their ‘vulturistic ‘ talents will find a more compatible home !

  • Itwas SammyMcNally whatdoneit

    What would be interesting to know is the numbers and value of the properties in both Nron Iron and Britian which are under the control of NAMA.

    I dont think I have seen that breakdown anywhere.

  • fin

    Sammy, NAMA’s assets in NI are approx 4.5Billion, and apparently its mostly land not property.

    The value of the GB holdings I believe is circa 9Billion, and covers everything from hotels, shopping centres and a large chunk of the Docklands undeveloped bits.

    Its a hell of a investment portofolio and would make a great sovereign fund

  • Itwas SammyMcNally whatdoneit



    any idea about the sutff in the Irish Northern Territories.

  • Itwas SammyMcNally whatdoneit


    sorry I misread your post. 4.55 billion, is quite a bit. I wonder is their political sensitivity to what is included or the number – if the average loan was 500,000 that would be about 10,000 seperate property deals (rounding to 5 billion).

  • aquifer

    Supercooled water is cold enough to be ice but is moving so fast it does not get a chance to freeze. In Ireland we seem to have lots of supervictims, who got to play the poor mouth despite massive wealth, or to act the oppressed victim despite inflicting terrible hurt on others.

    Maybe a recession is when we stop long enough to let morality catch up and judge emotion.

    Should we just pay up and not pay back?

  • John East Belfast

    “It’s 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.” ”

    If he wants to get into generalisations the worst part of the Irish psyche, IMHO, is the desire to blame the British for everything.

    This mess is one created by nothing other than plain greed and stupidity – a dangerous combinaton when combined.

    British national wealth was created over hundreds of years from trade, invention, the application of engineering and science and exploration (some might say exploitation).

    The Celtic Tiger wealth was built on borrowed money and rapidly and stupidly rising asset prices. For those who got out at the right time they are ok but for those who didnt they have left the Irish taxpayer and possibly future generations with a hangover.

    However it is nothing to be proud off in terms of the real wealth created in the UK over centuries – and which of course will return

  • Dave

    JEB, manufacturing has fallen below 20% of the UK’s GDP so you’ll be a long time waiting for that sector to revive your economic fortunes. Your external debt is the highest of any G7 country at just over 400% of GDP (more than twice that of the next highest within the G7 and 8 times higher than the lowest). Admittedly, our external debt is 2.5 times higher than your external debt at circa 1000% of GDP.

    Ireland’s economic growth was greatest prior to joining the eurozone, when it had growth rates as high as 10% (and its external debt stood at a mere 11 billion punts). In reality, that massive increase in borrowing did not translate into massive growth rates as a percentage of GDP since the economic growth actually fell to less than half it was before the borrowing.

    Year GDP %

    1997 10.8
    1998 8.5
    1999 10.7
    2000 9.2
    2001 6.2
    2002 6.1
    2003 4.4
    2004 4.5
    2005 5.5
    2006 5.7
    2007 6.0
    2008 -3.0
    2009 (forecast) -8.3

    It just goes to show that borrowing money and spending it does not generate wealth but simply generates debt. Both the Bank of England and the ECB perused expansionist monetary policies, and that’s why both Ireland and the UK now have massive debts. Bad debts to the property sector amount to less than 3% of Ireland’s external debt, so you can’t blame the other 97% of that massive debt on those guys – even if the Irish Times and other rabid europhile rags would like you to.

  • John East Belfast


    I know the UK’s manufacturing sector is not what it is was but having read the hubris comments in this article from ROI property developers about “buying up England” I was contrasting their source of wealth as being nothing to be particularly proud off. They were in general a bunch of shysters who on the most part got lucky and managed to ride a wave of folly and cheap credit. I met a few of the minor players in my time and was amazed on occasions that they were driven by “gut instinct” with no proper due diligence. However the source and reason of UK wealth is ultimately based on firmer foundations – ie they never had cause to gloat and ultimately they were found out.

    However they have nobody to blame but themselves – this is not the first time in recent months I have read attempts to imply the problem was “visited upon” Ireland with the finger of blame being pointed at the British.

    I know the GDP growth was greater pre Euro but when you are coming from a very low base it makes the figures misleading – NI had the highest growth in GDP in all the UK regions in recent years but what does that mean ?

    As for the impact of bad property debts on Irish external debt I am not sure how you get your 3% ? My understanding is NAMA has bought 90 billion of floundering loans and they are all property.

  • Mack

    Greenflag –

    So not only do some corporations get to squeeze employee wages and benefits to subsistence levels in the so called race to the bottom to meet increasing competition from dollar a day employees in China and India and elsewhere


    If goods from China and India cost less, then real wages may rise even as nominal wages in the West fall. Certainly clothes, electronics and almost anything we import from there is a lot cheaper now (even in nominal terms) than it was 10 years ago.

    The relative standing of the West vis a vis Asia is going to get worse. They, who are poor, are inc raising their wealth at faster rates than us.

    If you were to express it differently – say in terms of rising values of the Rupee or the Yuan – it wouldn’t evoke such negative imagery – but the effect on real wages would be the same. There is no race to the bottom, but poor countries are getting richer..

  • Greenflag


    ‘British national wealth was created over hundreds of years from trade, invention, the application of engineering and science and exploration (some might say exploitation).’

    You omitted the slave trade , and the sugar trade, Dutch investment at a critical point in take off , French Huguenot commercial enterprise and business skills and access to a plentiful cheap labour supply both in Britain and Ireland and in the colonies .

    Capital accumulation began in late medieval times and much was inherited from the Roman centralisation of the country and the Norman conquest.

    Stupid rising asset prices have iirc been not unknown in the London property market in recent decades ?

    ‘The Celtic Tiger wealth was built on borrowed money ‘

    Some of it was and that’s gone . It should be a lesson learnt .

    ‘However it is nothing to be proud off in terms of the real wealth created in the UK over centuries – and which of course will return ‘

    Here you are beginning to sound like a blustering John Bull puffed up with righteousness and certainty that God is not only English but lives in London .

    ‘ and which of course will return ‘

    Hopefully but of the 300,000 employed in the UK financial services sector – 50,000 have gone and it may be a long time if ever before they return .

    We know what happened to British engineering and manufacturing during the last Tory administration . So what will the SS Tory Enterprise sail forth with if not it’s much discredited financial services sector ?

    And the above expected recovery is to be based on a ‘currency’ which is suspect to say the least and is soon to be the target of every currency speculator on the planet ?

  • Greenflag

    Mack ,

    I’m aware of the positive spin put on lower prices for western consumers due to globalisation . Nor am I unaware that SOME of the poorer countries are getting richer and good luck to them they’ve been short changed for long enough .

    ‘If goods from China and India cost less, then real wages may rise even as nominal wages in the West fall. ‘

    I’m reminded of LSE graduate -British Prime Minister Harold Wilson’s remark to the public after a particular devaluation .
    ‘The pound in your pocket is still the same pound’

    He did not add that it would not be the same pound if said Britons travelled to Germany or Spain or the USA and had to change the pounds in their pockets for fewer marks to pay their hotel bill .

    As the ‘inflationary ‘ list on another thread showed the British are being squeezed by two forces one is the IMF looking at the country’s skewed balance sheet and the other is it’s depreciating currency . So pardon my french if I say that right now it doesn’t matter a jot to ordinary consumers , british , irish or american whether they are better off in ‘real ‘ terms as opposed to just appearing worse off in nominal terms . They see the ‘elephant ‘ . They saw it during Maggie’s time and they are seeing deja vu all over again . This time the ‘exit ‘ strategy from recession seems very cloudy not just in the UK or Ireland but also in the USA .

    This one is structurally ‘different ‘ for all sorts of reasons which I don’t have time to go into right now .

    My main concern is primarily the political outcome . There are already journalists in the Wall St journal who are of the opinion that ‘democracy ‘ is overrated ? Perhaps instead of American values and democratic ideals being imported along with American investments into China the truth may be the other way around ?

    As the USA awaits a consumer led ‘recovery ‘ USA consumers are if I read correctly adopting Chinese consumer spending patterns . Not quite a bowl of rice and two veg a day but a step down and more from previous conspicuous consumption levels . I presume this is also why the UK has yet to technically break free from it’s longest (six quarters ) recession since the 1930’s

  • Mack

    Greenflag –

    No arguments about the recession – I just disagree that competition from lower cost centres results, in and of itself, in a race to the bottom.

  • Scaramoosh

    “Fintan O’Toole reckons there is a pot of gold, waiting just over the rainbow for us to reclaim from the tax avoiding leprechauns in whose possession it currently lies.”

    A clear case of vingence by teh back door!