The horsey set, Dublin 'meeja' and old-fashioned begrudgery
Published 08/12/2015 | 02:30
"We will in our a**e have our own gentry."
Thus the late, great Breandán Ó hEithir chronicled the first "begrudger" to be recorded in the new Irish State, who spoke those fateful words to his parish priest on the morning the Anglo-Irish Treaty was signed in 1921.
The man was a blacksmith and farrier in West Cork who felt Ireland's freedom meant his own personal ruin due to the rapid exit of the horsey set, or the "gentry". His parish priest was so elated at the end of his strife over refusing absolution and communion to IRA gunmen, that he had predicted Ireland would soon have its own gentry.
The terse conversation kicks off Ó hEithir's 1986 book 'The Begrudger's Guide to Irish Politics'. It deserves another outing in its upcoming 30th anniversary, when we also promise a considered assessment of ourselves in the centenary year of 1916.
It is dedicated: "To those who still believe that the island of Ireland has a foreseeable future."
And many of the book's subjects came to mind last night as I watched RTÉ's 'Standards in Public Office'. Let's safely park the specific programme content and look at the bigger picture.
The ordinary begrudger might ask: Are politicians in politics for the good of their health? But a more realistic begrudger, such as our West Cork farrier would ask: If a politician cannot score a few quid for himself, or even herself, what good could he or she do for me?
The politicians will blame all on the 'Dublin Meeja' out "to get" politicians, but they have varying degrees of success.
Where does any of that leave us? Take an optimistic view and you find a healthy tension between politics and media. Be all Pollyanna and consider that an assessment of 949 councillors, 166 TDs, 60 Senators and 11 MEPs, put the spotlight on just a handful.
We don't have our own gentry and we're still working on Ireland's foreseeable future.