Sunday 15 December 2019

A national failing: are U a begrudger 2?

U2's latest album was given away to 500 million iTunes customers in a deal with technology giant Apple
U2's latest album was given away to 500 million iTunes customers in a deal with technology giant Apple

John Masterson

Ireland's most objectionable national characteristic, begrudgery, has been having a good outing since U2 teamed up with Apple and did something that has never been done before. Out of the woodwork they come. The armchair whingers unleash their fury at U2 for daring to give them a free album. Bono, the prime target for vitriol, got his retaliation in first with "... the blood sweat and tears of some Irish guys are in your junk mail." As he points out at gigs most of us have given them €500 by now. It is nice when the barman buys back. They are in my headphones this very moment.

I worked in Australia a good while back, and you used to hear a lot about the Tall Poppy Syndrome. Basically it meant that whenever an Aussie stood out from the crowd a bit there was a queue of people ready to chop them down to size. Maybe they got it from some of the Irish who went there a few generations back. U2 are the not the only ones we have given the snide treatment.

Can anyone think of anyone who has done more to promote Ireland than U2? The list is short.

Remember Eamonn Coughlan, one of the finest athletes we ever produced, and still a legend in America where he did a lot of his running? All we ever heard about him in Ireland was that he didn't win Olympic gold, as if that was a crime. Well,he won practically everything else and by any criteria was an outstanding athlete in world terms.

Sonia O'Sullivan got a good dose of it too at times. I still wonder what jungle juice the Chinese were on that prevented her gold.

Then there is Padraig Harrington. I don't know how many times I read about poor Padraig who could only come second. He did notch up a lot of seconds. At the highest level in the world. He followed with a series of firsts that puts him in the top 20 major winners of modern times and won a miserable $40m to boot. No sooner was the Open Claret Jug (won twice in succession) given back than the 'he is past it' brigade were out there sharpening their pencils.

We are forever being told that for a small country we punch way beyond our weight. I grew up in an Ireland where the heroes were all dead. Children now grow up with Irish successes to celebrate in business, art, music, film, television, fashion, sport, charity, etc etc. How many potential successes will get infected with the negative glue that emanates from the very pores of this country? When will be ever learn to celebrate achievement instead of treating it as a crime to succeed?

Songs of Innocence goes back to U2's youth. They remembered their friends. Tim Cook of Apple had the band but, as is always the case, Dave Fanning had the first play. Now let's hope there is a tour soon so I can give them a few hundred more euros.

Sunday Independent

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