Begrudgery is an attitude which has often been identified as "the Irish disease". In essence, it describes a prediliction to begrudge other people their success and wealth. Irish people are supposedly very keen to drag everybody down to their level, with phrases such as, "It's far from that he was reared", i.e. "He may be successful/wealthy/powerful now, but I knew him when he was just a guttersnipe/corner boy/snot-nosed pup". This attitude is summed up nicely by Bono:

An American will look up at somebody living in a big house on a hill and say, "Someday, I'm going to be like him". An Irishman will look up at the big house and say, "Someday, I'm going to get that fecker!"

It is certainly true that Irish people cast a fairly jaundiced eye on wealth and fame. In fact, famous people find Ireland quite a pleasant place to live, as in general they can walk about the streets without being mobbed by fans: an Irish person would rather die than admit to recognising somebody famous in the street. It probably stems from being such a small country with a relatively flat class structure: it is hard for a successful Irish person to cultivate any sense of mystique, as you probably know someone who went to school with his or her mother.

For many years, as Ireland languished in the doldrums socially and economically, we were continuously berated by the great and the good for allowing begrudgery to hold us back. As long as success was treated as something to be ashamed of, we were told, how could we expect Ireland to become successful? Instead of celebrating our captains of industry as capitalist-heros, these figures were subject to unfair scrutiny by the nation's media, and derisive comment by the general populace. This ingrained disdain for success, we were told, was preventing us from attaining success as a nation.

In recent years, however, the begrudgers have been thoroughly vindicated. As it turns out, many of the people who did make a success of themselves during the 1970s and 1980s did so by inserting their hands into the nation's back pocket and snatching a wad of notes. As the tax burden for the ordinary PAYE worker became intolerable, those who could afford to pay taxes chose not to, instead diverting their money through complex and illegal networks of offshore bank accounts. In many cases, wealth was created through land sales and planning decisions facilitated by a rogues gallery of corrupt politicians. The "unfair media scrutiny" of which these figures complained was in fact not probing enough to reveal the extent of the corruption and tax evasion practised by a significant number of the nation's most wealthy people. These practises are only now being revealed, in a series of tribunals set up after the almost accidental discovery that certain high-level politicians were essentially "kept" men for certain wealthy businessmen.

So, while Ireland attains a level of economic success previously only dreamed of, it is unlikely we will lose our tendency to remain suspicious as to the sources of wealth and success. While it didn't stop political and business life becoming thoroughly corrupt in the 1970s and 1980s, the fact that the Irish people retained a healthy sense of begrudgery throughout at least allows us to say, "I told you so".

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