The mention of "Gombeen Men" will give most people a vague mental picture of individuals with unsavoury characters, but do we really know what are "Gombeen Men".
To illustrate what gombeen men are, I can do no better than quote from an account of the 1845 - 1846 Famine.
"Times were so hard we had to eat the seed potatoes we were saving to plant in the spring. My Da had to buy seed potatoes to sow for the 1846 crop. We planted them, as we always did, on St. Patrick’s Day. As the summer came to Ballincollig, we all hoped for a good harvest. The fields were green again, and every one in Ireland was hopeful.
Then the unexpected happened. The blight returned and field after field turned black. People cried, “Heaven protect us!” A second hungry summer meant famine. There was an extreme scarcity of food. Oatmeal and other food became more and more expensive. Some shop keepers took advantage of the food shortage to raise their prices. Others gave us credit at a very high price. We called them gombeen men. The people hated them."
Thank God, Ireland is now one of the world's most prosperous countries, and the Famine is but a race memory - still alive in the sub-conscious of many. However the "Gombeen Men" are very much 'alive and well' in Ireland and have given the country a very bad name by overcharging for goods and services.
The TV series "Rip Off Ireland" did a good job of outlining many of the bigger rip-offs. There are plenty of gombeen men out there only to ready to take advantage of every possible situation. Since the famine people have hated them, they sour and degrade everything they touch.
The move of Ireland towards a greener, more self-sufficient, and more ecological future, is being interfered with by the present day "Gombeen Men". They need to be stopped.