“Céad míle fáilte,” which means “a hundred thousand welcomes,” is a sentiment the Irish have long held dear.
We pride ourselves on our welcoming nature, our music, our famous pub culture and the fact that the average tourist will be almost overwhelmingly love-bombed by locals who are happy to see a new face and will want to regale them with tales of local lore.
But recently it seems that Ireland may have used up its welcomes and is, instead, retreating back into the dark terrain of nativism and suspicion of foreigners.
For a country that liked to boast about its welcoming nature, the last few weeks have seen the rise of a brand of anti-immigrant sentiment that has verged on the murderous.
When the number of indigenous homeless people is roughly similar to the number of migrants requiring assistance, it’s a recipe for disaster
The most shocking example occurred in inner city Dublin during a stand-off between pro-migrant and anti-migrant protesters. With an estimated 65,000 people having arrived on Irish shores in the last few years, these flashpoints have become increasingly frequent, but the events at the clash on Dublin’s Sandwith Street shocked the nation. In what must surely rank as one of Ireland’s lowest moments, the tents belonging to a makeshift encampment of migrants were completely torched.
It was a genuinely shameful moment, and one which has deeply upset many people.
It is the kind of openly racist violence that has never been a part of Irish life, yet it is becoming more common and, in some circles, more acceptable.
Similar attitudes have been displayed across the country. Recently, asylum seekers had to be removed from a shelter in County Clare because of threats to their safety. Various parties had placed bollards and blockades across the roads to prevent any more migrants arriving, and there were menacing threats of burning down any hotel which dared to accommodate asylum seekers.
That’s not to say that all the locals who were involved in these protests are intrinsically racist or bigots. Many of them were happy to appear on Irish news channels and openly give their name as they explained the reasons for their objections. They are usually concerned about government policy and the lack of communication from officials.
There are many reasons to explain the lurch towards anti-immigrant sentiment but the only true constant is Ireland’s record-breaking housing crisis. Never in the history of the state have so many people been homeless and it’s a crisis which has been either ignored or terribly mismanaged by successive Irish governments.
Unfortunately, it’s also the main reason why Sinn Féin will probably win the next general election, ushering in what will undoubtedly be a period of economic chaos and a supersized version of tax and spend.
And when the number of indigenous homeless people is roughly similar to the number of migrants requiring assistance, it’s a recipe for disaster and cause for serious concern.
Yet incredibly, many on the Irish left refuse to look at the genuine concerns of ordinary citizens and instead focus on their two favorite topics — Trump and, inevitably, Brexit.
It has been virtually impossible in Ireland to have a rational discussion about Brexit. Yes, there were concerns of national interest and the farce of the Northern Ireland Protocol which managed to be both baffling and incredibly boring.
But the largest democratic vote in the UK’s history also unleashed a wave of anti-English hared that hasn’t been seen since the darkest days of the Troubles in the 1970s.
According to many well-respected Irish commentators, who really should know better, the 17 million people who voted Leave were simple-minded Little Englanders, racists and bigots.
There is no nuance, and no willingness to understand the various reasons why so many people voted for Brexit.
No, instead, we are still fed the narrative that Britain thanks to Brexit is either becoming, or has already become, a fascist state.
In Ireland, it almost felt as if the long dormant hatred of the English had been given permission to rear its ugly head. And this time rather than complaining about Perfidious Albion from a position of weakness and servitude, the insults are delivered with a sense of smug moral superiority.
Irish politicians have long prided themselves with being the “best boys in the class” in the school that is the EU and they were happy to look at our closest and most important neighbors with utter disdain, something our European masters enjoyed enormously.
Yet far from the UK descending into some sort of fascist hellscape, it’s in Ireland where the tents of homeless asylum seekers are being set on fire. It’s in Ireland where migrants are rescued from shelters because of credible threats to their life. And, for once, the chin stroking bien pensants of the Irish Times can’t blame Brexit for that.
This article was originally published on The Spectator’s UK website.