November 27, 2023 - 10:00am

Last week’s Dublin riots saw the most riot police deployed in Irish state history, according to the country’s justice minister. While the immediate cause was the stabbing of several children and carers by a man who moved to Ireland from Algeria, unrest had been building for some time.

Before the riots, many outside of Ireland were unaware of just how radical the Republic’s experiment with migration over the past decade has been. The numbers speak for themselves. A full 2.8% of the population is made up of people who have moved to Ireland only in the last year. This means that if you walk down the average Irish street, one in 35 people will be newcomers to the country.

While Ireland had been accepting large numbers of migrants for a long time, this was turbocharged by the war in Ukraine. Ireland, whose political and media classes have become notably outward-looking over the past decade, wanted to prove its liberal values and committed to hosting huge numbers of Ukrainian refugees. On a per capita basis, Ireland accepted six times more refugees than Britain — and made almost no plans for how to accommodate them.

The latest numbers show that Ireland’s foreign-born population is 904,800 people. This means that 18% of the Irish population is foreign-born. In a recent paper on immigration, fertility rates and demographic change, the demographer Paul Morland and I highlighted that no country had successfully integrated more than 15% of foreign-born people. We argued that anything over 15% was highly experimental, and Ireland has proved our argument for us.

Why are Irish leaders doing this to their country? The country’s elite has become obsessed with foreign cultural politics, especially that which emanates from the United States. One of Ireland’s most popular opinion columnists, Fintan O’Toole, moonlights as Milberg Professor of Irish Letters at Princeton University. His columns are typical of the new Irish elite: all domestic issues are interpreted through the lens of American politics. 

This means that the entire immigration issue, for example, is framed in an identical manner to the immigration debate in the United States. So when in America those who dislike the porous border with Mexico are framed as racist hillbillies, the Irish “East American” liberal elite go in search of racist hillbillies of their own and find them among the working class of Dublin’s inner city. This became particularly acute when liberal power players in Washington DC developed an obsession with “far-Right” Trump supporters, and columnists like O’Toole spread that fear to Ireland.

Ireland has become a sort of cultural satrapy of American liberalism. Yet while the Irish elite are comfortable in their satrap roles, the broader population finds the new ideologies foreign and bizarre. They simply do not understand them. Most citizens have basically the same view of Ireland as they did before the American liberal revolution swept the shores of the country. And this puts them on a collision course with an increasingly out-of-touch and frightened elite, whose control appears to be slipping.

Philip Pilkington is a macroeconomist and investment professional, and the author of The Reformation in Economics