Everyone thinks they know about Ireland. It’s everyone else’s favourite Xanadu. Some of it is rooted in the impossible idyll of rural Ireland as portrayed Maureen O’Hara and John Wayne in The Quiet Man, where the law is maintained by wily but saintly locals.

Soaring above it all was the beneficent influence of the Catholic Church and moving statues of the Blessed Virgin Mary on every street corner. Then came the Irish Tiger economy where it seemed that an entire nation had somehow – in the space of a few years – become the economic power-house of Western Europe.

The Temple Bar area of downtown Dublin had become Europe’s new Sunset Strip: Monte Carlo with shamrocks. “Look, isn’t that Bono over there? The Edge is looking particularly moody tonight. I’m sure I saw Bill Clinton in that bar across the road.”

It was like a boutique form of racial profiling. Nothing bad happens in Ireland. The pubs stay open for as long as you like; the Gardai are like tourist guides; and in every tavern the bartenders will recite Irish poetry and whole verses from Finnegan’s Wake. It’s the Irish: they’re all too busy having a grand time to be nasty to each other.

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In Roddy Doyle’s The Commitments, Jimmy Rabbitte, tells his young band-members: “Do you not get it, lads? The Irish are the blacks of Europe. And Dubliners are the blacks of Ireland. And the Northside Dubliners are the blacks of Dublin. So say it once, say it loud: “I'm black and I'm proud.”

For those then buying into the carefully constructed Cead Mile Failtes of the Irish Tourist Board, Doyle’s characters were slightly startling. “What? Poor people in Dublin?”

Professor Jim Conroy, an Irish academic living in Glasgow is withering about the lazy portrayals of his native land. He feels much of it is rooted in ignorance about Ireland’s history and an economic inequality that’s been apparent in some Dublin neighbourhoods, especially on the city’s northside. 

“Poverty didn’t disappear just because Dublin was going through a process of embourgeoisement,” he says. “The transfer of capital from the poor to the rich which has gathered pace in recent years and which is evident in London, Paris, Berlin inevitably becomes magnified by social media. Of course, it will be exploited by racists but the conditions giving rise to exploitation have been there for many years.”

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The evils of poverty leading to social dysfunction have been evident in Dublin’s largest city for many years, but only if you choose to look. In the city’s exclusive Dublin 4 area south of the city centre the average house costs almost €900,000. Even Dublin’s cheapest house prices come in at an eye-watering average of €254,674 with the average house price in Dublin now sitting at just over €400,000.

Dublin also provides the European headquarters of tech giants like Google and Facebook in what is basically a large tax-avoiding schemes. In these places, salaries well in excess of 100k are routine and have distorted the housing market. It exacerbates the massive economic disparity which had been there anyway.  

Professor Conroy said: “These places where it seems like everyone plays rugby are entirely detached from districts like Finglass and Ballymun on the northside. There’s always been this divide between South and North. Many large enclaves on the northside manifest long-term poverty and disaffection.

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“Any idea that what took place in Dublin on Thursday has only emerged in the last few weeks is for the birds,” he says. “If it’s being exploited by malevolent groups it’s because the land was fertile to begin with anyway.”

Kevin Toolis is a film-maker and the award-winning author of My Father’s Wake, How the Irish teach us to Live, Love and Die. He lives in County Mayo and is disturbed by what he saw in Dublin two night ago. “Certainly, we can talk about economic and social forces, but how easy it is for people to re-discover their internal xenophobia.

“Ireland is a nation which has exported millions of its own immigrants to all corners of the globe. Yet, when we’re confronted by other country’s migrants it’s a different story.”

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Around 85,000 Ukrainian refugees have fled to Ireland following Russia’s invasion and Toolis believes there’s a thinly-disguised racism evident in the anti-immigration rhetoric. “It seems that the colour of your skin can determine if you’re regarded as the right sort of immigrant.

“Ireland’s benefits system is far more generous than the UK’s. In the winter when bookings are slow, hoteliers can cash in on the Irish Government paying them to take in asylum-seekers at attractive rates. This also drives up room prices in budget hotels with a knock-on effect in the affordable housing market.” 

On the streets of Dublin on Thursday night what we saw followed a pattern evident across Europe: social dislocation and marginalisation being weaponised by far right social media organisers and the myth that “Ireland is full”.