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Hot takes on the Dublin riots by Russell Brand, Steve Bannon and Brexit Britain are hard to take

The only thing they demonstrate is that if you see globalist plots in everything, you’ll see it on the streets of Dublin

In the wake of the Dublin riots the country was beset with anxious hand-wringing: how could this happen? This isn’t who we are! Ireland is gentle and open, Ireland loves immigrants! Modern Ireland has always been immune to the worst throes of populism. We may be on the geographic edge of Europe, but spiritually we sit at its liberal and cosmopolitan centre.

The time for some proper self-interrogation was long overdue. Not least because this view of Ireland did not cohere with the reality on the streets of Dublin on November 23rd. But also because the tension had been simmering – in the East Wall protests; amid the protests outside asylum-seeker hotels in Wexford in 2023 and in Leitrim in 2019 and all the times in between. By now, we have heard it all before. But what does Ireland look like from the outside?

Brexit Britain claims it saw it all coming; that Ireland has predictably demonstrated the pitfalls of lax borders and unfettered immigration; that a nation without a Nigel Farage is bound to end up in such an unhappy place. Two separate pieces in the Daily Telegraph make such a case. One talks about Ireland’s delusional and platitudinous “elite”, another suggests establishment politicians have “created a multicultural monster”. This is perhaps on the upper end of the feeling towards Ireland – that would be standard for the Daily Telegraph – but the basic sentiment is more widely accepted.

The argument is simple: the years and years of debate about leaving the European Union allowed Great Britain to have a very serious national conversation about immigration; about how much pressure the country could tolerate; about its moral obligation to its citizens and the rest of the world. Ireland hasn’t endured anything of that scale – the question has long been absent from national talking points; never central to the political agenda. This may be partly why the pot boiled over two weeks ago.


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Perhaps Britain has a point. This is an unrecognised quality of Brexit (there are few) – it forced discussion of difficult and divisive issues; perhaps it actually stopped resentment festering; it made people in the country talk to one another, no matter how angrily. There is not much to say for Brexit economically or culturally but it is impossible to deny one thing: it was a pressure valve. Brexit Britain says: we took the heat out of the topic, we put a pin in the balloon. Meanwhile it points to Ireland and says: look what happens when you don’t do that.

And so in London, Ireland is seen as a cautionary tale about what happens when you don’t facilitate debate about immigration; about what happens when you don’t consult the country on serious demographic upheaval. A cynic might argue that this is just Britain patting itself on the back, singing the wonders of Brexit, proving that they were right all along. But there is something true in the soul of the argument: if things such as immigration are treated as taboo subjects – and those who question border policy are treated as bad citizens – then resentment takes deep root in society.

This, of course, is hardly the sole reason for the violence on Dublin’s streets. It is easy for Brexit Britain to explain away the issue so simply: if only Dublin had dealt with immigration like us, then none of this would have ever happened! We should be cautious of such thinking. Like Brexit itself, the source of the malaise in Ireland is varied and complicated; certainly too difficult to reduce to such a confident statement. Single-cause history is unfashionable for a reason. It is also terribly tempting.

Take the more extreme examples. The founder of Breitbart, and former adviser to Donald Trump, Steve Bannon invoked every stereotype from the populists’ playbook to explain the anger in Ireland’s capital: the government sold out its people; the nasty EU have a hand in this; the country is beset by “invaders”. Funny that, considering that seems to be Bannon’s reasoning for everything; considering he said in 2018 that he wanted to “drive a stake through the Brussels vampire”.

Russell Brand – the former comedian, now YouTube conspiracist with millions of devoted acolytes, who is being investigated following allegations of sexual abuse – suggests it’s all about a deeper anti-globalist movement. He says the shadowy establishment is trying to thwart its own people. Anyone au fait with the work of Brand will remember that, like Bannon, this is in fact his explanation for most things: the pandemic, Ukraine, the Israel-Hamas war. If you see a globalist plot in everything, you may be well disposed to see it on the streets of Dublin; if you think the EU is behind every national malady, then it logically follows that it is behind Ireland’s too.

So Ireland may be a cautionary tale; proof that Brexit was not all bad; an argument for national debate on immigration. But huge events like this serve another purpose: they quickly become a cipher for confirmation bias. Brexit Britain might have a point, but it certainly doesn’t know us better than ourselves.