Opinion: Portrait of Ireland a la ‘Dorian Gray’ Shows It’s Dying from Within

One of my favorite cities on the planet, Dublin, Ireland, is changing, and not for the good.

With its lively pubs, Temple Bar is still packed with tourists; Grafton Street’s shops are buzzing, but then head to Kildare Street. Barriers line the street behind the Oireachtas — Ireland’s Capitol.

Is it to guard against pro-Hamas rallies? No, Garda said it was just a “far-right” rally. 

On Thursday of last week, O’Connell Street — the Main Street of Ireland — was different. It was on fire.

The main character in Oscar Wilde’s “The Portrait of Dorian Gray,” Basil, said it succinctly. “Every portrait painted with feeling is a portrait of the artist, not the sitter.” 

Ireland’s dark picture of itself is now revealing the devastating struggle the country is caught between — heritage and progress.

The Irish people are only beginning to realize that the canvas they use as the base of their picture needs more substance.

The portrait of Ireland is bathed in dark hues. It is their history. Now, riots have erupted, according to Garda, caused by the “lunatic, hooligan faction driven by far-right ideology” after the stabbing of two adults and three children by an Algerian immigrant.

Taoiseach (Prime Minister) Leo Varadkar recently reassured the public he would “use the full resources of the law” not to attack the perpetrator but go after “individuals who post messages and images online that stir up hatred and violence.”

This horrific response only served to deepen the still-fresh wound from the murder of Ashling Murphy, a 23-year-old teacher, last year, who was violently stabbed 11 times in the neck by a Romani Slovak immigrant, Jozef Puska, while out jogging.

Puska had benefited from free housing and welfare payments for ten years without work. 

Iraqi migrant Yousef Palani murdered and then beheaded two homosexual men in April 2022 in the quiet coast town of Sligo. 

Then, last September, a migrant from Africa was arrested at Dublin Airport after stabbing a tourist.

During Ramadan, a once-luxury golf resort and hotel turned into an emergency accommodation for ‘refugees’ and then became a battleground. 

A group of around 500 Muslim men led to “significant violent incidents” that required a massive response from armed groups of police, which is uncommon in Ireland.

When considering past events, labeling last week’s upheaval a “far-right, anti-immigration” riot would completely miss the truth.

The struggle of the Irish people against the government’s policy of housing substantial numbers of asylum seekers in small communities across the nation, known as “direct provision,” has been a complex and lengthy one — but generally non-violent.

The quick influx of mostly unvetted immigrants, with minimal effort toward integration into Irish society, stokes the fears of communities of permanently losing their historic identity. 

Although immigration is rapidly rising, it is far from the forefront of worries for most Irish. The housing crisis looms large, crippling job markets and handicapped youth. The universal healthcare system (HSE) remains as dysfunctional as it is expensive.

However, last week’s riots are more than an economic or social issue. They reflect a crisis of intellectual and moral dimensions underneath.

Once solid in its cultural identity, Ireland has adopted every item of the “liberal democracies” starter set in the last decade.

Abortion, same-sex marriage, and divorce — have all been adopted quickly to ‘secure’ its place among the wealthy nations of America and Europe. The establishment in Ireland sees liberal politics as the key to being accepted globally.

A nation that produced intellectuals including Shaw, Yeats, Heaney, and Beckett has been replaced by self-proclaimed experts parroting pre-formed opinions — rubber-stamped by RTÉ, the state-owned propaganda machine. 

The Stupidity Triumvirate now runs the country — an alliance of traditional parties Fine Gael, Fianna Fáil, and the Green Party.

Marxist party with historical ties to the IRA, Sinn Féin, leads the polls ahead of their 2025 elections. Conor McGregor, an MMA fighter, is fashioning himself as a Trump-like populist alternative. But, predictably, the government is now investigating McGregor for “hate speech.”

Ireland continues to lie in a bed of uncertainty, with its diagnosis being economic, moral, and social. But chiefly, it is intellectual.