Last week, as often happens, I received emails from readers who strongly supported - or strongly opposed - articles I had just written.

Many of the positions I take on the issues can inspire some and infuriate others. On this occasion, the letter writer sounded infuriated.

His subject heading was “Irish Immigration.” Here we go, I thought. He was commenting sourly on the column I had written about my deep objection to the sinister campaign of physical intimidation being conducted against immigrants in Dublin and its outskirts by the far right.

What thinking Irish person, I asked, could stand in solidarity with mobs assembling outside the homes of already vulnerable immigrants, holding up tricolor flags, chanting 'go back where you came from'? 

Anyone with even a glancing knowledge of Irish history would know how often that kind of abuse happened to the Irish themselves.

They should know that sinister anti-immigrant rallies that give the stage to fascist speakers contribute to an attitude of hostility and they know it's dangerous, that it puts people at risk. Protect our women, some of them even suggested. So what's next, white sheets and burning crosses?

February 4, 2023: Anti-refugee protest in Dublin. (

February 4, 2023: Anti-refugee protest in Dublin. (

“Funny how you got the hell out,” wrote the letter writer, meaning Ireland. I think the point he was making was that I was supporting the cultural diversification of Ireland, or its modest status as a sanctuary for refugees fleeing conflict, or its history as a place of mass emigration and heartbreak and the lessons that teaches us, all of which I do. 

But to this letter writer, I was supporting all of these ideas in the abstract, because I was no longer there myself, I had no skin in the game.

But the thing is I was in Ireland last week, I was there to give a series of talks about how its new awareness of and room for diversity was life-changing and deeply welcome, a thing to be celebrated, not feared.

Then I did something I rarely do, I personally responded to the letter writer, because despite the condescending and presumptuous tone of his note, I do actually have something to say on this issue.

I did not “get the hell out,” as he had dismissively put it, of Ireland. I love Ireland and I had no plan to leave it at all. In fact, what had happened was I had met my American partner here and the law at the time forbid us to make a home in either country. It came down to chance at the time which country that eventually was.

That was not a small consideration, by the way. Being able to marry and enjoying the rights and responsibilities that come with it, including citizenship and full participation in your adoptive nation, is an opportunity that I don't take lightly. I will defend that right for all people who are legally entitled to do so, or who are being prevented by prejudice from reaching their full potential.

Besides, my level of engagement with - and connection to - Ireland has never been deeper as I informed the letter writer, who was obviously unaware of it. Ireland is now one of the most prosperous - and progressive - nations on earth and it's not a place to run away from, it's a place to run toward.

February 18, 2023: People at the Ireland For All Solidarity march at the Customs House, Dublin. (

February 18, 2023: People at the Ireland For All Solidarity march at the Customs House, Dublin. (

On February 18, over 50,000 Irish people – one of the largest public protests in years - took to the streets of Dublin to oppose racism and support immigrants in the Ireland for All march

It turns out that Ireland is still the welcoming and progressive country we think it is. Overwhelmingly, when push comes to shove, we are on the side of diversity and inclusion. 

"Are you on the side of humanity, decency, equal rights?" asked Bernadette Devlin McAliskey of the crowd at the Dublin rally. "Or are you on the road to fascism?

"If you are not on the side of equality and rights for every human being, there is no other end to the road you are on than fascism,” she said.

It needs to be noted that Ireland's two main government parties – Fine Gael and Fianna Fáil - had no notable presence at the rally on February 18, which given the levels of hostility and public strife being whipped up in recent months by the so-called 'Ireland is Full' campaign, should have been a mandatory opportunity for them. 

Walking the walk after talking the talk would have sent a powerful public message, but as ever they were behind the voters, not leading them. People have noticed. That's why they took to the streets themselves. 

As I concluded to the letter writer who had seemed so pressed by my support for immigrants – I am one myself and I strongly believe that diversity and inclusion are the future. And I'll march anywhere to make that point.