Remember when the construction boom was in full flight and you couldn't get your hands on a plumber or an electrician for love nor money. God help you if had a wonky radiator or burst pipes in mid-winter. You could be left swimming in despair for weeks amid a heap of rotting floorboards and stinking carpets before a plumber would cross your threshold. And then he'd charge you an extortionate call-out fee and €80 an hour.
And remember our relief when enterprising young Polish and Latvian tradesmen arrived here offering their services at reasonable prices. We were delighted with an affordable alternative to the rip-off merchants.
But when the boom crashed and thousands lost their jobs in the construction trade a nasty resentment crept in against 'foreign' workers. Disparaging remarks were made about eastern Europeans taking jobs from Irish lads. We heard mean-spirited stories about how the Poles were all living together in the one house, drinking cheap beer and saving their money.
In fact, they were doing what tens of thousands of Paddies working in the building trade had done decades before them when they, too, were forced to emigrate for work. They lived frugally and sent their wages to their families back home. That history was marked throughout the world at the weekend with the legacy of Irish emigration touching all corners of the globe. Imagine if England, the US, Australia, Canada and Germany had closed their borders to the Irish and told them to go elsewhere for a living?
Unfortunately, populist far-right parties in Europe are now touting that policy of intolerance to immigrants. One ugly manifestation of this xenophobia is a new anti-immigrant website that is the brainchild of the far-right Dutch Freedom Party, the PVV. It came in for heavy criticism in the European Parliament last week.
The website invites Dutch nationals to submit complaints about eastern and central Europeans living in the Netherlands. The PVV is particularly interested in hearing about immigrants committing crimes or taking jobs from Dutch citizens.
The Freedom Party was founded by Geert Wilders who has gained notoriety for his prejudiced outbursts against Muslims. He has compared the Islamic Koran to Hitler's 'Mein Kampf' and has called for an end to Muslim immigration. His racist sentiments have touched a chord in the Netherlands, with an increase in support for his party in elections. The PVV now has 24 MPs in the Dutch parliament and four MEPs. And it's supporting the minority government of Mark Rutte.
Auke Zijlstra, a Dutch MEP and a PVV member, articulated his party's hostility to immigrants with charming fluency when I met him in the European Parliament last Wednesday. His two minders were equally amiable. These people are extremely adept at wrapping their xenophobic views in a cloak of conviviality.
Mr Zijlstra justified the website's existence by saying there was a need to collect data on eastern and central European immigrants who were committing crimes in the Netherlands and taking jobs from the Dutch. He referred to the Lithuanians as examples. According to him, they are indulging in a long-time practice of stealing car radios and that ''hasn't happened in Holland for 15 years''.
Mr Zijlstra didn't have a lot of hard facts to support his claims. Instead, he referred to a media interview with a criminal from Lithuania who said that if he stole a car radio at home he would get two years in prison, whereas in the Netherlands he'd get a €100 fine. And, if he did end up behind bars, the Dutch jails were much nicer than the Lithuanian ones.
The clever selection of this one example is a cunning way of tarnishing all Lithuanians with the criminal brush and inciting Dutch suspicions of them. The Polish immigrants were given an equally Machiavellian spin. Mr Zijlstra referred to The Hague, a city where, he said, a thousand Polish suspects had been held on suspicion of criminal activity over the last year.
''Car theft in Poland has gone down considerably, it's gone up with us,'' he told me, adding that there was ''quite overwhelming evidence'' to show that immigrants "turn to crime'' if they become unemployed.
Welcome to the world of the Dutch Freedom Party where hard facts get replaced by hardline assumptions. To listen to Mr Zijlstra, you would get the impression that immigrants from eastern and central Europe are causing mayhem in the Netherlands.
But according to another Dutch MEP, crime figures have gone down there. Marije Cornelissen, is a GreenLeft politician who spoke out against the website in the European Parliament. She's appalled at what her Dutch colleagues are doing and says the website is a ''deplorable initiative''.
Of course, some immigrants do commit crime whether it's in the Netherlands or Ireland. But there's no shortage of home-grown criminals who generally far outnumber their immigrant counterparts.
The Freedom Party's manipulative distortion of facts is a dangerous propaganda tool that preys on people's fears and directs their anger towards strangers.
Mr Zijlstra said Polish immigrants were ''taking jobs away from Dutch citizens'' and bleeding the country of social welfare benefits.
''Even our queen said in 1979 that the Netherlands are full. She said it. But if I now quote her then suddenly I'm racist.''
Immigrants can be easy scapegoats in times of economic turmoil, especially when thousands are losing their jobs and struggling to survive. But as the Socialist Party MEP Paul Murphy put it to me last week, this kind of ''hateful racism'' is misdirected.
''People are correct to be angry about these things, but it's the wrong target. The problem is not immigration,'' he said, stressing that our current financial woes are down to the bad behaviour of bankers and developers, not immigrants.
''It's a misdirection of anger of other working-class people who were also exploited by the system and who also face problems.''
The anti-immigrant racism that is being touted by the Dutch Freedom Party is on the rise in Europe. Just look to France where President Nicolas Sarkozy is courting far-right voters by promising to crack down even further on immigration if he gets re-elected in May. We need to be vigilant in this country that we don't foster that kind of unhealthy intolerance. That's especially poignant today, with our diaspora around the world illustrating the generosity of countries that opened their borders to us.