There is a solution to smileys, and that's font rendered unicode emoji. The problem is that most emoji don't render very nicely in mIRC's narrow text area -- most other applications have expanding rows to accommodate emoji and emoticons, mIRC does not.
What I have been wanting to do for a while now, is compile an updated version of Fixedsys, mIRC's default font, with all the popular emoji. There is a version of Fixedsys out there called Fixedsys Excelsior that has more unicode languages but no emoji... as emoji hadn't existed at the time. It's also not a true bitmap font, so it's a tad slow in mIRC compared to Fixedsys.
I don't supposed there's any OpenType experts hanging out on the boards here that could give me a few pointers on this endeavor? How do I wrap a true bitmap font in an opentype or truetype container?