Issue 22 - November 2011(2)

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Appeal for action on begging


Several senators raised the issue of begging.  John Kelly (Lab, administrative) told of how he was approached every night by two, three or four more people (Seanad Eireann, Debates, 4th October 2011, 503).  One night last week, he was approached by eleven people and on another occasion he noticed American tourists being approached by  a beggar man with a black eye.  This sent out a bad signal to tourists visiting this country because this was not typical of the friendliness normally shown to tourists.  We need to legislate for this, he said.  What was happening was unbelievable.  There was financial help available to people in need and he saw the same people begging outside the social welfare offices looking for money from the community welfare officer.  He called for legislation on the basis of ‘three strikes and you are out’: if people were found begging three occasions or more, social welfare money should be docked from them.

 

Later, Paschal Mooney (FF, agricultural ) returned to the issue (Seanad Eireann, Debates, 20th October 2011, 962, 966).  Roma gypsies were operating in the city centre and in towns and villages across the country.  The garda issued a statement that one Roma gypsy barefooted beggar was found to have €1,500 on him and he had more runners in his house that Footlocker because people were buying runners for him on seeing his bare feet.  Well intentioned people should be actively discouraged from giving money to these people.  He was not referring to people out begging because of economic circumstances.  There was a well-controlled, organized group of Roma gypsies operating here.  There had been over 500 prosecutions under the new anti-begging laws introduced in February.  Begging was not a criminal offence, but aggressive begging was and it showed how aggressive they were that the gardai had secured 500 prosecutions.  Well intentioned citizens giving to barefooted beggars were contributing to a well organized crime syndicate.  He praised the gardai for the manner in which the group had been identified, for they had arrested many of them.

 

Catherine Noone (FG, industrial & commercial) agreed.  There were people of all nationalities in this country in difficulties, but these organized gangs did not fall into this category.  Roma gypsies preyed on the vulnerability of people like her, for she felt guilty when walking past these people and did not give them money.