Fresh wave of organised begging in city centre

Fresh wave of organised begging in city centre
Sleeping bags stored by commercial beggars on private property on Patrick Street, Cork. Photo: Billy macGill.

UP to 15 young people, believed to be from Romania, are currently begging in Cork city.

Rough Sleepers in Penneys doorway, Patrick Street, Cork. Photo: Billy macGill
Rough Sleepers in Penneys doorway, Patrick Street, Cork. Photo: Billy macGill

The group are believed to have flown in recently as part of an organised begging operation in which Romanian gangs target Cork and other Irish cities. The group are primarily in their 20s and target Patrick Street and other areas of the city centre.

Paul Sheehan from Cork Simon said the group do not engage with the local homeless services and appear not to speak English.

The group is believed to have background help, with duvets and other bed clothing being removed during the day in wheelie bins which are transported in vans.

At a recent Joint Policing Committee meeting in Cork city, Chief Superintendent Barry McPolin said that almost 40 arrests had been made for begging in June.

The meeting heard that an average of 18 to 20 people a month are arrested for begging.

It was a new wave of begging following previous clampdowns late last year.

City businesses and members of Cork City Council have hit out at the situation, urging gardaí to increase their presence on the streets in a bid to solve the issue.

Under the law, begging is illegal only when those begging are causing an obstruction.

It is punishable by fine of up to €500.

Meanwhile, the homeless services in Cork will come together at the end of next month to work out a winter strategy for the city’s homeless population.

Mr Sheehan said the winter strategy resulted in the provision of 15 mattresses on the floor of the Cork Simon day centre on Anderson’s Quay last winter; the mattresses are still available on a nightly basis from 11pm.

He explained that the winter strategy was due to expire at the end of March but an application to Cork City Council to extend it to the end of April was approved.

A further application was made to extend it beyond that and it has now been extended to the end of October, by which time the 2018/19 winter strategy is expected to have been set in motion.

He said the mattresses were always full in the earlier part of this year but the fine weather has resulted in a decrease in their use at present.

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