New wave of organised begging on Cork streets

New wave of organised begging on Cork streets
Sleeping bags stored by beggars on Patrick Street. Photo: Billy macGill.

CORK’S top cop has confirmed that they are tackling a new wave of begging on the city centre streets.

The begging, which has filled doorways along the main shopping streets, has been described as a coordinated and professional operation.

Chief Superintendent Barry McPolin said gardaí had an average of 18 to 20 begging arrests every month in recent times and last month there were 36 arrests.

He said begging was a complex issue and dealing with it was not easy.

“We are arresting them and bringing them before the courts, we are playing our part. We have to act within the law at all times. We continue to work with others and collaborate,” said Chief Supt McPolin.

The chief executive of the Cork Business Association, Lawrence Owens, said he understood the legislation was somewhat limited but stressed that the issue cannot continue.

Mr Owens said that visually it was a terrible thing to happen to the city.

“I don’t think it would be tolerated in other cities, we need something tangible. The status quo is not good enough. We want action.”

Mr Owens encouraged the public not to give money to people on the street, but to give it to a registered charity instead.

“We are very giving people and they (the beggars) are playing on that very successfully,” said Mr Owens.

Fianna Fáil councillor Mary Shields said she agreed with Mr Owens and joined with him in encouraging people not to give money to people on the street.

“The public should be informed,” she said.

“These are not people in need, these are people commercially begging.”

Inspector John Deasy said the issue is complex and not easy to address.

“It is something that is discussed every day in our morning meeting at Anglesea station. We have proactive patrols which tackle areas where we know illegal activity is taking place.

“There are limits in relation to what we can do, but the matter is repeatedly before the courts.”

Begging is not illegal unless the person doing it is causing an obstruction or committing a public order offence.

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