Following a Garda Clampdown on organised begging and claims from two well-known organisations that people are being forced to beg in Cork, the Evening Echo took to the streets to see what the general public think about the issue.
Nasc, which works to link migrants and ethnic minorities to their rights through protecting human rights, promoting integration and campaigning for change and Penny Dinners, a charity organisation which offers support to those on the outskirts of society, have both said they are aware of cases where vulnerable individuals have been lured to Ireland with the promise of a better life and employment.
These organisations believe that these individuals are being brought to Cork, from Eastern Europe, and forced to beg for money that they must then give to their trafficker.
Catriona Twomey of Penny Dinners said she is aware of five individual cases, in the past few months, where “distraught and frightened” individuals were assisted by Nasc and the Garda Trafficking Unit to return to their home country.
Mrs Twomey said that the issue of organised begging is “big and widespread.”
“Take a walk down Patrick Street at 11pm at night and see how many people are sleeping in doorways. It is shocking,” she said.
Almost everyone the Evening Echo spoke to said they would give money to someone begging on the street if they felt they were a genuine case, but most said that they also felt that organised begging was a step too far.
Head of Community Policing Stewart Philpott said he would encourage people to give to reputable charities where the money is accountable than to give money to people on the street.
There is a lot of organised begging in Cork. There are definitely people being forced to beg in Cork, you can see it is happening. You can tell who is genuine and who isn't. There are certain people I wouldn’t give money to. Little can be done about it, unless you crack down on the people allowed in the country. There are a lot of people coming into the country without proper visas.
Some people have no choice but to beg on the streets, but for others then it is a day’s work. You get to know the regular ones and you look out for them. But there is a business element to it, you can’t stop begging. I feel for people who have to beg. Especially in the cold winter weather. I do give to beggars.
Begging is not ideal, but I think it is a reflection on the economy. Yes, I give to beggars, but it is a double-edged sword, I would prefer to give them a sandwich and a cup of tea. Organised begging is miserable, it takes from the real people in need. There is definitely more begging in Cork than Wexford. I am not sure what can be done.
I think it is a reflection of the true state of the economy. I think that society is recovering in certain areas and then the lower middle class and the poor are in severe financial difficulties. Now the people that are begging, they are there through economic circumstances or various issues such as addiction.
Organised begging is something I don’t approve of. It is a con. A multi-faceted approach is needed to change things.
I think it is a big problem, you see a lot more of it on the street now that you did maybe ten years ago. Organised begging is a problem because you don’t know they are if they are organised or not. I do give to beggars, I prefer to give them a sandwich if they didn’t want that I would be suspicious of them.