Sunday 21 December 2014

Beggars in capital's centre 'working organised shifts'

Michael Staines

Published 13/08/2014 | 02:30

Richard Guiney, CEO of Dublin city business improvement district pictured on Grafton Street
Richard Guiney, CEO of Dublin city business improvement district pictured on Grafton Street

Beggars in Dublin city centre are working in organised shifts, according to one of the city's largest business groups.

Richard Guiney, head of DublinTown, called for a strengthening of the begging legislation, warning that the biggest issue facing the city today is the level of begging on the streets.

Mr Guiney urged the Government to allocate more garda resources to the city and backed Lord Mayor Christy Burke's call for the establishment of a city task force on drugs.

"I think we need a strengthening of the begging legislation. I'll be frank about it, that legislation isn't worth the paper it is written on," he said.

He said that group members have seen money being collected from beggars on the street, who he suggested are working in organised shifts.

"One person goes, another person comes. There's a bit of interaction and it's almost a changing of the shifts," Mr Guiney said.

The Restaurants Association of Ireland have also called for urgent action to deal with what they called "the escalating crisis of aggressive and often organised begging", which it says is leaving tourists feeling unsafe in the city.

"It is like a cash collection in a shop … certainly we would see that the majority of begging in the city would be of an organised nature," said Mr Guiney.

Roughan Mac Namara of Focus Ireland said it has been well reported that there are some organised beggars in operation in Dublin and most capital cities around Europe.

"There are people who are not genuine in this situation, as there are across all areas in society, but you mustn't tar everyone with the same brush," he said.

"We need to also be careful that we don't move towards a situation where people who are genuinely forced into begging are being criminalised and swept under the carpet rather than helped by society."

Mr Guiney also called on the Government to do more to protect tourist safety in the safety.

He said the Government does not understand the economic significance of the city's tourist core and needs to allocate more garda resources to ensure the area retains its reputation for safety amongst visitors.

Mr Guiney questioned whether the numbers of gardai in two of the city's largest stations were sufficient, pointing out that the small area from Stephen's Green to Parnell Street has a bigger footfall than the populations of the next four cities in Ireland put together.

Mr Guiney, who was speaking at the launch of the DublinTown brand, which is replacing the Dublin City Business Improvement District (BID), said that Dublin will be the "driver that takes Ireland out of recession".

He said that the group is willing to work with the Government to ensure the city has adequate resources, adding: "If that means assisting with funding additional resources then that is something that we will look at constructively."

Mr Guiney said that business owners should have a place on any task force set up to deal with the city's drug problem.

"Three out of every five visitors to the island of Ireland will be here on O'Connell Street at some stage on their trip.

"We need Government to understand that more and put the resources into Dublin."

"What we have at the moment is a concentration of all of the drug services within a very small space within Dublin city centre … that makes it very easy for drug suppliers," he said.

Irish Independent

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