News John Drennan

Saturday 20 September 2014

Not all beggars equal in hierarchy of the streets

Sexism and ageism can actually work in favour of those who are looking for our spare change, writes John Drennan

Published 15/12/2013 | 22:10

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APPEAL: Our charitable instincts are more likely to be stirred by a woman in distress

Paddy has always liked to claim he is the most oppressed race ever. However, be it abroad in America or at home, he indulges in no shortage of prejudices.

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This even extends to those who have conquered their prejudices against begging, for there is undoubtedly on our streets a hierarchical system of donations.

This means that if Paddy has a charitable euro burning a hole in his pocket, some ethnic types are less likely than others to be the happy recipients of his largesse.

Generally, those who are lowest in the pecking order are Roma gypsies, particularly those who are carrying children, for they are 'professionals'.

Lest we be seen as being unfair to the Roma, foreigners in general are viewed with suspicion whilst the Traveller beggar, who, in fairness, is almost extinct thanks to our Roma friends, also has to work far harder.

There are also, of course, hierarchies when it comes to our native beggars. Those who are obvious drug addicts or 'skangers', to use the local vernacular, are viewed with far more distaste than the amiable drunk.

Beggars with a Dublin accent are also viewed with greater suspicion than those who hail from the countryside for the belief is that, whilst the feckless Dublin beggar is obviously responsible for his unhappy state, the country dweller is a lost soul who has been unfortunate in life.

Intriguingly, for once our endemic sexism works in favour of female beggars (unless they are Roma or Travellers) for we are always more likely to have our charitable instincts stirred by a distressed woman.

The fairer sex might prefer that the glass ceiling would be breached in the boardroom rather than on the pavement but one supposes it is at least a start.

Our other endemic national prejudice, ageism, is also reversed when it comes to beggars, for we will always favour the elderly over the young.

It all suggests that whilst all beggars are equally down and out, as with so many other areas of life, the role of prejudice in Irish life means that not all beggars are equal.

Instead, if you are to succeed in the begging trade, you are much better setting yourself up as an elderly white-haired lady as distinct from a drug-injecting Roma with a slurred Dublin accent.

Irish Independent

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