France is right ... let's boot out muggers
Why should Irish people be afraid to walk on their neighbourhood streets, asks Eamon Delaney
A few months ago I wrote about begging and anti-social behaviour in the Phibsboro area of Dublin, the busy near to inner-city district where I live, and the way it was emblematic of a wider carelessness and dysfunction in our society. I got a great reaction to the piece, since we have all had to experience this sort of harassment and disfigurement of our neighbourhoods.
However, if anything, things have got worse since I wrote the piece. It involves junkies and winos, but the situation has worsened specifically because of the Roma gypsies who have increased in presence and activity, much to the dismay of the shopkeepers, residents and visitors to the area (the Mater hospital is nearby). Ever-present on the streets, the Roma seem to be emboldened by the inability of the law to effectively deal with them and have now resorted to new activities which have caused particular alarm. One is the targeting of old people: surrounding them begging and then pick-pocketing them, or just plain mugging them, out of sight. They have also targeted the infirm and old people coming out of pubs or shops. One speciality is to watch the pensioners coming out of the post office after they have collected their pensions and following them. Such were the muggings that the gardai briefly put a watch on the post office on pension Fridays. Imagine this: elderly people who have been living all their lives in the area, and enjoy the daily walk to the shops and the pavement banter (it really is like a country town) and now suddenly they are fearful of venturing out because of the harassment, and worse, of professional beggars who are only in the country a few years. Is this fair?
The other Roma activity which causes alarm is casual prostitution. I thought this was exaggerated until I came across it, in a lane, while walking with my children. Roma girls turning tricks in the lanes around Dalymount. Incidentally, I have myself witnessed all of this behaviour. For this is how brazen it is. The Roma are housed, at our expense, all around the area, as well as in Gardiner Street and Dorset Street, and you can see them going off to 'work', or being dropped off from vans for shift-system begging, with plastic dolls for props, or (unbelievable cruelty) real babies, half-wrapped in the bitter cold to draw sympathy. The gardai have become much more visible about dealing with them, in fairness, but there's only so much they can do. A conviction is water off the Roma's backs, just as it is in other European countries.