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Gardai target beggars who scare shoppers

GARDAI have implemented a zero tolerance policy against 'aggressive begging' in north inner city Dublin.

Officers have been instructed to clamp down on the practice, which has escalated in recent months.

The zone being targeted includes Marlborough St, Talbot St, North Earl St, Lower Abbey St, Eden Quay and the Liffey Boardwalk.

The operation began on Monday when 30 arrests were made and will continue for four weeks, it is understood.

Dublin's Lord Mayor Gerry Breen welcomed the action

"I'm delighted that all the work over the last number of months with the gardai and businesses are coming to fruition and gardai are taking a strong stance," Mayor Breen told the Herald.

He said begging "has impacted negatively on the public domain and the commercial life of the city".

Gardai say the operation "will be a concerted effort to combat the anti-social/aggressive begging situations which have escalated".

Some 65 parents or guardians, who allowed their children to beg on the streets, were arrested during a nine-month period last year.

Mr Breen, who is a General Election candidate for Fine Gael in Dublin North West, said there was evidence of "systematic organised begging" in Dublin.

He said he came across eight beggars, who were mainly Roma, while undertaking a short walk in the centre.

The issue recently brought him into conflict with fellow Fine Gael candidate, Cllr Bill Tormey.

Mr Tormey, who is also running in Dublin North West, criticised the Lord Mayor for "coming out with appalling, reactionary, anti-social comments about begging".

He opposed Mr Breen's stance on beggars and said he found his comments "singularly offensive and anti-social".

The Criminal Justice (Public Order) Bill 2010, published by the Minister for Justice last year, will criminalise people who beg within 10 metres of the entrance of a business premises.

The Lord Mayor has called for it to be enacted without delay.

Under the terms of the legislation, begging will also be prohibited within 10 metres of ATM cash-dispensing machines.

The bill came in the wake of a High Court judgment that the current law, dating from 1847, was unconstitutional.

"In line with that judgment, begging will now be an offence where it is accompanied by unacceptable conduct such as harassment, intimidation or obstruction," according to a statement from the Department of Justice.

The offence carries a penalty of a maximum term of imprisonment of one month and/or a fine of up to €400.