Councillor calls for prohibition of ‘professional begging’ on Athlone town’s thoroughfares

ronan Fagan

A local Fine Gael councillor has called for the prohibition of begging on the streets of Athlone.

Speaking at the most recent sitting of Athlone-Moate Municipal District, Cllr John Dolan, received concrete support from his fellow elected representatives in the council chamber for his motion, the general consensus amongst members being that the situation requires immediate addressing.

“It is so unsightly to witness individuals begging on the streets of our town, but this is now a regular occurrence on the streets of our town. The main issue I have is that such individuals are being dropped off in Athlone and are, by all accounts, ‘professionally begging’, which is, I believe, associated with criminality.

“These individuals are placed at similar locations in our town and I have regular representations from constituents, who have been followed and intimidated as they walk to their cars. I am aware that a number of local authorities are seeking to introduce by-laws in this regard and I would be hopeful that we would act accordingly.

“The local gardai must be in a position to utilise their discretion if they witness serial begging offenders, that is my view. This would curtail, if not eradicate this ongoing and problematic issue,” Cllr Dolan stated.

Affording his full support to the motion, Cllr Aengus O’Rourke, noted that those who begged on the streets of Athlone were not from the locality and were regularly “dropped off” in St Mary’s Square before occupying locations where they remain for the day.

“I have taken upon myself to try and speak with these individuals but they rarely, if ever, engage in conversation. They seem to be very steadfast in their begging purpose and similarly, to the words echoed by Cllr Dolan, it has been said to me by numerous constituents that they feel fearful and intimidated by those individuals who continue to beg on our main thoroughfares,” Cllr O’Rourke asserted.

Cllr Keena noted that he had no issue with those who “fall on hard times” and have no option to beg “just to get by”, but stated that those causing intimidation to constituents while begging must be addressed.

Independent councillor, Paul Hogan, echoed similar sentiments to those expressed by Cllr Keena, expressing his sympathies to those who have fallen on hard times and for whom, begging remained the only option.

“Such individuals are more likely, given their situation, to engage with the relevant and appropriate services.

“However, I firmly believe that there are organised begging rings in operation within our town. These individuals are being regularly transferred into Athlone in expensive people carriers and spend their day begging and intimidating at certain locations, namely ATM machines, car parks and popular businesses. This simply cannot continue,” Cllr Hogan stressed.

Mayor of Athlone-Moate Municipal District, Cllr Vinny McCormack, noted that begging was a problem on each corner of Athlone, but it was the intimidatory behaviour and instilling of fear into constituents that was most concerning.

Green Party councillor, Louise Heavin, also afforded her thoughts, stating that she was reluctant to support the motion at this time.

“Individuals who feel that they are being intimidated by those who are begging on our streets must be made aware that they should contact the Gardai in such an instance, while I am also of the view that there is a need for further outreach from St Vincent de Paul, the Simon Community and relevant social services with regard to those who have fallen on hard times and must beg to survive,” Cllr Heavin commented.

In response, the council executive stated that “begging in itself was not an offence in Ireland, remarking that the introduction of by-laws to prohibit begging is not considered to be warranted.

“Begging in an aggressive, intimidating, or threatening manner is a public order offence under the Criminal Justice (Public Order ) Act 2011 and the Gardaí have powers in this regard. There is also provision in the legislation whereby the Gardaí can direct people begging in certain areas to leave that area, for example, people begging at an ATM, a night safe, a vending machine or a shop entrance.

“It is also an offence to organise or direct someone else to beg. It is considered that this matter is provided for in national legislation under the Criminal Justice (Public Order ) Act 2011 and therefore the introduction of by-laws to prohibit begging is not considered to be warranted,” the council executive concluded.


Page generated in 0.1975 seconds.