“SYSTEMATIC and organised” beggars on the streets of Ennis are taking advantage of the generosity of well-meaning local people, with some collecting up to €200 a day, it has been claimed.
A meeting of the Ennis Municipal District this week heard calls for an investigation to be carried out by An Garda, Revenue and other State Agencies, with councillors saying organised begging is taking much needed funds away from local charities.
The issue was highlighted by Councillor Johnny Flynn who said that people are being dropped off in the town centre to beg before being collected later. He said these are not local homeless people, but instead are “people plying their trade, it’s a business”.
He insisted that Ennis is “one of the safest and friendliest towns in the country” adding he is proud of the actions of gardaí when dealing with criminal behaviour. He said that the actions of organised beggars “has to be called out” and an investigation launched.
“We don’t want the message to go out that Ennis is not welcoming and that it is not generous to people who are in need, but from all the information that we have received people are being dropped off, and we are told that this is systematic and organised begging. This is a trade and there is significant money involved in it.”
He continued, “I understand some are collecting between €150 and €200 a day. This is very significant money. We are told that they are not locals, they’re not homeless in Ennis.
“If the trade that they are plying on the streets wasn’t lucrative they wouldn’t be coming into town and doing it. The most important thing is that Revenue and the Gardaí investigate it, but also that we have public awareness that these are people in the main from my understanding from local garda sources and from businesses, who are not people in need. We have a very generous community, we give generously, but this generosity is being abused.”
This was echoed by Councillor Clare Colleran Molloy who said, “The generosity of the people of Ennis is being taken advantage of.”
She added, “When the gardai endeavour to address the problem by having these people remove themselves from the streets, the public have taken that as a negative. That’s because we are a generous people and we don’t like to see what we would consider a homeless person to be adversely or negatively treated.
“But what we need to be mindful of is these are not as we think. We need to raise awareness amongst the people of Clare and Ennis that their generosity is not well placed here.
“We have a country that is well founded on protecting the vulnerable, we have a very robust social welfare social protection regime here, so therefore begging on the streets is not something that is necessary.”
Councillor Mary Howard stated, “It is organised, that is the reality of it.” She advised that if anybody wants to support the homeless then they should give people a hot drink or something to eat instead of money, or donate to homelessness charities.
She added that women have reported feeling intimidated by people begging in doorways, particularly during dark evenings.
“It did frighten them. If people weren’t as generous these people wouldn’t be in Ennis. Certainly we do have a homeless issue, but not everybody you see is homeless or needy.”
Mayor of Ennis, Councillor Ann Norton thanked local gardaí for a recent opportunity to meet with them saying, “It was very positive to hear Ennis is ranking very well.”
She said that organised begging is taking donations away from local charities who work with the homeless.
“We’ve always been very generous people across our county and I think it is something that the Irish are known for and is something to be proud of. But we have to be realistic here and we also have to encourage people to do the right thing. Doing the right thing is giving people the hot meal or the hot drink and supporting them that way, not by giving them the money because we don’t know what they do with it.”
Councillor Pat Daly commented, “Organised street begging is totally illegal and it needs to be investigated and to get it out of this town. Tourism is a big part of Ennis and you have tourists walking around the streets of Ennis and seeing this carry one, so I would hope to gardaí would investigate it.”
Leonore O’Neill, Senior Executive Officer, responding to the motion said, “Ennis Municipal District does not have authority to instruct or advise another State agency on the particulars of how to carry out that agency’s role. It is open to any member of the public to file a complaint with An Garda Siochana or to raise an issue with the Joint Policing Committee.”
Councillor Flynn concluded, “Money is leaving the locality donated by people thinking they are supporting people in need, whereas in actual fact we need to support people in need by supporting the charities working in the area.
“I don’t want to sound heartless, but we can’t be stupid. There are hundreds, if not thousands of euros a week being collected by these organised street beggars and no-one knows where it’s going.”