People are flocking to Galway to beg because they know there are “easy pickings” to be had during the summer months, a judge has warned.
Judge Mary Fahy said the people involved are not homeless and they are not migrants before she issued a warning at Galway District Court this week that they face a month in prison if convicted of begging.
The judge made the comments while dealing with Romanian national, Marian Avadanei (26), of no fixed abode, who pleaded guilty before the court this week to blocking the passage of pedestrians while begging at Wolfe Tone Bridge on Wednesday afternoon, July 5 last.
Defence solicitor, Michael Cunningham, who was assigned to represent Avadanei under the Free Legal Aid Scheme, said his client had come Galway two weeks ago immediately after arriving in Ireland.
His client had instructed him (through a Romanian interpreter appointed by the court) that he was homeless and sleeping rough in Eyre Square, accompanied by his grandmother, aunt and other members of his family.
Judge Fahy observed the man had only been in Ireland for two weeks and he was already before a court for begging. She told him begging was not permissible in this country and it carried a one-month prison term on conviction.
Hearing Avadanei was sleeping in Eyre Square, Judge Fahy asked him what was the point of him and his family coming to Ireland with no place to live and with no means to support themselves.
The interpreter said the man had told her he and his family had been brought to Ireland by a man from their village and were put to work with no pay.
“Who put them to work? Did they go to the Gardaí and report the people who brought them here?” Judge Fahy asked.
Avadanei said he wasn’t able (to report them).
Judge Fahy noted he had signed a bail bond in the Garda Station when he was first arrested last Wednesday and he knew he had to be in court this week.
Through the interpreter, he said the Gardaí had got another interpreter for him in the Garda Station. He had followed the instructions of the guards but he didn’t know what he had signed.
Judge Fahy said he could have made a complaint to Gardaí while the interpreter was in the Garda Station. “I have no clue,” Avadanei replied.
Judge Fahy imposed a one-month sentence on the accused for begging and she suspended it for twelve months on condition he be of good behaviour during that period.
She warned him that if he was brought before the court again for begging he would serve a sentence.
Avadanei signed a bond in court agreeing to the condition of the suspended sentence but Judge Fahy noticed he had just scribbled at the bottom of the document and she instructed him to write his name properly instead.
Through the interpreter, he said he couldn’t read or write.
Judge Fahy said it was odd how a person who claimed he couldn’t write his name, was able to travel to Ireland.
“It’s very difficult to understand that someone can’t even sign their name. They’re able to get here, they’re able to travel around the country, they’re able to get details of flights.
“The thing here is, these people are coming in as migrants because it’s summer in Galway and there are easy pickings and that is what is going on.
“I’m warning this man and others like him that if they come in here on similar charges they are looking at prison sentences because people in Galway are inundated with beggars during the summer.
“It’s very suspicious that they only come to Galway in the summer when things are getting good.
“They’re not homeless and they’re not migrants in the proper sense of the word,” Judge Fahy said.