Insp Patrick McMenamin of Pearse Street Garda station told councillors on the Dublin Regional Authority last month that 540 beggars have been arrested and 110 cases have been processed by the District Court since February.
Almost two-thirds of arrested beggars are “foreign nationals”, mostly Roma Gypsies, for whom begging was part of their culture and seen as a legitimate way of making a living, Insp McMenamin said.
“For us to try to change that culture here would be like trying to change people in Dublin from drinking Guinness; it’s their culture and they do not see anything wrong with it.”
A large proportion of this money was confiscated following raids on a bus which leaves Dublin each Saturday for Romania.
During one raid in July, the bus was stopped in Dublin Port and a “barefoot beggar” who operates on Grafton Street in Dublin city centre and who is known to gardaí was found to be carrying €1,800 in €50 notes.
“While he may look pretty sad on Grafton Street, I can assure you that he is manipulating people who are giving him the money.”
People who were genuinely moved by the man’s plight had been known to buy footwear for him in sports shops on Grafton Street, Insp McMenamin said.
“It’s known to ourselves that people will go in and buy him runners.
“He has more runners I think than the Foot Locker at this stage.”