New anti-begging laws enacted today will enable gardaí to move on anyone begging near ATMs, night safes or shop entrances.

The laws, brought through the Dáil by former Minister for Justice Dermot Ahern before his retirement, establish a new general law for the control of begging.

Current Minister for Justice Brendan Smith said: ‘Under the new law, a person who begs in an aggressive, intimidating or threatening manner will be guilty of an offence.

‘New powers will enable An Garda Síochána to direct anyone begging near ATMs, night safes or shop entrances to leave the area.

‘I believe that power will be all the more effective because it is directed at specific locations. By avoiding the need for prosecutions and sentences, it represents a more effective way of dealing with the problem.'

New legislation had been deemed necessary as the High Court had found that the old law, dating from 1847, was unconstitutional.

There are two new offences created by the Bill, one on the organising and directing of begging and one on living off the proceeds.

The new offence carries severe penalties of up to five years imprisonment or a fine of €200,000, or both.

‘I am well aware that those who beg are often coping with severe personal circumstances, but I feel the public want to see that the public order aspects are addressed.

‘I am very pleased with the approach taken in this new legislation. It is focussed on begging when it becomes a public nuisance, while also ensuring the people involved were given ample opportunity to avoid a prosecution for a criminal offence,’ said Mr Smith.