Roma input sought in meeting on shoplifting

MEMBERS of Cork’s Roma community have been invited to a special meeting next week to discuss recent complaints about alleged shoplifting in the city.

The meeting follows controversy over the decision by a business woman, who claims her shop was targeted by women wearing traditional Roma dress, to display four large A4-sized colour photographs of members of the Roma community under the word “beware”.

Joan Lucey, who owns the independent book store, Vibes & Scribes, said she felt she had no option but to display the photograph.

She claims members of the group were involved in alleged shoplifting, and have intimidated her staff.

Ms Lucey said: “We are being made out as the villains here when in actual fact, we are the victims. The bottom line is I need to protect my staff and stock.”

The Cork Business Association (CBA) said it supports Ms Lucey’s actions. But the move drew criticism from the Cork Anti Racism Network, which described it as “racial profiling”.

Gardaí confirmed yesterday that they have identified some of the individuals in the photographs and are investigating the possibility of issuing ASBOs – Anti Social Behaviour Orders.

Fiona Finn, chief executive of Nasc, the Irish Immigrant Support Centre, said she felt that the photographs and caption implied that the women were dangerous.

She said members of the Roma community are a “marginalised and excluded group” and she was concerned Ms Lucey’s actions were “in danger of invoking negative sentiment towards this ethnic minority”.

She visited Ms Lucey’s shop to hear her side of the story and said while Nasc is very sympathetic to her plight, she advised her that displaying the photographs may not be the correct course of action and that the matter should be dealt with by Gardaí.

“We offered to assist her in any way we could. We asked her if she would remove the photographs and cautioned against taking the law into her own hands,” Ms Finn said.

“We offered to contact the Gardaí on her behalf, which we did, and they are taking the matter very seriously.

“We also asked Joan if she would like us to try to find someone who could act as a intercultural liaison for her, which she agreed might be a helpful idea.”

Now, a meeting has been arranged by the Cork City Partnership, a local development company which promotes social and economic inclusion.

It will be attended by members of the Roma community, Nasc and by Gardaí.

A spokesperson for Cork City Partnership confirmed it is working with the Roma community and others to “support them in addressing issues of concern to their community”.

“One of the key aims of Cork City Partnership is to respond to the needs of communities that experience extreme forms of social exclusion in the city,” the spokesperson said.

“We do this by working in a collaborative way with the community and other relevant partners in the city.”

Ms Finn said she hopes the meeting will help all involved to “reach a sustainable solution to the wider issues raised” by Ms Lucey.

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