Beggary was seen as a threat to society on a number of fronts, yet, the practices of mendicancy and alms-giving were also framed by a universal sense of Christian obligation amongst all classes of society to assist those poorer than themselves. The example and teaching of Christ, as expounded in the New Testament, was intrinsic to the language of private and public charity in this period and deeply influenced how individuals and corporate bodies perceived and responded to begging. The long-held distinction between the ‘deserving’ and ‘undeserving’ poor coloured approaches to beggary. Begging and alms-giving were central features of the public discourse on the question of the poor of Ireland and their relief. This discourse was shaped by wider social and economic factors, and in line with these fluctuating forces societal perceptions and responses varied.
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