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Saturday 2 December 2023 Dublin: 4°C
Sam Boal/Photocall Ireland

'Pick an apartment block in parts of Dublin and you'll find a brothel': The rise of the Irish vice industry

Children as young as 14 are being used for sex in Ireland.

CHILDREN AS YOUNG as 14 are being trafficked around Ireland, used as sexual objects for profit by pimps who manage to stay one step ahead of prosecution.

Flown in from countries such as Moldova and Latvia, the girls grow up and are then moved around the country to different brothels.

The Immigrant Council of Ireland along with prostitution support group Ruhama estimate that there are between 800-1000 women available to buy for sex nationwide at any one time. The biggest change in recent years, according to Ruhama CEO Sarah Benson, is that the women are now being brought in from Eastern European countries and sub-Saharan Africa.

While the days of the “underground Love/Hate style brothel” are almost over, Benson described how widespread the sex industry is, especially in the capital.

“Christchurch, Smithfield, the IFSC as well. Point at an apartment block there and you’ll find a brothel. It’s a very mobile and extremely profitable business for pimps. If you get thrown out of one apartment, you can be in another quite quickly,” Benson said.

“There have also been cases where children have been trafficked around Ireland. When Ruhama comes into contact with these people, they are immediately referred to Tusla.”

Benson added: “We have worked with minors. Some of the adult women we deal with would have been trafficked as minors.

If we do encounter a minor, we would notify Tusla. We have come across minors in mainstream brothels. Girls around 16 years of age. But there’s an issue around grooming. Kids in residential care are very vulnerable to being exploited but it’s usually done in a more controlled environment like private parties.

The Immigrant Council of Ireland also deals with trafficked women who are being used as sex slaves here.

CEO Brian Killoran told how the demand for prostitution has to be tackled and that attitudes need to change.

90377562_90377562 Leah Farrell / Photocall Ireland Sarah Benson, CEO of Ruhama. Leah Farrell / Photocall Ireland / Photocall Ireland

“We are part of Turn Off The Red Light and we are coming at it from the anti-trafficking perspective. What we see are very vulnerable women who are really marginalised. They’re abused physically, psychologically, financially. Sometimes they don’t even know what country they’re in. A lot of the time they have their passports or documents taken away from them. They are profited from and then moved around. There have to be more deterrents. We need to put the brakes on this trade,” he said.


While it is difficult to estimate the size of the sex industry in Ireland, Benson believes that the numbers they deal with in Ruhama are quite steady. They remain committed to giving women all the support they need to get out of lives of prostitution.

Earlier this year, the Criminal Law (Sexual Offences) Act 2015 passed through the Oireachtas meaning the buyers of sex would now be criminalised.

Ruhama has long advocated for legislation to focus on the demand of sex buyers as a key measure to curb expansion of the exploitative sex trade here.

The organisation has also advocated for many years for the repealing of the offence for soliciting for prostitution to give the clear social message that no person should be criminalised for their own exploitation.

Benson added: “Without demand there would be no supply. We witness every day the ugly consequences of prostitution and sex trafficking, where the most vulnerable women and girls from across the globe are targeted to be used in Ireland’s brothels. At the same time, in removing the offence for soliciting, the spirit of this law is clear: those in prostitution should not be criminalised.”

Read: Religious groups still owe €1.3 billion for institutional child abuse >

Read: Differences between the Grace terms of reference, before and after? There aren’t many, but they mean a lot… >

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