We need your help now

Support from readers like you keeps The Journal open.

You are visiting us because we have something you value. Independent, unbiased news that tells the truth. Advertising revenue goes some way to support our mission, but this year it has not been enough.

If you've seen value in our reporting, please contribute what you can, so we can continue to produce accurate and meaningful journalism. For everyone who needs it.


A sex worker went on Ray D'Arcy to talk about her campaign ... she wasn't happy with how it went

Laura Lee, a Dublin-born law graduate, accused the host of being hostile and aggressive. Some listeners agreed. Others found it thought-provoking.

A SEX WORKER who went on Ray D’Arcy’s RTÉ radio show this afternoon to talk about her opposition to planned new laws criminalising payment for sex has criticised the host as ‘unprofessional’ in the wake of the interview.

Laura Lee, an independent escort based in Glasgow, has been campaigning against changing the law to criminalise those who pay for sex in the UK and Ireland for years.

The Dublin-born law graduate announced earlier this year that she planned to use European human rights legislation to overturn Northern Ireland’s new law making it illegal to pay for prostitutes – a version of the so-called ‘Swedish Model’.

The law came into effect at the start of the month – and Frances Fitzgerald, the justice minister, has confirmed the Irish Government is planning similar laws.


Lee, who has also worked in financial services, said she would campaign for a judicial review, in the event that the mooted change in the law comes into effect in the Republic.

“Sex workers rights are human rights,” she argued, after beginning the interview with a brief discussion on how she became involved in the industry, and her current work in Scotland.

“For example at the moment in the Republic if two women work together in an apartment for safety  that’s not permitted – it’s deemed a brothel, so they can both be arrested and fined for ‘pimping for one another’ while still being deemed vulnerable victims by the State.

And what does that mean? It means they’ll both end up with a criminal record which actually makes it harder for them to leave the industry.

Most women involved in prostitution “are just perfectly ordinary women trying to feed their children in a recession,” Lee argued.

lee2 An article about Lee's campaign in The Guardian in March. Guardian Guardian

A increasingly tense, but civil, discussion with D’Arcy then followed – in which the host challenged her accusations against groups campaigning in favour of the new laws (she alleged, essentially, they were in it partly for the government funding – an accusation D’Arcy panned as “daft”).

They also disagreed on the success of laws elsewhere in the world criminalising men who pay for sex.

The answers got shorter, and the questions a little more pointed, as the exchange continued…

D’Arcy: “Would you not be better off campaigning to stop trafficking and to stop the vulnerable getting into sex work in the first place?”

Lee: “How we stop trafficking is we make it a safer environment for sex workers and open the channels of communication between us and the police.”

D’Arcy: “Another way of stopping trafficking is to reduce demand. Already in Sweden they found that traffickers now don’t see Sweden as a place they want to work.”

ray2 RTE RTE

Lee: “How do you propose to decrease demand, though? There’s never been a society without prostitution and there never will be.”

D’Arcy: “You will decrease demand, because the type of men … some of the men who go to prostitutes, they say in research that if there was a deterrent – and criminalisation would be a deterrent – that they’d go ‘we won’t do it’. They’re not addicted to it.”

Lee: “So, what happens then is that as sex workers we’re left with the dross – the people who really couldn’t care less and have criminal records as long as their arms?”

[Long pause]

D’Arcy: “Is that what you’re saying?”

Lee: “Yep… That’s my experience.”

D’Arcy: “Well they’re there already… So that’s not an argument… They’re there already.”

Towards the end of the interview, D’Arcy asked her if the experience of engaging in prostitution was degrading.

D’Arcy: “Is it not horrible?”

Lee: ”No, it’s not horrible at all. It’s no more degrading than any other form of work – I mean, I worked in a bank for nine years and that was horrific. That was corporate prostitution.”

D’Arcy: ”Hmm. Yeah, but – you know…”

The segment came to an end on a polite note – with Lee responding ‘pleasure’ following the presenter’s sign-off and ‘thank you’.

Online, later – the campaigner said D’Arcy’s tone had been hostile and aggressive.

Some listeners also thought it was a tough interview…

Others, meanwhile, found it more thought-provoking…

The folks at campaign umbrella group ‘Turn Off the Red Light’, which supports Fitzgerald’s plan to change the law, were also listening…

Read: The North’s strict new sex laws have kicked in. What does that mean for the Republic?

Read: Lawmakers told that prostitution is sexual violence and that domestic violence is a crime >

Read: Over 300 women affected by trafficking and prostitution needed help last year >

Readers like you are keeping these stories free for everyone...
A mix of advertising and supporting contributions helps keep paywalls away from valuable information like this article. Over 5,000 readers like you have already stepped up and support us with a monthly payment or a once-off donation.

Your Voice
Readers Comments
    Submit a report
    Please help us understand how this comment violates our community guidelines.
    Thank you for the feedback
    Your feedback has been sent to our team for review.