Prostitution in the Republic of Ireland

See Prostitution in the United Kingdom for information about prostitution in Northern Ireland.

Like in the UK, prostitution itself is not illegal in the Republic of Ireland, but the law criminalises many activities associated with it. Female 'escort' prostitution is widespread in Irish cities.

Forms and extent of prostitution

There are no up-to-date reliable figures estimating the number of women or men currently working in prostitution in Ireland.

For many years prior to the 1990s, most female prostitutes worked on the streets, but, since this time, brothels marketed as escort services have been the most prevalent form of prostitution. The industry is highly organised. Advertising in print publications is illegal, but a very developed Internet advertising medium exists. There has been massive economic growth over the last 10 years and male demand for female prostitution services has also increased in this period. A survey carried out in the neighbouring UK in 2005 found that the number of men paying women for sex had doubled in the last 10 years. 81% of the respondents to a survey of Irish escort clients carried out by an Irish escort website in 2006 said escort websites had encouraged them to use escort services. Foreign prostitutes are now commonplace in Ireland and Ruhama, an organisation working with women involved in prostitution in Ireland, reported to the government in 2006 that they knew of over 200 women trafficked into Ireland in recent years.

Legal situation

Prostitution itself is not an offence under Irish law. However, the Criminal Law (Sexual Offences) Act of 1993 prohibits soliciting or importuning another person in a street or public place for the purpose of prostitution (This offence applies to prostitute and client.). It also prohibits loitering for the purpose of prostitution, organizing prostitution by controlling or directing the activities of a person in prostitution, coercing one to practice prostitution for gain, living on earnings of the prostitution of another person, and keeping a brothel or other premises for the purpose of prostitution. Advertising brothels and prostitution is prohibited by the Criminal Justice (Public Order) Act of 1994. 18 is the minimum legal age for a prostitute in Ireland (Child prostitution Legislation exists to protect persons under this age.). The Criminal Law (Trafficking in Persons and Sexual Offences) Bill 2006 recently came into force making trafficking in persons for the purpose of their sexual exploitation a specific offence, though previous legislation already covered much of this area.


In the late 19th and early 20th century Dublin's Monto district was awash with brothels and reputedly the largest red light district in Europe, but the 1920s saw the decline of Monto, as the Legion of Mary led by Frank Duff successfully crusaded to close down the brothels of Monto and bring religion to the area. The oldest profession in the world continued to exist in the form of individual women selling their bodies on the streets in cities, but it was a long time before organised prostitution was seen again.

The first signs of the return of organised prostitution in Ireland occurred in the 1970s. Whilst street prostitution continued to account for the majority of prostitution, a small number of women started moving into more organised indoor prostitution situations, either working out of houses or flats in the cities or in new 'mobile brothel' vans that toured the countryside. When drugs started hitting Ireland in a big way in the 1980s, drug addicted prostitutes and low-level pimps became a feature of the streets, and the prostitutes who weren't on drugs and the customers started moving indoors rapidly. The Criminal Law Sexual Offences Act of 1993 then made soliciting an offence for both prostitute and customer and outdoor prostitution further declined. By the 1990s the age of the brothel, and the brothel-keeper, had truly returned. Society seemed accepting of discreet, indoor prostitution establishments and every week In Dublin magazine was full of escort advertisements for brothels, which were usually the business operations of a small number of men and women, who knew running brothels was illegal, but were prepared to take the risk, given the massive profits involved. The blatant wealth of Ireland's brothel-keepers in the 1990s was such that the media began to take more interest. The violent murders of prostitutes Belinda Pereira and Sinead Kelly in 1996 and 1998 respectively then brought prostitution further into the public eye. Section 23 of the Criminal Justice (Public Order) Act 1994 prohibited the advertising of brothels and prostitution and in 1999 the Censorship of Publications Board banned In Dublin magazine from carrying escort advertisements. Criminal proceedings were also brought against the magazine's publisher, Mike Hogan. The In Dublin magazine case heralded the end of escort advertising in print publications, but Ireland's first escort website, Escort Ireland, had already established itself the previous year in order to take over In Dublin magazine's role. 1999 also saw the launch of Operation Gladiator, a police operation targeting those who profit from organised prostitution. It was the first operation of its type and lasted under a year, but in that time it identified and built cases against several major Dublin brothel-keepers.

In recent years there have been two further police operations. Operation Quest was launched in 2003, with the aim of tackling human trafficking, prostitution and criminality within the lap dancing industry, followed by Operation Hotel in 2005, with the aim of tackling the trafficking of females from Eastern Europe to work in the sex industry in Ireland.


See also

External links

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