Ahern asked to curtail use of mobile phones as sex industry infrastructure

Thu, May 28, 2009, 01:00

MINISTER FOR Justice Dermot Ahern will consider the possibility of removing certain mobile phone numbers from the State’s phone system in a bid to curtail the growth in prostitution.

The Minister was responding during Dáil justice questions to Denis Naughten (Roscommon-South Leitrim) who highlighted the report of the Immigrant Council of Ireland, which estimates that the sex industry in Ireland is valued at €180 million a year.

Mr Naughten said there was a clear connection between brothel-keeping and criminal activity. He noted the report of the Independent Monitoring Commission, which “suggested that the Continuity IRA is involved in this industry”.

Referring to Operation Quest, a Garda operation against brothel-keeping, Mr Naughten said one of its conclusions was that “mobile phones are the lifeblood of this country’s brothel-keeping and prostitution industry.

“If certain mobile numbers were to be taken off this country’s mobile phone system, that would immediately close down a huge proportion of that industry.”

Mr Ahern said “that is something the gardaí can look at”.

Mr Naughten said “looking at it is no good”. The Fine Gael TD also said “a crackdown on brothel-keeping and prostitution is taking place in other parts of Europe.

“Red-light districts in the Netherlands are being reduced by one-third because the authorities in that country have decided that their liberal policies are failing.

“New legislation that is being introduced in the UK will lead to a clampdown in that country. Unless we are prepared to tighten this country’s laws, there could be a growth in this industry here,” and “it will be a more lax regime”.

Mr Ahern insisted that Ireland’s legislation “in respect of brothel-keeping and the sex industry in general is strict and strong”.

The Garda had recently established a human trafficking investigation and co-ordination unit, and he cited a number of Garda operations which “focused in particular on non-Irish nationals who have been brought to this State for the purpose of employment in the sex industry.

“Gardaí have been working quite successfully with their European counterparts in this respect,” Mr Ahern added.