Almost 20 child victims of alleged paedophile ring identified
Gardaí believe extended family group and others abused children in Munster area
Alleged members of the paedophile ring are based in locations across Munster.
Gardaí investigating a major paedophile ring uncovered in Munster believe some of its child victims were groomed from birth to be abused.
Almost 20 children have been taken into care and away from the extended family-based setting where years of abuse is alleged to have taken place.
Gardaí believe some of the children were raped and otherwise sexually abused not only by relatives but also by people from outside the family who paid for access to the children.
Informed sources said the arrest on Monday of 11 people is “the tip of the iceberg” given the scale of the criminal inquiry now under way.
It is alleged that several generations of an extended family network were abusing young members of the family, as well as facilitating other paedophiles who paid for access to the children.
To date only a very small number of the children removed to places of safety by the Garda and health authorities have been in a position to give statements to the Garda outlining the abuse they endured.
Well-placed sources said even the most seasoned Garda investigators, some of whom have decades of experience in criminal investigations, were shocked by the harrowing extent of the abuse. They believe the case will become one of the most notorious in the State’s history.
Sources also say the nature and speed of State agency’s responses to the abuse when it first came to light is set to come under very close scrutiny.
The Garda inquiry into what is regarded as a family-led and large scale paedophile ring has been under way since the start of last year.
While the 11 arrests were made over the last 24 hours, the near 20 child victims were removed from their abusive family-based settings long before Monday.
The suspects arrested range in ages from their 20s and 70s and include six women and five men. It is understood all of those arrested are part of one extended family.
However, the arrest of abusers alleged to have paid the family for access to abuse the children is anticipated.
While the Garda’s investigation is headquartered in the Limerick division, alleged members of the paedophile ring based in locations across Munster.
More arrests are anticipated and gardaí believe their inquiries will spread to suspects now living outside the Munster region.
At present the focus of the inquiry is on contact abuse - involving the physical abuse of a victim - rather than internet-based offending.
The statement said the arrests were part of “an investigation into alleged sexual exploitation of children” in the Munster area.
The statement added: “All eleven were arrested in Limerick, Tipperary and Kerry and are detained at various Garda Stations in Limerick, Cork and Clare under the provisions of Section 4 Criminal Justice Act 1984.”
The detention of the suspects under those provisions allows for each arrested person to be questioned for up to 24 hours without charge.
However, that 24-hour period is suspended when suspects take breaks or sleep through the night. It means all 11 suspects can be held until Wednesday.