Ten in custody after gardaí break up suspected paedophile ring
Almost 20 children identified as victims of alleged abuse
It is understood that almost 20 children have been identified as victims of the alleged abuse. Gardaí believe some were groomed from birth to be abused. File photograph: Getty Images
Gardaí suspect young children sexually abused by members of a Munster-based suspected paedophile ring were drugged and woke up to find strangers raping them.
Ten suspects were still being questioned by gardaí last night following their arrest on Monday. Another person had been released without charge and a file was being prepared for the DPP. Six of those arrested were women and five men.
It is understood that almost 20 children have been identified as victims of the alleged abuse. Gardaí believe some were groomed from birth to be abused.
Concern has also arisen about the urgency of the response of the State when the allegations first came to light.
Those familiar with the case suspect it will lead to an inquiry into whether every possible measure was undertaken to ensure the safety of the children immediately the risk they were at became known.
It is understood specific concerns have been formally expressed by a State employee who works in the welfare sector and is familiar with the case.
That person has registered their concern with their employer that the case should have been escalated into taking children into care much sooner. It was unclear last night what action had been taken to investigate those claims.
The suspects were detained at various Garda stations in Limerick, Cork and Clare under Section 4 of the Criminal Justice Act
All of the children have now been taken into care and away from the family based setting in which the sexual abuse, including rape, is alleged to have taken place.
Members of three generations of an extended Irish family were arrested on Monday with the suspects ranging from their 20s to their 70s.
The arrests, sources said, represented “the tip of the iceberg” given the scale of the criminal inquiry now under way.
The same sources added even the most seasoned Garda investigators were shocked by the harrowing extent of the alleged abuse.
They believe the case could become one of the most notorious sexual abuse inquiries in the State’s history.
Paid for access
Gardaí are now investigating allegations that the young children, aged from newborns to about 12, were abused by people known to them and also by strangers. It is believed the strangers paid for access to the children for the purposes of abusing them.
The arrests that have already taken place came as part a major Garda investigation over the past year. To date only a small number of the near 20 children involved have been able to give statements to the Garda. Monday’s arrests were carried out on the basis of the allegations made by the children in those statements.
On Monday a team of gardaí, some specially trained to deal with victims of sexual violence, carried out a series of arrests in counties Limerick, where the investigation is headquartered, as well as Tipperary and Kerry.
The suspects were detained at various Garda stations in Limerick, Cork and Clare under Section 4 of the Criminal Justice Act; 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 the Garda could hold the suspects until early on Wednesday.
While the Garda’s investigation is headquartered in the Limerick division, alleged members of the paedophile ring are 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.