Longford’s sex trade is booming, with prostitution services now available in almost every rural town in the county, it has been claimed.
Ruhama - a national group which assists those caught up in the industry - warned of an ever greater rise in the number of women working on streets and seeking help following the launch of its 2010 report this week.
Alongside more well established urban centres such as Dublin and Cork, the agency said it had found evidence of organised prostitution within the county, citing Edgeworthstown as being among its 26 new referrals dealt with last year.
According to Geraldine Rowley, Ruhama’s communications and policy manager, other isolated pockets of the county are likely to have been affected by the gradual upturn in organised prostitution.
“Absolutely,” Ms Rowley replied when asked if prostitution had spread across County Longford. “Obviously there is a market in the Longford area for this. In fact just this morning (Tuesday) I logged on to a website and found 12 women advertising these services in Longford.”
Based on its annual report, Ruhama supported 204 women last year, representing a four per cent rise on the previous year.
The agency also revealed there was a nine per cent hike in the number of women found working in street prostitution and seeking help.
Many of those caught up in the industry and referred to its services for the first time in 2010 were discovered working in indoor brothels or as escorts.
Ms Rowley said it was now incumbent on legislative leaders to make the necessary changes by heaping pressure on those behind Ireland’s growing vice trade.
“There has to be other people facilitating this in terms of setting these women up in apartments. Women have told us that while they get a percentage of the money there is nearly always a third party involved such as protection rackets where they would have to pay pimps.
“What we are saying is that those who are buying sex are part of this tolerance and they are fuelling prostitution,” she said.
Ruhama has also called for tighter laws governing the control of mobile phones and the internet so as to clamp down on advances in organised prostitution.
“If a garda closes down a premises in Longford where this type of activity is going on that doesn’t really inconvenience the pimps as buyers (of prostitution) would just follow the phone number,” she maintained.
The reports also revealed almost two thirds of those trafficked into Ireland for sex last year came from Nigeria, with individuals also coming from countries such as Albania, Moldova, Ghana, Cameroon and Romania.
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