A national support group responsible for helping women involved in the Irish sex trade, has claimed Longford is in the grip of an “organised prostitution” crisis.
Anti-trafficking campaign body Ruhama came to the aid of over 200 women last year despite funding concerns, representing an 18 per cent increase in its service provisions.
Gerardine Rowley, the Dublin-based organisation’s communications and policy manager, said the rising demand for prostitution was not solely confined to Ireland’s larger capital cities.
“In more recent years though we have worked with an increasing number of women from the Longford area,” said Ms Rowley.
“We firmly believe there is an organised prostitution issue in Longford, just like there is in every other county.”
The figures, all of which are contained in the organisation’s 2011 annual report, also revealed the industry’s growing international dimension.
Last year, Ruhama assisted women from 36 different countries with just under half of recorded cases involving suspected victims of human trafficking.
The findings, Ms Rowley added, demonstrated how unpredictable Ireland’s sex trade has steadily become.
“It’s actually quite difficult to pin it (demand for prostitution) down to one place because of the very nature of the sex trade is to move women around almost constantly,” she said.
To win that battle, Ms Rowley re-asserted Ruhama’s long-held belief to criminalise the purchasing of sex, a stance which has formed part of its recently launched ‘Turn off the Red Light Campaign’.
It’s an offensive which she believes centres largely on the role played by concerned parents and the wider public.
“The Minister for Justice (Alan Shatter) is at the minute carrying out a consultative process in relation to all of this and what we would be asking is for people to submit their own views and ideas. Often people would look at something like this and say to themselves that it doesn’t affect them. But all of the women we have met and worked with are somebody’s daughter,” she said.