Published on September 9th, 2009 | by Eamon Dillon


Cork becomes Ireland’s vice capital

CORK prides itself on being the real capital of Ireland and that is now true when it comes to country’s sex-trade. Competing vice-merchants and international sex-for-sale operations have made the Rebel city a thriving hub for vice  Itinerant hookers from south American, Africa, and mainland Europe jostle for business against local vice merchants and knocking shops run by far-eastern crime gangs. Even one of Cork’s longest running brothels is still operating a walk-in service where clients get to pick the girl of their choice. Advertised as ‘Cork Dream Girls’ the sex-for-sale operation is based in the same premises as the old Phoenix Club on John Street.  Interested punters can phone a land line where nothing is left to doubt that sex is for sale.

The Phoenix Club is still listed on the internet under sauna, health and beauty with same phone numbers as Cork Dream Girls. They are directed to the premises and told to ring the bell. Inside the black door another steel door bars entry until a bolt is slid back and the door opened by a hooker dressed in skimpy lingerie. Punters are directed upstairs to bed rooms where the available girls are then introduced and the client as to make his choice. The hookers confirmed that for €170 a client can have full sex with some ‘extras’ available for more cash.

This week at least 100 prostitutes based in and around the city-centre were available for business in the afternoon. Many were based just a short walk from the main thoroughfare of Saint Patrick’s Street and some even based in the same city-centre apartment blocks. Prices ranged from €100 to €200 for a minimum of half an hour and none of them left any to the imagination when it came to explaining what was for sale.

“You can f**k me,” one hooker exclaimed.

Callers are directed to a landmark building such as the Opera House, the Gate Cinema or the Dominican Centre and told to phone back. Others operated near a shopping centre in Blackpool while the Mardyke was another landmark used to direct punters.

Once there, the ‘punter’ is given specific instructions to find the right apartment. The clients are then welcomed in by the prostitute usually wearing lingerie or almost fully naked. There are fears that many of the so-called ‘independent’ call-girls are effectively imprisoned in apartments. They are told by the pimps that they must have sex with ten to 12 clients a day to pay back their debts, according to a source. Some of those contacted by the Sunday World had almost no English which means they are most likely dependent on someone else to set them up in business.

The industry has grown despite regular Garda pressure including the investigation against local pimp Tony Linnane which saw a demand for a €4 million tax bill from the Criminal Assets Bureau. The 53-year-old also runs a thriving mail order sex toy company.  Irish vice merchants are in regular contact with foreign ‘agents’ who supply women at an agreed going rate. Cork is also home to a number of ‘massage’ parlours where sexual services are on offer for a price. The vice dens had become so prevalent the legitimate masseurs have to specify “not a sexual service” on internet advertisements.

The difficulty in securing convictions against people who profit from the sex industry was highlighted in a court case this July. A case against three women accused of running a brothel in CountyLouth was thrown out after a judge found that gardai had not properly identified themselves in a raid. To win a case gardai need to mount large scale operations, usually lasting several weeks, including surveillance teams to gather enough evidence against the pimps and madames.

The case against the three women in their 20s from Nigeria (who gave addresses in England, Dundalk and Cork) was thrown out. The judge agreed the warrant as an instrument authorising entry was redundant once gardaí entered the premises without identifying themselves.

This week, Ruhama, an organisation which helps women to escape prostitution revealed that “a significant proportion” of their clients were trafficked into Ireland.

Nigerian women seem to be particularly at risk while the report also found that six of the 361 trafficked women were under the age of 18. The Sunday World has previously revealed how one Kosovan Albanian crime gang organised the rape of a woman who had been lured to Ireland with the promise of a good job.

She was forced to work as a prostitute for five months before making her escape. In another case a 15-year-old was found working in a brothel in Dublin’s Christchurch after a raid by Gardai. The number of Irish women going into on-street prostitution has also “noticeably increased” in the past few months, according to Ruhama.

Spokeswoman Gerardine Rowley said the increase in on-street activity was probably attributable to the economic crisis.

“There has been an increase in this kind of prostitution, which is a new emerging issue, a factor of which may be increasing poverty.”

“We know from experience a significant factor leading women into prostitution can be poverty. Some women in dire financial trouble may see no other option.”

They include some women who left prostitution in the 1990s but have now returned to the streets in a desperate bid to raise cash. Ms Rowley also said the more desperate a woman was to make money, the more likely she was to engage in “high-risk behaviour”.

“We know men put pressure on women for unprotected sex.”

At the publication of Ruhama’s report, which covers 2007 and 2008, there were calls for the criminalisation of men who use prostitutes and for a Garda national vice squad to be set up. The report included a number of heart-wrenching personal statements of women who were forced to work as prostitutes.

One Irish woman told how she was forced into the sex trade by a relative when she was still in her teens.

“I was forced into prostitution at an early age and did not know what sex was until the clients showed me. It was terrifying but I knew I had to do sexual things or they would kill me.” “When I got away from prostitution I thought there would be no more pain and no more sadness. But when one has worked as a prostitute one finds that it affects your mind and how one feels for the rest of one’s life,” she said.

A Nigerian woman who trafficked to Ireland gave an insight into her despair. “I came to Ireland for a better life, trusting my helper. Few days later I became a prisoner, I was locked in a room. They were using me to make money. I was forced to have sex with different men which was organised by them.” “After sleeping with the men they paid money and my organisers would come and collect it from me. I became useless, meaningless, helpless and hopeless. No person to speak to, my world was turned upside down, no freedom. I have to do what they say. I was dying in silence,” she said.

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About the Author

Journalist Eamon Dillon writes about crime, con-artists, fraud and trafficking.

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