FIANNA Fail deputy Niall Collins has said he has faced a “barrage” of abuse online from those in favour of legalising prostitution after writing an opinion piece on how to tackle Ireland’s sex industry.
Writing in the Sunday Independent, the Patrickswell native said that efforts by gardai in Limerick to tackle prostitution through the use of anti-social behaviour orders “have met with a legal brick wall.”
Earlier this year, local gardai sought to bring these orders against eight Eastern European women in the city, who were allegedly involved in prostitution, but have since moved out of the jurisdiction. If implemented by the district court judge, the orders would have compelled the women to stay away from certain areas for two years. However, the legal proceedings were withdrawn and Judge Eugene O’Kelly suggested that gardai in Limerick should focus their attentions on men who pay for sex rather than on “vulnerable young ladies” who may have been brought in to this country under duress from organised criminals.
His views were backed up by Doras Luimni, the local support group for all migrants in the Mid-West, who argued that women potentially coerced or trafficked into prostitution were being further punished and used as “test cases” by the law.
Deputy Collins, however, the party’s spokesperson on justice and equality, has argued that “gardai need a strong legal framework backed up by real resources to tackle this crime at its roots.
“The withdrawal of the Asbo requests to remove several prostitutes from Limerick city centre due to legal concerns underlines the requirement to challenge the problem at its foundations,” he said.
Speaking to the Limerick Leader, he said he is not against imposing Asbos on sex workers, but believes they are “ineffectual” and would amount “to tackling the narrow end of the stick”.
Like many national organisations, which propose fundamental changes in the law to make the purchase of sex illegal, he too advocates adopting the Swedish model, which criminalises the purchase of casual sexual services and decriminalises the sellers. “The rationale behind the measure was that prostitution constitutes violence against women and is completely incompatible with gender equality,” he wrote.
“Ireland should move towards this type of legislation. The criminalisation of purchasing sex directly challenges the demand that is driving the industry. Its success in Sweden indicates its potential here in Ireland in curbing the industry. It would dispel any lingering sense that this is a victimless crime. He said Fianna Fail will be pressing for the implementation of a number of measures to address prostitution in Ireland, including increased penalties for trafficking for the purposes of sexual exploitation; increased penalties for organising or living off the earnings of prostitution; making it an offence of recklessly permitting a premises to be used for the purposes of prostitution; the regulation and inspection of premises advertised as massage parlours so as to eliminate those used for prostitution. In addition, he said that accessing of websites that advertise prostitution in should be treated in the same way as accessing sites that advertise or distribute child pornography.
He added that introducing new legalislation governing this contentious issue should become a matter of priority in the new year.