THE alleged abuse and sexual exploitation of a number of young children in Limerick has been raised in the Dail this Wedesday, with Taoiseach Leo Varadkar referring to the crimes alleged as "shocking, abhorrent and truly disgusting".
Gardai have released without charge eleven adults who were being questioned as part of an investigation, with a file to be prepared for the Director of Public Prosecutions in relation to the matter.
One man was released on Tuesday evening, while the remaining four men and six women have since been released this Wednesday.
All eleven adults, who range in age from their early 20s to their mid 70s, were arrested during series of co-ordinated raids across Munster on Monday evening.
The issue was raised in the Dail this Wednesday by Fianna Fail leader Michael Martin, flanked by Limerick TD Niall Collins, who said: "The scale of what is alleged in Limerick is quite shocking and could represent a first in this country."
He raised concerns about the lack of implementation of the key recommendations of the 2012 report of the Garda Inspectorate relating to investigations of sexual offences.
Replying to Michael Martin, Taoiseach Leo Varadkar said: "Crimes of sexual nature are among the most heinous crimes that can occur and crimes against children are the worst crimes imaginable in my view.
"I am aware that the arrest of eleven people on Monday by An Garda Siochana. They have been released and files are now going to be prepared for the Director of Public Prosecutions.
"These arrested come as part of an intelligence-led investigatioon by the gardai into alleged sexual exploitation of children who are resident in the Newcastle West garda district.
"As the investigation is ongoing I can't say anything more about the details at this point other than to commend the work of the gardai and Tusla in making sure that these arrests happened.
"The crimes alleged are shocking, abhorrent and truly disgusting.
"I can inform the house the Government is fully committed to the protection of children - the Government will also ensure that the gardai are supported in the fight against all forms of sexual exploiation and abuse."
While investigations are ongoing, Mary Flaherty, CEO of CARI, which provides support for children who are the victims of abuse said what has emerged into the public domain about the alleged offences was "disturbing".