ONLY in Ireland could a situation arise in which gardaí face unprecedented public opprobrium for doing their jobs.
Having arrested and prosecuted 21 men for solicitation in Limerick, garda chiefs were expecting a few congratulatory slaps on the back. Who could blame them? Headlines screaming about the proliferation of prostitution are a staple of local and national newspapers, and implicit in every article is criticism of the gardaí for not doing more to curb this ancient crime.
So, gardaí in Limerick put on their thinking caps and Operation Freewheel was born. Two female gardaí, at personal risk, posed as prostitutes on a street corner and a series of arrests, admissions, and convictions was secured. So far, so good.
Instead of receiving plaudits for proactively tackling widespread, and blatant, criminal activity in one of Ireland’s biggest cities, the garda sting operation has been denounced.
Why? Because the men were named in newspapers — instantly earning them “prostitution martyr” status among their incensed supporters.
The strangled logic goes like this. It’s okay to name junkies, drunks and general ne’er-do-wells in newspapers after they’ve been convicted of crimes, but it’s not right to name so-called respectable family men who solicit sex.
While four national newspapers, including the Irish Examiner, printed the names of those convicted, the Limerick Leader had an existential crisis. Its editor, Alan English, said the publication was taking a principled stand and declining to name the men.
“These men have now paid a very heavy price, far more than the €470 imposed by Judge Eamon O’Brien. We do not doubt that the fallout for them, and for their families, will be considerable. On this occasion, given the circumstances involved, we have chosen not to compound that pain by identifying them in their local newspaper,” said an editorial explaining the decision.
Strangely, the newspaper felt no such empathy in June when three young Romanian women came before the same court charged with a number of prostitution offences.
On that occasion, the newspaper not only printed the full names and address of the women, but it also printed pictures of them standing outside the court waiting for their case to be called.
Patently, one only gets to keep one’s name out of the paper if you’re paying for, and not selling, the sex…