Brothel workers who led to a political storm
Media frenzy was far from prostitutes' minds, says Jim Cusack
Published 21/02/2010 | 05:00
Creating a political and media frenzy was the last thing on the minds of sex workers Marcia Da Silva, Joiceline Costa Dos Santos and Ana Christian Dos Santos when they arrived in Ireland in 2008. The three Brazilians were hired to come here to work as prostitutes by the same network that operates Ireland's largest prostitution ring. Back home the three would probably never have heard of Ireland, never mind Limerick, Defence Minister Willie O'Dea and certainly not the local Sinn Fein councillor Maurice Quinlivan.
Likewise, Councillor Quinlivan would have been unaware of the identities or working lives of the three Brazilians at the apartment on Clancy Strand owned by his brother, the IRA man Nessan.
Neighbours in the Castlecourt Apartments were more certain of what was going on, with men calling to the apartment at all times of day, always unaccompanied. They alerted gardai at the end of 2008, and a surveillance operation quickly showed that the suspicions of residents were well founded.
The apartment was raided on January 14 last and the three women who were, gardai said, in various states of undress, were arrested. In the apartment gardai also found €500 in cash, a laptop computer and six mobile phones.
Marcia, 42, whose whereabouts are unknown, admitted to renting the apartment. She had arrived in Ireland on a student visa but attended a college in Dublin for only a day before being taken to Limerick. She pleaded guilty to keeping a brothel under Section 11 of the Criminal Law (Sexual Offences) Act 1993. The other two, aged 32 and 31, pleaded guilty to assisting in the management of a brothel.
Judge Tom O'Donnell imposed suspended sentences and, after hearing that all three came from "origins of deep poverty", returned the €500 to them so they could travel back to Brazil. He told them to be out of Limerick within three days.
Thousands of women from such backgrounds travel here from all over the world each year to work as prostitutes, and the case in itself was of little interest. What did make it stand out was that the apartment in which the three women operated the brothel was owned by the infamous IRA man Nessan Quinlivan.
He made headlines in September 1990 when he was arrested in Britain along with Northerner Pearse McAuley near the Hampshire home of brewery executive Charles Tidbury. Mr Tidbury's name had previously been found on a death list in an apartment in Clapham in London used by the IRA. The list named a series of high-profile British Establishment figures whom the IRA intended to assassinate. His home was under armed guard and the two IRA men were challenged and arrested a short time later with guns in their car.
Quinlivan and McAuley were charged with conspiracy to murder and remanded to Brixton Prison, but were smuggled guns and shot their way out in July 1991, escaping back to Ireland. They became the most wanted men in Britain with their faces plastered across newspaper front pages. Both were eventually tracked down and arrested by gardai in 1993, McAuley in a house in Connemara and Quinlivan in Limerick. Both had guns and received four-year sentences. Shortly after his release McAuley was one of the IRA gang that shot dead Detective Garda Jerry McCabe and seriously injured his colleague Detective Garda Ben O'Sullivan.
Mr O'Dea, a couple of months after the apartment raid, made reference to "Northern Bank" money, the huge amount of cash stolen by the IRA in December 2004 and believed to have been distributed out among people who played prominent roles in the IRA's terror campaign.
Speaking to Limerick Leader reporter Mike Dwane at the launch of the Fianna Fail local government election campaign at the Clarion Hotel in Limerick on March 9 last, Mr O'Dea said: "They [Sinn Fein] are running a big campaign. The money from the Northern Bank must be stretching fairly far. Quote me on that. While occasionally we send out letters to planning applicants on the wrong paper, we have never been involved with anyone who shot anybody, or robbed banks, or kidnapped people."
It was then that he made the further remark about the raid on the brothel being run from Nessan Quinlivan's apartment and, as he said, himself: "I suppose I'm going a bit too far . . ."
Reporters had been asking Willie O'Dea about issues Maurice Quinlivan had raised about his team of civil servants who were carrying out constituency work. Councillor Quinlivan had issued details of what he said was "unsolicited" correspondence from the minister on Department of Defence-headed paper to a woman in Caherdavin on a planning issue. Councillor Quinlivan had stated that this was an abuse of office and a misuse of taxpayers' money.