Yvonne Kinsella: We might like to ignore it but the 'oldest profession' is far from dead
WITH nearly 1,000 escorts advertising their services on just one website in 29 of the 32 counties, prostitution in Ireland could not be described as a dying trade.
The internet has changed the face of the sex trade in Ireland completely. From practically anywhere in the country, you can dial a mobile phone number and have an escort on hand to cater for your every need in roughly an hour.
This week on the 'Tom Dunne Show' on Newstalk, we heard from escorts who are so in demand that they actually go 'on tour' in groups, renting hotels and apartments around the country to cater for the desires of a sex-hungry nation.
I set out to see for myself just how available this business really was and if the girls looked anything like the quintessential 'hookers' we see on TV in stilettoes and mini-skirts.
I found the reality very different. The women and the one man I met weren't trading down back alleys or on dimly lit streets; they were selling their bodies in plush hotel rooms or spacious luxury apartments throughout Ireland.
At an average of €240 an hour, they definitely don't come cheap.
The first escort I met was 'Alice', a woman in her late 30s who flies into Ireland from the UK every three or four months to 'service' her regular clients. 'Alice' has also been involved in the porn industry as well as working as a escort, but earns up to €1,000 on a good day, selling her body around Ireland.
On meeting me in a hotel room in Limerick, she reveals that she has had many a 'Pretty Woman' moment.
At least three or four times a year, she is whisked off by an Irish client, who not only pays for her to go around the world on his arm, but pays her €7,000 a week to do so.
Alice caters for men in their 30s, 40s and 50s. She is in the trade, she says, of her own free will and because the business is so good in Ireland she likes to travel back and forth as often as possible, renting apartments on short-term leases.
Clyde, in his 40s, is one of just three men who operate with their girlfriends to provide sex to men, and some women, in Ireland.
Having got into the business just over a year ago, while using escorts himself, Clyde found himself falling in love with Bonnie, one of a number of women he was visiting. Overnight, he went from being a successful businessman to a male prostitute.
He told me: "I started coming to visit Bonnie over a year ago. One day she suggested that I should go into the business myself.
"I took some photos on an old camera and uploaded them to the ad agency where she advertised. Within minutes I had three calls.
"The first time I had sex with a client, I was green. He never spoke, never told me what he wanted and I was very nervous. But as soon as the second customer came in and he told me exactly what he wanted, I relaxed. I had to just think of it as work and put everything else to the back of my head. But having Bonnie with me made it a lot easier.
"Our clients are mostly men. We get the odd couple, but we get a lot of men in relationships or married men who want something different."
HAVING chatted to Clyde, I spoke to a number of girls all sitting around in the large kitchen of this luxury apartment, sipping tea and taking numerous calls for bookings.
One girl was from Romania, two were from the UK and Bonnie, who is from Brazil, all told me they were in the business because they wanted to be. They had not been trafficked in, had no pimps and could make up to and beyond €1,000 per day.
They claimed that they do what they do because it means they have the potential to make huge amounts of money in very little time.
Rachel, from Romania said: "They pay me €240 for an hour but in reality most of the time it only takes three minutes. They are out the door as soon as it's over because some of them are so scared that someone may see them."
John, not his real name, in his 40s rang into the show on Tuesday morning. He agreed to tell us his story if we could distort his voice.
At 40, and a virgin, John, a successful businessman, went to avail of a prostitute on a back street in his home county. It was, he admits, a great experience, and the second time it was even better.
He is now a regular customer.
Roy, also not his real name, in his 30s, also called the show to tell us that he had spent around €3,000 over a five-year period on escorts.
A young Irish woman rang in to say that she was currently a student and working as an escort to get her through college.
Having met six escorts over a number of weeks, I found that most of the girls working in Ireland were foreign and they came to Ireland because the sex industry is booming and men are prepared to pay for sex. And pay well.
These girls have regular clients and certainly claim to be in the industry of their own free will. We can all argue that they are deluded but the least we can do is listen to what to they have to say and make up our own minds.
Yvonne Kinsella is a reporter with the 'Tom Dunne Show' on Newstalk 106-108.