A six-year-old boy who was being prostituted by his parents has been rescued after an EU-wide investigation into paedophilia.
Detectives raided a house in Tipperary and placed the child into the care of the State.
Gardaí were acting on information received by European police agency Europol last December, after communication was made with the Garda Paedophile Investigations Unit.
Video footage of the abuse was discovered online.
Officers tracked down the internet provider address which was traced to a house in the south region of the county.
It is believed the parents were prostituting their son online to be sexually abused, according to an informed source.
"This is the worst case we've ever dealt with," the source said.
"It involves the absolutely horrific treatment of a child."
The rescue came as a result of an emergency care order being granted at a district court hearing in Tipperary last week.
This order allowed gardaí and social workers to take the boy away from the adults he was living with and allowed an urgent medical examination.
Gardaí contacted the offices of a Child and Family Agency social worker last week, informing them that a house would be searched due to concerns that a child living there may have suffered sexual abuse.
Detectives who had examined the online images and were involved throughout the investigation identified the rescued boy as the child who appeared in a number of disturbing pictures and videos online.
Investigating officers also discovered a number of items, including "implements and blankets", which were visible on the sick footage. Gardaí believed there was an immediate risk to the child's safety and put him into foster care.
A month before contact was made between the two agencies, Europol hosted a Victim Identification Task Force to harness international co-operation.
Over 12 days, experts in victim identification from 11 police agencies in nine countries worked together at Europol in an attempt to identify victims of sexual abuse and exploitation.
This Europol-coordinated effort led to 240 new collections of material being uploaded to Interpol's computer database and additions were made to more than 100 collections already present there.
It was hoped that the combined initiative would result in a better chance of child victims being identified.