Children have been going missing from State care and ending up working as sex slaves in brothels for at least three years, leaked US embassy cables reveal.
Health Service Executive (HSE) officials made the shocking admission during a private briefing of diplomats from the American Embassy in Dublin.
Details of the disclosure were contained in cables obtained by the Irish Independent through the whistle-blowing organisation WikiLeaks.
Cables reveal how foreign-born children who went missing from HSE care had been ending up in the sex trade as far back as 2008.
The disclosure was made to US diplomats conducting research for an annual report on people trafficking in Ireland.
According to one cable, the HSE said some foreign children who went missing from care had been retraced to brothels, restaurants and private households where they may have been used as domestic slaves.
The missing minors were found in various towns throughout the country.
Disturbingly, the unnamed HSE officials admitted statistics on the number of these children were not being maintained.
A February 2009 cable, detailing a HSE briefing, said gardai had located two minors - both missing from HSE care - in the sex industry during the previous year.
The cable, which gave a detailed assessment of Irish efforts to combat people trafficking, was forwarded to the office of US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton.
According to the dispatch, HSE officials believed Chinese children were at greatest risk of being trafficked.
They also claimed traffickers bringing such children to Ireland were likely to be non-nationals who preyed on their compatriots.
When a child under the age of 17 arrives in Ireland without a parent or guardian, they are automatically placed in foster care or hostel facilities administered by the HSE.
However, each year dozens of children go missing from care. It is suspected many end up in the hands of the traffickers who arranged for them to come into the country in the first place.
According to the cable, gardai indicated trafficking gangs were increasingly targeting Ireland due to the ease with which children could escape from HSE facilities.
Briefings received by the embassy between 2006 and 2008 indicated there was no evidence at the time to substantiate suspicions children were being trafficked into the sex trade in Ireland.
However, for the past three years the HSE has acknowledged in briefings with American officials that trafficking of minors into the sex trade is happening.
- READ FULL STORY AND ANALYSIS IN TODAY’S IRISH INDEPENDENT
Also read more WikiLeaks revelations in today’s printed Irish Independent newspaper:
- How government turned a blind eye to CIA terror flight claims;
- How government knew IRA were behind Northern Bank heist;
- How kidnap of Irish priest almost scuppered Philippines’ peace process.