Fears new sex laws in North will drive crime South
There are fears that the Republic could become a soft target for traffickers, pimps and thugs following a new legal ban on paying for sex in the North.
The landmark vote in the Assembly at Stormont this week paves the way for the ban to become law in Northern Ireland.
Stormont's Justice Minister David Ford, leader of the Alliance Party, opposed the historic clause in the Human Trafficking Bill. Opponents of the ban claimed it would merely drive such practices underground. However, it passed by 81 votes to 10.
Paying for consensual sex is currently legal in the North - although soliciting, brothel keeping and pimping are against the law.
The Immigrant Council of Ireland warned that pimps who see their business collapse in the North may increase their activity south of the border.
The Council was one of a number of organisations from the Turn Off the Red Light Campaign which appeared before the Stormont Justice Committee to brief members ahead of the vote.
The council's chief executive Denise Charlton said: "The vote sends a direct message to pimps and traffickers that Northern Ireland is no longer open for business - however, there must now be genuine concerns that gangs which are losing out in the North will concentrate south of the border."
She said: "It is time for TDs and the Government to end the delay in introducing similar laws here and prevent that happening. Minister for Justice Frances Fitzgerald has already spoken of targeting demand to smash the business model for pimps and traffickers.
"Together with the 72 partners of the Turn Off the Red Light Campaign, we are encouraging her to follow her words with action before traffickers exploit the difference in laws on both sides of the border."
The new laws in Northern Ireland are proving controversial with a former senior police officer warning they are well-intentioned but ill-thought out.
Jim Gamble, who previously headed up the Child Exploitation and Online Protection agency, said he believed the PSNI would struggle to enforce the new law - and that police will want to engage those who are trafficking and forcing victims into the industry.
The PSNI said it gave the move by the Assembly "qualified support".
Sex workers said it would drive the industry underground and put them at risk.