THREE Irishmen will be investigated by gardai after a sting caught them attempting to pay a young girl to perform sexual acts in front of a web camera.
The trio, two of whom are believed to be parents, are among more than 1,000 suspected predators, spread across 65 countries, listed in a dossier a Dutch children's rights charity has handed to Interpol.
The charity, Terre Des Hommes, led a sting operation in which suspected paedophiles were led to believe they were talking with a 10-year-old from the Philippines called Sweetie.
A sophisticated computer programme that generated lifelike images of a child was used to trick the suspects, all of whom offered to pay the girl if she performed sexual acts.
A team of researchers was able to gather personal details from online conversations with the virtual youngster and it was established that three of the men lived in Ireland.
"A couple of the Irish guys had children of their own," a researcher involved in the project told the Herald. "That was one of the most terrifying things that we saw."
A garda spokesman revealed that the force now expected that information on the Irish suspects would be passed to the Domestic Violence and Sexual Assault Unit at Harcourt Square in Dublin, which deals with the sexual abuse of minors.
"This sort of information will be treated extremely seriously and we will carry out our own investigations once the information is received from Interpol," he said.
The dossier of evidence not only includes the names of suspected paedophiles, but also footage of them taken via their own webcams.
Terre des Hommes director of projects Hans Guyt said the practice of what he called "webcam child sex tourism" was a largely unknown but quickly spreading form of child exploitation that has had tens of thousands of victims in the Philippines alone.
"Rising internet usage and persistent poverty in the developing work have fostered the emergence of a rapidly growing new form of online child exploitation," he added.