Girls on the Street – the Need for a Welcome – Jim Finucane

(When I called Jim Finucane to ask him for permission to use his 1980 report in 2013 I expected to be talking to an unrecognisable old fuddy duddy, but the same bloke who wrote this was still alive and well inside an older body. That was a rare treat.) 


In this report I interviewed a number of girls who make their living ‘off the street’. These are their stories or more aptly their lives. The least they deserve is understanding and help. What they do is nothing more than a job to them. They provide a service which is widely availed of. All they gain from such an occupation is some money, along with the risks of being beaten up and abused. There is no satisfaction in what they do either physical or otherwise. It is said that the difference between man and animal is that man is supposedly able to control his natural instincts. Of course there are quite a few amongst us who would not qualify for such a distinction. They need an outlet and these girls provide the necessary service which, if not provided, would surely lead to more serious crime.


Adults are no more than oversized children. Children overbound in honesty, sincerity and sensitivity. Adults for their part develope their traits of avarice, greed, ambition and selfishness at a rate which leaves their better qualities swamped. One can have faith in the young but so little in the old. Children represent all that is good, innocent and pure no matter what type of devilment we often find them in. Yet in our society we glare and shudder at children who don’t come from the same backgrounds, go to different schools and even eat different food. We don’t allow our children to play with these children in case they would prove to be a bad influence. We disturb and interfere in a child’s world, unreal as it is, it is often a far happier one than our’s. We judge people by the area or district they live and this dictates what type of schools and hospitals they will have.

On one occasion, in fashionable Nassau street, I came upon a little itinerant girl crying furiously on the pavement. She had been badly beaten about the feet. But the busy fashionable people just walked over her, annoyed that they should be inconvenienced in any way. But that little girl was used to being walked upon, beaten and ignored. She is not alone.

The girls I met are tired of being trampled on, used and abused in a careless fashion. From the street to the courts from the courts to the institutions and from the institutions back to the streets. A stinking whirlpool of abuse and ignorance. They have heard the politicians social workers and all the other vocalists. As Yeats once said “the catch cries of the clowns”. The women’s groups and movements and associations and tea parties all uttering the same artificial and unreal nonsense. Confusion seems to be their main characteristic. Sects and splinter groups all so fragmented that when they do cry out, it is usually an infinite deal of nothing. This problem seems to be so intangible and unmanageable that it is left in the hands of the semi-religious fanatics. My God, if only religion would be practised and not preached. But then again, if it was we would have a perfect society.

If this report is to achieve anything it will give recognition to a problem that has been so distasteful to so many for so long. Perhaps eventually people will be treated as people.


Linda was born in Cork city. Her parents were unhappily married which led to a bad family atmosphere. She does not remember much of her early childhood and perhaps that is a good thing. Her father is a vague figure except for the times he used to beat her mother. These beatings, which were savage and regular, terrified Linda and stand out clearly in her mind. When she was seven her mother ran away to England taking both Linda and her younger sister with her and placed them in separate children’s homes.

Linda’s new home was an institution run by an order of nuns in Hammersmith. The atmosphere was forbidding and cold. Strict rules and regulations were the order of the day and they were vigorously enforced. Misdemeanours were punished by beatings. Although she managed to read and write, she got little formal education here. Bright and creative, she never got the opportunity to develop her own talents. Nor did she develop any friendships with the other children, quite a few of whom were Irish. A sensitive child, she felt different and lost and, unlike others, she had no one to relate to in the outside world except her mother. Even her younger sister was kept totally apart from her.

Six years later her mother took Linda back. By this time she had remarried, but this marriage was not to last long. Her new relationship with Linda was formal, uncertain and mistrustful. After a short period, she was placed in another home. A year and a half later she went back to her mother who had meanwhile left her husband and gone to live with another man. In her new home Linda’s position changed little until one day her real father appeared and sought custody of her. Shocked and confused, she tried to run away but was picked up by the police and returned like lost property to her mother and guardian. Still determined to escape, she managed at the age of seventeen to get back to Ireland and to an aunt in Dublin. This was her first attempt to find her true self and make a fresh start. Her aunt was unconcerned however, and once more Linda was to feel worthless and unwanted.

Alone, one day in O’Connell Street she made friends with a girl who seemed to understand and care about her. Unknown to Linda however, her new friend, Patsy was ‘on the beat’ in Dublin. Patsy persuaded her to go to Belfast, where life would be better. With nothing else to do and nowhere to go, Linda embarked on a journey that would prove to be the turning point of her life. Promises of better times in Belfast faded and it was then that Patsy revealed what she did in order to survive. Linda felt trapped. Existence at the cost of selling one’s body daily would label her with a brand she would find extremely difficult to shake off. But how else could she survive? Confused, uncertain and even more alienated than before she found herself on the side of the street one night performing ‘an act of love’. Her bitterness was deepened by a prison sentence in Armagh gaol. Here in the company of girls who had spent many years on the streets, she was forced to accept the new roles which had been thrust upon her. On her release she was deported once more back to England. She had to resort to shoplifting to keep above the breadline. For Linda crime certainly did not pay. Caught shoplifting, she was placed in a detention centre similar to Loughan House and the only privilege she had there was access to a library. The inmates were again the ‘hard cases’ and they instilled in her the determination to work the more lucrative areas and so make supposedly tremendous amounts of money. This advice was not to be of much benefit to her.

Only four weeks after her release, she was again arrested and this time sent to a special women’s prison which was devoid of any educational facilities whatsoever. At the ripe age of 19, she had nothing to take her mind off a lifetime spent in a grim triangle of orphanages, prostitution and imprisonment.

It was on her release three years later that she met the man who was to dominate most of her life. It would prove to be a long, unhappy relationship. He was an unstable, insecure type, already married, but separated from his wife. Linda and he began living together and for a while it seemed that she had found some degree of security at last. Unfortunately however, he was sentenced to six months imprisonment for a driving offence and Linda found herself on her own again. Not quite on her own because she now had a child to support. With no income whatsoever and no one to turn to for help, what was she to do? The answer was simple and dreadful, as she had been off the streets for two years. It was around this time that she discovered she was expecting her second child. Her common law husband was also released around this period. Instead of helping her recover from her ordeal he forced her back on to the streets impressing on her the obligation to make some real money. He assumed the position of her ‘ponce’ or ‘pimp’ – both of which terms refer to a specific form of animal. Her situation became a living hell. Several times she tried to escape but he always managed to trace her. He would then punish her. Each punishment meant a savage beating. Not only did she fear for herself, she also came to fear for her two children.

Her hours on the street usually started at seven and ended at one in the morning. The hours extended when they moved to Ireland and the red light district of Dublin. Her area was Baggot Street where she was forced to earn up to £100 a night. This meant some very long hours but there was always a large and eager clientel about. Her clients were among the most eminent of Dublin’s elite – most of them in prominent and responsible positions, the kind everybody looks up to. Perhaps everybody should look a little bit closer.

The whole vice scene in the Dublin of that period exploded when certain allegations were made by a Dublin newspaper. The activities of a number of people were made public and Linda’s pimp, one of the more noted ones, was forced to flee the country. She then had to commute between Ireland and England to deliver her ‘earnings’. She eventually plucked up the courage to leave and went into hiding in Dublin.. He came over twice to try and trace her, but was sent back each time to face other charges. She was finally left alone and so was at peace with herself.

Linda is still in Baggot Street but hopes to give it up fairly soon and buy a house for herself.


When Dolores was younger she became friendly with a girl who had already started on the streets. She was gradually persuaded to do likewise. The opportunity to make what seemed easy money appealed to her and for a while money had her in its control. Over the years, her outlook changed and she now wishes that her life had not turned out the way it had. A lot of people, she feels, have only one chance and this chance should be guarded and watched. But how can you get some people to listen when they are bent on learning the hard way?

She is acutely aware of how society regards her and the other girls. The stigma attached to her way of life offends her deeply. She admits she had made mistakes but do other people have to be so anxious in reminding her? A notable exception was the legendary Det. Sgt. (Lugs) Brannigan. He respected the girls at a time when nobody else would. ‘An understanding and kind man’ she describes him, and ‘a thorough gentleman’.

Dolores neither dislikes men nor bears any grudge against them. She feels quite sorry for some of her clients because they are unhappy and on-several occasions has spent time with them talking over family problems and giving advice when she can. In an out of court many times, she has on more than one occasion seen a familiar face on the Bench. But that is life and life has its ironic twists in showing people up in a different light.

Dolores has been on the streets for nine years now although there are scars on her face to remind her of rough times, she has retained a strong sense of humour. Looked upon as a bit of a veteran, she helps and advises the younger girls, she feels that she has a responsibility towards them.


On meeting Ann for the first time it was difficult to associate her with prostitution. Attractive in a quite, unassuming way, she is sensitive and almost unbelievably gentle far the harsh and unprotecting society she finds herself in. She had a happy and protected childhood. It ended at the age of thirteen when she had to work to help support her family. With little education she got a badly paid job in a textile factory. All she wanted out of life was to get married and have lots of children.

It was her fiance who made her take to the streets. Her nature was too trusting and she was very easily led by him. He is still her pimp. He takes all her earnings and if the sum is unsatisfactory she receives a beating. Her life is one of constant fear and depression and she has been hospitalised a few times. She often thinks about suicide.

She remembers her first night on the street and how upsetting it was. In deep distress she went for help to the Legion of Mary but the only thing she received was a lecture on the immorality of what she was doing. All she can do now is to shrug her shoulders. Every night of the week she spends ten minute intervals with a number of different men – mostly middle aged officials, politicians and priests. There aren’t many people left to believe in although the idea of a help-centre run by girls who had themselves been on the streets but escaped from it, appeals to her. Girls might actually get the advice and concern she never got.

Already twenty-eight she feels she will never fulfill her ambition of marriage and children. But she hopes to escape from her present situation at some future stage. The only time she has to herself at present is when she visits churches and graveyards.


Tina, the daughter of an unmarried mother, had a disturbed childhood. Expelled from school and sent to a special institution at Killmacud, she was in frequent trouble with the law. Her first appearance in the children’s court was at the age of seven. Lacking a real home and family she became something of a loner with an affection for all kinds of animals. She smiles now when she talks of joining the I.S.P.C.A. while still very young.
Her own collection of stray animals was quite extensive and unique.

Life didn’t improve when her mother got married. It got considerably worse. Her new father took no interest whatsoever in Tina’s welfare and refused to support the family. With her mother out at work all day it became Tina’s responsibility to bring up and provide for the younger children. This adult role was further moulded when she lost her virginity at the age of 12. Three years later and still only 15, she was introduced to the streets by a friend who later committed suicide.

Tina has been ‘on the game’ for a long time now. Working on her own she puts all her earnings into the care of her young daughter and the flat they live in. With the exception of taxi-drivers, whom she finds understanding and helpful, she dislikes men intensely, yet shrugs her shoulders at any talk of giving up the streets. After one such attempt she was evicted from her flat for falling behind with the rent so she had to go back to the only way she knew of making money. Most of her clients are politicians, civil servants and priests. With such a clientel she feels she can’t turn to anybody for help or advice. She hasn’t a high regard for the Legion of Mary, who in her opinion are ‘a bunch of do-gooders doing more harm than good’. Harshly critical of the vice squad, she relates stories about certain detectives who use the girls themselves and charge a fee which supposedly protects them from being picked up.

Tina’s only friends now are those on the street. They are mostly illiterate and tend to drink heavily though her own form of escape is through the use of drugs like valium. She isn’t optimistic about the future. She can only think of it as a miserable extension of the present. Her only hope is that her daughter will not end up like herself.


When Gloria was 17 she was viciously raped. This horrifying experience stands out explicitly in her mind and even to talk about it now, more than a year later, relives the nightmare. No amount of comforting or advice from friends could console her and she turned away from other people. Her mental anguish gave her little peace of mind and feeling dirty and unclean she constantly washed and bathed herself in a vain attempt to rid herself of a feeling of violation. Learning to mix with other people again wasn’t easy. Tormented by the memory of what she had experienced she found it difficult to trust or believe in anybody. For a 17 year old girl to go through such an experience and then to be humiliated and degraded by the complete lack of understanding shown by those who investigate such crimes must surely tax one’s level of endurance. Reflecting on her present life, she often thinks that she is saving someone from experiencing the kind of ordeal she went through.

Gloria insists that she has no pimp. She is in love with a man to whom she frequently gives money. He knows that she is on the street but regards it as a mere job. Whenever she is with him she feels it is all worthwhile. Her times with him seem to be her means of escape. He has never harmed her in any way. But sometimes she has doubts about what she is doing. Being branded as a prostitute offends her. Young, intelligent and attractive, her friends are anxious that she puts her life in order. As she is only eighteen they feel she has a chance. Whether or not she succeeds remains to be seen.


Lisa was five and a half years of age when her mother and father split up. Herself and her three brothers were put into the custody of their grand-parents. By all accounts their grand parents proved to be as good as any father and mother could be. But Lisa’s grand-father suffered from cancer and required a lot of attention and care. Lisa could see that her grand-mother was fully occupied in caring for her grand father, so she decided not to infringe and to go to England. She was fourteen when she arrived at the doorstep of her mother who had since married again. Her re-unification with her mother was marred by her step-father, whom she despised. After some time she decided to leave and travel to the bright lights of London, she was fifteen years of age just then. A spectator at a football match, she met Ken. Ken was older than her and did not seem as silly or as dull as the other boys she had met. Ken was a drug addict. After a while with him, Lisa began to take light drugs herself. It seemed to ease the tension and make her relax in a way she never thought possible. Her trips took her into a kind of dreamland, away from the hard real world she was used to. She began to sleep with Ken and it wasn’t long before she found herself pregnant. All this time she was sure she loved Ken and that he loved her. Now she grinds her teeth and smokes in a hurried fashion when she thinks of him. She went back to her mother not telling her that she was pregnant, but her mother soon found out and forced her to leave. From here she went to Manchester and worked in a bar. Lonely and with her world collapsing around, she tried to kill herself by taking an overdose of drugs. Ken learned of her ordeal and went to see her in Manchester. They decided to get married. ‘Christ’ and she shakes her head in disbelief now. Her married bliss was to last two years. Her first little girl was just four months old when she realised she was pregnant again. One night Ken came barging in doped with drugs and drink and proceeded to give her a beating which left her senseless. Following this she had a miscarriage and lost her child. One day whilst out shopping she returned to find Ken in bed with a friend of her’s. She threw both of them out and decided to go to Birmingham. Placing her daughter with an aunt she left but returned after a short while because she missed her little girl. She rented a house and soon found herself pregnant for the third time. She went into hospital and gave birth to her second baby girl. Returning to her house with her second child she began to wonder how she would manage and considered placing her children up for adoption. She was now seventeen years of age and alone witn two young babies. One of Ken’s friends, Tony, helped her out frequently, and gave presents to the children. He wanted her to forget about Ken and live with him. A bit confused, she still thought she loved Ken. Her mother finding out about her trouble and her drug habit wrote to her and asked her to come to Dublin. Lisa did hot know that her mother was now on the street in Dublin. Selling her furniture and anything she could not carry, she, along with her two children, moved to Dublin. Her mother explained to her that she had a job at night and worked long hours. Lisa got suspicious and so she followed her mother one night. She followed her to the banks of the canal when she realised what her mother did for a living. One night, alone with her mother, she said she intended to go on the street. Her mother advised her that ‘it was up to herself’. Prospects of easy money and the opportunity of providing her children with all the things she never had, persuaded her to take this step. She is now nineteen and has been on the streets for some months. She works for herself, but has been approached by pimps and so far she has been able to ward them off. Hoping to give up this way of life after two years she would like to have a house of her own. Vowing never to marry again, she reflects on how she would like to work with mentally retarded children or children in need. To this day she smokes hash, takes acid, and drinks heavily. One must have some escape.


Pimps or ponces are the men who effectively control the lives of most of the girls on the street. The relationship between the prostitute and pimp is rather strange, and often difficult to understand. Most of the girls in question feel inadequate and insecure and very often they will cling to anyone who offers them a sense of belonging to something. Then, trapped in the control of the pimp, they lose what little freedom they had.

When people spend most of their lives drifting from one institution to another their lives are completely controlled by those who often don’t have their best interests at heart. Then when left to their own resources they are unable to cope and so flounder in their own inexperience. This usually happens when they are young and at an impressionable stage and are willing victims for men who pretend to care. At first pimps can be quite nice to their girls to build them up for the time when they become money making machines and nothing else. Given targets to meet in their earnings, life becomes very hard and unbearable. Failure to meet these targets can mean severe beatings which often require hospitalisation. Scared and alone it is only a question of resignation to a life of living hell.

Pimps strive to gain the fullest control over their victims and often get engaged or married as evidence of their “caring”. Marriage, which is often the only ambition of these girls, takes on a new light for them and so perhaps their only dream or ambition has been destroyed. Disillusioned and trapped they become resigned to their fate. Beatings, abuse and fear further force acceptance of their role in life.

There are 98 girls on the street in the Upper Baggot Street and Canal area. Approximately only 8 of these work without a pimp. Those who do have to work for pimps, usually have to earn £80 per night before they are allowed to leave their beat. Only the monies they make above the £80 mark are they allowed to keep for themselves, about £30 or £40 a week. With this they have to feed and clothe themselves along with paying for their accommodation. Some land-lords who would know of what they are involved in often charge exorbitant rents.

In this same area there are approximately 40 pimps. Each pimp averaging £480 per six nights of a girl’s work. Taking this figure it would give an average of £19,200 per week of immoral earnings from one district in Dublin.

These girls must surely be the most exploited group in our so called Western Civilization.

In Fitzwilliam Square there are about 20 English girls. This area is their sole ‘beat’. I understand that most of these girls have to earn over £100 per night. Their pimps seem to be mostly Jamaican.


The ‘Legion of Mary’ has a centre for these girls in Herbert Place in the heart of the ‘red light’ district. It seems to be of little benefit to the girls who visit there. The Legion provides neither shelter nor advice, just religion. Preaching but not practising. To these girls, who usually have priests and other religious as clients, religion seems rather meaningless. A lot can be done to help these girls as well as imploring God’s help. Perhaps we just would not like to soil our hands in this fashion.

I was hungry
so they prayed
but my belly still ached.

I was naked
so they prayed
but I still fought with the cold.

I was alone
so they prayed
but I have no friends.

I had no home
so they prayed
but I remained lurched in a doorway.

Dear God
deliver me
from your people.


The vice squad consists of different units attached to the stations in and around the “red light” district. It is not the most stimulating work for the detectives in question due to the inadequacy of the present laws and their work proves monotonous and frustrating. Nightly patrols are conducted in the relative areas and the usual arrests are made. Girls are charged and appear in court the following day. A fine or a prison sentence ensures that some of them will be off the street for a short while at least. Sent to Mountjoy, they receive very little help or guidance and when they leave they return to their former activities. It is a question of survival.

With the uncovering of the ‘Johnny Grey’ epic by a Sunday Newspaper a few years ago certain allegations were made which brought the reliability and honesty of a number of police officers into question. The complete story was never unfolded.

Activities which a number of police men have allegedly engaged in includes charging the girls amounts of money to prevent them from being picked up and charged, using the services of the girls for likewise, and also offering pimps protection for a fee.

Nowadays the situation seems somewhat different, but there are no safeguards against these activities occurring. Certainly the present conditions do not provide an ample setting for the police to do their job constructively and without hindrance. Outdated laws and a loosely structured vice-squad are the main ingredients of the present unsatisfactory situation.

Amongst the gardai this type of work is looked upon as ‘unlucky’. Certainly there are never requests to work in this area. Men are picked and usually work in the ‘vice area for up to a year or so.

It is distasteful for detectives to be involved in arresting prostitutes whose most serious crime might be disorderly conduct, or that of being drunk. The ‘pimps’ who are the exploiters and the real ‘gangsters’ go about unhindered. The law dates back to the ‘Criminal Law Act, 1885′ and an amendment Act in 1935.

The bulk of the law is contained in the earlier Act which contains words like “Queens Dominions” “idiot or imbecile woman” (describing a retarded person). The law is Victorian in vintage and certainly Victorian in outlook.

In England, legislation is quite tough:—

Section 30 of the Sexual Offences Act 1956:
1. It is an offence for a man knowingly to live wholly or in part on the earnings of prostitution.
2. For the purpose of this section a man who lives with or is habitually in the company of a prostitute, or who exercises control, direction or influence over a prostitute’s movements in any way which shows he is aiding, abetting or compelling her prostitution with others, shall be presumed to be knowingly living on the earnings of prostitution, unless he proves the contrary.

31. It is an offence for a woman for purposes of gain to exercise control, direction or influence over a prostitutes movements in a way which shows she is aiding, abetting or compelling her prostitution.

42. Where it is made to appear by information on oath laid before a justice of the peace that there is reasonable cause to suspect that any house or part of a house is used by a woman for purposes of prostitution, and that a man residing in or frequenting the house is living wholly or in part on her earnings, the justice may issue a warrant authorising a constable to enter and search the house anti to arrest the man.

43. (1) Where it is made to appear by information on oath laid before a justice of the peace by a woman’s parent, relative or guardian, or by any person who in the opinion of the justice is acting in the woman’s interests, that there is reasonable cause to suspect:-
(a) That the woman is detained in any place within the justice’s jurisdiction in order that she may have unlawful sexual intercourse with men or with a particular man; and…
(b) That either she is so detained against her will, or she is under the age of sixteen or is a defective, or she is under the age of eighteen and is so detained against the will of her parent or guardian.
then the justice may issue a warrant authorising a named constable to search for her and to take her to and detain her in a place of safety until she can be brought before a justice of the peace.
(2) A justice before whom a woman is brought in pursuance of the foregoing subsection may cause her to be delivered up to her parent or guardian, or otherwise dealt with as circumstances may permit and require.
(3) A constable authorised by a warrant under this section to search for a woman may enter (if need be, by force) any premises specified in the warrant, and remove the woman from the premises.

Street Offences Act, 1959:-
4. The maximum term of imprisonment to which a person is liable if convicted on indictment of an Offence under section thirty (3) of the Sexual Offences Act, 1956 (man living on earnings of prostitution), or under section thirty-one (31) of the Act (woman excercising control over prostitute) shall, for offences committed after the commencement o this Act, be seven years; and accordingly, for offences so committed, in the Second Schedule to the Act, in items 30 and 31, “seven years” shall be substituted for “two years” in the third column.

On the 6 March, 1979, Ms. Maureen Colquhoun M.P. moved a Bill in the House of Commons called the Protection of Prostitutes Bill.:—

“In seeking leave to present a Bill for the protection of prostitutes, I am aware that it will not be a popular issue in the House in general election years but I am convinced that it is a reforming issue that the House should no longer overlook. The Bill seeks to amend the Sexual Offences Act 1956 and the Street Offences Act 1959 and to provide for prostitutes better protection from exploitation and victimisation.

The present laws, which are over 20 years old, have not attacked prostitution, they have merely an invitation to treat all prostitute women unjustly. They have attacked their civil liberties and lost them many human rights, I do not hide the fact that I believe that all prostitution laws must be abolished, but the amendments are an attempt at this stage to put injustices right quickly and to jog the memory of the House about bad legislation that was introduced in the post-Wolfenden era. The amendments should also ensure that the law applies equally to men and women.

Prostitution has grown since the 1959 Act. With the best intentions, and wishing to deter prostitution, Parliament at that time introduced this appalling legislation, which has prevented women, once convicted from getting away from prostitution. It has given a woman the stigma “common prostitute” for the rest of her life, and forced her back on to the streets to pay the ever increasing fines. The amendment will abolish prison sentences. Women should not be imprisoned for soliciting. That view is supported by probation officers, lawyers, social workers and even the Police Federation;

The Bill will establish one simple offence to cover all persistent street nuisances, not only soliciting, and evidence from the person or persons annoyed will be an absolute requirement. The offence will include kerb-crawling, persistent salesmen, drunks and members of religious sects who attempt to sell people records on the street. I emphasise that it is only the peculiar sexual hypocrisy of the British that would single out prostitution or soliciting as an offence.

The Street Offences Act 1959, which deals with soliciting, was a mistake. It is wrong that a woman can be in danger of a prison sentence without a shred of evidence being produced in court that anyone has been affronted by her actions. Moreover, the present laws ensure that the incompetent prostitute, the working class girl, is the one who gets into trouble. Successful and competent prostitutes operate within the law; it is the immature, inexperienced, ageing or socially inadequate women who are the victims. These women, during a period of police observation, do not succeed in picking up a man, and they are arrested. That is usually followed by a caution or charge, fines and returning to the game to pay them.

It is a totally unjust system that a woman can be twice cautioned on the evidence of a single police officer. On a third occasion, still on the evidence of a single and often the same police officer, she can be charged with loitering with intent for the purposes of prostitution. If she pleads not guilty before court, the same police officer reads out the evidence of his two cautions. Before any offence has been proved, a person innocent in the eyes of the law can be labelled as a ‘common prostitute.’ There will be provision in the Bill to abolish the term ‘common prostitute’.

The Sexual Offences Act 1956 will be amended to delete that part which classifies more than two women living together as a brothel. That law has forced prostitutes into the hands of organised crime, making them totally dependent upon ponces and pimps and part of a terrifying mafia. They must be able to live together to protect one another. The sooner that happens the better for the women concerned.

Finally, I emphasise that prostitutes and prostitution are not a menace. I have spoken with eminent psychiatrists who say that it is accepted in their profession that prostitutes have great therapeutic value in society. In this country the Reichian school of Psychiatrists uses sex therapy. Many psychiatrists accept that prostitutes are the oldest therapists in the world and are practitioners of professional therapy. Indeed, they help people deprived of sex to sort out their problems. Prostitutes deal primarily with all the sexual things that have gone wrong.

The first people to whom men go when they have sexual inadequacies and problems are prostitutes. Therefore, to some people in society there is great respectability in acceptance of prostitution and its social and therapeutic value. It is time that the degradation, the harassment, imprisonment and fining of these women was stopped.

To sum up, this short amending Bill to existing Acts seeks to abolish prison sentences for soliciting, establish one offence to cover all persistent street nuisances with evidence from the person annoyed, abolish the term ‘common prostitute’ and delete that part of the Sexual Offences Act 1956 which classifies more than two women living together as a ‘brothel’. I hope the Bill will have the support of the House.

The Bill was passed in the House of Commons by 130 in favour and those against 50.


Mr. Horgan asked the Minister for Justice if he has received a request from representatives of prostitutes in Dublin for a meeting, and if so, the proposed date for such meeting; the number of convictions for soliciting in each of the past five years; and the plans, if any, to change the laws on soliciting or prostitution;

Minister for Justice (Mr. G. Collins):-

I have received correspondence from a woman who purports to be a ‘spokeswoman on behalf of the girls who make their living on the streets of Dublin’. A meeting to discuss a particular court case was sought.

It would not, of course, be possible for me to agree to discuss with any person or group any matters connected with a criminal charge which is still before the courts concerned and the woman concerned has been so informed. Indeed, I might add that, because of the independence of the courts in adjudicating in particular cases, it would be inappropriate for me to comment even if the case had been disposed of.

Statistics of convictions for soliciting in each of the past five years are at present being compiled and as soon as they are available I will have them communicated to the Deputy.

I can not say whether or not I may at some stage introduce legislation to make some changes in the relevant laws. As I have already explained to the House (Official Report 27 April 1978, Volume 305, No. 11, Col. 1709), it would be impossible for me, having regard to the range of possible questions, to undertake to indicate at Question Time what legislation I may or may not introduce.

Rehabilitation of Young Prostitutes:—

Mr. Keating asked the Minister of Justice if he will set up a rehabilitation centre or a similar form of rehabilitative process to help young prostitutes who wish to give up this type of life.

Minister for Justice (Mr. G. Collins):-

Prostitution is not in itself a criminal offence. In practice, of course, it frequently involves criminal activity. That however, does not mean that it is for my Department to deal with the variety of factors which may be said to contribute in some degree to the existence of prostitution, as indeed to some other forms of criminal or anti-social behaviour. Those factors could include various environmental factors, including housing or other accommodation, and also educational and medical – including psychiatric factors. Improvements in those areas are clearly not matters for my Department but are the responsibility of other agencies, public and voluntary. There are, in fact, services which make special provision for for prostitutes – including the provision of hostel accommodation. Some voluntary services for prostitutes are in receipt of funds from my Department to the extent that they cater for some people who have committed offences.

Prostitution Law: —

Mr. Keating asked the Minister for Justice if he will meet a deputation from the Council of the Status of Women, accompanied by a delegation representing prostitutes, to discuss changes in the law governing prostitution.

Minister for Justice (Mr. G. Collins):-

I have not received any request from the Council for the Status of Women for a meeting to discuss changes in the law in relation to prostitution.

Mr. Keating asked the Minister for Justice the number of women charged with the offence of soliciting in each of the last ten years.

Minister for Justice (Mr. G. Collins):-

Statistics relating to prosecutions for the offence of soliciting are compiled on the basis of the numbers of offences where proceedings are taken, and not on the basis of the numbers of persons charged. Moreover, such statistics as are available in Garda Headquarters refer only to the period from 1974 onwards. Prior to that, statistics relating to offences of soliciting, and so on, were not maintained separately but were included, along with other offences, under the heading of breaches of the Dublin Metropolitan Police Acts. The numbers of prosecutions for soliciting during each of the past five years were: 1974*, 70; 1975, 79; 1976, 273; 1977, 475; 1978, 207.

* The figures for 1974 is in respect of the 12 month period ending 30 September 1974. The figures for each of the other years are in respect of the calendar years.


1. A complete study to be made in this area as regards the law and proposals to be put forward to update the law and to make it ‘workable’ and ‘effective’.

2. One central vice squad which would have responsibility for the whole country. This body to be closely controlled and to have all the facilities necessary to monitor the activities of the various syndicates across the channel in conjunction with the English police. It is often the police who first come in contact with a girl about to start on the street. These early days are important and this is the time they are most receptive to help.
It is difficult to get a girl to change her mind if she has been on the street for any length of time. She becomes either trapped by a pimp or the attraction of large sums of money proves too much of a temptation. Therefore special training should be given to garda officers in counselling etc. Women police could also be used in this area.

3. With questions and allegations raised against the police and their seemingly reluctant attitude to carry out self investigations, calls for the setting up of an ‘INTERNAL AFFAIRS UNIT’ whose main responsibility would be the full investigation of all complaints and allegations brought against the gardai by the general public. There is a Disciplinary Superintendent’s Office at present. This could be expanded and civilians included on it,
In most cases the gardai are of a high standard but that is not to say that there are not a number of undesirables on the force. These should be cleaned out to preserve the good name of the gardai both at home and abroad. Internal affairs units have proved successful in other police forces around the world and with the ever increasing growth of the gardai, such a squad is now more necessary than ever before.

4. A careful study should be made of all institutions and groups who are already dealing with prostitution, e.g. prisons etc to see how they can be improved and made more beneficial to the girls.

5. Our whole child care services are sadly lacking and their activities seem to be totally fragmented and unco-ordinated. This is a very basic and important area because many problems later on in life can be attributed to an unsatisfactory period spent in care. Poorly financed homes, untrained staff and no individual attention are some of the more common problems. It has long been overdue for the Government to accept it’s full responsibilities in this vital area. All such institutions should be under the direct control of the state, staff properly trained, working conditions suitable and properly funded.

The following is taken from Rosita Sweetman’s book ‘ON OUR BACKS’, which is published by Pan Books:—

Prostitution in Ireland is an unattractive business. Most of the women come on the job drunk. Most of them are married, the husband pimps waiting at home, or in a pub. Its justification, according to some, is that it’s been around a long time. But so have treachery, murder, slavery. It’s an eerie feeling to stand on a rain-soaked pavement in the centre of Dublin at two o’clock in the morning and realize the cars slowing down and the men peering out are assessing you like a piece of meat. Prostitution, surely, is the only crime in which one party to it is deemed a criminal and the other not. As Josephine Butler, the ninetieth century feminist, said ‘Trying to stamp out prostitution by criminalizing the prostitute, is like trying to stamp out slavery by making it criminal to be a slave’.


In the eyes of society we’re the lowest of the low. People really look down on you. I don’t really care any more. If people say to me now “Oh, you’re just a prostitute”, I suppose it’s defiance, but I just say “Well at least I get paid for it. I don’t go around doing it for nothing. They can slag me if they want to, as long as my own friends stick by me.”

When I first started as a prostitute it amazed me how ordinary girls they were. You know the way they’re portrayed on films as big buxom blondes, dead sexy and all. But most of the girls are real ordinary.

I was amazed at the amount of violence among prostitutes in Ireland. Most of them come on the job drunk. In England you’d never drink, the police are so hot you have to keep your wits about you. But most of the girls here won’t go out until they’ve had a few drinks. Then I used to see them talking to the police. What a load of grasses I thought. In England the police were your natural enemy, but over here when I started the police would stop and chat to you. That’s all changed now. I’ve never been badly beaten up by the cops, but since I went on radio saying I was a prostitute and all they’ve come down on me really heavy. They feel whatever we get we deserve. They go through the routine of checking if we make a complaint about someone, but really they couldn’t give a damn, majority of men who come down to us are upper working-class and middle class. I prefer ordinary working-class people, they don’t mess you around. I think they recognize we’re all the same working class, even though we’ve different ways of making a living. About seventy-five per cent of them want a screw, the other twenty-five per cent just a hand job, not for moralistic reasons but because they can’t afford the other. I don’t think it’s all just boredom with their marriage, though most of them are married. I think they just want a bit of strange, you know! They put a tenner a week aside for that. The upper class blokes say they like it because there’s no involvement. Prostitutes are straight-forward, if they had a girl friend their wives might find out. I don’t think I really hate men, only if they try to abuse me. Every screw I’ve ever had I just grit my teeth and think ‘For fuck sake I wish he’d hurry up’. I pretend I’m completely not there, that it’s not happening to me. I think of a book I was reading, or what I’ll do tomorrow. I feel a sort of affinity for a lot of them because I feel so hopeless about myself, what a mess I’ve made of my life. I feel it’s kind of sad two complete strangers who think nothing of each other doing what they’re doing.

Irishmen are very hypocritical. They’re taking you off for an illicit screw and as they pay the Church they bless themselves! Or you get into a car and there’s a statue of the Blessed Virgin on the dashboard, miraculous medals strewn everywhere. I’m sure they don’t think of God when they’re screwing you.


What is the position of the Gardai vis a vis brothels?

Police: We’ll leave that question till later. I’ll take your second question first, that is, ‘What constitutes a brothel?’ The legal definition dates back to the 1895 Act when a brothel was deemed to be the same as a bawdy house, that is, any house kept for the purpose of prostitution, or any place resorted by people of both sexes for that purpose.

What is the law that makes a brothel illegal? Who is liable for prosecution?

Police: Under Section 13 of the Criminal Law Amendment Act, 1935, brothels are illegal. Those who are liable for prosecution are: a landlord who knowingly allows his premises to be used for such activity; any tenant or occupier who allows, knowingly, the same; any person who manages or keeps a brothel. Finally, any person who appears to be acting as Master or Mistress can be deemed keeper of the brothel.

There is a provision under this Act for the granting of a search warrant by a Justice if he believes there is reasonable grounds for suspicion that a place is being used as a Brothel. A Garda of no less than the rank of Inspector can enter, search and inspect the premises, if needs be by force. And can be accompanied by whatever number of Gardai he deems necessary. He can ask the names and addresses of all present. There is a penalty of £5 for anyone who refuses their name and address.

How would the Gardai go about investigating these premises? What are the procedures for prosecution?

Police: Prima facia these parlours operate as legitimate business concerns. There is no law controlling or licensing massage parlours. The Gardai would only act of a complaint were made by someone who visited these parlours that a breach of the law was being, or had been, committed. The Gardai would then investigate them under existing law. If direction for procedure was necessary the case would then be referred to the Director of Public Prosecutions.

Are there brothels operating? Or, in your view, is prostitution carried on mostly in the streets?

Police: Brothels as such are not known to us. There have been no prosecutions in recent years so, as far as we are concerned, none are operating. Most prostitution is carried on in the streets, or at least the soliciting or offering of the body is carried on in the street, most of the women then take the men to their flats. What goes on there is unknown.

Has there been an increase in prostitution?

Police: In 1975 there were 79 offences detected. 273 in 1976 and 475 in 1977. That is proceedings brought and prosecutions for the whole country. In 1977 there were 5 prosecutions against men living off immoral earnings, that is pimps.

Mr. A. deGraaf Stichting deals with research, documentation, information and assistance in relation to prostitution in the Netherlands. Underlying the policy of the Stichting (Foundation) is the view that prostitution is a symptom inherent to all societies.

“The extent of prostitution varies according to poverty, inequality, marriage-morality, social pressure. In our opinion the demand for prostitution is caused by tensions between the prevailing sexual morality and the want for sexual freedom. The actual step to prostitution depends in general on a combination of social and mental factors. The step is often taken because of immediate problems: shortage of money; housing problems etc.. Ethical objections play an important part with regard to finding solutions for these problems. In our opinion, conditional acceptance of prostitution would be the most realistic approach. This would imply objective attitudes and acceptance, but also the channelling of prostitution by taking (legal) measures and having regular consultations between all parties concerned, so that undesirable developments will be prevented and that local prostitution as to appearance (and extent) will be kept within (acceptable) bounds. In practice this means that prostitutes work the same labour legislation as everyone else.

The following information is taken from the report published by the International Abolitionist Federation after its “Rome Congress” in 1966.

In Great Britain, Josephine Butler, in the second half of the last century, found the actual formula for social rehabilitation which we apply today. Not being able to receive in her house all the prostitutes who asked for her help, she opened, with the concurrence of some friends, a house of rest where they were received with love, and next a home-workshop where they renewed, or acquired for the first time, habits of work. To come into possession of such a necessary means of livelihood and to rediscover their psycho-physical balance, she helped to find employment. Today in London and especially in the poorer quarter of Stepney, where over populated slums are to be found, the work is undertaken by the Rev. Joseph Williamson, Chaplain and founder of the “Church House” and “Wellclose Square Fund”, and by his collaborators. Two separate houses receive prostitutes and girls in moral danger; restoration of their self-respect is sought in order to requalify them for employment and then to find them work.

Also in Britain the “Rainer Foundation” carries on preventive work by the provision of clubs and houses for young people who have already been in contact with the court; for the girls this intervention saves them from the pavement; they experience in small houses the atmosphere of family life; and here a limited number of young girls – not more than 28 – can learn to provide for their own subsistence and find peace of mind. Some of these institutions are carried on in rural surroundings. In connection with our objective of promoting the rehabilitation of prostitutes who offer even a slight response to our attempt to help them, it seems to me to be of interest before leaving the United Kingdom to recall a finding which resulted from the Wolfenden Report 3/. It is there noted that the action of women police were more efficacious than that of male police in arresting prostitutes found in the act of solicitation.

In France, the “N.I.D.” founded by the Abbe Talvas supported by young women coming in great part from the Catholic Workers (Y.C.W.). (L.C.C. receives a number of women and young girls from the streets, in a large house surrounded by a woodland garden in the outskirts of Paris — Clichy). In the house, the inmates are grouped in separate families 12 to 15 individuals.

During the course of the last twenty years of activity 1,600 persons have passed through the N.I.D., staying there and receiving help with a view to their reinstatement in normal life. 71% among them have been rehabilitated; 20% have not, at least for the time being; 9% senting a difficult re-adaption, are still being re-educated.

In a study made on the women and girls resident at the N.I.D. in 1963 and 1964, it is noted with regard to age that 73% were 18 to 30 years. As regards their family environment, 17% came of unmarried mothers; 85% came from broken homes which had big difficulties; 40% grew up in joint households. As regards the length of time during which they had practised prostitution, 38% far less than a year, 30% under 5 years, 19% from 5 to 10 years, 13% from 10 to 20 years. As to their state of health, 18% were alcoholics, 16% were tainted with mental maladies.

“Association Dauphinoice for Moral Healthe”; it received a subvention from certain communes; sheltered from 10 to 30 adult prostitutes, who were cared for and redirected into a life of work; about 50% recoveries could be enumerated.

In Paris the “Bienvenue” (Welcome) operates by means of workshop where the women work during the day. It is tolerated that during a preliminary period they continue to practise prostitution. Then the work takes effect by its therapeutic value and numerous women regain their balance and reinstate themselves in normal life.

In Belgium, systematic efforts for assistance are limited, at the present time, to two centres of reception, the “Foyer d’Aiccueil”, of whom the Directress is Dr. Nelly Berbeke, psychotherapist, and the “Maison de Renovation Morale”, directed by Mme. de Schreyner on similar principles.

The “Foyer d’Aiccueil” of Brussels at Wolurve-Saint-Pierre, has some 20 inmates for whom the State pays a modest subsidy. Mothers with children of less than one year are admitted there.

Each boarder receives in the morning a leaflet indicating her tasks; these vary from time to time within the range of household work, cooking and other occupations, as a means of gradually readapting them to the rhythm of an eight-hour working day, in which are included during the afternoon courses of instruction, or of professional training. The majority of the boarders are from 18 to 25 years of age; there is no limit to the age of admission, nor to the length of stay. Once they leave they are followed up by a friend in the organisation. A family atmosphere reigns in the house. The inmates know that they should not talk to each other of their past. They are absolutely free to leave the house if they wish.

The most interesting aspect of this institution is constituted by the psychotherapy which it practises, and which is directed by Dr. Nelly Verbeke. This therapy rests upon a spiritual concept of man, considered as a dynamic being capable of his further realisation, thanks to healthy and constructive forces which he has within him, but which can be blocked by his inclinations, bad education, or negative conditions of life. Therapy tends to unlock these constructive forces, thereby permitting the individual to liberate himself from his conflicts. The educator must accept the other person as she is, in order that she also may accept herself, as she is; she must listen to her, possess the art of “Laiser faire et laisser dire”. In other words here is the technique of support and reflection. The interested party knows that she comes freely, that she can submit her problems; it is she who directs the dialogue. The technique insists in reflecting the thought and the sentiments of the other person, in such a way that our words help her to liberate herself. The educator reformulates what the other person has expressed, or what is subjacent. She makes a cvtheses of it. She serves as a mirror. The individual should grasp the fact that she is exploring herself, that she learns to know herself, as she herself takes the responsibility for her decisions and her actions. She should come aware that she is reconstructing her personality in some way. “Before I was the trailer, now I steer.” For this work, an attitude of confidence is fundamental; one either believes in the possibilities in man or one does not believe in them.

Life must be protected but inherent in life is human dignity and the spirit. Devoid of dignity and spirit the human form resembles a clinical operation which ceases to exist after a certain period. Prostitutes, because of what they do, often lose their vital attributes, and in so doing lose hope in the future and very often their will to live. In all the problems I have come up against, this must surely be the saddest and most human. What I feel for these girls is not a hypocritical sympathy, but an understanding in as much as a man can understand. This problem is ignored by women’s groups and they just seem to shrug their shoulders when this problem is mentioned. Looked upon as a bit of a lost cause, they just accept they exist and seem happy to content themselves with this as “just another-sad fact of life”. I have never learned to accept that some people’s problems or some people are “unhelpable”. Our society is becoming more and more dehumanized with beaurocracy and cold factual social workers left to try and assist those who fail in our society in what sometimes appears to be a reluctant fashion. Pressure groups with very vocal individuals cry out and often only serve to antagonize rather than serve. Very often these “vocalists” use their particular cause for their own advancement. This in itself is a form of prostitution. When all the mumbo-jumbo and speechmaking is over, we are left with the unlucky people who become only a statistic, something to be argued over, even dismissed.

These girls who walk the streets are usually the most “human” of girls. They are very often those who forget about their own troubles to help others who perhaps are worse off than themselves. This report is not meant as a “newsletter”, it is simply an attempt to gain an understanding of what these girls go through and to try and do something to help them. It may be argued that perhaps they do not want help, or that they don’t want to change, but by far the vast majority of girls would like to be doing something else. Stigmatized as a common criminal forces these girls to reject society and all its cumbersome structures and institution.

Afterall, no one dreams of becoming a street walker; circumstances and conditions most often force these girls into a position where they are struggling to survive. To institutionalize these girls would only further society’s rejection of them and also their own rejection of themselves. Our society left them when they were young and provided no outlet for them to develop, so society owes, and it is about time it paid.

It is with this in mind, we hope to establish a centre for the benefit of these girls. The centre would be called the “Welcome” centre.


It is clearly evident that, apart from the individual efforts of some concerned people, very little is being done to alleviate the conditions of these girls or prevent others from following a similar path. Most girls become prostitutes because they have little choice and are left with no alternatives. It is time that some alternatives were offered and a little care shown. There must be some outlet of escape provided and a chance to restart a new life. You will never eliminate prostitutes from the streets, but you can prevent others from joining them by helping them when there is no one else to help. For the many young girls sleeping rough, or who have just run away from home, confusion and loneliness are the two very strong factors which often drive them into the hands of eager pimps.

The proposed centre would be relatively small with a social worker and perhaps an ex-prostitute doing the main work. It is usually far more effective to have someone who fully understands the problem due to personal experience and who can therefore give far more effective advice. I know of a number of girls who would be willing to take up this kind of work. Understanding the street like no one else can and learning through beatings and degredation, such help would be invaluable in preventing others from taking the same path. Also knowing the areas and the people involved is terribly important.

The atmosphere of a shelter or refuge, a place of security and peace is vital.

There should be access to medical advice, treatment and also legal aid. These services would be offered on a voluntary basis by those people already anxious to help.

Only those who are genuinely anxious to change their lives would be acceptable at the centre. As such a centre could be open to abuse, the importance of having it staffed by those most capable of differentiating between girls who genuinely need help and girls who don’t. The centre should expand and try and place people in employment and so gradually encourage a return to a more normal life.

Such a centre is an experiment, a mere gamble, but a gamble where those in question have nothing to lose.

The main objectives of this “Welcome Centre”:—

1. To provide a homely atmosphere for these girls, to offer them some security and to help them to find themselves and show them what they are capable of.

2. To develop any hidden talents which they may have and so provide an alternative way of life.

3. To understand the many problems that they have and to provide professional help when required, medical etc.

4. To provide shelter and protection if there is danger and coercion being applied to them.

5. To provide the girls with activities which aim to build up their confidence and so give them a new outlook on life.

6. To provide a relaxed situation where they can come together, discuss their own problems amongst themselves and so help themselves.

This centre should be open so that it does not resemble any institutional form.

Girls who themselves have been on the street should be encouraged to have the responsibility of advising any girls who are about to take to the street.

The girls are to speak for themselves and to plan and carry out the activities of the centre.

Facilities should also be made for the children of the girls. Play school, etc and accommodation if needed.

This centre is to serve these girls and their needs.

Breda Leahy
Lyn Madden
J. Finucane


First of all I would like to thank all those who spoke to me. They all showed courage and a willingness to help which made my work easier. These include Linda, Dolores, Ann, Gloria, Tina and Lisa.

Special thanks to Mrs. M. Gaj whose individual efforts in helping people never fails to astound me. A dedicated humanitarian.

The Gardai, a force we can be proud of in general.

Rosita Sweetman.

Pan Books.

To all the others who spoke and helped but who would prefer not to be mentioned, I am grateful.