By Keith Bourke
Six people in Mayo were questioned on suspicion of paying money for sex as part of a nationwide Garda intelligence operation.
Twenty-three people across the country were identified as part of Operation Quest.
A number of arrests were made and files will be submitted to the Director of Public Prosecutions (DPP).
The operation took place on November 21 and 22 last and six people were interviewed by Gardaí in Mayo following the surveillance of properties in Castlebar.
Since 2017, buying sexual services — as well as the soliciting or purchase of sex from a trafficked person — have been offences under the Criminal Law (Sexual Offences) Act.
The recent investigation was led by the Garda National Protective Services Bureau.
Detectives from eight divisions, including Mayo and Sligo, assisted the national unit. Investigations were also carried out in Dublin, Cork, Waterford and Louth.
Even in the wake of the Garda operation, the sale of sex in Mayo continued last week. There were six women advertising their services in Mayo on an escort website. Five of the women were located in Castlebar and one in Swinford. In Sligo, a further six women were advertising on the same site.
Gardaí said Operation Quest reinforced their efforts to target the demand for prostitution. It followed a number recent attacks on sex workers.
“Combined with recent arrests arising from alleged attacks on individuals operating as persons in prostitution, this operation reinforces An Garda Síochána’s commitment to target the demand for prostitution and to protect vulnerable persons, including potential victims of human trafficking, involved in prostitution,” a spokesman said.