Limerick businesses damaged by red-light notoriety
on 23/08/2013 00:00:00
However, a portion of the tens of thousands of euro which changes hands on this street makes its way to human trafficking gangs via cash transfer outlets. This cash is the earnings from the very open prostitution trade which has crept onto Catherine St over the past four years.
One shop offering cash transfer facilities is said to beparticularly popular with pimps and prostitutes.
One sex worker, who looked no more than 17 years old, was wiring €500.
For a charge of €39, her night's earnings were instantly sent to a handler in Romania.
While business is brisk for the prostitutes, the fashion shops say the image they have built up successfully over recent years is being hurt.
Gretta Coughlan runs the successful Gretta Gibbs fashion shop with Lillian Gibbs.
Ms Coughlan said: "Since we developed the 'fashion quarter' brand for this part of the city, we have women coming from many parts of the country.
"But now, with this 'red light' tag, women from other parts of the country will stop coming. I wouldn't go shopping in streets in Cork and Dublin which were being described as red light areas."
Ms Gibbs said some of the prostitutes who live in grubby flats on the Glentworth St side of the area are as young as 16.
"The prostitutes are very bold and blatant and harass any male they see on the street," she said. "We might have a wife in here and her husband is sitting in the car outside and he could be approached.
"It is getting worse and we are continually onto the gardaí.
"Their pimps supervise them. The ones who have been here for some time are not as bad, in that they know who their clients are, but the new ones approach and harass every man that moves on the street."
Former rugby player, Jerry Flannery, whose pub is just a few doors up from the Gretta Gibbs shop, launched a stinging attack on the men who are skulking in from many parts of the country into Catherine St for sex.
"I appreciate that there are some horny men out there, but if they just worked on their social skills, maybe washed more regularly and bought some new clothes, then they may not have to pay for sex," he said.
Mr Flannery said if these men showed respect and were polite to women, they "may even meet a nice lady and develop a meaningful and loving relationship".
Gráinne Vaughan who owns Joli, a women's accessory shop, said the blatant flaunting of sex for sale is damaging successful businesses.
"If people encounter this they will not come back," said Ms Vaughan. "The prostitutes usually appear on the street at around 6.30pm. They will sometimes sit on the steps of my business after my shop closes.
"We moved from another nearby premises and when the workmen were here, they were constantly harassed by the prostitutes and they were even threatened.
"If something isn't done people will stop coming here to shop, believing it is a very seedy place."
At around 12pm yesterday, a number of prostitutes were sunning themselves on the front steps of a building which could be best described as a 'doss house'.
Others were at nearby money transfer shops.
A prostitute, accompanied by a pimp, came out of a Western Union outlet, having sent Wednesday's untaxed takings to an overseas location.
Meanwhile, at Gretta Gibbs, Ms Coughlan and Ms Gibbs are hoping their summer sale will ensure rates and all the other tax bills which they have to contend with are paid.