Reports from Dublin concerning a 14-year-old boy being sexually abused by a ring of middle-aged men have exposed the lack of support for LGBT teenagers in the country.
The child was groomed on the internet and then taken to a range of addresses in Dublin where the abuse took place. Irish police (Gardai) have arrested two men already.
A 21-year-old trainee police officer has admitted sending the child sexually explicit text messages.
The case has shocked Irish society, with Prime Minister Bertie Ahern calling it “a very disturbing and worrying matter.”
Gardai have said they are confident of more arrests.
The case has highlighted the dearth of services for gay, lesbian and sexually ambiguous teenagers in the Republic of Ireland.
Michael Barron of Belongto.org, a youth project funded by the Department of Education for LGBT kids, told the Irish Examiner
“At the moment, we are the only designated [sexuality] project for young people with professionally trained youth workers in it,” he said.
“It’s crazy. Young people who are gay, lesbian, bisexual or transgender account for the largest minority group of young people in Ireland.”
The place that many confused or gay teenagers go is the internet, which is where the 14-year-old Dublin child turned when he wanted to talk about his sexuality.
Mr Barron urged children to use his organisation’s website and to avoid adult chat sites.
“It’s actually a huge amount of work to keep on top of, so to be on the safe side, if we do not have time to do all the moderating we just would not sign people up. We feel that is safer than rushing it because you just do not know who is going to be there,” Mr Barron said.
Up to ten men are thought to be involved in the Dublin case, some of whom are suspected of sexually abusing the boy and others of sending him explicit text messages.
An opposition politician suggested yesterday that mobile phone companies should be contacted to see if certain words or combinations of words could be blocked from text messages.
This technology is already used in school computer systems.