Sunday, September 1, 2002

Jimmy Guerin

Lap-dancing clubs hit by permit ban

Some clubs may close as Harney stops issuing work permits for non-EU dancers amid abuse revelations MARY Harney has suspended the issuing of permits to clubs bringing lap-dancers to Ireland following revelations in the Sunday Independent relating to the treatment of women here.

Club owners who contacted the Department of Enterprise, Trade and Employment last week were told of the decision and now some face the prospect being unable to get professional dancers. They have experienced difficulties in getting EU nationals to do the work.

A spokesperson for Ms Harney told the Sunday Independent: "We have temporarily suspended issuing work permits for lap-dancers and current applications are being withheld until our investigation and review is completed. The department has decided to review its policy to ensure that we are not unwittingly contributing to abuse of the girls." It is hoped that this review will be completed in a number of weeks. Following our expose, a number of girls have made complaints to the gardai and these are currently being investigated.

Ms Harney's spokesperson said: "When we know the outcome of these investigations, decisions will be made about issuing permits to certain clubs." The department also confirmed that it and the gardai are "working closely together and hopefully when this is completed a new policy will be in place regarding the issuing of future permits."

A Garda spokesperson at the immigration office in Harcourt Street said that a number of matters were reported by dancers who were employed in clubs and these are being investigated. One club owner, Chris Kelly of Lappello's in Dublin's Dame Street, said that this action was "inevitable" and he was not surprised at the decision.

He added: "Clubs that have been asking that proper steps be taken to protect the girls are also being penalised and this is unfair. We presented the department with proposals some time ago and had these been taken on board, this problem would have been eliminated." Mr Kelly said that he intended to contact other club owners and propose that clubs sign up to a code of conduct in respect of dancers.

Three weeks ago the Sunday Independent highlighted the plight of some girls in certain unnamed clubs. They claimed they were having their earnings taken from them by criminal gangs both here and in their country of origin. One girl had written to the gardai pleading for help while another was sacked for not going to hotels and sleeping with customers. Another dancer described Dublin as "more sleazy and dangerous" than London or Hong Kong and spoke of girls being provided with free drugs by some ruthless club managers so they would do "extras".

When girls arrive at Dublin Airport they are held there until collected by club representatives. Some of the clubs took the passports from the girls when they arrived and they were virtual prisoners of the clubs until they were returned to the airport by the same people who collected them. One individual who regularly left girls to the airport would then phone contacts at the home country and tell them that a girl is on that flight. Once she landed she would have up to 90 per cent of her earnings, sometimes as much as £30,000, taken from her by the gangs who sent her to Ireland in the first place.

The living accommodation which some had to endure included up to nine girls sharing a room and, in some instances, up to 40 in the one house. It is also possible that the Justice Minister is more aware of the problem as he is no more than 100 yards from one such house which has been the subject of complaints about noise at all hours of the night.

Chris Kelly, who opened the first club here and obtained his licence through the courts, admits that last week's developments will cause him problems but said, "It is better to deal with this now rather than waiting until a tragedy occurs which will close the clubs down altogether."

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Created: September 21, 2002
Last modified: September 21, 2002
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