Child trafficking 'on the increase'
The number of Irish children falling victim to child trafficking within the country is growing, a new report has found.
Experts have warned the sale and exploitation of minors is not confined to migrant children and called for the Government to step up efforts to tackle the crime.
The Children's Rights Alliance (CRA) is launching its latest study on the state's response to child trafficking.
Chief executive Tanya Ward warned the findings revealed that much work is yet to be done in fighting the crime.
"With numbers of Irish children trafficked within the country growing, and child trafficking cases found in Sligo, Kilkenny and Wexford, this is not only a problem for Dublin," said Ms Ward.
"While the Government's anti-human trafficking unit is leading the way in targeting child trafficking, we must make sure that we don't become a 'soft touch' for child traffickers who prey on vulnerable children."
The study, carried out by University College Cork on behalf of the CRA, also found that traffickers may have exploited gaps in Health Service Executive (HSE) policy and practice to commit the crime.
According to CRA, Ireland is one of just two European Union states, along with the Czech Republic, languishing behind its neighbours in its efforts to fight child trafficking.
Ms Ward said while the country signed a UN Convention treaty on the rights of the child on the sale of children, child prostitution and child pornography 12 years ago, it has not yet ratified it.
"Ratification is important for a number of reasons," she added.