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MECPATHS (Mercy Efforts to Counter Child Prostitution and Trafficking in the Hospitality Sector) is a campaign to raise awareness among hotel staff of the reality of child sex trafficking in Ireland.

Sadly, hotels can inadvertently play a key role in the sexual exploitation of children as traffickers use their premises to carry out this criminal trade. Hotels can offer a level of privacy and anonymity to their guests which traffickers take advantage of in order to conduct their activities undetected.

Evidence shows that children under 18 are sold in the sex trade, either through prostitution or in the production of child abuse material (child pornography), and this exploitation all too often happens in hotels. This is why hotel staff have a crucial part to play in the prevention of this dreadful crime. When their staff are trained to recognise the signs, hotels are in a position to alert the authorities to suspected cases of child trafficking. This kind of intervention can save a child from horrific abuse. When traffickers go undetected, the children in their power are left trapped in extreme suffering, their childhood robbed. MECPATHS is working with hotels across Ireland to ensure that they are a safe place for all children.

What is human trafficking?

  • The trade in, and exploitation of, human beings for profit.

  • Estimated 21 million victims of human trafficking worldwide.

  • Profit from sex trafficking globally is an estimated $100 billion.

  • 80% of trafficking victims in Ireland are women and girls, the majority of whom are trafficked for sexual exploitation.

  • In 2013, there were 16 reported cases of child trafficking, 13 of whom were trafficked for sexual exploitation.


What can you do?

Hotels can help to combat this modern form of slavery by raising awareness among their staff. MECPATHS provides presentations to hotel staff around the country. These presentations:

  • Inform staff of the issue of child sex trafficking

  • Equip staff with the knowledge to recognise the signs of trafficking

  • Outline reporting procedures for staff members to alert management and the authorities of their concerns if they suspect a child is being trafficked on the premises.

Hotels should adopt an anti-trafficking policy to reassure their staff members that any concerns they report will be taken seriously, and put in place a protocol for reporting so that all staff members know how to respond should a suspected case of child trafficking arise.

Hotels can also help to raise awareness among their guests by displaying literature about child trafficking and encouraging their guests to be vigilant and report any suspicions. This will also reassure any young people being exploited in the hotel that they will be taken seriously if they want to raise the alarm about their situation.

Hotel guests can enquire about the measures hotels are taking to prevent child trafficking on their premises before they make a booking.

If you would like to engage with the MECPATHS campaign and host an awareness-raising presentation in your hotel please contact


MECPATHS Anti-Trafficking Training

When Catherine McAuley was a young woman in the Callaghan household in Coolock, she encountered a servant girl who came to her desperate for help. This girl worked for a local family, a male member of which was intimidating her with sexual advances. She felt frightened and helpless, worried that she wouldn’t be able to keep him at bay for long. She had nowhere else to turn, nobody to protect her. Catherine was determined to help this girl, and many others like her; young women who were at the mercy of their employers, all too often sexually abused by these men who controlled their lives. This was part of the inspiration that led her to build the House of Mercy on Baggot Street.

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Find out more info about Campaign - June 2014

IRISH HOTELS FEDERATION offers full support to the MECPATH Campaign...

On Wednesday 20th November Srs. Mary Ryan RSM and Denise Boyle fmdm, met with the Executive Council of the Irish Hotels Federation (IHF) at the Ardilaun Hotel in Galway. We gave a presentation on our Campaign (Mercy-End Child Prostitution and Trafficking in the Hospitality Sector) and then had a good discussion, during which we clarified some important issues about the ECPAT (End Child Prostitution, Pornography and Trafficking) Code of Conduct, which we are inviting the IHF members to sign. The hotels which sign the Code, are publicly stating their commitment to safeguarding children on their premises, especially from any form of sexual exploitation.

The outcome of our meeting was that Michael Vaughan, President of the IHF pledged full support for the MECPATH Campaign......

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Mercy - End Child Prostitution and Trafficking in the Hotel and Hospitality Sector

This is a short article to introduce myself and bring you up to date with the Mercy anti-trafficking campaign in Ireland. It is now known as ‘Mercy-End Child Prostitution and Trafficking in the Hotel and Hospitality’ sector’ (MECPATH). My name is Denise Boyle; I am an FMDM sister, Franciscan Missionaries of the Divine Motherhood. Possibly you know us through Portiuncula Hospital in Ballinasloe.

Originally I was involved in secondary and adult education, my first ministry was in Australia for 15 years; and then I transferred to Zimbabwe, where I worked full time in human rights and advocacy for nearly 10 years. In 2000 I returned to Ireland – I am from Dublin – and worked for a short period with the Volunteer Missionary Movement followed by four and a half years with St. Patrick’s Society in Kiltegan, as their International Justice Coordinator. In February this year I returned from Geneva, after five years serving as the Executive Director of Franciscans International (FI).

The issue of anti-trafficking, especially of children, is something I have been passionate about for many years, so it is a privilege to be working with Mercy on this important and timely campaign. Srs. Mary Ryan and Sheila O’Gorman are the Campaign Co-ordinators, so I will work closely with them on the project; and Srs. Patricia O’Donovan and Marie Louise White are the links with the Congregational Leadership Team. We are also linked to MIA’s international anti-trafficking campaign.

Garnering support from so many is important, so that when we speak to Hotel Managers, we will be able to say, “X thousand people are supporting this campaign”. This in turn facilitates a win-win approach, i.e. if your hotel is willing to sign up for the Code then we will put your logo on our website, advising all our supporters that your hotel is committed to protecting children and operates on the principle of ‘best practice’.

Thank you to everyone who has welcomed me aboard the ‘Mercy Team’ – it is a privilege to work with such a committed group. Please pray that our work on this vitally important campaign will save children from the horrors of being sexually exploited and abused.

Denise Boyle fmdm

Useful Links:

The Code


Blue Blindfold

Turn Off the Red Light campaign

Global Freedom Network



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