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An argument has broken out between a newspaper and one of its former reporters in Ireland regarding the "naming and shaming" of 21 men who were caught trying to solicit sex from female police posing as prostitutes.

A number of well-known figures were caught in the police raid, which occurred between November 11 and December 4 of this year. A retired school principal from Ennis, Co Clare was among the men caught in the sting, code named "Operation Freewheel."

They were identified in the national newspapers when 21 of the 26 men caught pleaded guilty at Limerick District court last Tuesday.

They were each fined €470, which they were ordered to pay to Doras Luimni, an organization part of the anti-prostitution campaign 'Turn Off the Red Light.'

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It is believed that the remaining defendants who have not appeared in court may challenge the validity of their arrest by officer posing as prostitutes, reports the Independent.

The identification of the men has led to an argument between the editor of the local paper, the Limerick Leader,  which didn't name the men, and a former journalist with the paper who is now working for RTE.

Alan English, the editor of the Limerick Leader, said that his paper "took a decision on the day the men appeared in court that we would not publish their names", partly because of what he described as "the unique circumstances involved."

But Petula Martyn, a former reporter with the paper now working in the Dail for RTE, has said the newspaper "shirked its responsibility" on the issue.

"I spent endless hours in Limerick courts reporting for the Limerick Leader, and on a number of occasions I covered cases where women were convicted of soliciting for the purpose of prostitution, or operating a brothel," she wrote.

"My personal view was that these women were victims; the weaker party who had been exploited by men for their own sexual gratification. They were, however, defendants who had broken the law, and the cases were dealt with in a public courtroom and their names were a matter of public record.

"There was never a question about publishing their names in the Limerick Leader, and more often than not, a photograph of the women leaving court accompanied the story," she added.

"It is not fair. It is a clear double standard. It is rare, but I think on this occasion, the Limerick Leader shirked its responsibility."

It has been pointed out that on last Tuesday's News at One on RTE Radio 1, RTE's Sean O'Rourke queried whether the guilty men would be identified in the Limerick Leader newspaper.

Cathy Halloran, a RTE Mid-West correspondent, replied that it was up to the newspaper, but RTE itself did not identify the men in the broadcast.

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