Eleven members of the same family have been detained after a major gardai investigation into a paedophile ring in Southern Ireland.

The eleven suspects range in age from their 20s up to their 70s and are all members of an extended family.

All suspects, six of whom are women, were arrested in raids on homes in Limerick, Tipperary, and Kerry.

Up to 20 victims have been taken into care. It is believed that the child victims were "groomed" from birth. 

Gardai said details emerging about the sex abuse and exploitation of the victims were "horrific”. 

The victims, who were raped and sexually abused not only by members of the family, but by people outside the family who "paid for access".

There is no "online element" to the incidents, it is believed.

The case is already being termed as one of the most harrowing incidents in the State's history.

Gardai confirmed that while the arrests have been made in the last 24 hours, the children had been identified and removed from their surroundings in the past few months.

It is understood that the children, both male and female, range in age from toddlers to age 12.

The suspects are all currently being held at stations throughout Munster (mainly in Limerick and Clare) under section 4 of the Criminal Justice Act. They can be held for up to 24 hours.

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Gardai are also expected to arrest suspects based in other parts of the country in the coming days.

Senior gardai have confirmed that all suspects are from areas in West Limerick.
The arrests are the result of an investigation that has been ongoing for the last nine months.