Mission Statement: To promote the social inclusion, health, safety, civil rights and the right to self determination of female, male cisgender and transgender sex workers


Who We Are

Sex Workers Alliance Ireland (SWAI) was established in 2009.
It is an alliance of sex workers, ex-sex workers, health and social service providers and researchers. We believe that policy on sex work should be focused on human rights, harm reduction and an end to stigma.

Since it’s formation SWAI has worked tirelessly to promote these ideals and has campaigned for the rights of sex workers to decide their own future.
We believe that sex workers themselves should be at the heart of any conversation on sex work and that the law should protect sex workers, give them rights and put their interests first.

Our Objectives

  • To challenge discrimination experienced by sex workers and to reduce stigma associated with sex work
  • To promote an environment of harm reduction that supports the self determination of sex workers
  • To promote awareness, research and education concerning sex work
  • To promote acknowledgement of sex work as work so that sex workers can have the same rights, benefits and entitlements as other workers (regulated hours, pensions, representation in unions, holidays etc.)

Our Board

Catriona O’Brien

Catriona is a current sex worker. She has been involved with various organisations in the past including the Abortion Rights Campaign, Anti-Racism Network and Workers’ Solidarity Movement. She used to write the newsletter for the Abortion Rights Campaign and was co-ordinator of their Creative and Direct Action Sub-group. She has done media work, spoken and attended conferences on issues around sex work and has spoken in the House of Commons in the UK on sex workers’ rights in Ireland.

Niall Mulligan

Director of HIV Ireland

Dawn Russell

Head of Services, Ana Liffey Drug Project

Dr. Kathryn McGarry

Dr. Kathryn McGarry is a lecturer in the Department of Applied Social Studies at Maynooth University

Paul Ryan

Dr. Paul Ryan is a lecturer in the Department of Sociology at Maynooth University. His research interests have focused on the sociology of personal life exploring topics such as the gay and lesbian movement in Ireland, historical transformations in intimacy and sexuality and prostitution policy. Paul has completed research commissioned by the National Advisory Committee on Drugs on sex work and the risk environment and is currently a member of the European Union’s COST Action ‘Comparing European Prostitution Policies: Understanding Scales and Cultures of Governance’. This research group of researchers from 25 countries seeks to explore the effects (intended and unintended) of different prostitution policy regimes and approaches. Paul was a founding member of Sex Workers Alliance Ireland in 2009.

Grainne O’Toole

Gráinne O’Toole has a community development and legal background and has been involved in the community sector for over 15 years, working with a variety of organisations concerned with communities experiencing racism, discrimination, poverty and inequalities. Key to this work has been supporting communities to tackle the key human rights issues they face. Her work has focused in particular on ethnic minority groups and women, including Travellers, asylum seekers, one parent families and migrant workers.

Our Staff

Kate McGrew – SWAI Coordinator

Kate is responsible for the overall coordination of SWAI including funding, communications and organisational development and acts as SWAI’s main spokesperson often speaking in national media and at national and international conferences. Kate is also a member of ICRSE (International Committee on the Rights of Sex Workers in Europe). Kate is a seasoned performance artist and her shows often reflect on her experience in the sex industry in NYC, Ireland and Australia. She brought the conversation into Irish living rooms when she outed herself as a sex worker in a 20 part docu-drama series for RTÉ 2 called “Connected”.

Dearbhla Ryan – Community and Campaigns Worker
Dearbhla is responsible for supporting the participation and leadership development of sex workers in SWAI’s work and in campaigning collectively for their rights. She has three years experience as a community worker working with migrants at risk of exploitation and social exclusion in Ireland, including undocumented migrants and migrants working in low wage sectors such as domestic work and in restaurants. Dearbhla has a degree in History from UCD, a MA in European Studies from Aarhus University, Denmark and is currently pursuing a degree in Community and Youth Work at NUI Maynooth.

Our Working Group

Catriona O’Brien

Catriona is a current sex worker. She has been involved with various organisations in the past including the Abortion Rights Campaign, Anti-Racism Network and Workers’ Solidarity Movement. She used to write the newsletter for the Abortion Rights Campaign and was co-ordinator of their Creative and Direct Action Sub-group. She has done media work, spoken and attended conferences on issues around sex work and has spoken in the House of Commons in the UK on sex workers’ rights in Ireland.

Laura Lee

Laura is a current sex worker, who has been very active in Northern Ireland, where they introduced the criminalisation of the purchase of sex last June. She has appear on the Nolan Show, debating Lord Morrow, who brought the bill through, She also gave evidence to the Justice Committee during the consultation period and organised a demonstration outside the

government buildings at Stormont, in Belfast. Finally, she addressed a UKNSWP conference in Manchester and gained a lot of allies for our organisation.

Georgina Burke

Georgina is an ex-sex worker with experience working in Ireland. She is currently working towards a degree in social care practice. Georgina has experience working with marginalised groups, in particular those with addictions and the homeless sector. She was the secretary of the debating society in college, and chairperson of the Simon community society.

Paul Ryan

Dr. Paul Ryan is a lecturer in the Department of Sociology at Maynooth University. His research interests have focused on the sociology of personal life exploring topics such as the gay and lesbian movement in Ireland, historical transformations in intimacy and sexuality and prostitution policy. Paul has completed research commissioned by the National Advisory Committee on Drugs on sex work and the risk environment and is currently a member of the European Union’s COST Action ‘Comparing European Prostitution Policies: Understanding Scales and Cultures of Governance’. This research group of researchers from 25 countries seeks to explore the effects (intended and unintended) of different prostitution policy regimes and approaches. Paul was a founding member of Sex Workers Alliance Ireland in 2009.


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About SWAI

SWAI supports the self-determination of all sex workers. To be given a voice and allowed to speak on their own behalf. We support a harm reduction policy in relation to sex work and that sex workers should be granted the same rights as all other workers.

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