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While Monto emerged in the late nineteenth century, there was nothing new about prostitution in the city. Indeed, all that tended to change with time was where prostitution was to be found. In earlier decades, and in particular the s and s, the Grafton Street area was regarded as a centre of prostitution in the city.
It is worth considering whether the emergence of the Monto district was tolerated to a degree because it removed the sight of women working in the Grafton Street area, something that clearly troubled some. Certainly, there were two very different versions of Grafton Street. While some, like our letter writers above, believed the street was in decline, guidebooks to the city throughout the s and s praised it, with one insisting that:.
The sheer number of women working in Dublin in this period as prostitutes was quite remarkable. Some nationalists developed a tendency to blame the presence of the military garrison in Dublin entirely for the presence of prostitution in Ireland, and as Maria Luddy has written:.
Montgomery Street, across the Liffey and out of sight, was a world away from the fashionable Grafton Street. By the s, the police had the powers they needed to close the brothels there, but the authorities instead allowed the district to function as a red-light district. While the emergence of Monto certainly brought about a decline in prostitution on Grafton Street, Sackville Street, and the like, there were still women dragged before the Southern Police Courts in Dublin for working in the Grafton Street area.
It would be more than thirty years before the beginning of the end for Monto, raided at last in Donal Fallon is a historian, writer and broadcaster based in Dublin.