150 priests faced sex probe

News 24, South Africa/November 11, 2008

Dublin - More than 150 Roman Catholic priests and members of religious orders have been probed over allegations of child sex abuse in the last 68 years in Ireland's biggest archdiocese, new figures showed on Friday.

The details were released in a statement from the Archbishop of Dublin Diarmuid Martin as closed official hearings continue into how the church managed the abuse.

He reiterated an appeal for anyone with information about child sexual abuse by priests in Dublin to make contacts with the child protection service of the diocese, the police and the health authority.

"It is only by knowing the full truth of the past (that) we can improve the levels of safety for children today," Martin said.

The church in mainly Roman Catholic Ireland has been rocked by the scale of the sex abuse scandals.

So far eight priests from the diocese have been convicted in the criminal courts and three others are currently facing charges.

The statement said sex abuse allegations have been made against 140 clergy, with suspicions having been raised in 12 other cases.

"The diocese also possesses information regarding allegations of sexual abuse where, despite close liaison with the civil authorities, it has not been possible to identify the priest concerned," the statement said.

Some 400 people have been identified who have either complained or are known or suspected to have suffered child sexual abuse by priests in Dublin.

"It is most likely that this is not a final figure," the statement adds.

In 2005, a watershed judicial inquiry into another Irish diocese - Ferns in the south-east of the country - reported on about 100 complaints of child sex against at least 21 priests there.

It was the first time the Irish state had ever investigated any aspect of how the once-powerful church is run.

In 1999, former Prime Minister Bertie Ahern delivered an unprecedented apology to victims on behalf of the state.

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